How Are You America? Part 3

 

Small waterfall along a gorge trail.

Receiving Instruction

The people in the western mountains have the opportunity to instruct us. Not that they want that opportunity, but we can learn lessons if only because we imagine what their lives were like and are like now. But it is almost as if there are those who are asking, “why should we care?”

The answer is simple. We should care because we will surely be instructed. And the instruction is important because, like it or not, the world is changing faster and faster and we need to respond. When we begin to seek vision and answers we serve all our citizens and their futures.

Noting and Facing Challenge

Wherever they came from, whatever their stories, it is clear that their lives are challenged. It certainly looked like there were probably limitations of skills. That does not mean absence of talent or the capacity to learn and build new possibilities.

The bottom line is that in so many areas of our country we need to look at the need and possibility for educational opportunities and assessment of the skills which will be needed. It almost sounds like an abstract idea, but looking ahead we should be clear these kinds of challenge are widespread now and will expand in the future. One of the challenges will be not just looking at what may be needed but how to offer what people may not think they need. If they don’t need it, their children almost surely will. The assessment of what is happening and where it will lead and what is needed will take time. Unfortunately I hear very little about such explorations. It may exist but it is not prominent.

Receiving Instruction – Mental Health

There were two times in my past when I received instruction about some of the issues related to mental health. One of them was when I went into the inner city of Baltimore. I learned that these people did not need mental health services as much as instructions and help in managing a stressful environment and the offering of resources they did not know were available or that they might need.

In our “treatment” of them they gained self management skills in addition to being offered resources. The management extended to the self but also to the environment. Unfortunately many of the lessons were lost because of narrow-minded conservatism among the professions and the fact that resources disappeared as the “poverty Program” ended.

But as the perception of mental health is changing now and there is increased focus on management we have an opportunity but we also need to attend to resources.

Receiving Instruction – Vocational Evaluation

The other thing I found instructive was vocational assessment and retraining. In our mental health program, each of our units had a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. We worked closely with them to provide training and support. And the potential of people in entrenched poverty was often truly inspiring. We simply needed to open the world.

I was part of the assessment team and when I left the inner city, I continued to work to evaluate people who needed evaluation and training. There were other lessons I learned—up shortly.

 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

How Are You America? Part 2

 

Our Awakening

As the drive through the western mountains continued it was time to study and think. It seemed likely the people there in the mountains almost surely would have been the descendants of settlers long ago. For those who stopped and settled, one had to wonder why just there.

We had learned a lesson in Montana near Glacier Park. The summer could be sunny and glorious. People were enchanted, purchased homes and moved in. And then came the fall when the clouds moved in for the winter and it was cold and dark. It seemed likely it might have been similar there in the mountains. Surely there were many interesting stories.

Limited Promise

In the end it was a double edged environment. The mountains were beautiful but we could see that the fields were not rich and grazing opportunities were limited. Anything which could be produced would have to be shipped out over long distances. And, as we could see, most of the year there were few visitors except probably in the height of summer.

Who knows for how long this kind of area was largely cut off from the rest of the country? One hundred years ago they might have begun to receive radio broadcasts. Suddenly there was more information about the rest of the world but it was still limited.

Communications From the World

When I was in college in Michigan and vacation came, it was time to fill the car with other easterners and drive all night toward New York. It was a long, tiring trip but we were young and listened to the radio. There were stations from Texas, across the border in Mexico and so many areas of the country coming to us on AM from hundreds to a thousand miles away. At night this was what the people of the mountains were getting.

And then surely came the day when there was some television beamed down into the valleys. First from transits in the mountains and then from satellite. At last they got a more detailed glimpse of the country at large and the lives of other Americans. Now they became aware of what the lives of others were like and surely compared it to their world.

What Happens Now?

When I looked at this environment, I couldn’t imagine they would welcome immigrants. Life was hard at times, opportunities limited and they needed whatever jobs they could get. It suggested they might be receptive to the manipulative political statements from the recent campaign.

 

Surely the awakening would have been difficult. What it means for their future and ours is open to question. And the other question relates to how we need to reach out in our common cause.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Thank You For Your Service

 

 

Have you ever had a stress reaction?

Have We Defined Stress Incorrectly?
Maybe our recent wars did not create an apocalypse for our nation, but we’re now facing some consequences of the wars. An apocalypse is ongoing for many of the residents of the Middle East but there is also significant distress among some people in our nation.

Some of that distress will be referred to as mental illness. I am not a huge fan of the medical model as it relates to mental and emotional functioning because I think there are often other more useful ways to look at some of the things that happen to us. We created the concept of mental health so that we could remove mental and emotional suffering from the hands of the church. It is no longer common to describe people as being possessed by the devil or demons. But sometimes viewing something as an illness is not useful either.

World War II Is Still With Us

Long before there was the currently popular Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we had war related stress problems but they were not diagnosed nor helped very effectively. We hear a great deal about PTSD currently. It almost sounds like it is a new problem.

I had a couple of awakenings in my practice over the years. In one instance a man came to see me about an ill-defined depression which had been nagging at him. We talked for several sessions until at last he said, “I think you need to meet my father”. His father had been a bomber pilot in World War II and had flown on both missions to destroy the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. In each attack they lost 90% of the planes. His father had passed survivor guilt on to his son.

In another instance I was dealing with a young Jewish woman. Again, we were getting nowhere until she asked to bring her grandmother in. Her grandmother was a survivor of the Aushwitz concentration camp and had passed on this heritage within the family.

More Recent Events

It should not surprise anyone that we have similar problems for people who served in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. The revelations have been ongoing. From time to time I have occasion to talk with veterans. In one instance when I told a man that reactions to this stress were essentially normal there were tears in his eyes. He was grateful and said, “I thought I was mentally ill.”

Normalizing the Experience

The military is beginning to work to drop the D from PTSD because calling it a disorder is serving as a bar to seeking help. People don’t like being called mentally ill. The fact is that the types of reactions we are seeing should be characterized as normal reactions to prolonged stress. Exactly how is a person to feel when they spend every day killing people and having people trying to kill them? Since we don’t have a draft we have sent people back for multiple tours of duty which is utterly irresponsible.

Thank You For Your Service

Yes, we should thank them for their service but we are too often not giving them service in return. I used an image of a homeless serviceman for this post because it exemplifies the service we are not giving. They should not be suffering. Too often the wait times for those seeking help is much too long and there should be no veterans homeless on the street.

We are failing to step up to our obligations. Politicians are threatening more war and few are really responding to and supporting the response to real need created by past wars. The fact is that there are understandable reactions to prolonged stress and they can be dealt with.

On Another Note

There are other kinds of conflicts which we can view symbolically. Join us and enter for an opportunity to win a free autographed paperback copy of        Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power  
To enter, email rogerbburt@gmail.com . Drawing every two weeks. Each person entering will receive the first two chapters of the book by return email.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Wonder and Creation

 

Competing Forces

There are numerous competing forces in our lives. Some are the ordinary demands of our lives but there may be other kinds we ordinarily cannot perceive. We often seem to be interacting in an environment we do not understand. A lack of awareness compounds the problem.

And then there is the matter of power. There are all kinds of power but in this instance I’m not thinking of what comes out of the wall socket but the power of rulers who run our lives. These days we generally do not to talk about rulers but of government and we hope that it is democratic and serves our interests.

Levels of Management

The forces in our lives require management and those forces may be at a personal level or a societal level. When the world collectively goes into crisis we have a much broader set of management issues.

We address the possibilities in a variety of ways. One way I chose to address them was in fantasy fiction. Our world has reached a turning point in many ways and just when we are bringing women to power. And by that I don’t mean taking power away from men but I’m looking to true partnership.

Ways to Achieve Breakthroughs

From time to time we seek breakthroughs and hope we may move to a higher more beneficial existence which means our struggle has been fruitful. In the end, periodically at least, we are seeking a washing away of what has cluttered our lives. That means we use our sense of wonder to find a new creative form for our existence.

That sounds terribly lofty doesn’t it? In a sense it is, but too often we fail to see what we have created. The world wars of the twentieth century were terrible and at the end there was a sense of exhaustion along with relief. Sometimes after such conflicts we don’t pay close enough attention to what we created. Europe came together as never before and America rose to a new level of prosperity.

Now we face another era when we have to overcome a broad threat to our future. That requires us to again invoke a sense of wonder at the potential and to bring our creative notions to bear to overcome the adversity we have created and to rise above it.

Seeking Inspiration

Inspiration along with necessity are often the sources of the wonder and creativity we need to build for our future. In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I seek to stir the visions of wonder about what we can create and overcome and the creation of a vision of what we might become especially as women are empowered.

What do you want to see come out of the current turmoil?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Baltimore! What have we done?

 

Why do you think the disorders in Baltimore occurred?

Revisiting Baltimore

Recently an appointment in Baltimore led me on a tour of the city. Once again I had to revisit what I had seen happen in the city. The scars are still very much in evidence. I thought it time to republish this post. We are doing better in some regards but in many others we still are not attending to the needs of our people.

A National Outrage

One essential theme in this blog is the empowerment of women and there are other secondary themes. From time to time I’m going to touch on these other themes.

In this instance I’m going to relate a matter of history. Not long ago Freddie Gray died after his arrest in Baltimore. Riots followed. Across the country we are seeing indications of abuse of power by the police but abuses and dysfunction will happen in most institutions from time to time. This death may or may not reflect racism. Racism remains an issue in our society but we have to assume that some of the worst abuses are committed by a few people who probably can be described as “bad apples”. And there may be other outside factors involved.

There is an illuminating background story I have to tell about what happened in Baltimore. In 1967 I was one of the first people hired in one of the first community mental health programs in the country. With my newly minted Ph.D. from Duke I took up station in the inner city. In another post I’ll give a broader view of the experience. But for now I will focus on police community relations and national policy.

A Dreadful Change

Do you remember touching movies from the 40s and 50s where the much beloved police officer patrolled on foot? He was well known in the community and the grocer would give him an apple as he passed. That was all to change. About the time I went to work, the police were instructed to pick up homeless or assumedly mentally ill people and remove them to a lockup for evaluation. The police were given a very new role and it led to terrible scenes in the community. There was a dreadful decline in the relationship between police and the community. There are probably no police currently working in Baltimore who were there at the time. The police did not want this role but were given no choice.

Making War on Our Society

The next large step in the deterioration of relations came in the 80s with the war on drugs/war on crime. This was a monumental bipartisan error. Now the police were forced into stop and frisk, would stop drivers for minor infractions, and then (although they had no real right) would search the car. If they found even a small amount of a controlled substance there was an arrest.

At the time laws had been enacted with lengthy mandatory minimum sentences. Now the police were even more intrusive and the division from the community deepened. Across the country this travesty was repeated with both community and police being the victims. Nationally our prison population swelled from one million to 2.4 million.

Immense Suffering

The outcome could be seen on the streets. We drove through Baltimore one morning recently and saw young men sitting on blankets or sheets of plastic on the sidewalks trying to sell a few items. These were the victims of what WE had done. They came out of prison after lengthy sentences with no job history or skills. In many instances they could only make a living with crime.

And, even if we assume the death of Freddie Gray was a terrible error and unintended, even so it stirred a community to a violent outburst because of the divisions that had been created.

How many politicians have you heard address the reality of these issues?

What we have done has been a blight on our communities, the police and our country.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Part 4 : Our Nation in Crisis

Our National Turmoil

The People’s Business

Each morning when we turn on the television we are greeted with coverage of a pathetic and terrifying political scene of a Washington in disarray. Certainly there has always been a dark side to politics and inspiring leaders with wisdom are often not too common. There is an important question. “Would it be possible for us to have a representative democracy?”

There are ongoing hints of deeply rooted corruption and authoritarianism. The unwise Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court simply deepened the corrupting influence of money in government. There is a seemingly endless conflict about health care. Every other developed country has a more efficient and less costly system. Perhaps it’s time to get back to pursuing the people’s business and needs.

No Paucity of Vital Issues

We have come to the point where we are seeing everything through partisan political views. But before us are numerous issues needing to be solved and they should not be partisan.

One frequently mentioned issue is the plight of what we call the Left Behinds. In fact, we have many groups of them. Most often mentioned are the people of the Rust Belt. There are many other groups.

When I came to Maryland, Baltimore was a city approaching a million people and now it is a city moving down toward six hundred thousand. People moved out, jobs disappeared and the population suffered from a multitude of issues.

In Appalachia the coal era has been coming to an end. No, we can’t bring coal jobs back. The reasons are numerous and inevitable. Among them is the fact that clean, renewable energy has become economically viable.

We say we are having a heroin epidemic. The problems are much deeper and broader but rarely do we hear clear statements. It is a complex issue and requires complex answers. It is not merely addiction, there are societal and economic roots.

I’ll leave the list there for now.

The Need to Debate Responses

Instead of evaluating responses to our needs, we seem to be focused on political turmoil. Political parties serve useful purposes but are not an end in themselves. The keys may be found in representative government. Perhaps we need to be representing the needs of constituents and working to make compromises born of an understanding of complex and competing interests. We have found solutions and agreements in the past and its time to do it again. And that process takes debate and compromise.

And representing the needs of the public is found in getting out there and knocking on doors to gather constituent views and information. Certainly it helps to have candidates do some door knocking but trained volunteers can also gather information.

In Gaia’s Majesty

This is an unsettled time in the world and raises the specter of another major worldwide conflagration even as we face significant climate change issues. It is a time in which we need to explore our response to our future. In that environment I decided to explore thoughts and possibilities in the realm of fantasy fiction. And so the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy was born.

But this time on earth is new. At long last we are looking at a worldwide movement to empower women. The potential of half of our population has too often been stifled. That process appears to be changing and the idea that a greater role for women might just be a decisive factor in the challenge developing before us.

Enter the Tethyan people including the Andromeda defense force working under the vision and conviction of an earth goddess. This goddess is not merely a reflection of a facet of human conflict but rather a being who oversees the development of a promising population of animals.

We will see how decisive this time is and how important a role women will play in the outcome. For now we can enjoy a fantasy exploration and the view of enticing possibilities.
Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies – Struggle and Triumph

 

Do you know what a stepfamily is?

A stepfamily is also known as a blended family or a remarried family. It happens when people who have children from a former marriage marry. If there are no children, it is simply a remarriage.

Years ago people used to hide the fact that they were a stepfamily. Children were adopted or the fact of the nature of the family was a secret. And then in the 1970s a stepfamily movement took shape and people began to discuss their existence and the problems they faced.

A Host of Adjustments

At the time the divorce rate was higher than it is today. People marrying earlier was one problem. But there were many contributing factors. There is an adjustment to a divorce or the death of a spouse which must be dealt with. Too often people moved quickly into another marriage and brought their children wth them. Adjustments weren’t finished and the children had to deal with their own adjustments. They had to adjust to a new family they didn’t want.

Looking Back

My wife and I suffered divorces at the same time and remarried in that period. Together we had custody of our children—in crisis. It was stressful, is one way to state it. And it is a simplistic statement.

Soon we sought understanding and refuge in the stepfamily movement and became national experts in the experience and its adjustment. Now we are here having been married for forty-two years this summer and our children have been on their own for a long time. There are now grandchildren. Survival was not easy.

The Struggles

Families of any kind can be stressful. Careers have to be maintaining and children have needs and grow fitfully. But a stepfamily begins in crisis. Everyone is in crisis and the threat of it tearing itself apart is clear and present. The adjustment period for the adults is between six and eight years in general. And during this period the children are working on their own adjustment.

But there is help and understanding. The adjustment period is long but people need to understand it gets better during the period in fits and starts.

Inspiration

It was clear people needed information and understanding. Many of us wrote books to help others. My wife and I wrote a book which we later revised in another form. It is called Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership. The title is telling. Getting help is important for very many couples. But there is no reason that all the wisdom needs to come from someone else. The adults involved can understand and help construct their own helping and healing system. So, it can become a partnership. Or, of course, the couple may simply find the book sufficient and useful.

We now have an important body of knowledge and don’t have to be alone in a difficult period.

How many stepfamilies do you know? Probably more than you think.

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt