Archive for change

The Elephant in the Living Room

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by dredslack

In the early 1990’s an alcoholism recovery hospital ran a series of TV commercials where a normal family was going about their daily business with one unusual facet; there was a huge elephant in the house that everyone was ignoring. Of course the elephant represented the obvious but denied problem of alcoholism. We have a similar situation in America right now albeit on a much larger scale; without the education to discern honest endeavor from bombast, vast numbers of people are easily guided into supporting practices that threaten not only a sensible way of life but the physical well being of our planet. Simply said, too many Americans are easy to dupe.

How can we expect a voting population who does not know the first thing about sophistry or techniques of manipulation to see through rhetoric slingers like the Tea Party, Fox News and the like?
We can’t!

It’s painfully obvious that many Americans desperately need to be educated as to the ways of those who work to manipulate them, but how do we get it done? Like driving and sexual prowess most people are pretty prideful about their abilities when it comes to who to trust, so it’s doubtful a direct approach is going to do much. I’ve written a fun and informative book on the basics titled Two Legged Snakes: Understanding and Handling Manipulative People to contribute to overcoming this problem but the book sales and radio shows I’ve been able to generate are attacking an oceanic size problem with a paper cup. Like a Chihuahua trying to direct a stampeding herd of wildebeests.
A logical long term step towards resolving this problem is to make a class such as ‘Participating in the American Political Process’ a requirement in High School. The types of manipulation that are currently the most problematic are very simple and could easily be taught to anyone who’s capable of driving a car. Speaking of cars, we require drivers to obtain a drivers license and periodically renew it, what about a voting license? A 20 question, multiple choice test could filter out voters who don’t know the first thing about methods of manipulation and are thus vulnerable to being duped by the nefarious. A simple booklet could be used to explain the basics & the test could be taken as many times as needed so any sincere voter could vote. A compulsory $2 ‘voter education’ tax could be added to our yearly filings to pay for it, easier said than done but possible.
Any solution to this problem is going to be difficult to implement but if it’s not confronted and we just complain about ‘dumb voters’, the foxes will continue to have too much access to the chicken coop. And that will certainly end up stepping on the toe’s of our right to the pursuit of happiness, and perhaps life and liberty as well.
We’ve got to figure out what to do with this frikin elephant.

What are You At War With?

Posted in continued learning, enjoyable living, quest for content, relationships, staying alive, trust, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by dredslack

It doesn’t take more that a casual perusal of the human race to see that being in conflict is a habitual, if not natural, part of the fabric of the human condition. It probably had to be; if we weren’t a race of fighters we wouldn’t have made it through our species’ early peril. In order to not be eaten by predatory animals we had to fight. In order to not be killed off by disease we had to learn about and implement disease prevention, another fight. The weather could take us out with a lengthy tsunami or an ill tempered hurricane so we needed to fight such events by implementing strategies to protect ourselves under those conditions. As we evolved into tribal culture we fought with each other and if we couldn’t defend ourselves we suffered the consequences. I think it’s pretty clear we’re not going to stop being fighters anytime soon, but perhaps we can be conscious of these energies and direct them to productive rather than destructive ends. 

“I don’t have a part of myself that’s like that. I’m not a fighter at all”, is a common reaction to the aforementioned assertion. Indeed some of us are so far from the aggressive side of ourselves that we may not even know it’s there, but in my 25+ years of being a practicing shrink I’ve frequently observed the nicest, most polite and very submissive people turn into a match for Attila the Hun when their children were threatened or during divorce proceedings etc. Virtually all of us have a ‘fighter’ in us.

  This ‘warrior energy’ or whatever you want to call it isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact we may need it now more than ever, albeit with a different perspective and manner. We don’t need to engage in violence to use it, we can fight cruelty, poverty, injustice, unfairness, discrimination, intolerance, ignorance, environmental abuses, etc., etc., in non-violent formats. This is incredibly important right now because as our society moves forward and changes at an increasingly rapid pace the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in many individuals is awakened and spurred on by fear of what the ensuing change might bring. Resultingly, these folks will fight to keep the familiar, and the injustice, cruelty, discrimination, ignorance, unfairness and the like that go with it. Of course their battles will be dressed up with catchy slogans and misdirecting symbolism and the charge will be led by appealing pundits speaking in catchy sound bytes, but it’s nonetheless a fear based fight against change. Unless those of us who want our world to improve use our talents and ‘fight’ energies and take action to support forward moving beliefs and causes, we may be defeated by those who fight because of fear. 

 We now have the technical know how to destroy the whole planet (at least the surface area) so obviously, on the macro level, we have to back off some from our war-like tendencies or we’re all screwed. Of course each of us have our own personal battles with our families, our waistlines, relationships etc., and sometimes those battles leave us with little or no time for anything else (like severe addiction or sickness). For those of you who aren’t in the folds of such personal crisis my question is: “What are you at war with?” What makes you angry enough to take action because what’s currently happening is intolerable and you’re willing to put some energy in to changing it?

Our swords these days can be taking the time to sign a petition, speaking up a bit more than usual, making aware consumer choices, practicing informed voting, donating some time or money to a favored cause or whatever. If we take the time and spend some energy to fight for what’s important to us, in a manner that works for us, for just a few minutes a day we will be making an important and positive contribution. It certainly sounds corny and I’m sorry if I’ve come off like some sort of pushy cheerleader but a little bit of action from a lot of us can make a huge real difference. Go Team!!


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by dredslack


Traditions happen on a lot of levels. There are holidays & habit pattern traditions, unconscious behavior and social standard traditions, knee jerk reactions and thought pattern traditions. Traditions aren’t limited to the context of celebrations and holidays and they are things we tend to accept without question.

On a societal level many of our celebration traditions stretch back to pagan times but are now defined as Christian holidays. Before Christmas was Christmas it was the celebration for the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven. Easter was the celebration of the pagan god, Ishtar and Halloween finds it’s origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain. These holidays and other social traditions such as birthday’s, weddings, baptisms, etc., serve to help keep us focused on what’s generally important and gives us the opportunity to strengthen our social bonds. In short they add meaning and structure to our lives and strengthen our social systems. And they change to keep pace with the world. The observation of the Sabbath, a once important Jewish tradition, has decreased steadily as work and family concerns became more important than strictly adhering to church doctrine. Similarly, a recent study by the British government found that two years ago parents considered the tradition of an annual break away with their children a necessity. Now largely due to economic concerns, it is regarded as something they can live without, a clear case of the tradition changing to fit a changing world.

On a personal level we develop our traditions from social experience and observation. If we observe our parents being contentious and in conflict constantly we could develop the personal tradition of being too aggressive as well. Perhaps we’d go the opposite route and develop a passivity designed to avoid conflict at any cost. Which ever direction we choose our first tradition ‘set’ is a reaction to our experience and sometimes that’s great and sometimes it’s not. How often do you question the traditions you participate in? Did you really want to fly to San Diego to spend Christmas with your brother’s family …. for the eighth year in a row? Do you really think its right to put up with the horrible things your Grandmother say’s because it’s your families’ tradition to put up with anything from the matriarch? What do you put up with in the name of tradition? Do you need to?

Obviously all traditions are not negative. Treating others as you’d like to be treated, getting together with family & friends to celebrate a holiday or a birthday or whatever can be wonderful and contribute very positively to our human experience.

Many of our personal traditions operate below the level of our awareness. Perhaps your unaware of a tendency to self deprecate when you meet someone new. Maybe your eyes tend to linger a bit too long when an attractive stranger enters the room. One of my old traditions was to be too passive and quiet when I really wanted to speak up, and then get really mad and explode. I thought that was just how I was, my ‘natural self’. When I finally realized I had a choice and that I didn’t have to behave on automatic, it wasn’t that hard to get into the new tradition of speaking up earlier and avoiding the explosions.

What I’m getting at here is that some traditions both personal and societal, are positive and should be kept and those that don’t work need to be modified or perhaps abandoned altogether …. and that’s OK, it’s a natural part of our evolution.

It’s our right to choose but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stray from the path most traveled. In the context of family changing traditions can be about as much fun as a badger in your pants, particularly if the family in question is strict and/or patriarchal. For all its bluster, stiffness and resistance strict traditionalism simply doesn’t make sense. As times and circumstances change, our lives become different and some of the old traditions can’t possibly make sense anymore. Because IBM stock was a wise investment in the 70’s doesn’t make it so today. If sever traditionalists follow their ‘no change’ dogma completely shouldn’t we all be following the first patriarch from the earliest days of human society? Why would change between then and now be OK, but no further?

The more aware we are of our personal traditions and the social traditions that surround us the more freedom we have to create our lives as best we can, particularly if we give ourselves the permission to choose how we actualize those traditions. Change undoubtedly takes effort and trial & error to find what works best given current circumstances. While it may not be easy, that freedom sounds a lot better to me than a life limited by fear and unawareness.

We could also use some new traditions that could help our world function better. How would our society be effected if the super successful and wealthy followed Warren Buffet’s example and engaged in a tradition of changing their focus from supporting their personal businesses and endeavors to trying to help correct world problems such as poverty and hunger, when they hit a certain ‘max out’ wealth level?

What new traditions can you come up with to make your life and this world a better place to live?

(Maybe think about it while listening to David Bowie’s “Changes”).


Dr. Ed Slack

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