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Ultra-Rich in Finance Are Meaner Than Rest of Us: Matthew Lynn

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

By Matthew Lynn – Sep 6, 2010 4:00 PM PT Mon Sep 06 23:00:00 GMT 2010

Bloomberg Opinion
LynnMatthew Lynn

There is something surprising about a private banker warning his colleagues about the rich. It would be like a director of Volkswagen AG casting doubt on motorists, or the boss of McDonald’s Corp. distancing himself from people who eat fast food. Rather like valets, the main aim of the private banker is to court the wealthy.

At a conference in Zurich last week, the head of Barclays Wealth Management’s private-banking unit, Gerard Aquilina, appeared to issue a red alert about the richest of clients.

“Beware of the complexities of dealing with ultra high net worths,” Aquilina told his audience. “Demanding and often unreasonable” requests from them may create “impossible demands on the organization.”

Such as? Help with getting children into the right school, securing credit to buy property, or obtaining last-minute concert tickets, for example. Even worse, the richest of the rich turn out to be pretty stingy as well. They don’t even want to pay the full fee for all the services they demand.

It was strong stuff. But it was also an insight into the way the rich have changed over the past decade. They are, it turns out, a nasty bunch of people who are only getting nastier. And the banking industry only has itself to blame.

Customer Demands

To some degree, Aquilina’s warning can be seen as the kind of observation you find in every industry. Executives in any business tend to feel the real trouble always comes from the customer, who is often stupid, unreasonable and annoying, and sometimes all of the above.

No doubt, the software engineers at Microsoft Corp. fume about all those blockheads who don’t know how to partition their hard drive, or re-configure the registry file. There must be countless airline executives who occasionally dream about how smoothly their planes would circle the globe if only they didn’t have to fill them up with stupid tourists, their snotty children, and their overstuffed bags.

It’s always the case that people are going to be irritated by those they have to serve. There’s no reason that even super- smooth private bankers should be exempt from that. But Aquilina makes an interesting point.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that the rich are a vicious tribe of people. One study last year from the University of California, Berkeley, found that the rich are ruder than others. Another piece of research, conducted at the same institution, concluded they were less likely to give to charity than poorer people were. A third study, carried out at the Humboldt University in Berlin, concluded they were “nastier,” in the sense of being keener to punish others.

Top of Tree

Nothing is shocking about that. You don’t get to be rich without being difficult and demanding. You need some sharp elbows to get to the top of the tree, and there is no point in being squeamish about treading on a few toes along the way. And the rich have a lot more to protect than other people: They have to be fierce to hang on to all that wealth.

They have probably been vicious ever since one caveman used a bigger club to take control of the grandest cave on the hill.

In the past, most fortunes were built in association with ordinary people. Factory owners were aware of the shop-floor workers on whom their wealth depended, and that shaped the view of themselves. Carmaker Henry Ford doubled his workers’ average pay to $5 a day in 1913 and shortened their working hours. The Cadbury family of chocolate makers in the U.K. built a small town for many of the company’s workers in Bournville, near Birmingham, in the 19th century. That made them more human.

The growth of the financial-services industry and the bonus culture has changed that. The investment bankers and hedge-fund managers who make up most of the new rich elite don’t have much contact with ordinary people. They assume their wealth is entirely the result of their own brilliance. And they cut themselves off from normal life.

It is an industry that mints billionaires and also breeds arrogance, selfishness and snobbishness.

Aquilina has put a spotlight on an industry that only has itself to blame. Maybe that’s why he’s warning others.

(Matthew Lynn is a Bloomberg News columnist and the author of “Bust,” a forthcoming book on the Greek debt crisis. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Matthew Lynn in London at matthewlynn@bloomberg.net

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Gulf Residents Likely Face Decades of Psychological Impact From BP’s Oil Disaster

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Thursday 05 August 2010

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report


Louisiana resident at a public forum about the BP oil disaster and the widespread use of toxic dispersants. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

While the devastating ecological impacts of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are obvious, the less visible but also long-lasting psychological, community and personal impacts could be worse, according to social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

“People are becoming more and more hopeless and feeling helpless,” Dr. Arwen Podesta, a psychiatrist at Tulane University in New Orleans told Truthout. “They are feeling frantic and overwhelmed. This is worse than [Hurricane] Katrina. There is already more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more problems with domestic violence, threats of suicide and alcohol and drugs.”

Dr. Podesta, who also works in addiction clinics and hospitals said, “It’s a remarkably similar experience to that of the stressors of Katrina. There is an acute event, but then a long-term increase in hopelessness with every promise that is broken. Like a promise for money to rebuild a life, then people are put through red tape and each time they fail to move forward, they take five steps back in their psychological welfare.”

“The total number of years this will affect us is unknown,” Dr. Podesta said, adding, “however, it could affect us for possibly 20 to 30 years.”

Dr. Janet Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane University, told Truthout, “People are on edge. People are feeling grief. I’m hearing of physical illnesses related to the oil and people are worried about losing their home, their culture, their way of life.”

Sociologists studying the current BP disaster, along with other man-made disasters, make a distinction between “natural” and “technological” disasters.

“What we find in our field when we study technological disasters, i.e., human made disasters, is that the impacts are chronic,” Dr. Anthony Ladd, a professor of sociology at Loyola University explained to Truthout. “They don’t really end. With a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi, although we experienced that as a technological disaster with the levee failure here in New Orleans, the only silver lining with a natural disaster like that is that people move through it. They actually end up building a stronger community, there’s more social capital [trust] going on in the community and people find they have to rely on each other.”

Other sociologists, like Dr. Steven Picou with the University of South Alabama, defines technological disaster as “a human-caused contamination of the ecosystem” and explains that they are “not a typical part of the geographical area you live in.”

Dr. Picou has studied other technological disasters for the last 30 years, including the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. He, like Dr. Ladd, points to another important distinction between natural and technological disasters – that there is a drawn out period of recovery and accompanying uncertainty that make technological disasters, like the BP oil disaster, much more threatening to the health and welfare of affected people and communities along the Gulf Coast.

“With natural disasters, there is this sense that they will get through it and there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Ladd explained. “Yes this is horrible, yes we’ve lost our homes, yes people have been killed, but we’re going to pick ourselves up at some point, dust ourselves off and we can see recovery down the road. But with technological disasters you don’t get that. It’s a very different spiral into a malaise, into anxiety, into a feeling that there is no end in sight. You don’t know when the impacts are going to stop.”


Dr. Anthony Ladd, showing a cover story about trauma caused by the BP oil disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

August 29 is the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Johnson, like others in the social sciences, explained that much of Louisiana was still in recovery from that disaster. Thus, the BP disaster has augmented and restimulated traumas from Katrina.

“It’s a long-term stressor, the damage is done even if it’s capped,” Dr. Johnson explained. “Who knows what the long term repercussions are. When can we eat seafood? Has it destroyed the marshes? What about a hurricane? Will we be covered in oil? This area is still recovering from Katrina, so this just puts an added burden on the mental health care system. We have much fewer services than we did pre-Katrina, because a lot of our major hospitals have not reopened and our conservative governor wants to privatize everything, so they’ve cut services.”

Dr. Ladd, whose major area of research centers around the impacts of environmental disasters on communities, draws direct parallels between the BP oil disaster and the Exxon Valdez disaster. “You don’t know when the BP check is going to show up in the mail, if ever. You don’t know when the feds and the state are going to do their thing, toward recovery. It’s a chronic unending spiral of people into often deeper and deeper levels of anxiety, and research shows that one of the major sources of anxiety is the litigation process itself. So on top of everything else the disaster throws at you, then you have the decade long experience of trying to litigate your way back to your economic livelihood or trying to get some kind of economic compensation for what you’ve lost and of course that never comes.”

Using the 1989 Exxon disaster as an example of this, in 2008 a corporate-friendly Supreme Court took the original $5 billion judgment against Exxon from 1994 and ended up granting only 1/10th the amount, $500 million, to the citizens of Cordova.

“So they weren’t able to save their businesses and many weren’t able to stay in the community,” Dr. Ladd said. “The litigation process itself is a huge source of anxiety and we’re not anywhere near seeing what that’s going to be like in this case, given that the dimensions of this disaster are way beyond what we saw in Alaska.”

Another impact we can likely expect from the BP oil disaster comes from what Dr. Picou has written:

“Chronic economic impacts systematically invade the social fabric, causing a cascade of social pathology for communities, families and individuals. The sociological lessons of the Exxon Valdez for the human condition clearly document this fact. Because of fear and uncertainty regarding the ecological consequences of the Exxon Valdez, intense social conflict emerged within communities, causing the fragmentation and marginalization of various groups.”

Sociologists define this type of collective trauma as the “corrosive community,” which contrasts with “therapeutic communities” that typically emerge in the wake of natural disasters. Corrosive communities are typified by loss of trust, uncertainty regarding the future and anger that results from technological disasters.

Dr. Picou is currently involved in studies involving Gulf Coast communities that have been directly impacted by BP’s oil.

“Picou is already talking about the parallels he’s seeing,” Dr. Ladd said. “Community, family and individual impacts. So in addition to psychological stress, you’ve got a spike in domestic violence, suicides. There were over 13 suicides attributed to the spill in Cordova and a spike in divorce rates. These are some of the very common impacts that we know that tend to be associated with technological disasters.”

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University conducted a study from July 19 to July 25, including surveying of 1,200 coastal residents in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“There’s been a very overt effort by BP and the Coast Guard to project a sense that the crisis is over, but this is far from the case,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the center and president of the Children’s Health Fund, a sponsor of the survey, reported. “Our survey shows a persistent and overwhelming level of anxiety among families living near the coast, driven by both medical symptoms in their children as well as a substantial level of psychological stress.”

“I’ve seen a lot of people teetering on the edge of wellness since Katrina who now have increased fears and are decompensating into severe depression and resurgence of PTSD from Katrina,” Dr. Podesta said. “I work in addiction and I’ve seen a lot of increase in alcohol and other drugs, domestic violence and making severe threats about suicide, or threats towards their spouse and children. I’m seeing that more often now, directly related to the fear of what may happen to the livelihoods, lifestyles and economics of folks being directly affected.”


The loss of livelihood is one of the key causes of stress from the BP oil disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

Dr. Johnson is seeing the same thing: “Something like this stresses families, kids, relationships. After Katrina we saw a spike in domestic violence and divorces or break ups. Traumatized kids saw their parents fighting. Substance abuse increases, which leads to fueling domestic violence and crime. It’s a ripple effect and the longer it goes on, with unemployment or inability to return to their way of life, the worse things will get. We already have a high stress level and now this on top if it. We saw a rise in suicides after Katrina, so people see their families fall apart and unemployment continues, these are real concerns, along with the psychosocial effects.”

Dr. Podesta’s work as a psychiatrist is uncovering countless examples of what the sociologists have predicted would happen with this disaster and how the current situation is compounded because of the lingering psychological affects from Katrina. “The time frame makes this worse. In Katrina we had a succinct number affected in their homes and a reasonable time frame we could project, three to five years, for recovery. The unknowns with our current situation, for the long-term projected problems, are so severe, like a fishermen’s financial livelihood. Yet, for this BP disaster, the groundwork was Katrina. That was the base this was laid upon, so every insult with this crisis restimulates all the PTSD and problems from Katrina. PTSD is usually one incident that results in hopelessness, helplessness and fear of death. It usually peaks then comes back down. But with the continued insults to hope and welfare, instead of dropping back down, it kind of step ladders up with each insult. So Louisiana’s parishes with people more directly affected now, they’re suffering the most.”

Dr. Irene McIntosh, an associate professor at the University of South Alabama, works as a counselor educator. “The most immediate response I’m seeing that began with the explosion on April 20 is a sense of disbelief. Like, we can’t be going through something else again,” she told Truthout.

What she is seeing in Alabama is parallel to that in Louisiana, with regard to the current disaster being augmented by past trauma from Hurricane Katrina. “We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of Katrina and most of our citizens had the sense we were recovering and seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel,” Dr. McIntosh explained, adding, “and then this is like a huge setback psychologically. Now we’re back in it again and there’s a sense of impotence, that there’s nothing we can do.”

“People need to realize that even though it’s five years after Katrina, this is like pouring salt in a wound, it’s an added psychological insult, people are more vulnerable and many are being re-traumatized,” Dr. Johnson explained. “It’s a different catastrophe, but things were never back to normal and I think a lot of the country doesn’t realize that. This on top of it, makes it that much harder and brings back Katrina very vividly and we’re in the middle of hurricane season. You see increased anxiety in August and September anyway because of Katrina, but with the oil out there, it makes it tenfold worse, because you have these nightmares of an oil-covered city. You have to look at all of this in the context of Katrina.”

“After a storm you can do something,” Dr. McIntosh added. “But with this, you really are at the mercy of BP and the folks in charge, as to how much you can do. So it’s a very disempowering sense that is prevalent.”

While Dr. McIntosh does not currently see people professionally, in the context of her being a community leader who did immense work toward helping people in the wake of Katrina, she continues to talk to people daily about their trauma from the BP oil disaster.

“From the beginning everybody recognized how big this is and that it had major potential impacts because the shrimping season was just about to begin,” she said. “Then, as it went on, we started seeing businesses fail and tourism take a hit because people weren’t coming because of their perceptions of what it would be like here. Then when the tourists didn’t come, restaurants and other businesses began to suffer. Listening to them agonize about if they’ll be able to stay in business is a very painful process. I know fishermen in Louisiana who are in fear that their entire way of life is ending. How to you respond to that? How do you give them hope or something to hold onto? So basically what I do is listen. A lot.”

Dr. Ladd cites current examples of what Dr. Podesta refers to as “re-stimulating” stressors in people affected by this disaster. “The exact same phrases that BP are using come right out of the playbook of what Exxon used 21 years ago. Right now, looking at the parallels between the spill in Cordova and what we see now in the Gulf, a lot of similar patterns are starting to emerge. You’ve got levels of psychological stress and anxiety affecting a significant minority of the population. As the litigation of the impacts grow, that’s going to increase. For example, Picou found this last year when he was back in Cordova, that so many had to leave because they were economically displaced – the fishing industry was destroyed, the herring industry was destroyed, the pink salmon runs have never come back of course. All the other marine impacts that you’re seeing here – sea birds, turtles, sharks, every day this stuff is in the paper. Not withstanding all those wildlife impacts and ecological effects, the stress impacts, still, they found in Cordova are at a sub-clinical level. PTSD, which is the equivalent in stress to rape and murder experiences, they are still finding that level of anxiety affecting somewhere between 30 to 35 percent of the Cordova population.”

Dr. McIntosh told Truthout she is concerned about the long-term psychological impacts of this disaster. “That is what I’m concerned most about because anytime you’re under long term stress, whether it’s economic, you’re losing your home or boat and your business, then those translate into experiences of depression, increased family chaos, increased difficulty with interpersonal relationships and a decrease in self-efficacy that I can take care of myself and my family. There is anger that exists throughout our region and it’s an anger of feeling betrayed by those who were in charge, that they didn’t make sure there were legitimate steps taken to respond to this.”

Dr. McIntosh explained the complexity Gulf Coast residents face with the BP disaster and how the complexity of their proximity to the Gulf of Mexico causes them stress yet also provides strength. “This spill has affected everyone along the Gulf Coast. We all value the natural beauty of our coast and the connection with nature. We’re moved by the site of brown pelicans. We laugh with joy when we see the dolphins playing off the boat in the Mississippi Sound. There is something so special about our connection to our Gulf that links everything – our livelihoods, our sense of connectedness, our spiritual awareness and this disaster has just taken away the sureness that everyone would wake up and it would be there. And that uncertainty and experience has been across the board. That will go with us whatever the trajectory is for the rest of our lives.”

She feels people’s resilience will play a key role in the future. “Gulf Coast residents are very resilient people, but this is one more big test of that resilience and you get weary of sucking it up one more time. Having to summon from within yourself the will to persevere through yet another catastrophe and this one, there’s been levels of disconnect from communication, trying to figure out who was in charge, how to connect to a way to get reimbursed for your losses, it’s again been that same difficulty with communication that increases frustration and decreases the sense of self-efficacy. I can’t move beyond the fact that this is also my experience. The sadness, the connection I have to the Gulf. Yet, also the sheer awe I have at the strength of our people to keep on adapting and coping and dealing with one thing after another. It leaves me amazed. While I know we’re going to have psychological decay, I see the strength and ability to persevere that is often easy to overlook.”

Dr. Ladd believes recovery from the BP oil disaster will take decades. “We need to stop thinking of this as a sprint and think of it as a marathon. This disaster and its impacts are going to go on for at least a decade and it could be more. It’s hard to put into words the astronomical ways in which this disaster is likely to affect the Gulf Coast.”

He underscores how the court battles that are sure to span years, if not decades, will negatively affect people. “The litigation process is a key source of stress, anxiety and one of the key economic expenditures of the people affected, who already are short on money. Exxon had very deep pockets and said from the very beginning they would not pay a penny of that judgment unless they had to. Despite all the PR about “making you whole,” they said very clearly and publicly and not just in court to the lawyers, that we will not pay a penny of this judgment if we can prevent it. BP hasn’t started saying that yet because it’s far too early.”

Dr. Riki Ott is a marine biologist, toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor from Cordova, Alaska. She told Truthout that when companies like Exxon/Mobile or BP tell people, “we will make you whole” it really means, “We’ll see you in court.”

Dr. Ott provided figures about how severely people in her community were initially affected from the 1989 disaster. “In our communities in Alaska that were affected by the Exxon Valdez disaster, we had 99 percent increase in PTSD, 99 percent increase in anxiety disorder, 99 percent increase in depression,” she explained.

Dr. Ladd is deeply concerned about the negative, long lasting affects of this disaster on coastal communities. “We all have a point where it’s very tough to swallow and comprehend the enormity of the risks that we’ve created for ourselves. This is a very real problem and even happens with educators, scientists and certainly with Gulf Coast residents. It’s like watching the death of a loved one for a lot of people. I have the deepest sympathy for the fishermen here. Can you imagine New Orleans without oysters? It’s as central to our way of life as salmon is to the Northwest. But here we are. A lot of people are at their wits end.”

He feels a key problem is that this disaster creates a series of tipping points where the impacts in the marine ecology bleed into the economic, social and psychological realms. This creates, according to Dr. Ladd, “A trickle up and trickle down set of impacts that chronically keep multiplying into themselves. Look at Alaska, people are still reeling with anxiety, grief and denial from what happened in 1989. We need to know what happened in Alaska to prepare ourselves for and anticipate even greater impacts here in the Gulf.”

Dr. Ladd is not hopeful about what he sees. “Are we going to wake up in time to grasp the enormity of this disaster so that we can grapple with it accordingly and what we’ve got to do to prevent it in the future? I’m not feeling real sanguine at the moment about the possibilities of that happening anytime soon.”

Dr. McIntosh, on the other hand, believes people’s resiliency coupled with community strength will play a key role in the recovery effort. “Along the coast some of our networks are training peer listeners so people have someone to talk to in order to make meaning of what they are experiencing and to decrease the stress,” she said.

Dr. Podesta feels that more political attention and funding needs to be aimed at mental health for those affected by the BP oil disaster, in addition to bringing justice to those responsible for creating the crisis. “Mental health needs to be part of the human rights we’re seeking assistance for,” she said. “We need to talk about mental health as what we’re advocating for along with the other things that whoever is responsible for all of this needs to be held accountable.”

Dr. Johnson, after explaining that claims made to BP will not include mental health claims, said that she is advocating a more community based mental health support system, but that this will require funding that Louisiana’s Governor Jindal, President Obama or BP appear, thus far, unwilling to provide. “There’s going to be a need for more money for more mental health services, but where will that come from?” she asked. “We all know it’s a problem, but we’re usually the first ones to get cut when it comes to funding. Over the past five years it’s become more prevalent here, more publicized, Katrina de-stigmatized mental health treatment because everybody was stressed out, but at the same time they keep cutting services. The awareness is not accompanied by real action or dollars. People talk about the mental health effects, but they don’t want to put their money where their mouth is.”

Dr. Ladd speaks to this as well. “Note the stories in the news about trying to get mental health funding for this expected jump in PTSD among coastal residents. The experience we know from studying other technological disasters, that’s probably going to not only be well needed, but probably inadequate.”

He concluded that the key, long-term solution is for the US to wean itself from the oil-based economy. “I want to be an optimist and think that people will be able to get through this, but at another level, I can’t feel very confident because the way all these cultural and economic forces tend to dull our ability to react and speak truth to power and express our outrage politically, as well as being able to look down the road and start to transition to a clean, renewable alternative energy economy, that we should have started 20 years ago,” he explained. “If we don’t do that, I don’t know how we can hope to handle any other serious problem down the road. This really is a test of that. Lack of knowledge is not the problem, it’s lack of political will.”


** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

Order the book here http://tinyurl.com/cnlgyu

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Order Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

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Being Happy Is A Duty


Being happy is a sort of unexpected dividend. But staying happy is an accomplishment, a triumph of soul and character. It is not selfish to strive for it. It is, indeed, a duty to ourselves and others.

If your life feels like it is lacking the power that you want and the motivation that you need, sometimes all you have to do is shift your point of view. By training your thoughts to concentrate on the bright side of things, you are more likely to have the incentive to follow
through on your goals. You are less likely to be held back by negative ideas that might limit your performance.Your life can be enhanced, and your happiness enriched, when you choose to change your perspective. Don’t leave your future to chance, or wait for things to get better mysteriously on their own. You must go in the direction of your hopes and aspirations. Begin to build your confidence, and work through problems rather than avoid them. Remember that power is not necessarily control over situations, but the ability to deal with whatever comes your way.

Always believe that good things are possible, and remember that mistakes can be lessons that lead to discoveries. Take your fear and transform it into trust; learn to rise above anxiety and doubt. Turn
your “worry hours” into “productive hours”. Take the energy that you have wasted and direct it toward every worthwhile effort that you can be involved in. You will see beautiful things happen when you allow yourself to experience the joys of life. You will find happiness when you addopt positive thinking into your daily routine and make it an important part of your world.

Thank you for reading my article! This article from my http://www.bestreplicawatch.net/][b]watches website, I hope there is what you want !

By Fay Huang

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If You Loved Me You Would Know


“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives” ~ Anthony Robbins

Sometimes in relationships we say, “If you loved me, you would know!”  This is based on the belief that if someone really loves us, they will anticipate our every need. It is also based on the belief that it is that person’s responsibility to keep us happy.
Unfortunately, neither of those beliefs is true. There are many ways to feel love, and more ways to express it. To suggest to a partner that because he/she did not do what we expected, that proves they do not love us, is faulty logic, but extremely hurtful as well.
This may all go back to childhood. When we received a treat, or our parents did something special for us, we may have felt special and very much loved. These things made us happy. The inner child may yearn for that special feeling and look to the adult partner to provide it.
It is a parent’s job to anticipate the need of their child, as well as to nurture them, validate them, show affection to them and make them feel special. If we are constantly looking for these things in relationship, we need to do some work on our own inner child issues.
This is not to say that healthy adults do not need to nurture one another, show affection and value one another. It is just that in mature adult relationships we do not need this all the time, nor do we make the partner feel guilty if it is not there when we need it.
What we do instead is to let our partner know what we need, and how that need could be met. “I’m feeling kind of sad and could really use a hug,”  or “We’ve both been so busy lately, I’d really like to plan an evening for just the two of us.”
When you think about it, it makes so much more sense to simply ask for what we need, rather than to be angry and resentful because our partner is not a mind-reader.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

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Our Children, Our Future


“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” ~Neil Postman

If you have children, or work with them, you are creating the future. These children will be not so much what we try to teach them to be, but rather what we are showing them in our own behavior.
What then, are we teaching them? Do we teach them to really listen to the point of view of others by truly listening to them, or do we teach them that only the loudest or most powerful get to talk?
Do we teach them to be respectful of people of other races or cultures, or do they hear us making derogatory comments or protesting because there is a mosque being built in our neighborhood?
Do we teach them to think for themselves by asking what they think, or do we teach them their thoughts do not matter because  “I’m telling you how it is!”
Do we teach them to be creative by allowing them to make things or invent pretend games to play, or do we allow them to spend hours in front of television or computer games and be passive consumers?
Do we teach them it is wrong to hurt or kill others, and that is why we do not want them playing computer games with these themes, or do they start early with these games and develop aggressive tendencies?
Do we get them thinking globally by letting them see that others are not so fortunate, and making contributions, however small to help others across the globe, or do we change the channel because we are tired of all the disaster relief news coverage?
Do we teach them that anger is destructive and usually makes things worse, and teach them healthy ways to express frustration, or do we rage at them or a spouse so they think if adults do it, it must be okay?
Do we teach them how to apologize by sincerely telling them we are sorry when our behavior is inappropriate, or do we never apologize because we think it will make us look weak, and demand that they apologize?
Do we teach them we all belong to the human family and must strive to find ways to live together peacefully, or do we carry on the old polarities of previous generations, so that nothing will ever change?
It is an awesome responsibility to raise a child. When young, they live and belong in our family: that is their world. One day, however, they will be the adults in the world. What messages will your children be carrying?

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca


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THE JOURNEY FROM ANGER TO ANGUISH: RESPONDING TO ECO-CIDE


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By Carolyn Baker

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 June 2010 )

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ Mary Oliver ~

In some spiritual and psychological circles we often hear unambiguous proscriptions against the emotion of anger. However, in many indigenous traditions, anger is not experienced with the same suspicion one finds in Western psycho-spiritual circles. While ancient teachings regarding anger do not condone aggression, they do not unequivocally assume that feeling the emotion of anger will lead to hostility or violence. In fact, they tend to revere anger as an innate human emotion which may be utilized on behalf of the earth community without inflicting harm. Ancient teachings often include practices for “uploading” the raw emotion of anger to higher chakras or physiological energy centers on behalf of preserving boundaries or protecting the innocent – – both of which are characteristics of the non-aggressive warrior.

Anger is one of the Five Stages of Grief articulated by the death and dying researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As I noted in Sacred Demise, in the context of those stages, anger shows up in reaction to a loss. First we feel shock and denial, then move into anger which may include frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrassment, and shame. Subsequently, we move into depression and grief, followed by bargaining, then acceptance and re-investment in our lives. As Kubler-Ross emphasizes, none of the stages are neatly detached from the others. We tend to move through them fluidly, with each stage somewhat blurring into the next stage or containing remnants of the last one.

In the process of preparing emotionally to navigate the coming chaos, it is crucial to examine each stage of grief, to note where we have been in the process, to look at where we are in the moment, and to honor each emotion along the way. Many people today are stuck in anger because they have not allowed themselves to move through it into mindful grieving. In fact, I believe that the United States, and many nations throughout the world are currently mired in anger. In 2009, author and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, stated in her article “An Epidemic of Global Anger“: “We are a community of nations on fire with anger. And we are getting angrier by the day. Whether we look at the increase in uprisings occurring around the world or at the escalating tension brewing in America, what is becoming more apparent is that we are witnessing a rapidly increasing rate of global anger, so much so that it qualifies as an epidemic.”

Many Americans are enraged at their government. Some who have been researching the demise of the current paradigm and understand the self-destructive aspects of corporate capitalism, the limits of economic growth, and the unsustainability of a civilization dependent on fossil fuels feel angry because their leaders refuse to acknowledge what is so. As their minds have been awakened, so have their emotions, and anger has been part of the process. But as they have come to understand that industrial civilization itself is collapsing, they are likely to have stopped wanting to repair and improve it and have begun to entertain a larger picture of how they could join with allies in constructing a new paradigm and a new culture.

It is likely that for these individuals, anger metamorphosed into deep grief or despair as a feeling of powerlessness to “fix” civilization set in. Implicit in the emotion of anger is the sense that something can or must be done to alter the that has evoked anger. As one comes to understand the inevitability of the unraveling of industrial civilization and the futility of attempting to prevent it, one may in fact experience a sense of relief that collapse is beyond control and proceeds in its own way, in its own time. One grasps that our mandate as a species is to move with the demise, not against it, and find within the unraveling a greater purpose than the one civilization has offered, proceeding with the work we came here to do. At that point, even though we may carry some residue of denial or anger, and even though our willingness to see what is so puts us directly in the path of deep grief, the embrace of our purpose and our role in the collapse process, is in itself a re-investment in our lives and the well being of the earth community.

However, the individuals I have just been describing do not comprise the vast majority of those in the United States or the world who are fixated in anger because they are also fixated in denial. One cannot move through the Five Stages of Grief if one does not move beyond denial. Refusing to see what is so guarantees that the journey through the stages will not occur. So whether one is an enraged Muslim suicide bomber or a vitriolic white, middle class Tea Party enthusiast, one’s emotional state and behavior belie an inordinately diminished perspective of reality, resulting in a desperate need for vituperative scapegoating. In other words, fixation in anger.

The Mary Oliver poem above about loving the world which in part means reveling in the sensual delight of nature which means becoming “accustomed to savoring that which is momentous, concealed within bare bones simplicity.” It also means a profound gratitude which the poem describes as “mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here.” The world has given us stupendous gifts which Oliver says causes her to “stand still and learn to be astonished.”

But does our gratitude for the world mean that we should never be angry about the injustice or self and eco-destruction its inhabitants have perpetrated upon each other and the earth community? Certainly not, but being deeply connected with our purpose in the world provides perspective that buoys us and allows us to keep moving forward when the magnetic pull to become fixated in anger may feel irresistible.

When we are intimately familiar with our purpose, we understand that the world is not paradise, it is not a vacation resort, and it is not a place to which we have come to live in perpetual bliss. Rather, the world is comprised of both the magnificent wonderment and extraordinary beauty depicted by Mary Oliver as well as the horrors engineered by a species about to become successful in its incalculable attempts to commit suicide.

Author and spiritual teacher, Marshall Vian Summers, writes in his book Greater Community Spirituality:

Be without judgment of the world. If the world were a perfect place, you would not need to come here. If the world were a place that functioned harmoniously, without friction or conflict, this would not be the place for you….The world is your place to work and to give. Its pleasures are small but real. Its pains and difficulties are great. The world cannot give you what you seek, for what you seek you have brought with you from beyond the world.

That which we have brought with us from beyond is something greater than our personality or human ego. Summers refers to it as Knowledge, and others use terms like the sacred, spirit, the Self, the divine within. However we choose to name that part of ourselves, it comprises our core. I believe that the more intimately familiar we are with it, the less we expect from the world, and the more we are willing to serve the world in order to imbue it with the sacred. Loving the world, as Oliver names it, is not about sentimental emotion, but about a commitment to the work we came here to do which by definition, serves the earth community.

The mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme, in his extraordinary lecture series, “The Powers of The Universe“clearly articulates this concept. Cataclysm, he notes, is one of the inherent powers of the universe, and “it is currently happening on our planet. The choice before us is whether we will participate consciously.” Participating means that “as all the structures that are destroying the earth are collapsing, they are releasing us into the essential nature of who we are.” While this awareness does not remove our anger or our anguish, it brings us face to face with the deeper meaning of the collapse of industrial civilization and our purpose in it.

I believe that the world of the future will be a chaotic world which will be, among other things, an angry world, especially in the initial stages of the demise of the current civilization. In a December, 2009 article “America The Traumatized” , Adele Stan argues that a series of events that occurred in the first decade of the twenty-first century have made us a PTSD nation–and that was before the BP oil disaster of 2010. Until we understand trauma and post-traumatic stress, the need to blame the traumatizing event or person(s) who inflicted it is exceedingly compelling. When we do grasp the magnitude of trauma and its consequences, we come to understand how futile is our rage in the face of an inundation of horror.

I write these words more than two months after the BP Gulf of Mexico cataclysm. Am I angry as I witness the horror? Am I enraged at the lies of BP with regard to its prior knowledge regarding the safety of the Deepwater Horizon rig? Am I livid when I hear the stories of people who tried to warn the corporation that its bypassing of standard international safety regulations would result in catastrophe? Does white hot rage pulse through my body as I witness BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, taking a yachting trip and begging to “get his life back” as the entire world lays the blame for this debacle at his door and as the entire ecosystem is now in the path of the destruction visited upon it by a multitude of corporations and CEO’s of BP’s and Tony Hayward’s ilk? Am I incensed when I see millions of people immersed in an epic blame-fest, pointing fingers and mouthing incessant sentences beginning with “they shoulda, coulda, woulda”?

The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes”, and from the moment the catastrophe was first made public, I realized the probable scope of it, and I saw the word t-r-a-u-m-a writ large all over it. What purpose at this point will my anger serve? How could I be seduced by the inherent assumption in my anger that the there is a possibility that the situation can be remedied? In my opinion, the BP oil disaster of 2010 is nothing less than 100 Hurricane Katrinas in slow motion. It is an unfathomable game-changer-perhaps the tipping point in humanity’s destruction of this planet. As I witness countless animals dripping and dying from disgusting quantities of crude oil resembling raw sewage suffocating their bodies; as I consider that perhaps 40-50% of the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico will soon be covered with petroleum; as I reflect on the spread of the spill into other oceans and the death of plankton and the ultimate devastation of the food chain; as I consider the economic devastation of a section of the country that comprises about 20 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, and as I speculate that perhaps the entire Gulf Coast region may become uninhabitable, I see, hear, and feel nothing but trauma. Furthermore, if the entire population of the United States were not already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, it is now.

Yet what I have personally discovered about my anger over the years is neither that I shouldn’t have anger or that I should discharge it whenever I feel like it, but rather, to approach my anger mindfully. A stellar article by Holistic Psychologist, Jennifer Franklin, entitled “Mindfulness In Practice: Anger Management” defines mindfulness this way: “To be mindful is to be conscious, more awake, more informed about how one lives one’s life.

Being more mindful, therefore, allows us to make more awake or informed choices in every moment. Our words and actions would be more mindful if we were more awake or conscious in those moments in which when we choose them.” According to psychotherapist Richard Pfeiffer, quoted in the article, anger is a neurological response process that essentially prepares us to fight or flee.

We have many options for creating more mindfulness within ourselves. Meditation is, of course, one of the principal tools for strengthening mindfulness, even if the meditation is not the specific technique called “mindfulness meditation.” It is important to remember that mindfulness isn’t so much about becoming mindful of the world around us, although that generally accrues from a meditation practice, but rather, mindfulness is about being mindful of ourselves. It helps us become centered observers of our own process.

For example, the Dr. Franklin’s article offers the classic example of road rage and how it can be handled mindfully instead of reactively:

When you exercise mindfulness, you exercise non-reactivity or the capacity to stay centered, grounded, and unshaken in response to a stimulus. Now, don’t confuse non-reactivity with non-feeling. Let’s use road rage as an example. You’re driving, and someone cuts you off, and in response to being cut off you flip the driver the bird. You’ve just behaved reactively.

Contrast that with what non-reactivity would look like in that scenario: You are cut off by the driver, and rather than focusing your attention on the event itself, you focus it on you. You focus it on the sensations you are feeling in your body, most likely a fast heart rate, perhaps a tightness in the chest, or constricted breathing. Then you shift your attention to your breathing, sending the breath into the parts of your body that are feeling the anger-your heart, your chest-wherever it is for you. In the time it took you to do this exercise, you never even thought about flipping the driver the bird because you were too busy focusing on your reaction; that driver has probably gone on his or her merry way by now. This is non-reactivity.

Non-reactivity allows us to feel all of our feelings but not react to them. We feel them until we organically feel something else or until we decide mindfully, with awareness and choicefulness, that either we want to focus on something else or we want to act.

As I sit with the BP disaster, other emotions course through my body-deep, deep grief; fear, despair, and helplessness, and I have to wonder about the emotions of the earth itself. And since I believe that Gaia is a living, breathing organism, I must correct my use of “the earth itself” and state unequivocally that I believe she must be very, very angry. Within the past two years prior to the BP disaster, we have witnessed what many believe is an unprecedented number of natural disasters. Although officials from the U.S. Geological Survey insist that the number of earthquakes has not increased in recent years, many question that conclusion. Is Gaia “working through” her Five Stages of Grief? And if she is angry, what might she do next?

Perhaps those questions feel too anthropocentric to the reader, so I refer to the natural process of homeostasis which is “the ability of a system or living organism to adjust its internal environment to maintain a stable equilibrium.” When a system is out of balance, some internal process attempts to adjust the imbalance and return it to a state of balanced functioning.

In a 2008 interview with C-Realm Podcast, Albert Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of The Essential Exponential for Our Planet, stated, regarding population and unlimited growth, “If we don’t stop it now, then Nature will stop it through a big die-off.” Bartlett argues that population and growth spell annihilation for the planet if humans do not radically change their ways of occupying our planet.

One might argue that if Bartlett’s theory is so, it is all a matter of simple physics and that speaking of earth’s anger is pure anthropocentrism. Yet the distinguished doctor of medicine and biophysics, James Lovelock, who penned the book The Revenge of Gaia, argues in that work, as he does in many places, that humans have created out-of-control global warming and climate change which are now wreaking revenge on our species. Lovelock too may be indulging in rampant anthropocentrism, but if the earth itself has conscious self-awareness, both Bartlett and Lovelock may be onto something.

While we cannot validate with certainty earth’s anger, we can certainly attest to our own in the face of humanity’s devastation of the ecosystem. And while I do not concur with some in the field of psychology who argue that anger isn’t really a fundamental human emotion but a kind of mask for other feelings such as fear and grief, I do believe that in the case of our anger toward members of our species who are committing ecological suicide, it is crucial that we connect with our grief and terror regarding the state of the planet and the dire consequences of the project of industrial civilization which we are now beginning to experience.

In the short term, anger may be useful in motivating us to act-to prepare for the coming chaos, to help raise the awareness of others, and to inspire others to prepare, but if we allow ourselves to fully grasp the calamitous reality of the future into which we are moving, I believe that our anger will soon be eclipsed by fear, grief, and despair. My forthcoming book, Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Toolkit for Inner Transition, provides an extensive array of options for utilizing all emotions we might encounter in a world unraveling in order to sustain and protect ourselves.

Among the myriad reactions I hear to the BP disaster from the folks with whom I interact, the one that overshadows all others is anguish. We hold hands across the sand and bodies of water, we pray, and we talk to our friends, but fundamentally, we are absolutely powerless to remedy or reverse what occurred on April 20. We knew our planet was in a state of full-blown collapse, but we didn’t expect it to unfold this way. As one friend recently said to me, “It’s just a matter of time now.” I could have said, “Until what?” but I long ago learned not to ask questions I already know the answer to. My friend and I could just as well have been standing on the deck of the Titanic having the same conversation.

In an angry, chaotic world, it will be important for us to read the deeper emotions that underlie the rage we are likely to see erupting in society and in our communities. We will need to fortify ourselves emotionally and logistically from the collateral damage that myriad wounded-animal outbursts from others could inflict upon us, and even more importantly, not allow our egos to succumb to the momentary pleasure our own indulgence in rage might afford. At the same time we validate the rage our fellow humans feel, our compassion must penetrate the vitriol and understand the shipwreck that any human soul might become after years of sailing the waters of dogged denial and unwarranted faith in the American dream. If you are reading these words, it is likely that you have awakened from the dream or are in the process of doing so. Millions more never have and never will. How will we hold all of our emotions in the face of the rage their sense of betrayal will evoke in them? How will we go on loving the world?

**Portions of this article are excerpted from Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Toolkit For Inner Transition, By Carolyn Baker,  which will be submitted for publication in the fall of 2010.

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Relationship Tune-Up


Everyone knows someone who is having difficulty in their marriage or intimate relationship. Many are experiencing this themselves. As life becomes in­creasingly complex it becomes a growing challenge to maintain a healthy, satisfying relationship with one’s partner.

More often nowadays, couples see separation or divorce as an inevitable occurrence when difficulties persist. In some situations this may be the healthiest course of action, however, many relationship prob­lems may provide an opportunity for couples to re­assess what they want from one another, and to work together to create a “new” relationship with their partner which is closer to the “ideal” that they desire.

Relationships, like homes and vehicles, provide much more enjoyment when they are well main­tained. Time and effort is required for this. When conflict becomes a pattern, this is often a sign that maintenance has been neglected. Individuals change as they mature, and life circumstances also change.  The romantic love one-to-one time available in the early stages of a relationship are transformed with age, and the addition of children, increased work responsibilities and other challenges of mid-life.

These changes need not be seen as negative, or as losses, so long as a couple is prepared to do what needs to be done to nurture and enrich the relation­ship.  Open communication is important, as is an attitude of acceptance. Too often there is the temptation to try to change the other person, rather than looking inward to see what one could do differently to make a positive difference. Criticism and judgment only create resentment and this makes open communication much more difficult.

If things have reached the point where it is diffi­cult even to discuss certain topics, and there is a strong sense of having drifted apart, it may be time to consider relationship counseling. Often both par­ties sincerely want to re-establish a warm, loving re­lationship, but too many unresolved issues remain between them to accomplish this on their own. One need not give up driving, or buy a new car, simply because the current one is in need of a tune-up.

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