You've got a mess on your hands, for sure. You don't need a Ph.D. in behavioral sciences to know that in virtually every dimension of human functioning, America is, in varying degrees, failing. The divorce rate in the United States is estimated by some authorities to be as high as 57.7 percent, and the average length of new marriages is twenty-six months. Sixty-two percent of our society is obese. Reported emotional neglect of children has increased 330 percent in the last ten years. One in four women has been sexually molested. Suicide is increasing at an exponential rate. At least one out of every six of us will experience a serious, function-impairing depressive episode at some point in our lives; thus, antidepressants and anxiety-reducing agents are now a multibillion-dollar industry.
Violence is rampant, not just in the streets, but at home. Each year, our society witnesses nearly forty million crimes: 74 percent of us are victims of property crimes, while 25 percent of us fall prey to violent crimes. Our teenagers are headed in the wrong direction, as well. Teens between the ages of four teen and seventeen commit approximately 4,000 murders a year. Each year, over 57 percent of public elementary and secondary school principals report at least one incident of crime to law enforcement authorities. Perhaps the saddest statistic of all: by the time they reach the eighth grade, 45 percent of American children have experimented with alcohol, and 25 percent with drugs.
As a society, we are losing it. When it comes to managing our own emotional lives, and training our children how to manage theirs, we're out of control but desperately pretending otherwise. We project an outward image of "I'm all right. I can take it. I'll be okay," because we fear judgment, Well, it's not okay, and we'd better start changing this world one life at a time, or God only knows what the millennium will hold. The life for you to start with is your own. If you want to be a winner instead of a statistic, you can do it, but lean forward, because it is not easy.
In every church I have ever attended, the people with real problems hid them rather than seeking support, and those who didn't hide them wished-that they had, after the doses of guilt, judgment, or alienation they received. We hide our problems, and judge those who don't or can't hide theirs. It's not working, people - not even close. We have forgotten the basic laws of living in general, and living together in particular, and therefore violate them constantly.
I am convinced that the fundamental Life Laws that govern our world and dictate the results of our conduct have not changed. Certain characteristics of the game are different, sure, but it's the basic Life Laws that still dictate our results. Understandably, living in ignorance of or consciously ignoring these Life Laws has created huge problems and a society desperate for answers, one desperate for guidance and knowledge about human experience. Count on us, as a society, to try to quench that thirst with answers that are often harmful, silly, or both.
If you want to know why we as a society are spinning out of control, consider what sorts of "solutions" we're currently being offered. As for psychology as it is practiced today, I am not too much of a fan. In my view, it's too fuzzy, it's too intangible, it exists in a world of opinion and subjectivity. Maybe that's okay if you live in some ivory tower and can afford to pontificate about ambiguous and abstract elements of life. But I don't think that's what you want and I don't think that's what you need. You're living in the real world and dealing with real problems that need real change. You don't just need insight and understanding into your problems; you need them to change, right now.
Consider, too, the "self-empowerment" industry that dominates our culture. It really has very little to do with empowerment, and lots to do with somebody else's bottom line. It is largely unfocused, lazy, gimmicky, politically correct, and above all, marketable, often at the expense of truth. The gurus seem to have everything but verbs in their sentences. You're trying to pay the rent and get your kids to go to college instead of jail, and they want you to play with your inner this or your inner that, or yourself; perhaps a poor choice of words, but appropriate.
Copyright © 1999 Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D. Excerpted by permission of the publisher. Published by Hyperion.
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