Sunday, December 4, 2016

Personal Safety- Will guns make us safer?

At a time when fear seems to be driving our society, safety is a major issue. Many people don’t feel safe. Many believe that the crime rate has increased over the past few years. The reality is that it has decreased significantly since the 1970s and that the ‘70s in many ways were the most dangerous times  for personal safety for people in this society. 
Unfortunately, the media does much to perpetuate the fear that exists. The old saying in the newsroom is, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ Shootings and personal tragedies are at the top of the news broadcasts. We are constantly bombarded with ads for personal safety systems, alarms that will tell us if our house is being broken into and will alert the police. Many people believe that they must own a gun in order to be safe, and they are fearful that their guns will be taken away by the government. I own a gun, an old service revolver that I wore when I worked for the sheriff’s department many years ago. I must say, though, that it doesn’t make me feel any safer having it in the house. In fact, statistics suggest that having a firearm in the home makes it more likely that someone in your family may die, rather than an intruder.
And do we really need assault weapons with huge magazines? I doubt it. I don’t think the Vandals are going to be at the gate anytime soon.
Whether we feel safe or not has much to do with our perception of the situation.  This is not to say that there aren’t places one should avoid on a dark night, but how we see things has a lot to do with whether we feel safe or we don’t. If we believe that one event can make everything good or everything bad in our lives, we are likely to not feel very safe. If we believe that when bad things happen they are permanent and will never change, we are likely to not feel very safe. If we blame ourselves or other people for the problems that we face, we are less likely to feel safe. This is not to say that bad things don’t happen and that people should not be accountable for their actions. But believing that one event -- for example a job promotion or lack of it -- can make everything good or bad, or that when something happens it is permanent, either good or bad, or being engaged in the blame game makes us more vulnerable to feeling unsafe. Changing our thinking may go a lot further to making us feel safe than buying a firearm.
Dr. Ron Breazeale

The 2016 Election - Part Two

Dealing with the issues that divide this country.

In the last blog we talked about the present reality that we find ourselves in presenting a number of opportunities for us to address the issues that have separated us and continue to divide this country. We talked about the importance of connecting with others and communicating with others, specifically listening to others, especially those we don’t agree with. Being flexible both in our thinking and in our behavior. Specifically, trying in a different way to address the issues that we have been struggling with in this country for many, many years.

We also talked about the importance of dealing with your feelings and discharging and venting them so that they don’t get in the way of you thinking clearly in the present. And last of all, we talked about the importance of being optimistic about the future.

Things will continue to change. Everything, both good and bad, is temporary. And few things, even an election, have a pervasive effect on everything in your world. This was an important election and indeed things have changed, but much has remained the same. Especially the issues that divide us. And last of all, we talked about not getting into the blame game. Don’t get engaged in the scapegoating that will be occurring now. We can hold people accountable and hold ourselves accountable without blaming others.

And here are a few more on my checklist of things to do.

1.) Act on your values. We assume that many people were doing that when they voted. But that was only the start. We now need to make realistic plans for action and we need to carry them through. So far, a relatively peaceful change has occurred. We can learn from that. On whichever side of the political fence you are, change usually occurs slowly. At least I think that is true for lasting changes. Action, patience and hard work are required on both sides.
2.) Be self-confident that what you can do has an impact. Change has occurred over the last forty years. Significant changes. It may not feel that way to some people today, but as a child of the Sixties who grew up in a segregated South, a lot have changed. Granted, a lot has not. Our generation needs to finish the job that we started. We need to at least help the present generation, our children, to do this. Too many of us have given up and too many of us have sold out to the “greed is good” model of capitalism.

3.) Humor. Don’t direct it at the people who are different from you, the people you don’t agree with. First, try directing it at yourself. As Americans, we have done many miraculous things. But we should remember that many people in other countries of this world are amazed at what has just happened in our country. They might agree with Bill Murray’s line in the old movie, Stripes, when he says, “We’re Americans and we have been thrown out of every respectable country in the world.” They might also agree with Churchill’s quote, that "Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after they’ve exhausted every other option.” Part of listening to others is listening to other members of the international community and their perception of us.

4.) We need to take care of ourselves during this time. We need to throw ourselves into whatever cause we are promoting at present, but we also need to make sure that we get enough sleep, exercise, and maintain a decent diet. We’re not going to be effective advocating for anything if we are not taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and financially.

5.) We also need to take care of others. We need to care for our brothers or sisters in this country regardless of their race, religion, sexual preference or politics. We need to make America kind...again. There’s only one ship for all of us, and it’s THE USS UNITED STATES.

Ronald L. Breazeale, Ph.D.
Author, Duct Tape Isn’t Enough and First Night

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Election
The election is over and most of us would agree that that’s a good thing.  Most of us would also agree that the next few months or years may be difficult ones.  The good news is that we have an opportunity to address the things, the issues, that have separated us and divided us.  To do this, we will need the skills and the attitudes of resilience.  So here is my checklist of things to do.

1.       Connect with others, especially with people that you have disagreed with.  Failing to do this is what has gotten us to the place where we are presently are. 
2.       Communicate with others.  Don’t just talk, but listen.  Especially, again, to people that you don’t agree with.  Too often we spend time composing our argument back rather than listening to what the person is saying.
3.       Be flexible, both in your thoughts and your actions.  This is a time for trying in a different way.  We need to be creative.  Rigid people usually aren’t.  Use your head.  Negotiate and, yes, compromise.  In a democracy you can’t always have it your way.  That’s why they call it a democracy.
4.       Deal with your feelings about what has happened.  If your candidate lost, honor your grief.  Keeping it inside is not a good idea.  Anger and grief are toxic emotions that will hurt you in the end.  Vent and let go of them.Cry.Scream if you need to but not at other people. Discharge them so you can think more clearly.  If you are feeling elated by the results of the election, realize that many people aren’t.Respect others.
5.       Be optimistic.  Things will change again.  The next few months are a short chapter in a long book.  Look around.  Look at the big picture.  Not everything has changed.  One event seldom has a pervasive effect on the whole picture.  And last of all, don’t blame.  Unfortunately, this will be a time when people look for a scapegoat.  Don’t blame yourself.  Don’t blame other people.  You can hold them accountable for their actions and you  need to hold yourself accountable for your own.  But this is different from blame.  It doesn’t have a heavy dose of negative emotion that blame has.

                    Now, applying these skills and attitudes to the present situation will not be easy.  But it’s your country and it’s your life.  What you do or don’t do will affect the lives of your family, your children, and the other inhabitants of this earth.

                    In the next blog, we’ll talk more about how the skills and the attitudes of resilience can be applied to dealing with the aftermath of the election. 

Ronald L. Breazeale, Ph.D.
Author, Duct Tape Isn’t Enough and First Night

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Employee Involvement

Employee involvement. Seems like a nice idea, doesn’t it? But employers often find that they have a hard time actively engaging their employees in the organization. Many say that this is one of the problems that they have in trying to implement health and wellness programs.
In the previous blog, I discussed the Psychologically Healthy Workplace awards program sponsored by the American Psychological Association and state and provincial psychological associations across the U.S. and Canada. Employee involvement is one of the five areas that are evaluated by APA or the state or provincial associations when an organization has applied for the award. The evaluation process has three parts. The application in which an organization is asked to describe one of the practices it makes use of in creating a psychological healthy workplace, environment that it feels is very effective, a survey of employees at all levels within the organization, and a site visit. The evaluation process, although extensive, does not cost the organization anything but some time and effort. The first two steps are completed online. After the site visit, the organization is given feedback regarding the five areas that are being evaluated. How to get employees engaged in the mission of the organization is often one of the areas that employers want to talk about.
Imagine the following scenario: Use the skills and attitudes of resilience to address this challenge. You are the HR person for your organization, a medium-size manufacturing company. You offer a number of health and wellness programs for your employees, but less than 20% participate. You are frustrated and don’t understand why more employees don’t take advantage of this generous benefit that your organization offers.
Now, give some thought to how the skills and the attitudes of resilience might be helpful in dealing with this situation. Here are some suggestions that we have that you might think about applying to the situation.
First, you need to consider how you communicate with your employees and how connected they are to you and the company. Do they feel valued by the organization or do they think this is being done just to reduce the cost to the company in health benefit claims? You also may need to deal with some of the strong feelings you have about this issue so you can think more clearly about how to deal with this challenge.  
Talk with others about what they would do or have done in a similar situation.You may come up with others skills and attitudes you could apply.
In the next blog, we’re going to talk about work/life balance.  Unfortunately, many organizations spend a good deal of time talking about this, but don’t really walk the walk.

My Job

The bad news is that for many Americans their job is a major source of stress for them. The good news is that employers and the employee can make their workplace less stressful and more psychologically healthy.
In the late nineties, the American Psychological Association began giving an award to workplaces that were “psychologically healthy.” Workplaces could apply for the award and be evaluated on five areas: employee involvement, work/life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Since the program began over six hundred awards have been given by the American Psychological Association and state psychological associations. The award has shown a light on organizations’ good practices.
Today, most state and provincial psychological associations in the United States and Canada participate in the awards program. The awards continue to recognize organizations that commit to programs and policies that foster employee well-being while enhancing organizational performance.
Why am I writing about this in a blog that focuses on resilience? Because I believe that keeping in mind and practicing the skills and the attitudes of resilience can help employers and employees create psychologically healthy workplaces. In the next few months I’m going to focus on the five areas on which organizations are evaluated and how the skills and attitudes of resilience can be helpful in dealing with the challenges that employers may face in creating work/life balance, recognizing their employees,creating healthy and safe workplaces,involving their employees in decision making and fostering their growth and development.
For more information about the Psychologically Healthy Workplace awards, contact the American Psychological Association at  or contact your state psychological association.

Managing Stress

In this blog over the years I’ve talked a lot about the management of stress. The skills ofresilience are really stress management skills. They are also the skills of emotional intelligence  These areas overlap a lot and have a lot to do with the issue of happiness as well.
Recently, I was asked to do an interview with a national magazine around the issue of stress management. The author wanted specific recommendations regarding how to manage stress quickly. We talked for about a half-hour and came up with a number of strategies; again, strategies very directly related to resilience as well as to the management of stress.
The management of stress has much to do with the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and other people. And about the world in general. In this blog, I’ve talked a lot about the issues of permanency and pervasiveness and personal blame. It is easy for us to get into this type of thinking which, as Seligman has defined repeatedly in his research, has much to do with pessimism and depression. So challenging our beliefs has much to do with resilience and with managing stress on a daily basis.  We make assumptions about how we should look, feel and behave. We also often get into black and white thinking. We say things like, ‘If I don’t get this promotion, I’m never going to get ahead in life.’  Or, ‘If this relationship fails, I will never find another person that I can love or could love me.’
Managing stress often involves challenging these assumptions and these beliefs. We need to argue with ourselves rather than simply accept these beliefs at face value.
We also need to find ways of channeling and expressing the stress that we are feeling. Sometimes we can do this by simply talking to others. Exercise can also be a very good idea. And engaging in creative activities, like drawing, writing or painting, can also work.
We also need to get our lives organized and directed. Before we can do this, we usually need to decide what is most important and what our goals really are right now. We can often make what may appear to be an overwhelming agenda manageable by writing it down and then realistically prioritizing the things that we can accomplish and making a plan to accomplish them.
So managing stress may be as simple some days as making a list and prioritizing the list, challenging our beliefs and what we must accomplish and finding ways to express our frustrations and often our anger specifically using creative activities as a channel.
Resilience has much to do with managing stress, and the skills of resilience and stress management are very, very similar to the ones that Goldman and others have defined as emotional intelligence and that those working in the area of positive psychology believe can lead to people feeling happier and more satisfied with their lives.

The Shopping Trip

As I have done in previous blogs, I’m going to present a challenge from the card game, “Bounce Back.” Your job is list the skills and the attitudes of resilience that you would use in dealing with the challenge. Describe how you would respond to the challenge using these skills.
This one relates to Jack and Diane taking a shopping trip to the mall. They are looking for new outfits for an upcoming event that they were invited to. They both try on several articles of clothing trying to find the perfect ensemble. By the end of trying on everything, their arms were quite full. After ringing up the items and leaving the store, Jack notices that he is still holding a pair of jeans that he forgot to get rung up. The clerk had not noticed and neither did Diane. Jack really wanted these jeans as well. It was a simple mistake, but he thought he could not just take them home.  What skills should Jack use to resolve this dilemma  Should he just head home or head back to the store and explain the situation? Should he ask for Diane’s advice?
Here are some of the skills that we think would be useful to Jack in dealing with this situation. Obviously, these are only suggestions. One size does not fit all, and everyone is different.
We would first off suggest that Jack deal with the feelings that he has about himself and the options that he has in terms of his behavior. How will he feel if he doesn’t take the item back? Will he be comfortable shopping in this store in the future? This is a situation where we think talking about it would be a good idea. We would suggest asking Diane’s advice.
If he decides to take the jeans back, we would think that giving some thought to what he would say would be a good idea. Using humor might also help.        
Dealing with a situation requires Jack to look at the values that he has as a person and as to how he sees himself and feels about himself. How he will act on his values will determine the outcome of this situation.
Talking with others about how they would deal with a similar situation or how they have dealt with a similar situation would be helpful. Again, you may come up with other skills and attitudes that you would apply in the situation. In using this game over the years, we have found that it encourages people to really think about what they would do in a specific situation and requires them to actually demonstrate how they would apply the skills and the attitudes of resilience to the challenge.