Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

By Betsy L. Angert

Human beings are a fascinating bunch.  We gather information through observation, and the reading of facts, figures, and formulas.  We draw inferences and deduce. Granted conversations too play a role in what we conclude; however, mostly humans rely on the readable. What we cannot see is thought less significant.  Take Hurricane Sandy for example.

Meteorologists saw the signs.  Citizens, who merely glanced at the papers understood what was visible in print; Sharp Warnings as Hurricane Churns In. People began to do as people do when warned of an impending storm. They prepare for the worse.  Individuals and families evacuated the area.  Transit Authorities shutdown the system.  Cities and counties hunkered down.

Now, after the tempest took its toll, young ones do as the adults had done.  An eight-grader’s account looks at what appears on the surface. As do most, she too attends to material concerns.  Rarely, do we know what else to do. Society and school curriculums that reflect a standardized surface reality do not give us the critical thinking tools needed to assist persons who have experienced an emotional trauma.  Today, we have one. We have Psychological First Aid.  This relief is not as a “kit” filled with bandages, cotton balls and antiseptic; nor is a box full of funds or quick-fix tricks. No, this Aid is much like cake you bake or the casserole you might make for family or friends in distress.  Either is a gift of love.  Each opens the door for conversations that reveal feelings.  So what is this Aid?

It is  The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund. Oh sure, you say, another charity, another request for cash. How can dollars provide psychological  support? Currency and coins cannot. In truth, food and water do not feed a soul. Bricks and mortar also are inadequate; even blood does not heal our emotional hurts.  So again you ask, why contribute to this Fund?  What makes it different? It’s the ingredients.

This cake or casserole to be presented will be made with the finest blend “The Core Actions.” The essence of the mixture. Ah, take a whiff, or dip your fork in and taste what the eyes cannot see.

  • Contact and Engagement
  • Safety and Comfort
  • Stabilization
  • Information Gathering: Current Needs and Concerns
  • Practical Assistance
  • Connection with Social Supports
  • Information on Coping
  • Linkage with Collaborative Services

How is that possible? Let us look at the cook.    Save Our Schools,  a grassroots, people-powered, non-profit organization has organized and effort that focuses on the emotional needs of students, Teachers, and School Support Staffs.  SOS will work to support  several New York and New Jersey schools, in dire need.  Provisions, while material, will offer opportunities to open doors that evoke fruitful and emotional discussions. Gifts that invite children to play bequeath the freedom necessary for caring conversations.  

Only through these dialogues do we “see” into the soul to more than merely addressing the visible wounds. A box of crayons, paper, and a Trained Counselor, these are the ingredients that, when stirred together bake a beautiful cake. The frosting is Contact and Engagement.  We advocate that Teachers are provided the space to become the first element in a Psychological First Aid Box. With a moratorium on the administration and use of high stakes standardized testing for teacher and student evaluation emotional relief can begin.  Chitchat and chatter, is the small talk that makes possible the sense of Safety and Comfort, which is another essential  factor.   The food that evokes thoughtful dialogues. The Save Our Schools Students and Teachers Fund will offer these.

Fictional books and academic texts too will be among the gifts we give. The Practical Assistance piece of the cake.  The Practical  also speaks to the Stabilization necessary.  By being there, within schools and communities, as union locals, area Parent Teacher Associations and other education allied advocacy organizations will do more than  throw money at an unsightly broken wall.  From within, we will Gather Information, as well as address Current Needs and Concerns.  We will establish a Connection to Social supports while providing psychological and emotional Information, Support that grows coping muscles.  We will also build Collaborative relationships.  We would like to build one with you.  

If you choose, please contribute to the cake, casserole, or The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund.  We thank you!

Resources and References…

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.

Every Woman; Elizabeth Edwards

GMA – Elizabeth Edwards on Oprah

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

She is an eloquent speaker, an expressive author.  Elizabeth Edwards is effervescent, effusive, and has an excellent mind.  She understands profound policy issues as easily as she prepares a sandwich.   Her memoir appeared on The New York Times bestseller list.  Few think of Elizabeth Edwards as every woman.  Other daughters of Eve might say Edwards is exceptional; surely, she is not as I am.  Yet, life experiences might have taught Elizabeth Edwards otherwise.  Just as other ladies, she is brilliant, beautiful, and not nearly equal to a man.

For years, millions of Americans thought Elizabeth Edwards could be a political power in her own right.  However, friends aver, Elizabeth never had an interest in that.   First and foremost, the role Elizabeth Edwards has said is most significant to her is that of Mom.  She was happy to support her husband, glad for the opportunity to speak on his behest.  However, Ms Edwards was content to be behind the scenes.

The wife and mother believed as much of the country did.   Her spouse, John, was quite superior.  Not only was he an accomplished attorney, as was she, He was a Presidential candidate in 2008 and a Vice President aspirant in 2004.  John Edwards had a following, as did Elizabeth.  Each was “stunningly” successful in their work.  Certainly, the two were characterized as a powerful pair.  Neither could be called common.  Average Americans, they were not.  Still, John was the one who could command an audience, or a country.

He was handsome.  Granted, in her youth, Elizabeth was also smashing.  However, by 1998, a woman told an Edwards pollster the lovely ‘Lizabeth looked like his [John’s] mother, or older sister.  Indeed, this casual observer said of the then future Senator’s spouse, “I like that he’s got a fat wife.”   In the new book, “Game Change,” which documents the doings within the 2008 Presidential campaign, it is revealed that the aforementioned anonymous woman remarked in relief, “I thought he’d be married to a Barbie or a cheerleader.”  Perhaps these verbalized thoughts were the first reported glimpse into the present.  Elizabeth Edwards is every woman.  Infrequently, is John Edwards spouse looked upon as a separate individual.  Ms Edwards is regarded as unequal.

Ostensibly, Elizabeth and John were thought to have an exceptional life.   In truth, they were as you and I are.  Elizabeth Edwards and her husband are never free from human emotions.

Humans, adult men, women, adolescents, and sandlot age persons tell others a tale.  People weave a yarn that helps to inform others it also instructs the storyteller.  Dan P. McAdams, a Professor of Psychology at Northwestern and Author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self” states, “(T)hese narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”  This may explain why no two persons are alike.  However, the thought might not help to explicate what is real for a woman and not necessarily for a man.

Either might think themselves a failure if a relationship is severed.  Each could characterize himself or herself as someone who is not good enough. Perchance, societal standards will cause a woman greater stress.  A female might believe herself, damaged goods.  While Americans state that they have progressed beyond such suppositions, in actuality, any or many a label can classify a divorcee as undesirable.  Some will say she could not satisfy her man. Her age might ensure that she is thought to be an unattractive asset.  Perchance, some will say, she was too forthcoming, overly friendly when in the company of other men, a flirt, a floozy, and a femme fatale.  

Then there are the financial ramifications and considerations.  Men, before a divorce and after fare far better fiscally than their counterparts do.  Interestingly, a study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that men who think of women in a more traditional, some would say sexist manner earn more money than those chaps with equalitarian views.  The variance is vast.  The more old-fashioned a gent might be, the greater his rewards.

Women, on the other hand, make less on average than men do.  Parents may posture that an excellent education will nullify the gender gap.  However, the Pay Gap Persists; Women Still Make Less, than men do. Surely, most surmise, Elizabeth Edwards will be amongst the exception.  She need not worry.  Once separate, the conventional wisdom is, Elizabeth Edwards will be equal.  The accepted thought is Edwards is not every woman.

After all, Ms Edwards graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a degree in English. She went on to study American literature and ultimately secured her degree in law. She certainly is set for life. However, her status as a “professional” person, one out in the work-world became less of a priority.  Elizabeth Edwards, as her friends will attest to, thinks of herself as the proud mother of four children: Catharine, Emma Claire, and Jack. Her first child, Wade, died in 1996.  Time away from the office takes a fiscal toll.

In truth, even if Ms Edwards had remained a fixture in a solid firm, she would have experienced as most every other woman has.  Women Earn Less Than Men, Especially at the Top.  No matter the tale Elizabeth or every other woman might tell themselves, there are some facts that females know they must face.  Emotionally we can evolve.  Economically, the road is rougher for the “fairer” sex.

Only the desire to treat someone of a different sex fairly is great.  Parity is not the reality. Be it a former spouse with whom we have feuded, a friend, male or female by nature, wives wronged, and women righted, wish to achieve equality.  This may be why many women welcomed the prospect of “no fault” divorce.

While it is fine to think that we might not wish to place the onus on one or the other partner, in truth, the notion of a “no fault” divorce has done much harm.   A blameless split severs more than a legal bond.  It presents “perverse consequences for women,” says Lenore J. Weitzman, Associate Professor of Sociology at Stanford.  Divorce for women is just different than it is for men.  Perhaps, “There are enormous financial ramifications” even if you are Elizabeth Edwards.  Potential economic woes must worry any woman who contemplates the disillusion of a marriage.  The appearance of wealth, for women, maintained while married, will not warm the cockles of a heart hurt.  Nor will the façade fill her coffers.  Frequently, females face financial ruin, realized in divorce.

That truth has power.  Does a wife such as Elizabeth Edwards weigh the practical and or parse the paradox of a deceitful philanderer.  This may depend on the missus, the mistress, the money, and more.  In a moment, the yarn spun may be sufficient.  In the next minute, the same saga may sound silly, insincere, or just more of the madness.  If a husband is All apologies and earnestly expresses remorse, a couple could come to terms with what occurred.  An admission could kindle forgiveness, or after a series of confessions, one too many might be the permission to leave that a scorned wife sought.  Elizabeth Edwards stated she was “relieved” and hoped husband John’s long delayed disclosure would end the seemingly eternal drama that had become her life.

What we do not know; nor does the soon to be footloose and fancy-free Elizabeth, is how her saga will evolve.  While Elizabeth Edwards is every woman, she is like no one else.  Her tragedy, comic relief, travel, and she are uniquely her own.  This is true whether one’s name is Ellen, Emma, Eileen, Eve, or even Rielle.  What differs is who directs our performance, the stories told.

What might matter most to someone such as Elizabeth Edwards is how the eventuality of a divorce will affect her health.  Will this woman, who loves her life as a mom, be able to help her children?  Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill. Indeed, the research reveals Divorce undermines health in ways remarriage doesn’t heal.  What is a aggrieved Eve or Elizabeth to do?

A captive American audience awaits the details, the decision, or knowledge of the direction a resolute Ms Edwards will take.  For months, or perhaps years, observers asked of the screenplay that appeared often on American television screens, in tabloids, and in books.  Some wives expressed sympathy for exactly what they witnessed in their own marriages.  Singles also empathized.  Elizabeth Edward’s experience is not isolated to the institution of wedlock.  The similarities scream out.

Women pose.  They posture.  Females hide the pain, and the shame. They may shout, shriek, or calmly express distress.  “I am so determined. This time I will lose 40 pounds,” said Elizabeth Edwards as she greeted a guest at the door of her home.  Did she wish to present herself at her best for her husband?  Might Ms Edwards words “show a lack of pretense,” or, as her critics say, was the statement but another act on Elizabeth’s. part.  What role did and does Elizabeth play in this drama?  Can anyone know for sure?

Is she a caricature, stereotyped as a spouse?  What is the story Elizabeth tells herself and others? A women’s place is in the home, on the campaign trail, to pale in comparison to her husband.  

Might her yarn be the same is true if a dame is a professional person, a politician, a plumber, or a Professors wife.   A women’s work is never done, be it that of a domestic, a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, or candlestick maker.  Elizabeth Edwards, as many women can attest to the notion, when you are of the fairer sex, praise pours in sparingly.  Disparagement is distributed frequently. At times, the two are synonymous.  

The former North Carolina Senator’s erstwhile aide Andrew Young exemplifies this.  In his tome titled “The Politician” Elizabeth Edwards is described as the wife and mother could not keep her man.  She “became intoxicated by power, and sometimes looked the other way.”

The Edwards Adviser, as do most, at least in America, acquiesced to the old adage, there is a good woman, behind every man.  A gent does not act alone.  Certainly, John Edwards did not.  Mister Young, in his writings, marvels that Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards each moved John to do as he has, or perhaps the two damsels did as all people do.  

With societal standards in mind, they pen a tale that reflects their truth.  The title; This is your life (and How You Tell It.)  Men might have opportunities that allow for a more sensational, secure, and solid plot.

Woman work on a screenplay more mired in woes.  She persistently updates the plot.   Just as Elizabeth Edwards, she transforms the treatment of our own life.  She learns and finds Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers. For some, the saga was audacious, and certainly not what they expected from an authority on the law.  Others saw them selves.  Every woman might relate to the reality, Elizabeth Edwards has learned every woman is as she., effervescent, effusive, bearers of excellent minds.  We all experience hurts and heartaches, many of our own making, many more that are not.

“I am a woman.  Here me roar.”  Watch me soar.  I may occupy the planet “in numbers too big to ignore,” but will I ever realize the heights, or have rights equal to those of a man.

Every Woman; Elizabeth Edwards . . .

Keep America Safe

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

Do you know one?  Perchance your mother, father, brother, or sister is a person you would characterize as lovingly protective.  He or she maybe an individual who works to shield loved ones from harm.  This fine fellow or femme plots and plans in an attempt to prevent any crisis.  People come to depend on caring souls such as he or she.  Indeed, you may be the cautious crier who actively expresses concern for the health and welfare of those you treasure.  It is a tough task, but you, or someone in your life may have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.  Surely, someone must keep us safe and sane.  One never knows who might lurk or linger in the halls, bathroom stalls, on a plane, boat or train.  Credentials must be checked.  If family and friends cannot safeguard us from the crazies and fanatics certainly, our sweet Uncle Sam will.  

Article II of the Constitution and the American people provide the Commander-In-Chief the authority to protect and defend at all costs, or currently, it would seem so.  Checks and balance be damned, when the consensus within the country is, “We are at war!”

In a time such as this, few reflect upon the parallels in their everyday lives.  Quietly, each of us recalls when we, personally, were at war.  The conflict was covert.  Rarely were we even conscious of what occurred.  Thus, just as we are as children, in adulthood, we oblige.  When asked to remove our shoes in an airport, American citizens, and visitors to this country, do so.  “Put your sweater in the tray.”  Happy, with the prospect that we might avoid a full body search, we smile, and act in accordance with the command.

This is after we handed the Transportation Security Administrators our boarding pass and photograph identification card.  Indeed, as we shuffle off to Buffalo, New York, Billings, Montana, or Bakersfield, California, we succumb to the many demands put before us. The public is now, for the most part, willing to submit to a body scan. Seventy-eight percent of the Americans polled support the use of technology that in the past, would have been considered a physical invasion of privacy.

Although fifty-one percent of the American people who were asked favor racial and ethnic profiling, this action, in truth, is thought politically incorrect.  Nonetheless, archetypal classifications are “acceptable” to more than half the populace.  People prefer to feel protected.  Most trust they will never be subject to unwarranted seizure.  Nor will the use of these X-rays affect their health.  Certainly, Uncle Sam is scrupulous and will not use the images in an unethical manner.  Others are the adversaries.  Authority figures are as Mom and Dad.  They do as they do in our best interest.  

As humans, we long for love, and interpret protective practice as an expression of this caring, or do we?  Might we muse Americans have become inured to the fragility factor. Constantly, especially in this decade, citizens have been told there is reason to fear.  Hence, Americans have become extremely apprehensive.  Paradoxically, the Office of Homeland Security concludes that much of our trepidation is of our own making.

It begins in childhood.  In the last score or so, fearful parents proclaimed, “Do not talk to strangers.”  The neighborhood is on watch.  Playtime must be supervised.  “The world,” Moms and Dads declare, “is not a safe place.”  Indeed, it is impossible to escape the hazards.  Scary people are everywhere.  Nonetheless, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and of course Uncle Sam will help. Rest assured; “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure.”

Children were, perchance, comforted.  Today, mothers and fathers ponder their growing pains.  Many reason it is better to cloister a little one.  Thus, parents plan every activity.  From birth forward, it is more than 18 Years in the Making. Cash is stashed for college.  Schools and careers are chosen and charted before a child takes his or her first steps.  Tikes are trained and tested to ensure that they will achieve. Once the standards are set, early in life, our government takes over.  Officials watch our every move and we are comfortable with this.

Americans, compassionately teach their children to be on guard However, as an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Doctor Elizabeth Alderman observes, overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping competencies. ”If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Diane knows this well. She learned her lessons long before the current trend in parenting.  Darling Diane was but a lass when she discovered that she was not safe.  Decades ago, years before people hid behind locked doors and windows, Diane realized that everywhere she went there was danger.  

In the 1950s the little tike understood, when she walked to school, she did not travel alone.  Her mother marched with her.  Mrs McMahon did not stroll at the young girl’s side.  Nor did the elder woman sweetly saunter just out of sight.  Madame McMahon hung over Diane’s head.  She haunted her darling daughter, and was always in the youngster’s thoughts.

For Diane, it was as it is today for a young patient of Doctor David Anderegg, a Child Psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts.  As the adolescent spoke with the Professor of Psychology at Bennington College, she said “I wish my parents had some hobby other than me.” Experts appear to agree; being the subject of intense scrutiny can cause a child, of any age, to be anxious.

Diane McMahon concurs.  Whatever she did, Diane could not shake the angst.  Her protective parent influenced her every action; however, not in ways that would benefit the girl or her relationship with her Mom.  

If Diane thought to be with peers, Mom was always in the background of her mind.  When her friends stole makeup from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Diane did too.  The “culprit” knew she could not keep the cosmetics, at least not at home.  She arranged for a friend of hers, whose Mom and Dad did not go through her drawers, to take the foundation, powder, eye shadow, and mascara.  Each evening these, along with the lipstick and perfume would go home with an acquaintance.  In the morning, on the way to school, all would be returned to Diane.

When classmates said smoking is cool, Diane tried it.  Warnings from her mother, while heard, and alive, loudly in Diane’s head, did not persuade the teen to do what Mom wanted her to do.

She never openly crossed her mother; nor did the girl question Mrs McMahon’s wisdom.  Diane merely hid her heart, the stolen makeup, the cigarettes, and her life.  The mother lived blissfully, ignorant of who her daughter was, and what she did daily.  The two had a good relationship, and seemingly, to this day they do.  However, the hurts, just as the haunts, remain unseen.  

In Diane’s family secrets prevail.  Just as a rebellious child, a sibling, a spouse, or a terrorist, people do what they desire to do.  No one, not even a firm Mrs McMahon, Mister Obama, Mister Bush, you, or I can control what will come.  Indeed, we create it.

When people are presumed to be in need of protection, ultimately, they guard themselves from the protector.  Those alleged guilty persons, often prove not to be as they appear to be. Diane enjoyed her hours at home with her parents.  She cherished the time they spent together away as well.  Yet, there was always unexpressed tension.

Hothouse parenting undermines children in other ways, too, says Anderegg. Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. “If every drawing is going to end up on your parents’ refrigerator, you’re not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes,” says Anderegg.

Parental hovering is why so many teenagers are so ironic, he notes. It’s a kind of detachment, “a way of hiding in plain sight. They just don’t want to be exposed to any more scrutiny.”

Infinite inspections, eternal examinations, possible detection did not necessarily stop Diane from engaging in the behaviors her mother feared.  Nor would a prohibition or possible penalty inhibit the lass .  Threats have no power.  As a toddler Dine realized the notion Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Intelligence at the global foundation, Stratfor acknowledges.  The security expert advises; regardless of what type of technology is used at airports, or which techniques are employed by “protective parents, creative terrorists, just as tots, teens, and those at any age, will always find ways to get around it.

When asked if airport body scanners can stop terrorist attacks, he said, “Look at prison systems, where searches are far more invasive – they still can’t stop contraband from being smuggled into the system,”  Mister Stewart continues and cautions. Americans tend to rely on technology, “instead of human intelligence,”  

We might extrapolate.  Protective parents depend upon their ability to provide safety and security.  Rather than teach self-reliance, nervous caregivers coddle, cosset, and lavish “love” on their little ones.  Mothers and fathers create a culture cocooned from harm and believe this is good parenting.

John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia has observed, many students, such as Diane,  “There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear.” He explains.  “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”

Professor Portmann feels the effects of overprotection are even more pernicious.  He suggests the whole fabric of society is feeble and fallible when we place our faith in our mother, father, or the Federal government. Portmann is very familiar with what he sees each semester.  Young people and their parents become weaker, “more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in-less assertive  . . , unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”  

That is, perhaps, the greater threat to the persons who reside on this planet.  Most forfeit their personal power.  People presuppose someone will know what is best.  We trust the crowd or the Commander-In-chief.  Most think as the group does.  “Evil is everywhere.”  “There are enemies all about.”  “Terrorists want to kill us.”  These are considered conventional wisdoms or accepted assumptions.  However, the paradox is, presumptions become projections.  Self-fulfilling prophecies survive.  Frequently, these conjectures thrive, while, just as in all other wars, citizens die.

In counterterrorism circles, the standard response to questions about the possibility of future attacks is the terse one-liner: “Not if, but when.” This mantra supposedly conveys a realistic approach to the problem, but, as Joseba Zulaika argues in Terrorism, it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By distorting reality to fit their own worldview, the architects of the War on Terror prompt the behavior they seek to prevent-a twisted logic that has already played out horrifically in Iraq. In short, Zulaika contends, counterterrorism has become pivotal in promoting terrorism.

Diane, her deeds, Mrs McMahon sense of doom, and the destructive practice of a protective philosophy affirm what scores of Americans dismiss in the abstract.  What we fear most has power.  As is oft-stated, what we conceive, and truly believe, will be achieved.  Ample research asserts, whether what we imagine is for good or the source of our grief, our conviction can be a cause and an effect.  Often we are too close to a situation to see what others easily discern.

To the countless who contemplate traumas such as terrorism and ask, “What next?” There are many possible prospects.  We can choose to cultivate a culture that cares rather than works to control or we can continue to rely on a reality that has never been.  Americans can have faith that the Commander-In-Chief  “Will Do Everything” or we can accept that, alas, the demon is our own dependency.

References for the reality of resentment, revolt, or insurgent rebels . . .

The Lesson; All Beings Are a Beautiful Bundle of Love


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The day was delightful.  The water was superb.  The sun was full and bright.  A few billowy, puffy clouds floated through the sky.  They were white, cumulus, fluffy fellows, the type that excite many a child as they gaze into the heavens.  In parks, on lawns, little ones were likely looking up and pointing.  “Look,” they might say,  “It is a horse, a donkey, or perchance a unicorn.”  It was a day for whimsy.  The children, playful in the pool, barely noticed the graceful shapes as they danced above their heads.  Instead, they were focused on what they decided were June bugs.

Three young sweet girls stood in the warm water near their Daddy.  All were calm, content, and serene.  The sisters chatted easily.  Father smiled.  The youngest lass expressed her curiosity.  As her sibling searched for bugs on the plastic rope line, the “baby” in the family asked of the insects.  “Are they icky to touch,” the cautious curly haired youngster inquired.  The more confident elder sister said, “No!  They are cute,” she said.  See.”  The “older” child showed the girl of fewer years.

A stranger, in the adjacent lane was preparing to swim.  Becky was her name.  She was much older than the children, and perhaps no wiser; nonetheless, she share her assessment of the beetle.  Becky said of the six-legged lovelies, “They are life; all creatures are beautiful.”  With that thought, the father beamed, and the older lady plunged head first into the water filled cement reservoir.

Lap after lap and look after look the woman and children enjoyed the quiet of the day.  The words the swimmer shared seemed to hang in the air.  People came and went, throughout the afternoon, and splendor was all anyone saw.

Then, everything changed.  The evolution from tranquil to trauma was  slow; nonetheless, unexpected.  Those in the recreation park were struck, as if by a bolt of lightening.  However, unlike when a storm threatens, swimmers were not forced to leave the pool.  The jolt evoked more silence.  No one screamed, but the sole boy, victim to the method his Mom’s adopted for instruction.

The young mother, a woman, perhaps, in her early thirties, was extremely pleasant in appearance, and it seemed her personality was equally delightful.  She, Madison, entered the deck area with her small son in her arms.  Skin, beautifully tanned, this well-dress lady strode to the lifeguard tower.  The little guy, let us call him, Michael, was not as bronze in color, and was visibly agitated.  Michael whimpered, even as his Mom held him close.  

Becky, the swimmer who enjoyed the company of the little lasses and their Dad before she began her exercise had just finished the more strenuous part of her routine when the mother and child came into view.  Becky, a teacher, enjoyed children, in or outside the classroom.  She marveled at the openness of a mind not yet crushed by the weight of worry.  The sincerity of a small one was a source of fascination for Becky.  Children, early in life, were candid and joyous, at least most were, or appeared to be.

Little Michael, a lad, maybe three, or four, was not a cheerful child.  He wore no glee on his face, although his features were cute as could be from what Becky was able to see.  When the swimmer first noticed Madison and Michael, they were yards away.  They approached the guard tower at the opposite end of the pool and spoke with Brianna, the young adult hired to protect the public in an emergency.  Becky thought nothing of the interaction.  She was relieved to have only her stretches left to complete.  Becky moved the shallow end and commenced with another ritual.

Behind her, a metal chair scraped along the concrete.  The sound startled her and she looked up at the area where people sat enjoying the sun.  Had Becky waited just a moment she would have known Michael and Madison had moved closer to her.  The cries filled the air.  The sweet little boy shrieked, “I wanna go see Daddy.”  Michael howled; “No Mom!!!!  No!”  His face scrunched tightly, this little lovable fellow yelled, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy!  Please Mom!  No!”  Michael repeated the words, “I wanna go see Daddy!”

His mother chided him, gently.  “We have to do this.”  Madison did not seem to believe she could quiet her son’s fears.  An expectation that the little guy might enjoy was void from her voice.  The Mom simply worked feverishly, to accomplish the dreaded task.  She prepared Michael for his dip in the water, and said, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Becky continued with her work out and wondered of the circumstances.  Perchance, the mother and father were divorced or newly separated.  Michael may have expressed the deep distress he felt for a family no longer united.  Becky, the daughter of parents who parted understood how stressful such a situation might be.  She was eight when  . . . her reverie was interrupted.

Madison had abruptly carried Michael to the step at the shallow end of the pool.  The Mom now wore a white shirt over her own bathing suit.  Sweetly, she smiled and leaned forward.  Madison said to Becky, “I do not wish to disturb you.  I want to warn you; I am teaching my son to swim and he screams, loudly.”  As an experienced educator, Becky imagined it would be a mild and momentary shout.  As one who swims daily and had for well over a decade, the teacher witnessed many a young child learn to paddle and breathe in water.  

Indeed, at this very facility she has observed perhaps hundreds of child learn to master their strokes.  The excellent swim teachers, parents and paid professionals, helped calm many a neophyte nerve.  Often Becky watched with admiration as patient Moms, Dads, and lifeguards helped little ones wade through the water.  It was as she shared with the girls earlier in the day, “They, people and insects, are life.  All creatures are beautiful.”

What Becky witnessed next was not beautiful; it was brutal!  Madison held Michaels arms tightly.  She forced him into the water.  The Mom insisted the boy’s head remain face down immersed until she pulled him up.  Apparently, they had practiced this cycle before.  Becky now understood why Michael cringed and cried out long before he was ever near the expansive liquid sea.

Initially, the trained instructor was paralyzed.  Becky could not imagine that a mother might torment her child.  The volume of Michaels screams increased.  His little arms flailed.  “Mom, No!  Pleassssssssse!”  The emotional agony he felt was palpable.  Mom did not stop as he pleaded.  The pain on his face did not move Madison to succumb.  His words, his anguish, nothing stopped this mother on her quest.  For Becky, what must have been a minute or less seemed like hours, years, decades.  She thought of sweet obedient Michael.  While he shed many a tear and shrieked when he could gasp for air, the little love did as he was told or required to do.  He dropped his head into the pool on demand.

Off into the distance, in the parking lot, just outside the fence, Becky noticed a late model shiny black vehicle.  The man at the wheel peered in.  His car was not situated in a space meant for stopping.  This fellow seemed interested in the antics of Madison and Michael.  Becky mused; possibly the sound of suffering haunted him as it did her.  She could not stand by a moment longer.

With an earnest concern, Becky expressed her empathy for the child.  She inquired; “Is he frightened..”  The mother responded, “He can swim.”  Becky queried aloud, had the mother sought other means for instruction.  Perchance, if Michael were given the opportunity to slowly adjust to the water.  If he were allowed to breathe easily as he slowly learned to stoke . . . Becky’s words were cut off.  Still somewhat genteel and reserved, Madison explained, “This is what his teacher taught me to do.”  “She is excellent.  Everyone goes to her.  They call her the swim Nazi.”

The practiced swimmer, and professional educator, shared her own expertise.  Becky told of a time when she worked with another teacher who was extremely punitive.  This castigatory colleague was an award winner.  Some children loved her, parents too.  Students taught Becky what she had not known; if you are raised in a family where cruelty is common, you learn to believe that rough treatment is love.  Violence is fondness when a family is familiar with vicious behavior.

Becky spoke of a man she loves.  He was introduced to swimming in much the way Michael was guided.  This man loathes his parents.  As an adult, he says of himself, he is really messed up.  For the man Becky cares for, trust is not an option.  The lesson he learned at the hands of his mother, who taught him how to swim, just as Madison now advised Michael, is that people will hurt you.

In this very short and quick conversation Becky, recalled her own memories, and how she has vivid recollections of events in that occurred in her life when she was younger than Michael.  Becky looked over at Michael’s face.  The torment was already etched into his skin.  The screeches scarred him.

Madison listened, maybe.  She was polite.  The Mom never let go of her cherished son, Michael.  The activity did not stop.  Nor did the blood curdling screams.  The echoes of pain continued to pierce the air, and break delicate decorum.  

People within the recreation center while startled, they stood still or pretended to ignore what escaped no one.  Only Becky articulated her concern.  Madison expressed her interest; more so once she realized Becky is an educator.  However, without a moment of hesitation, or a break from or for Michael, she offered a retort.  “I will speak with the teacher.”  Becky again offered, the teacher does what she thinks is best.  Perhaps, she, just as the pupils Becky spoke of, had parents who were as aggressive as she was.  

Those who admire the techniques the Nazi swim teacher endorses may also be intimately acquainted with instruction through intimidation.  “In my family no one yells,” Becky said.  Madison responded; the same was true in her life.  She and her husband do not scream.

Michael continues to squeal.  “Mom, Please, No!”  He thrashes.  He grabs for her mother.  Michael reaches for Madison’s shirt and slaps her body and face.  The Mom had mentioned she wore the blouse just for this purpose.  Michael grabbed at the swim instructor, just as prescribed, and when with her, Michael clawed for Madison’s clothing.

His moves do not seem to suggest an intention to hurt the mother Michael loves.  From appearances, the boy only hopes to find a source of solace.  He wants to hold on to someone, anyone.  His words seem to express a desire that his Mom will save him from her.  The child cries out again and again.  He flaps; he flounders.  Little lovable Michael thrashes and struggles.  Madison was not discouraged.

Still alert and attentive to her purpose, Madison proclaims, “The swim teacher has them trained within a week.”  Once more, she says, “Everyone goes to her.”  She may have sensed or seen Becky’s alarm.  Apprehensive, the mother said, “I will speak to my husband.  He is in the car.”  

Becky realized the man who she had observed earlier might have studied the pair with an interest that could not be described.  Possibly, what the father felt was beyond words.  Becky knew that emotionally, this event tugged at her heartstrings.  She wondered; did the Dad wait for he too could not endure the misery inflicted on his son.  How could a mother be so cruel?  How could anyone treat a child with such contempt?  Why were words of compassion and caution not enough to stop the abuse?  Was Becky alone in her anguish?

She exited the pool area, entered the locker room.  Then she scrubbed herself in the shower.  All the while Becky heard the howls and the hollers.  This small sorrowful soul did not rant or rage against his Mom.  He only called out for help.  Each shout sliced the air and sent chills up Becky’s spine.  She could hardly contain her own tears.

Becky left the building and again approached Madison, whose energy and purpose had not waned.  The worried woman spoke, “If I could I would like to inquire; would it not be better if Michael loved his lessons (and the person who teaches him)?”  Did she share the latter thought?  She was so troubled, she did not know what she said.  Had she asked if it was necessary to master the skill in a week?  Madison ignored Becky.  She was done with this exchange.  She said to Michael, “Just a few more minutes.”

Defeated, Becky left the deck.  She walked to the office where the guards stood in alert.  The group discussed what left each of them distraught.  A resigned Brianna verbalized her belief, “There is nothing we can do or say.”  Shocked to discover Becky spoke to the woman, Brianna began to ask of what was said.  Then she realized Madison, with a drained and strained Michael in her arms, was near.  She let out a sound that signaled the need for silence.

The mother and her madness quickly fled the premises.  After a short discussion with the guards, Becky thanked them for listening to her fears and followed the path from the pool to the parking lot.  Apparently, the couple and their child were settling into the coupe.  The father glanced over as he saw Becky near the vehicle.  Nothing was said.  For Becky, there were no words.

She pondered.  Was Becky the person now considered a predator?  Had Madison grumbled to her husband as she shared details of the encounter?  Exhausted and uncertain of the empathy she had supposed all beings had for others, Becky went to her car.  She could not drive away, although she saw the family did.  The lover of living beings, of children, could not fully understand what existed only for moments in her own life.  She was haunted by the hurt she saw in Michael’s face and heard in his calls.

Stunned and shaken Becky sat trembling for a very long time.  She wailed; she wept.  Had she just let a sweet child fend for himself in a world too awful to survive?  

Hours passed and Becky imagines, in her life, Michael, and the impression he made on her would never move on.  Sadly, she fears, what for her was but minutes, for Michael, will be life.

Becky had mentioned to Madison, or hoped she had, the effect of trauma.  To this day, the older educator recounts the stresses that transformed her being.  The lessons, what her Mom, Dad, and mentors did supposedly for her benefit, if not facilitated fondly, harmed her deeply.  Cognizant that children absorb all they encounter and are affected by every exchange, Becky contemplates the drama Michael endured.

In a desire to calm her self, Becky, an educator who loves to learn, sought answers.  She had so many questions, so many concerns.  As a teacher, never labeled a dictatorial tyrant, she had much trepidation.  What had Madison taught Michael?  Was he expected to sink or swim?  As she read, her angst increased.  What would become of Michael?

How Do You Recognize a Patient (or Person) with Trauma if it is Not Always Obvious?

Different people respond differently to traumatic events.  Some people will carry it around in ways that everybody can see that they’ve been impacted.  But most people actually will go through a traumatic experience and won’t have any easily visible or obvious manifestation of that.  The problems may emerge many months or sometimes even years after the original event.  So it’s very important for people who are trying to understand trauma to become aware of the various ways in which traumatic symptoms can manifest, the various ways in which trauma can be carried forward by children and adults, and the pervasive impact that trauma has independent of the way someone is observed to perform.

How Do Relationships Affect the Way the Brain Develops?

Human beings are at our core, relational creatures.  We are designed to live, work, play, and grow in groups.  The very nature of humanity arises from relationships.  You learn language, you learn social language, you learn appropriate emotional regulation, and essentially everything that’s important about life as a human being you learn in context of relationships.  And the very substance of a successful individual is bathed in a whole host of relationships with people in that person’s life  . . .

Can You Continue with the Relationships and How it Affects the Brain

When you look at someone, when you hear someone, when you have a conversation, when you make a joke with somebody, when you touch someone, every single one of those physical interactions are translated into patterned neuronal activity that go into the brain of both people in that interaction and result in positive changes.  These physical changes influence our immune system and they influence the autonomic nervous system that controls your heart and your lungs and your gut.  Literally, when people have a wealth of relationships, where relationships are present in high quantities and they’re of good quality, these individuals are actually physically healthier, they’re emotionally healthier, they’re more cognitively enriched, and they actually reach their potential to be humane in ways that are impossible without relationships.

It’s a very interesting thing that people don’t really appreciate this very much, but that there’s no better biological interaction that you can have than a relationship.

Yes, all beings are but a beautiful bundle of love.  Yet, rarely do humans honor that veracity.  So few people understand the depth of each interaction.  Too frequently, individuals do what was done to them, or what they think they can.  Societal standards, customs, traditions, the lessons taught by authoritarian teachers shape them.  People learn.  Yet, they may not have studied the ultimate lesson.  We are each a lovely and fragile beings.  We grow well when hearts, minds, bodies, and souls are tenderly touched.

“Michael, I am soooooooo sorry,” Becky mused.  What of the relationship she had with Michael, or for that matter, with all beings.  What affect did her actions or inactions have.  Becky though of how all that occurred developed, and how Michael might grow.  “If only I had done more, been more, were a better teacher to your Mom, or had offered to help you learn to swim.”  Becky, heart heavy with regret promised herself, if she were to meet this family again, she would . . . in truth, she did not know what she could or would do.  She only hoped that someone would tell her.  How does one swim in a world where too many forget, all beings are but a bundle of love.

Sources and Suffering . . .

Calm Communicators Unite Us. Cruel Commanders Divide Us


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Americans are at odds.  As a nation, we are splintered.  The parts do not function as a whole.  Some wish to control and command.  Others prefer to work for the common good.  As we stand, we are a country divided.

The most recent Internal Revenue Service data, shows one percent of Americans received twenty-one and two-tenths [21.2] percent of all personal income.  In 2005, fifty [50] percent of the people in this nation, those who have long struggled to survive, earned twelve and eight-tenths [12.8] percent of all wages and salaries.  In the United States, dollars earned split the population.  Wealth is not all that separates us.

Color causes schisms.  Citizens live in regions of the country labeled Red, or Blue.  Brownish immigrants, with or without papers, are relegated to reside in neighborhoods far from the affluent or influential, even when authentic assimilation is meant to be an option.  Frequently Black Americans are housed in communities where opportunities are few.  When persons of various hues intermingle with the massive pinkish population, in the United States, the people of color are alienated.

Were Americans do physically unite, they would likely remain segregated.  Americans subtly separate themselves from those they loathe, and form the people they love.  Few ever consider what they do to create a rift.  In America, demeanors, the way in which we communicate, divides us.

In this nation, a large portion of the population is frequently aggressive, abusive, and antagonistic.  Those they encounter, the not obnoxious or toxic ones, accommodate, appease, appear unaffected, or remain anxious when in the company of the people who believe the best way to appear authoritative is to dictate what needs to be done, by whom, when, where, and why.

At times, the public is able to openly observe and discuss abuse, but usually, only when it is evident in the extreme.  Banner headlines may scream a need to attend to what, for the most part remains hidden.  Neglect, Abuse Seen in 90, 000 Infants.  However, mostly Americans demonstrate their angst in manners identified as normal.  No one speaks of what is standard.  Perchance, the reason is, in the States reactive behaviors, which reveal annoyance, are so common as to be customary.

Daily, in periodicals we read of what we would wish to think is not traditional, but may be.  The accounts scream to us.  Citizens in this country think it outrageous when they realize.  In Chicago, youth violence is increasingly prevalent.  Twenty-two [22] students were slain in this heartland city so far this year.  Our fellow country men remark, ‘This sort of thing occurs only among ‘those people.’  Surely, the rest of us are sane and serene.  ‘The average American would not strike out in such a manner.’  People say, ‘Weaponry is for outlaws,’ or at least, mechanical arsenals are meant only to combat a political enemy.  Those who reside in the United States never imagine that “they” would use a gun in anger, or lash out when with a friend.  Few consider how frequently they attack those they say they are fond of.

When words are the weapon of choice, and blood is not spilled, most in this country think no harm is done.  War and wounds are what we see on the battlefields, and mostly abroad.  In this country, life is calm.

We read of skirmishes elsewhere daily.  Americans witness what occurs in the Persian Gulf.  Iraqi deaths are on the rise regardless of the Americans attempt to Surge and subvert the violence.  Now, that is awful.  Thankfully, this nation is not torn apart by war.

Few ponder the fact that these excessive examples illustrate and amplify what is apparent in American homes.  People pounce easily and often.  We cruelly criticize and intentionally drive a wedge between unions.  We conquer; and in America, we destroy.

In this country, enemies are thought to be around every corner.  We publicly rant and rage when we refer to people of another race or religion.  Privately, many are punitive towards those who reside in our homes.  When we look upon those the “commanders” consider beloved, we see differences, and ignore similarities.  He is wrong; I am right.  She is flawed.  “I am perfect.”  Spite is right.  Malice is might.  Vindictiveness is used to undermine viciousness.  In many American homes, tit for tat is the acceptable.

Those in authority, “Tsk, tsk,” the ones who they would wish to weaken.  Children are infrequently given information about the consequences of their choices.  Calm and complete communication is too often a rarity in our abodes.  Rather than work to create cohesive communities within a household, parents and their progeny dictate, and divide.

Adults learn their aggressive manners in childhood.  A slight from a toddler’s first teachers cuts to the core.  Terse comments, a tease, or a taunt directed at a teen does not simply slide off the back of one scarred by a lifetime of verbal slashes.  Adults do not deflect digs; some have merely learned how to present the appearance of being unaffected by an oral assault.  In truth, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, and names hurt me more than a physical attack might.”  Many may relate to a common event and decide this is not my business.

As I was leaving gym one morning, I overheard a mother berating her daughter for refusing to put her face in the water during a toddlers’ swim class.  “You’re such a little coward,” she told the sobbing child — who could not have been more than three years old.  “It’s the same every week.  You always make your daddy and me ashamed.  Sometimes I can’t believe you’re really my daughter.”

Although my stomach churned with rage on the child’s behalf, I said nothing.  After all, I rationalized, the mother would just tell me to mind my own business.  But I had no doubt that what I had witnessed was in many ways as bad as a brutal beating.  It was emotional child abuse.

“The bruises don’t show on the outside, so there are no statistics on how many children are victims,” says Dr. Elizabeth Watkins, chief of pediatric primary care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.  “But anyone who works with children knows that the problem is widespread.”

University of Minnesota psychologist Byron Egeland, who has conducted extensive studies on parenting and early-childhood development, says the effects of emotional child abuse may be at least as devastating as those of physical abuse.  Research conducted by Egeland and his colleagues suggests that emotionally abused children suffer an even greater decline in mental and psychological development as they grow older than do physically abused children.

This abated state does not necessarily translate to an academic deficit.  Often times, persons who were beaten down emotionally excel in their physical and intellectual endeavors.  Countless adults, who were verbally assaulted as children, believe that the cruelty and callousness they endured, has made them stronger.  People in older bodies show no physical blemishes.  A mature member of society is not noticeably bruised or disfigured.  Most middle-aged grown-ups, those once exposed to such exploitation have learned to hide the scars.  Hurt hearts do not inhibit intellectual growth; nor do the effects of verbal and emotional injuries restrict achievements.  As a tot, a teen, or an individual in his or her golden years, a person harmed by words can thrive and triumph.  The attitude is, “I will show them!”  The thought that provokes our success is, “I will do well.  Then, they will [finally] love me.”

The truth is mean Mom’s and dismissive Dad’s do love their offspring.  They simply do not know how to show it.  Too often, we do as was done to us.  As adults, we become the people our parents were.  While we may have abhorred mother or father’s behavior, it is what we know.  We grow to be as those who taught us were.

At birth, we learn of what we despise most.  In our parents dwelling, as tots, we become acquainted with insults, invectives, and insolence.  The invisible barbs are experienced as a barrage of bullets; each pierces the flesh.  Mothers mock us.  Fathers jeer.  Brothers and sisters, bully.  In our earliest years, we begin to think of when and how we can leave the company of those who say they treasure us.  In time, as children we decide the best defense is a good offense.  Hence, we become equally odious, angry, and ambitious.  Often adults, who were verbally abused as children, when they speak of their parents, state, “They did the best they could.”  Indeed, perfectionist parents do what they believe is best, and they expect their progeny to do better.

In ambitious middle-class families, one of the most common forms of emotional abuse is the denigration of any achievement that falls short of perfection, such as when a child is punished for bringing home a B instead of an A. Jeree Pawl, director of the Infant-Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital, observes that “perfectionist” parents may display irrational expectations.

After a time, Mom and Dad no longer need to express what they expect; children know what is necessary.  In fact, a young person will demand more of him or herself than either parent ever did.  In our youth, we become self-critical.  Our parents likely did not disparage us as well as we demean ourselves.  Each day, we improve.  We can deliver venom more vigorously than Mom or Dad ever did.  Persons, who were the victims of verbal mistreatment in their youth, inflict the same sarcastic and sardonic on them selves as they age.

The use of hurtful declarations becomes a habit.  Spoken stabs pull a person down.  Those not stated aloud do us in with greater force.  The voice within is perhaps more furious than the one separate from self.  Our self-assessments are as a cancerous virus.  Merciless messages kill.  Yet, no one notices the cause or effects of the illness.  Too many Americans share the symptoms; hence, the pain is standard.

Parental verbal abuse may wound children’s psyches so deeply that the effects remain apparent in young adulthood.  Such abuse may wreak psychological havoc greater than that caused by physical abuse.

With an M.B.A. degree under her belt, 24-year-old “Jaime” (not her real name) should have glowing job prospects in Chicago.  But she harbors memories that erode her self-confidence and make her bristle with anger-memories of her father shouting at her, during drunken rages, that she was ugly and of little value.

Indeed, verbal abuse during childhood can scar people deeply, a new study suggests.  It was headed by Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.  Results were published in the June American Journal of Psychiatry.

Although the injurious effects of child physical and sexual abuse have been the subject of considerable inquiry, not much attention has been paid to the possibly noxious effects of verbal abuse on children.

People attend to what they see.  The battered hearts, the wounded souls are not visible to the eye; although the effects of these are apparent if we wish to see them.  Researchers studied and discovered what lies just beneath the surface.

People who were verbally abused had 1.6 times as many symptoms of depression and anxiety as those who had not been verbally abused and were twice as likely to have suffered a mood or anxiety disorder over their lifetime, according to psychology Professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, the study’s lead author.

“We must try to educate parents about the long-term effects of verbal abuse on their children,” Sachs-Ericsson said.  “The old saying about sticks and stones was wrong.  Names will forever hurt you.”

Moms and Dads wield words as weapons daily.  An innocent and sweet child may be saddened by what is said to them.  Frequently, a lad or a lass, who has come to expect the worse is fretful, frightened, or apprehensive when near those who vocally attack.  After a time, a child turned teen, may appear angry, as an adult resigned, acquiescent when with Mom or Dad.  Still, the pain seeps out.  It spills onto all the injured individual encounters.

The cycle starts subtly.  It is all so subterranean.  How often is a child told, “You need to take responsibility”?  Yet, how frequently does neither guardian seems to accept that they play a part in what occurred in their own lives.  After a night on the town, too much food, and an abundance of alcoholic beverages, Dad may bellow, “Stay out of my way today if you know what’s good for you.”  Then, as if to inform his brood, father would offer, “I’m in a bad mood.”  Daddy does not wish to be liable for his own limitations.  Thus, if he was under duress, or hassled, surely, someone else must be to blame.

It is a “me against the world” mentality.  Those who command and seek control, the power they did not feel they had in their youth, see themselves as separate from the others.  Hence, the great divide.

Mom may be no different from Dad.  This sweet, soft-spoken woman, a mother committed to her children often commented, “My life would have been perfect if it were not for you.”  She would then say, “Get out of my sight; you are a bad boy, a hateful, ungrateful girl.”  Then, moments later, Mommy would say how much she loved you, or I.  Life and love, as a child, and later as an adult can be caustic, chaotic, and troublesome, even if we emerge confidently.  Either parent can do the damage.  Both can build the barriers that teach one of the brood to be boldly brazen.

Weeks ago, Americans watched an esteemed achiever, a Presidential aspirant, vent wrathful words.  The statements  made echoed in every American household.  On television and radio airwaves we heard, “Shame on you. “It is time you (act in a manner) consistent with your messages in public.  That is what I expect from you.  (L)et’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior  . . .”  Only days prior, we, as a nation, were moved by the magnanimous words, “(Y)ou know, no matter what happens in this contest — and I am honored, I am honored to be here with [the same person who was slammed two days later.] I am absolutely honored.”  Hours before the homage was delivered in a face-to-face encounter, the self-proclaimed “fighter” raged, she was ready. The person she humiliated after offering a sincere homage was not.  Then, in a fit of anger, this eloquent and accomplished adult exclaimed to her audience, “Let’s get real.”

On an occasion or two, the New York Senator states if she and her adversary worked as one, all dreams would come true.  Quickly, Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds us that the same individual who she thinks praiseworthy is incompetent.  He cannot command; nor is he qualified.  The waling wounded Clinton claims the man who might steal her win is but a “child.”  She demeans his experience while she exaggerates her own.  In a breath, the scared child, now a grown Senator, cries out.  The former First Lady, who continues to carry the weight of a world built on pain within her, tells us the man who angers her is eloquent, admirable, and yet, inadequate.

One day this wise woman is passive or polite; then in the next moment she is aggressive and antagonistic. As Hillary Clinton speaks of  Uniting the States,  creating a cohesive Democratic Party, she works to divide these entities.  She loves her country, her challenger, and her community; yet . . .

The push-pull of these love-hate relationships may remind us of what too many of us as children and adults experience in our family homes.  In the “United” States, division, derision, declarations that divide a union are natural.  Most accept the conventions that have been familiar throughout their lives.  Few are disturbed by the divisiveness a Presidential candidate puts forth.  Perchance, the American people relate.  Might we consider the climate that was the candidate’s childhood, her history, and the truth that fashioned her family?

The couple fought. In 1926, Dorothy’s father filed for divorce, claiming that his wife had hit him in the face and scratched him on three separate occasions, according to Cook County records.  In a March 1927 court hearing, Della Howell’s own sister accused her of abusing her husband and abandoning her two daughters.

“She had a violent temper and flew at him in a rage, and would fight him,” testified the sister, Frances Czeslawski.

Della Howell did not show up to contest the divorce — she could not be found by subpoena servers.  Dorothy’s father was given custody.  But, either unwilling or unable to take care of his daughters, he put them on the train to California, where his parents, Edwin Howell Sr. and Emma Howell, had moved a few years previously. . . .

The grandparents were ill-prepared to raise Dorothy and her sister, Isabelle.

Edwin Howell Sr. had emigrated from Wales. He worked as a machinist in an auto plant and as a laborer for the Alhambra street department, according to Alhambra city directories from the time. He mostly left the girls’ care to his wife.

Emma Howell was a strict woman who wore black Victorian dresses and discouraged visitors and parties.  Once, discovering that Dorothy had gone trick-or-treating on Halloween, she ordered her confined to her room for a year except for school.

“Her grandmother was a severe and arbitrary disciplinarian who berated her constantly, and her grandfather all but ignored her,” Clinton wrote. . .

“Once I asked my mother why she went back to Chicago,” Clinton wrote in “Living History.” The answer? “‘I’d hoped so hard that my mother would love me that I had to take the chance and find out,’ she told me. ‘When she didn’t, I had nowhere else to go.’

Too many of us can recall a time when we wanted to be appreciated, admired, accepted by those who brought us into the world, or taught us to be the best we could be.  Even when those we care for harm us, we still crave their adoration.  A child who feels less than cherished will try harder.  Humans will do whatever they believe they must do in hopes that someday, they will be treasured by their first teachers, the people they call family.

Hillary was the best student among her siblings, the one who took her parents’ lessons most seriously. . .

Hugh Rodham, unlike many other fathers of his era, raised his daughter to be ambitious.  When she brought home straight A’s, Rodham would say, “Well, Hillary, that must be an easy school you go to,” she [Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton] wrote. . .

Hugh Rodham took thrift to even greater heights than many survivors of the Depression. If Hillary, Hugh Jr., or Tony left the cap off the toothpaste, he would toss it out the window and send the child to search for it.  An allowance was out of the question. “I feed you, don’t I?” she remembers him saying.

Clinton speaks of her father admiringly, but  . . . no one disputes his gruffness. “He was character building, like our winters in Chicago,” Ebeling, Clinton’s best friend, said. . . .

He was “highly opinionated, to put it mildly,” [Hillary] Clinton wrote. “We all accommodated his pronouncements . . .

Hilary is as many warriors in society are.  She expects the electorate to tolerate her brusque, sometimes demeaning, statements, just as she accepted much of what her father said.  If the people wish to argue with the aspirant, as occasionally she did with her dear Dad, Clinton thinks that is fine.  After all, she is a fighter.  She knows how to win.  Just as Hugh Rodham did when he felt his children were uncontrollable, the dictatorial, decidedly aggressive decider known as Dad escalated the argument.  “You are with me or against me” is a common refrain among those who command cruelly.

Many progeny adapt to parents who can be punitive.  After a time, offspring learn, the boundaries that divide them are best when they remain as invisible, just as the wounds on the heart are.  Children convince themselves, they are strong.  They are in control.  As long as they go along to get along all will be well, and it will be, until the next emotional upheaval.  Even then, those who scream and demean will be fine, for what they experience is familiar.

I offer a personal anecdote, one that helped me to understand the divide that exists among us in America.  There are the “fighters” well-trained to battle, and the peacemakers, those who talk in tones that are more tranquil.

I realized this only in recent years.  A time ago, after I had lived on this glorious green Earth for more than three decades I thought I understood people.  I experienced much in my lifetime.  As a child, I settled in the suburbs, the city, and the country. In my earliest years may family had all the fineries. We were exceptionally wealthy. Then, there was the divorce.  My Mommy, new Daddy a sister, and I were extremely poor when I was in Elementary School.  Eventually we evolved into Middle Class.  I felt as though we were average.

At seventeen years of age, I declared my independence. I left home, lived on my own, and struggled to earn enough money to survive. I inhabited neighborhoods not thought to be safe.  My knowledge of life and it’s various styles, I believed was expansive.

Then, it occurred. I met a man.  Immediately, I knew I loved him.  I had never been easily impressed.  Romantic relationships were not part of my repertoire.  This person, I perceived as beyond special.  I admired him, and I intensely appreciated him.  This gentleman was brilliant.  He was very successful.  He smiled ever so warmly.  Until . . .  suddenly, he yelled.  The wrath was intended for me.  As Gary excitedly expressed his disgust, his face was flush.  His eyes and veins were bulging.  This cherished chap was agitated, accusatory, and exceptionally anxious.  To this day, I know not why.  I have asked.  Yet, an explanation was not forthcoming.

As Gary ranted and raged, I stood frozen, as a deer in headlights.  I was stunned.  In my whole life, no one had ever yelled at me, or so I thought, previous to that day.  There was one other occasion.

That narrative aside, as Gary and I stood face to face, as he screamed and shrieked, he articulated the assertion, “You are having a tantrum.”  I marveled. I am a calm person.  As a child, I was just as serene.  In my entire life, I did not recall being explosive.  As I observed Gary and listened to his words, I was uncertain which aspect of this encounter was more amazing to me, his conduct, or his contention.  After, the damn or dam broke, he seemed free of his agitation.  I was anxious, although still silent.  I knew not what to say or do.  What had I witnessed?  What did it mean?  How did I feel about it?

In time, I did learn as Hillary Clinton, and others whose hearts are hurt by words, do.  I could choose to tolerate the brusque and debasing language. I could choose to appease, to please, or to patronize.  However, I also understood no matter what I decided to do, there would be consequences.  There would always be a chasm between Gary and I.  I would never fully feel comfortable, for I did not know what might bring on another brutal belch of bitterness.

I walked on eggshells, and he, with all his hollering, hoped to secure the impression that he walked on water.  I came to discover that Gary had been challenged all his life.  His parents were the purveyors of agenda after agenda.  As a child he had felt as he now teaches others to feel, as though he was and is less than.  Gary was told too often, he was not good enough, smart enough; he was wrong.  If Gary received an excellent evaluation in class, he too was meet with the remark similar to the ones the New York Senator heard in her youth.   “Well, that subject is just too simple.”  “An “A” grade is not good enough.”

Dissect a heart.  Dismember a sweet spirit.  It is the American way, divide and conquer.  In a competitive society, where cruelty is common, most everyone will suffer, so that the few spoiled souls can feel, even if only for a moment, that they have succeeded.  Sadly, their triumph is our demise.

Gary, Hillary, and too many we encounter have become so familiar with belligerent behaviors they no longer think there are other ways to work with people.

I was raised in a family where no one yells.  To say I am jarred by loud aggressive rants is to understate what I feel.  For a time, I team-taught with an instructor deemed superior.  This person won District-wide awards.  I understood why when I assessed the curriculum this teacher originated.  Yet, this individual chastised students vociferously and with ample abandon.  When in a rage, this educator’s voice traveled throughout the building.  I literally jumped in fright on more than one occasion.

Even without the volume, this teacher’s words could cut like a knife.  When the venom was directed at me, I froze.  I am extremely sensitive to the lexis.  The phrases this instructor used were not part of my reality.  Our philosophies on life were disparate.  Yet, I truly enjoyed this individual when the conversation was amiable.  When jovial, the professor was a delight.  Indeed, this person often was happy and genuinely fun.

When a scream was heard through the walls, students and I would react.  Some smiled.  A few laughed nervously.  Others and I were startled.  We cringed.  When the world was again calm, quietly, throughout the room, discussions emerged.  The demeanor of this academic was the topic.  Talk of the teacher was approached tenderly.  As I listened, I learned.  If a person grows up in a home where one particular approach to life is normal, they learn to accept and appreciate that manner of expression.  People who were taught to expect verbal lashings, as Hillary Clinton noted, learn to accommodate or accept.

If cruel criticisms were common in a home; howls were considered to be a sign, someone cares, painful as that might be. Those never exposed to love that did not hurt could not imagine the possibility.  Tis a sad state in this union, when those we treasure most are the ones we whip to a pulp with words.  A country divided cannot stand.

Perchance it is time to truly discuss what divides America. Dollars and legal documents are not divisive.  Paper does not have the power to pull us apart.  Race cannot physically separate us.  In nature, every hue is a significant part of the whole.  Religion does not cause a rift between neighbors.  A philosophy can only teach us.  Principles do not reach into our souls and cause us to slice and dice.  It is we who control the chaos that drives a wedge between our brethren and we.

Might Americans come together at home and on every avenue?  From Wall Street to Main Street let us speak kindly to each other.  Let us teach the children well.  

Perhaps, it is time to tell those you share a life with that you revere them without reservations.  If we choose to use words that consistently show we care for those we love, perhaps, peace will have a chance.  If our words were to mirror our stated beliefs, possibly, money would have no power, color could do no harm, and religious principles would be evident in our every expression.  Please, imagine and work to give birth to what for too long was thought impossible.  Let us live in an America, united in more than name only.

Sources, Scars, Screams in a divided society . . .

Fear Factor; The Telephone Rings in the White House?

US Democrats – Walter Mondale 1984 Video 10

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

A telephone fills the screen.  The deep blood red hue warns us war is eminent.  Little light shines on the barely visible instrument.  The tone is ominous and foretells the future.  The audience is aware there is trouble in the world.  Slowly, the table turns.  A yellow bulb in the center of this contrivance communicates doom. It  glows and pulsates.  We concentrate on the orb shaped object squarely in the center.  The dominance of this display is foreboding.  Our future is in the hands of the person who picks up the receiver.  The question reverberates through our mind.  Who will we place in this most powerful position?

Americans are familiar with the symbol and the stories attached to this crimson contraption.  With a word, the leader of the world’s superpower can commit this country to war.  Perchance, the voice on the other end of the line will inform the President of the United States, we have been attacked.  No matter what is said or done, citizens in this country recognize the dire circumstances.

In cinematography circles, the term is mis-en-scene.  An auteur creates the scene, sets the stage, and decides what is essential to communicate. A desired message is maximized.  The method and manner in which a communiqué is delivered can manipulate a made-up mind.  The choice of lighting is critical.  Textures and colors are telling.  Space can be used to intensify the sensations a spectator will experience.  

If characters are in view, the make-up they wear must be impeccable, believable, and impressive. Costumes must speak with a voice so subtle as to be unnoticeable.  Prominent persons in the cast must dress in a manner that draws attention to them.  Interiors convey a meaning.  The medium is the message.

Advertisers understand this and take advantage of the props.  If the product to be sold is luscious to look at, then a director will focus on the appearance.  If the façade is less appetizing, alterations are possible.  When the exterior is less expressive, the experience can be enhanced.  Sex sells.  Food is fine.  Meals fill our minds.  Snacks satiate our stomachs.  Sustenance stuffs the pocketbooks of industrialists who manufacture the provisions.  Profits are plenty with thanks to the primary ingredient, promotional advertisements.

Product placement, a more discreet statement, can be far more powerful than a blatant cry for attention.  Consider the items purchased by patrons as they wait at a counter or in line.  A magazine title titillates.  A shopper will stop to scan the articles.  Sunglasses positioned at the front of an aisle remind a buyer it is bright outside.  If the weather looks as though it may take a turn for the worse, and umbrellas are near when a patron enters the store, the collapsible canopies will leap into human  hands.  Storeowners understand, it is location, location, location.  Humans hope to be comfortable and comforted.

Political consultants comprehend the dynamic is true  for the candidate.  Name recognition is the first priority.  Once a person’s identity is established, a professional public relations representative will work to solidify a respectable reputation.  Slogans echo throughout the airwaves.  Experience, judgment, the record, and a personal biography that captures the character and imagination are publicized.  

A Presidential aspirant, desirous of greater exposure, and an opportunity to appear average Joe or Jane, will perform on a popular television program.  Light hearted comedies and self-deprecating humor certainly will sell a figure considered too formal or firm.  A so called “candid” communication will garner more votes, just as a can of Pepsi in the hands of an athlete will stimulate more sales.  

Public relations persons, campaign coordinators, and advertising consultants such as Roy Spence, creator of the 1984 Red Phone commercial and the 2008, 3 AM advertisement, know what the public wants.  Mister Spence is familiar with what the electorate will buy.  This specialist selects the stage, and sets the scene.  He has a flare for the dramatic.  Just as a knowledgeable film director can gently induce an audience to suspend disbelief, a fine marketeer can persuade the constituency to cast a ballot for the candidate of his or her choice.

In 1984, Mister Spence convinced Democrats that then Democratic Presidential hopeful Walter Mondale was  preferable.  Mondale would protect them from an unknown enemy.  Democratic Presidential challenger Gary Hart was doing well in the polls.  It seemed the good-looking well-spoken rival had a chance.  Hart might have won the nomination.  However, political commercials warned the public Gary Hart might not experienced enough to hold the office or the red telephone receiver.

Human as he is, a public performance brought Hart’s judgment into question.  His own folly hurt him.  However, even without such a slip, history tells us an advertisement can change the public’s perception.  From television sets nationwide a narrative evolved.

The most awesome, powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone.  The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about.  This is the issue of our times.  On March 20, vote as if the future of the world is at stake.  Mondale.  This president will know what he’s doing, and that’s the difference between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale.

Voters were intentionally filled with fear.  Might a Senator be less senior and not as prepared as a former Vice President was?  Could it be that time in the White House better qualifies a person to be President of the United States?  Americans cannot be certain of what might have been.  We only comprehend what we believe.  Whether the world was, or is, in fact dangerous, it matters not.  Humans feel great trepidation for the unknown.  An imminent threat daunts and taunts us.  The unfamiliar is perhaps more ghastly than any reality might be.

When it comes to ruling the brain, fear often is king, scientists say.

“Fear is the most powerful emotion,” said University of California Los Angeles psychology professor Michael Fanselow.

People recognize fear in other humans faster than other emotions, according to a new study being published next month.  Research appearing in the journal Emotion involved volunteers who were bombarded with pictures of faces showing fear, happiness, and no expression.  They quickly recognized and reacted to the faces of fear — even when it was turned upside down.

“We think we have some built-in shortcuts of the brain that serve the role that helps us detect anything that could be threatening,” said study author Vanderbilt University psychology professor David Zald.

Other studies have shown that just by being very afraid, other bodily functions change.  One study found that very frightened people can withstand more pain than those not experiencing fear.  Another found that experiencing fear or merely perceiving it in others improved people’s attention and brain skills.

When people are panicked, they react and remember.  Any good  advocate [advertiser] understands if the message is to be effective, it must be unforgettable.  Public relations is the power of storytelling. Anyone can create a market for merchandise if they recognize they have three to four seconds to grab the attention of an audience.  An promoter has moments more to tell a story.  If an impression is to made, and the message is to influence, the information and delivery must be memorable.

In recent days, the public has been flooded with extraordinary expositions.  The narrator warns in a portentous voice “It’s 3 am and your children are safe and asleep.  But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.  Something’s happening in the world.  the question is asked of voters, ‘Would you want Hillary Clinton to answer the call or Barack Obama?’  Will experience settle your mind or will judgment quell your angst?

New York University researcher LeDoux says, “We’ve gone from ‘vote for me or you’ll end up poor’ to ‘vote for me or you’ll end up dead.'”  . . . .

Why do these ads “work?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson”: the amygdala. The amygdala overrides the work of the more thoughtful cortex of our brains. It is a vestigial organ that testifies to the superior nature of the brain’s fear circuitry. Neurons only carry traffic one way from the cortex to the amygdala, which allows it to override the more logical and thoughtful cortex; it doesn’t work the other way around.  You might be able to “think” yourself out of an unreasonable or irrational fear, but, usually, the amygdala hobbles logic and reasoning, making fear “far, far more powerful than reason,” according to neurobiologist Michael Fanselow of the University of California at Los Angeles, whom Ms. Begley quoted in her article this way, “It (the amygdala) evolved as a mechanism to protect us from life-threatening situations, and, from an evolutionary standpoint, there’s nothing more important than that.”

Some say talk is cheap.  Speeches are not solutions.  However, in reality resolve is an afterthought actually well-founded in fear.  Try as humans might to silent the beast within, hysteria burgeons.   Frenzy follows. Men, women, and children act on fervent beliefs.  The telephone will ring in the dark of the night, and an experienced person must be in the Oval Office to answer it.  People prefer to place their hope in reason, regardless of the fact that fear, our emotions are not really rational.

By the time the telephone rings in the White House Military officials have already acted.  Professionals in the Pentagon are the first to respond and react.

Contrary to popular myth, and Hollywood portrayal, the hot line has never been a pair of red telephones, one in a drawer in the Oval Office, the other in the Kremlin. At first, it was a set of teletypes with messages punched in at a rate of about one page every three minutes. That system was replaced in the late 1970s with two satellite systems, as well as an undersea cable link.

The American end of the hot line is located not in the White House but across the Potomac in the Pentagon — at the National Military Command Center.

Without knowledge, people presume.  Humans fill in the facts.  Citizens rely on sources, even if these references appeal only to our innate fears.  Indeed, if a informant can touch a nerve, they can cause abundant concern.  Consternation is often the catalyst for great change.  We see this in political polls and through our purchases.  Currently, post September 11, 2001, Americans have bought the idea, we are in a necessary battle.

Even as far back as the 18th century the theorist Edmund Burke said, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” It’s no wonder, then, that the electorate since 9/11 has been constantly manipulated with “orange” and “red” alerts and color-coded systems of assessing the threat of terrorist attack.  (Duct tape, anyone?) After 9/11, few of us doubt that there are terrorists who threaten our country, but constantly invoking that threat for political purposes has become Plan “A” for this Republican administration.  And it seems to be getting a great deal of play on the caucus stump, as well, especially from Republican hopefuls.

Here is one interesting example of fear trumping reason. Flight insurance was offered that would cover “death by any cause” or “death by terrorism.”  The specificity of the word “terrorism,” combined with the responses that it triggered, caused more people to spend money on “terrorism” insurance than they spent for “death by any cause” insurance, even though “terrorism” insurance is merely a small part of the “death by any cause.”

Harvard University psychology researcher Daniel Gilbert is quoted in the article: “Negative emotions such as fear, hatred and disgust tend to provoke behavior more than positive emotions, such as hope and happiness do.”

Hence, we may speak of peace and prosperity; nonetheless, Americans, as humans throughout the planet act on antipathy.  Our aversions drive us further and more frequently than affirmations do.  Politics, with all the claims that it is practical is in essence personal.  Affairs of State are also psychological.  More than a century ago, advertisers realized that the best tool they had was human emotions.  Brain researchers may not have plotted the patterns at work within the gray matter, until recently; nevertheless, Applied Psychologist, Walter Dill Scott explains, entrepreneurs knew how to move the masses.  Marketeers, then and now, acknowledged art alone, presented on a page or on a silver screen, does not have the appeal that an inferred message might.  Science, if applied subliminally, sells as well as sex does.

In an address before the Agate Club of Chicago the speaker said: “As advertisers, all your efforts have been to produce certain effects on the minds of possible customers. Psychology is, broadly speaking, the science of the mind. Art is the doing and science is the understanding how to do, or the explanation of what has been done. If we are able to find and to express the psychological laws upon which the art of advertising is based, we shall have made a distinct advance, for we shall have added the science to the art of advertising.”

In a recent address before the Atlas Club of Chicago the speaker said: “In passing to the psychological aspect of our subject, advertising might properly be defined as the art of determining the will of possible customers…. Our acts are the resultants of our motives, and it is your function in commercial life to create the motives that will effect the sale of the producer’s wares.”

Perhaps that is why politicians invest as they do.  The expected expense for influence in the 2008 Presidential election could exceed three [3] billion dollars, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, Cable News Network’s consultant on political television advertising. Professionals in the public eye have learned from profiteers.  ‘You must spend money if you hope to “change” public opinion or odious perceptions.  We all are familiar with the notion politicians are crooks.  Image is everything if you wish to be elected or selected as the best software system, or the most sumptuous soda. Search engines also understand the importance of image and advertising.  Coffeehouses are not exempt.  As much as customers crave caffeine, without a bit of gentle coercion even the most loyal consumer might consider the cost of the Jamaican bean unnecessary.

  • Microsoft – more than 20 percent of their annual revenue or $11.5 billion
  • Coca-Cola – more than $2.5 billion
  • Yahoo – more than 20 percent of their annual revenue or $1.3 billion
  • eBay – 14 percent to 15 percent of its revenue – which was $871 million, much of that to advertise on Google
  • Google – In the millions rather than billions of dollars – with $188 million
  • Starbucks – $95 million

Fear can convince a constituent to vote as they will.  When a presentation is deftly designed, people forget the influence of media.  Persuasion is palpable.  Human hearts are touched by tone, tint, and tenor.  After, the emotional sentinel, the amygdala internalizes information, then people intellectualize.  Men, women, and children ponder, and ultimately affirm that they are right to think as they do.  The fives senses may not be directly involved in decisions made; still, information [or intuition] is studied through the filter of fear.

Americans think they analyze, what will occur if the red phone rings.  Then, just as advertisers hope, they act emotionally.  As citizens of the United States listen to the campaign commercials, watch the stump speeches, and seek solutions, we must accept that our choice will not be logical, for we are not reasonable.  The two-legged animal called man is but a blip in the natural cycle of neurological events.  The difference is, we have the capacity to build, and create machines that kill.  Humankind acts more aggressively on apprehensions than other animals are able to do.  We, the people are perhaps more vulnerable to descriptions, metaphors, and similes.  The psyche is profound as is psychology.  So, this election season remember.

This illustration of the way in which one chapter of psychology (Mental Imagery) can be applied to advertising is but one of a score of illustrations which could be given. Psychology has come to be one of the most fascinating of all the sciences, and bids fair to become of as great practical benefit as physics and chemistry. As these latter form the theoretical basis for all forms of industry which have to do with matter, so psychology must form the theoretical basis for all forms of endeavor which deal with mind.

The householder in glancing through his morning paper has his attention caught by the more attractive advertisements. The mechanic in going to and from his place of employment whiles away his time in looking at the display cards in the trolley or the elevated cars. The business man can scarcely pass a day without being forced to look at the advertisements which stare at him from the bill boards. The members of the family turn over the advertising pages in their favorite magazine, not because they are forced to, but because they find the advertisements so interesting and instructive.

These persons are oblivious to the enormous expense which the merchant has incurred in securing these results. They are unconscious of the fact that the results secured are the ones sought for, and that in planning the advertising campaign the merchant has made a study of the minds of these same householders, mechanics, business men, and members of the family. Advertising is an essential factor in modern business methods, and to advertise wisely the business man must understand the workings of the minds of his customers, and must know how to influence them effectively, — he must know how to apply psychology to advertising.

Roy Spence certainly knows his stuff.  The Texas advertising consultant for Senator and Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton, creator of the first 3 Ante Meridian commercial and the Red Phone infomercial has captured our attention.  Mister Spence is truly a master.  He is an artiste and a scientist.  This amazing man has moved the media and the masses.  He has advanced a implication, increased the audience, and altered the focus.  Roy Spence, on more than one occasion, has triumphed.  He successfully worked to make the most of the fear factor in a manner few can match.  Perchance, when the telephone rings in the White House or at the Pentagon, we may want our man Roy to answer the call.  Mister Spence grasps what alludes most malleable minds.

Congratulations Roy Spence.  You are a marvel.  You apply psychology and artistic principles.  Mister Spence, you have proven yourself to be the genuine candidate of change.  At a crucial moment in your candidate’s campaign, you alter reality.

Situations, Sources, Slogans, Speeches, Solutions . . .

History Happens; Ebbs And Flows. Emotions Are Entrenched

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

On any given day, in any given way we create a foundation for our lives.  What we think, say, do, or feel will be with us throughout our existence.  Even if we believe, we are no longer where we were, we evolved, [and we all do] the effects of our actions, our reactions, do not change unless we work extremely hard to transform them.  Indeed, no matter how diligently we are in our  pursuit, attempting to erase the effects of our deeds, our failure to function, or our rejoinders, these will linger in the hearts and minds of those we associate with.

People presume to know who we are, and what we meant way-back-when.  Today they are more certain than ever.  Emotions are easily entrenched.

Only a day ago I was endeavoring to say, just this.  Two prominent persons were in the news.  Numerous articles were written discussing their doings.  Television broadcasts assessing their situations filled the airwaves.  Throughout the day, each time I heard or read of one report, the other followed immediately.  There were no transitions between these news items.  The tales were presented as interesting, somewhat ironic anecdotes,  In my mind, the inference was ever-present; the past is evident in today’s occurrences. 

As I evaluated these narratives I thought of nothing more, than how “funny” life is.  Try as we might, we cannot escape what we said or did long ago.  It was and is almost humorous to me.  When we consider the twists and turns of events, no one could imagine what will come. 

It seems to me, those most wanting to forget what occurred “when we were . . .” are the ones more deeply immersed in their history.  I penned prose discussing what for me is somewhat laughable.  In our effort not to repeat history, we often do as we did long ago, or we create a chaos that pales by comparison.

How often have we purposely pursued a prospect different than those we embarked on before only to discover the similarities?  If we are able to strike a chord that relieves us of former follies, it seems many of us give birth to bigger and better traumas.  While reviewing the day’s events, I marveled.

In my mind, these two persons were notably not repentant for their earlier conduct.  They each often seem embroiled in incidents that relate back to their past.

In my missive, I spoke of the wonder woman of note, an esteemed and articulate aspirant.  Some say she is a “polarizing” figure; yet, her prestige is unquestionable.  I imagined that she might have been more cautious, or may have attended to what could have been easily misconstrued prior to this late date. 

I theorized that perhaps, not wishing to be vulnerable, open, willing to apologize for what others felt and thought hurtful caused a reluctance to change that did not serve this renowned person well.  I pondered; perchance, if this exceptional individual had done other than take a defensive stance, the coverage of her deeds would not have been so great.

I also offered the other tale musing how harsh life can be when we work to justify our history.  I spoke of a person some think is a criminal.  [Who am I to presume.]  The man discussed in my now deleted missive fell so far from favor that the mere mention of his name causes people to cringe. 

The only correlations stated in my essay were the two had each been the focus in the day’s news, and each does what many or most of us have done.  They have not actively attended to their history. 

If any of us has not enthusiastically worked through what was, we might relate. 

If those around us refuse to lovingly labor with us in hopes of resolving past understandings, well, the predicaments may be similar.  Oh, those well-established emotional reactions can be our undoing.

In my own life, my personal history haunts me often.  I cannot imagine that I am alone in this experience. 

I might cite the conversation I had two years ago in September.  An estranged  family member and I spoke for the first time in a long while.  I tried, as I had done many times over the years, to discuss a trauma I never understood.  To this day, I am unsure what happened or exactly when.  I only know that until we, authentically chat about what this individual is feeling and why, we will never move forward.  Indeed, our relationship will continue to regress. 

Avoidance of the topic has caused great harm.  Ignoring has lead to shared ignorance.  Pretending nothing is wrong reaps greater problems.
The best way out is always through.
~ Robert Frost [Poet]

In this more recent discussion, I shared all my sorrows.  I suggested every possibility for why we might be where we are, or were on that autumn day when we spoke at length.  I offered my sincerest apologies for every word, and any action.  I explained where I might have been years ago and accepted there was so much I did not know then and desired to understand now. 

These words came back to me, “It is all in the past.”  I stated, ‘It is not.  What was effects what is.  Our history is our foundation.  It is evident in the present and will create the future, if we do nothing to correct our differing impressions.’

Two months ago, another individual mentioned an event that occurred more than twenty years ago.  I recall the incident well, and the ensuing misunderstanding.  Money exchanged hands, was re-paid, however, inadequately according to this other person.  I remember the same, and for a score I was certain I had made amends.  Apparently, in the mind and memory of this individual I had not.  However, nothing was said to me for all this time.  Decades came and went and not a word.

Once I fortuitously learned of this lingering lament, much made sense.  There had long been an unexplained distance between this party and me.  Might this unpaid debt, the one I thought was fully settled be the cause for such a divide.  I strongly suspect it was.

Again, I was told, now by a second person “It is in the past.”  However, once more, it was not.  I shared with this love as I had with the other.  “Times gone by shade our present and will be prominent in our future.”  We must be willing to approach the untouchable topics and decide that we will work to change what was.  If we do not we will be forever haunted by our history.

Granted, if the persons we intermingle with are unwilling to alter their initial impression of what we may think are false claims and judgments, our interactions with these individuals will forever reflect their perception of the days gone by.  Their understanding of us, interpretations of our message will be their staunchly defended truth. 

Not one of us can escape the fact that we have not always been or done as we later realize was best.  Some never think, or state, they have ever done wrong.  That conclusion might harm these persons more severely than admitting, ‘Perhaps, I was at fault.’  They envision stating they were in error as a weakness.  For these saintly souls, vulnerability is not the strength I perceive it to be.

For me, knowing I am another flawed human being is a reality.  Those that read a recent treatise of mine might tell you that.  Many did tell me this.

I am being “constructively criticized,” rebuked and reprimanded for supposedly expressing a thought I did not state or even think to consider.  I suspect all of us might be able to relate to this. 

Interestingly, much of impetus for this inaccurate interpretation was evoked not by my words, but because of an image presented as an introduction to the publication.  In my mind, I was stating that two people had a history that was affecting their lives in the present.  Each wrote of their past, and details of their doings were discussed in the mainstream media on the same day.  Both stories I thought somewhat bizarre.  For me, that was the authentic connection, the only combining of the two I saw. 

However, numerous persons viewed my symbolic message differently.  It seems, once the portraits were perceived as one, they were forever linked in the minds and hearts of others.  The visual took on a life all its own.  Many readers were not able to separate their first impression, or expectation of what was to come, from what preceeded. 

Ah, the human heart and the effect it has on a rational mind.  We are all escorted by to our emotions although few wish to admit this.  Perchance that is why our history haunts us.  We protect and defend our beliefs as fact.  Our failure to recognize that what is real for us is not valid for another harms our relationships and ourselves.  I long ago learned, what is “right” for me is the relationship, not my need to prove someone else in error.

Often when we word our condemnation of an act, we present a punitive stance that defines the essence of the wrongdoer as erroneous.  We use expressions that do not open hearts.  Instead, humans turn a phrase that is punitive and demeaning to the other.  We place the onus on them, the person that disturbed our sensibility.  Had they not said, done, thought, or been as they were [or more truthfully, as we believe them to be] then we would not be in distress. 

Words such as “I am disappointed in you” [your essential being] pass for constructive criticism.  “Tsk, tsk” [How could you be so corrupt, cunning, dishonest, deceitful, and devious] are considered caring, statements of concern.  “This is beneath you” is posited as an acknowledgement of your extraordinary quality.  Supposedly, the speaker is intending to state their love and admiration.  However, were these words said to you, you likely would not feel as though they were fond of you. 

Might the articulation actually be more about the speakers’ apprehension, their anxiety over what they believe you or I have become or possibly always were. 

With thanks to a man I did not fully understand for years, for he was not like anyone I ever experienced, I learned much.  Our perceptions are our reality.  Only empathy can educate us.  Nonetheless . . .

Most people that presume to know us best, those that claim to have deep knowledge of our intentions, rarely do.  Others believe they recognize whom we are within.  Frequently, they refuse to.  Any attempt at sharing our authentic motivation for whatever might have moved us, is defined as “a veiled pretense,” a “patronizing remark,” or “beneath us.”

In my endeavor to share a thought that I have honored for years, ‘Fact is far stranger, and infinitely more humorous than fiction,’ I was slammed, damned, criticized, and condemned.

If others never speak aloud in a truly caring manner when they have concerns, nothing will change.  If they are busy placing the onus on us and are unwilling to believe that what they perceive as our intentions are not, there will be no growth, no understanding, and definitely no shared wisdom.

In elementary school, we learn the term ‘constructive criticism.’  We think that our expressed concerns are these.  Seldom do we imagine how our disparagement might be heard.  I wonder if this construct, caring censure might be an oxymoron.  Can a person be critical without being cruel.  I think there are ways to productively pronounce a genuine concern without using words that define another as fatally flawed.  However, these require an open heart and mind. 

Criticism is a misconception: we must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves.
~ Emile M. Cioran [French Philosopher. 1911 – 1995]

Demeaning another will never serve to secure a reciprocal reverence.  Shaming a spirit cannot create a beautiful bond.  Defensiveness does nothing to further discussion or understanding.  Change will not come if we are entrenched in our emotional evaluations.  Calm is not created when we chose words that cut like a knife. 

In a debate, there are winners and losers.  Disputes do not reap reflective rewards.  In my mind, these forums offer no resolution.

When someone defines what is above or beneath us, based on his or her unfaltering belief that they know our intention better than we, they place the blame solely on us.  When an individual decides that a person is suggesting more than what they state on the surface, then that person is reading between the lines and envisioning their own message. 

For those who think, life is a comedy.
For those who feel, life is a tragedy.

~ Horace Walpole [Father of Gothic Novel, Earl of Orford]

I was told what I really think and who I truly am.  Those that have never meet me, cannot, or will not dialogue with me as a caring, communicative person might, concluded that my message was what I had never thought it to be.

While as a human, I could rationalize and argue the point they presumed I was making.  I could also make a case for the contrary were I to try.  However, I had no desire to debase the subjects of my missive beyond what I thought interesting

Possibly, my essay was incomplete.  I was not endeavoring to go deep.  I genuinely was just jotting down a moment of surprise that two such stories, examples of how our past never dies were broadcast back-to-back during the evening news.

If, as in my situation, a visual is offered revealing that two people have a history that is invasive, and each was being discussed publicly on a single day, is interpreted as meaning more than it was meant to imply, then the messenger will be killed.  I am slain and in the minds of many, I was totally to blame.

I submit, perhaps the image was powerful and communicated what was not meant to be.  I might have included a third frame.  The visual within that box could have been your face or mine.  However, if the text of the treatise is read as it was presented, or at least as it was intended to be, the reader might understand my message.

I will try to state it simply.  Anyone of us that does not work through their past and chooses not to help others to understand who we truly are is doomed.  We are fated to realize that people will forever recall our history.  The fiction others create will appear as facts, in part, because we do not correct it. 

At times, we may not know that someone is feeling as they do.  However, when we are a public figure, as the two I referred to are, it is difficult to avoid ample angst.  I thought it fascinating that these two individuals were being publicly reminded of their past on the same day, nothing more. 

I think, possibly, we all are forced to face what was; yet, our reminders of the past are not printed in the papers; nor do the accounts of many appear on the same day.  Rarely do we need to address our errors or what others perceive as our mistakes in an open assembly.

However, on those occasions, when we do endeavor to correct a misimpression, as I have repeatedly tried to do today, our words fall often on deaf ears.  Thus, the thought submitted earlier in the now defunct treatise illustrates my initial and intentional claims.  Facts, or what passes for these, are funnier than fiction.  Historically, the past does not fade from minds.  Sadly, for some, what “may” have never been will always be when humans are involved.

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
James A. Baldwin [Author]

Single and Married Parents Spend More Time With Children. Much is Lost

© copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

Decades ago on October 16, I was born into a family that admittedly wanted no more children.  My mother was not working; nevertheless, before and after my birth she was rarely home.  My natural father did not wish to entertain the notion of a newborn.  With my birth, he decided to focus on life far from the family house.  During my youth it was thought, parents spent time with their progeny.  However, mine did not.

On October 16, 2006, a report was released, “Married and Single Parents [are] Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds.”  This too, is not as expected.  New York Times Journalist, Robert Pears reveals, “Mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased.” 

Thousands of personal diaries were analyzed and assessed by University of Maryland researchers, Sociology Department Chairwoman Suzanne M. Bianchi, Professor John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 

For the purposes of this study, parents were asked to chronicle all their activities on the day before an intensive interview.  The findings were published in a new Russell Sage Foundation book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.”

Ms. Bianchi worked for the United States Census Bureau for sixteen years.  There she developed an interest in family life.  The research done for this study builds on her work as a demographer.

In discussing this investigation, Bianchi stated, “We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so.”  She continues, “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.” 

The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families.  But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.

Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.

These words appear and many other glowing evaluations appear early on in the Times article.  It would seem at first blush parents are pursuing a balanced relationship with their offspring.  Perchance they are.

I offer some of the other appraisal for your consideration.

“It seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother.  Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families.  With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.

But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time.  The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.

For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965.  For married fathers, the time spent on childcare more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours.  Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.

Wow, this realization is truly wonderful.  One could surmise that Americans discovered the truth, just as our former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich did.  There is no true balance.  People must choose their priorities.  Do they desire a glorious career or a fabulous family?  Some in the study did decide.

? Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.”  People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.
? Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
? Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” 
  [Yet, this is part of the problem as I see it]
? As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.” 

Ah, the “perfect child.”  The young person of today is followed or pushed by the ideal parent.  Perhaps this explains much.

Parents today are spending time with their children as they drive them hither and yon.  The youth in America are enrolled in everything.  According to the publisher of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, and Robert Coles . . .

Parenting today has come to resemble a relentless To-Do list.  Even parents with the best intentions strive to micro-manage every detail of their kids’ lives and live in constant fear that their child will under-perform in any area – academic, social, athletic.  Lists and schedules, meetings and appointments invade every moment – and the need to be the best is a philosophy dominating – and undermining – our own sense of self as well as our children’s.

In my own life I may not have been given the structure that constant companionship or parental supervision provide.  However, I was given the freedom to think, to be, to imagine, to invent, and to inspire myself.  I was able to fashion a life that reflected my inner most joys.  Activities were not imposed upon me.  I immersed myself in personal pursuits.  My parents did not choose my interests; nor did they force me to compete.  I was deprived of their time, and rewarded with many opportunities. 

I learned to enjoy my own company and to create an unparalleled community.  The world of me, myself, and I was wondrous, full and expansive. It included my grandfather, who took care of me frequently.  Mary, my caregiver was my daily companion, and though for the first five years my Mom was not fully physically present, she was totally, emotionally there for me. 

My Mom recognized her own need to be a better parent and person and set out to become so.  In the interim, she consulted regularly with Mary.  She established a connection with me by expressing her desires to Mary.  She discussed child-rearing in depth and detail  She knew what she wanted for me.  My Mom ensured that my upbringing was the best it could be until she could again fully join me and advance my greater growth.  I was given time to play and contemplate. 

My resources were inspirational readings, paper, pencils, and toys tailored for investigation.  Egg poaching pots and pans were early energizers.  Coloring books were considered too restrictive for a creative soul.  Thus, structures were my own.  I was encouraged to explore, to be curious, and to be the best of scientists.  The phrase often uttered in my family was, “Ask, and you shall receive.”  Gifts were not meaningless materials; they were loving and thoughtful trinkets, gems, words of wisdom and gestures of support.  What was given was invaluable, encouragement and engagement.

In recent years, many child development experts have voiced increasing concern over the fact that children are accorded little time or encouragement to engage in imaginative play.  Too many children are overscheduled with school and other activities, according to these experts.

Even sports, in which an adult sets the framework, leave little room for the development of creative thinking in children, these experts say.

When children do have time to play, they too often play with a pre-programmed electronic toy or sit in front of a screen — television, computer, or hand-held game — responding to a scenario created by someone else, experts say.

As a result, children are developing a “problem-solving deficit disorder,” says Diane Levin, a child development expert at Wheelock College in Boston. “Developing imagination and creativity is essential for children to develop problem-solving skills.” 

Today, we as a society are saturated in standards.  As parents, producers, and power-mongers we seek accountability.  We prefer systems and forego freedoms.  We teach our children to do the same.

In educational settings, they must engage in collaborative learning projects.  In sports, they are trained to be part of the team.  Throughout their young lives, our offspring are prepared.  They must attend the “best” schools and receive honors for their studies.  They are readied for their proper role in society.  They, just as their parents, will occupy an “appropriate” station.  The young today need not think; nor are they taught how.  They, as their employed mothers and many fathers have no time for such supposed silliness. 

In today’s society, thinking is not considered necessary.  We are taught to quote facts and use these to formulate a life.  Our life is expected to be parallel to that of others. 

Intellectually we may feel free to be who we are; however, in truth, conformity, not deep thought is the guiding light, and publicly accepted principle that many of us follow.  We, as a population, are as many employed mothers . . .

On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed.  [The latter may not necessarily be a bad thing.]  . . . they [employed mothers] also spend less time with their husbands.

Sadly, I suspect, we as a nation are not teaching our children well.  We present information and demand prevailing tenets.  Society states, “There is a need for scientists and mathematicians.”  Teach the formulas, the facts and create technicians.

Administrators and those in favor of “accountability” say, “Forget the Fine Arts; they do not yield the fruits we as a nation need to survive.”  Apparently, the need for curiosity and creativity is void.  Thus, we stuff the minds of our children with statistics; we command them to “meet the standards.”  We no longer require, nor do we teach our young to think.

As this New York Times article concludes, in 2006, nothing is as it appears.  Couples may stay together, though they rarely spend time with each other.  Husbands and wives are not friends; they barely know each other.  People, partners are busy.  Families run from here to there, mindlessly.  People do not realize their dreams, though they constantly race towards them.  They believe there may be other possibilities; yet, they never conceive these.

I surmise that parents spending more time with their children may not breed what we human animals crave.  The connections we yearn for are lost in the dust as we scurry about.  We are rushing, chasing a career, our children, or the competition; yet, we forfeit our selves.  Our souls are lost.  Only on occasion do we imagine what we might be within.  We are too busy, too busy to breathe.

In today’s world, hours, minutes, and seconds, man-made constructs govern us.  We measure these as though they can be quantified and qualified.  We treat our children and time as tangibles.  Researchers want to theorize the more time together the merrier; however, in reality this is not true.

I propose we not evaluate schedules when appraising the value of a relationship.  Instead, I invite each of us to assess reciprocal reverence in the parent child connection.  This characteristic is not necessarily visible or verifiable.  Calculations cannot always determine excellence within such a bond. 

If parents tell their children what to think, say, do, feel, or be in a moment or in many moments, this will not gratify the souls of our youth.  It will not engender closeness.  Nor will it make our offspring better human beings.  Time spent together may be important.  However, it is not more critical than what we do with our time.

  • I offer another glorious essay by Helaine Olen.  This exposé also evaluates the parent child relationship in 2006.  ‘Gifted Child Industry’ Preys on Parents’ Insecurities, does not paint a pretty picture.

    References for your review . . .

    You may subscribe to the New York Times Online Newspaper without cost or obligation.  It is free.
    If you prefer to read the article online without subscribing, please click on this PDF [Portable Document Format] version of the exposé.

  • PDF “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” By Suzanne M. Bianchi,John P. Robinson, Melissa A. Milkie
  • Suzanne M. Bianchi. Maryland Population Research Center
  • John P. Robinson. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Melissa A. Milkie. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association
  • Census Bureau. U.S. Government Census Bureau
  • The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, Robert Coles
  • Experts concerned about children’s creative thinking, By Karen MacPherson. Post-Gazette. Sunday, August 15, 2004
  • The Family Leave Act, By Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor. New York Times November 8, 1996
  • For Parents: How To Raise a Kid Who Cares. Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write, or Add, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Summary Dumbing Down Our Kids, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Dissecting the Dysfunctions That Lead Down the Path to Divorce, By Kathleen Kelleher, Special to The Los Angeles Times. Monday, September 18, 2000
  • Keeping Art Alive Under No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • O, Say, Does Your Class Know the National Anthem?, By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • Standards, Assessment and Accountability. U.S. Department of Education
  • Parent-Child Relationship Quality Depends on Child’s Perception of Fairness, By Jeremy Diener. Journal of Family Psychology. August 11, 2004