I listen to NPR Radio while driving. It’s the perfect way to safely multi-task in the car. Yesterday I heard an interview that compelled me to think about what I can do to help. In Spanish we say: mientras hay vida, hay esperanza (while there is life, there is hope). Simple enough to say but how to transmit the practicality of it? I’m not an expert and I haven’t served. But, I have family who have served (please excuse my Army bias, all branches are equally valuable I just gravitate to what I know more about) and I have been through some challenging life situations so I will do my best to offer a re-routing map (using words):
The NPR Story (I listened for a perspective on politics and got drawn into the human story instead):
We design systems around “normality.” This simply means we design systems around averages. As an example, cars are designed to be comfortable for an average of 5’5″ to 5’10”. Go beyond this and things start to feel a little off. At 5’2″ it is hard for me to have the ideal driver position AND see over the hood to the front bumper. This doesn’t mean I can’t drive a car, it just means the fit is not quite right and I have to make a lot of adjustments while driving.
Social systems are designed the same way. The average person is in good physical health, has full vision/hearing/limbs/mobility, has minimal stress levels, has hardly any trauma. The problem is we don’t benchmark to see how true this is and anyone not fitting this expectation is disenfranchised by force (you are disabled, you are pathological, you are dysfunctional….). Most existing “solutions” are destructive in orientation: eradicate the problem or subdue it at any cost. Sooo, your “healing”/”corrective” options become jail/prison/mental institutions/drugs (of the pharmaceutical kind which add to life cost and discomfort which add to stress….).
Military life instills two things: (a) discipline, and (b) living for the mission. The challenge: civilian systems require a different type of discipline and you have to find your own mission (something that is fundamentally anti-corps and contra-training). The new discipline: acting like it’s ok that you don’t fit in. Minorities have had to “play this game” for years with the same goal (avoid jail and/or mental institutions). There is your public persona versus your real culture which can only be shared with those who are like you. You will be granted rights but understanding is given to no one. Those who understand do, those who don’t don’t. There’s not enough daylight to train the latter. You have one life to live and it needs to count. Don’t get distracted by “friendlies” (those looking for vicarious experience/life by proxy). Tell them to sit back and observe and get out of your way. Avoid holier than though skirmishes at all costs (my pain is bigger than your pain, my suffering entitles me to more than your suffering). All these do is make you waste ammo and energy. Save all your firepower for mission accomplishment.
The mission: succeeding as wonderful me! Focus all your energy on getting addicted to accomplishment and harmony.
In order to do this you need to: Know thine self first. Get crystal clear on your core values. What is the ONE thing that compels you to live and enjoy life? What do you love doing even when you are “on vacation”? It might be something for which you have been labeled as “OCD.” If it’s cleaning, start a cleaning company. If it’s imposing order, there are plenty of people who say they can’t get focused enough to organize their lives (schedules/closets/to-do lists). I have a big mouth and I’m always telling people how they can make things better so being a consultant focused on systemic improvement is a natural fit. If you need help getting clear on mission, here are the tools that worked for me (they offer training if you need it):
Training StudioG http://www.studiogsandiego.com (ask them about options outside San Diego)
Understanding Differences: Path Elements Profile (PEP)™ http://pathelementsprofile.com/
With respect to emotions, it makes no sense to wage a war against yourself. Success and survival possibilities are zero when the enemy and the combatant are one and the same entity. If you accept yourself as a defect, you embrace the language of the enemy and give power to that which will destroy you. Focus instead on harnessing what you are into a normal subset/cluster. Look for ways and systems where everything you have is an asset and an advantage (yes, your PTSD, where is it advantageous to have this – work that allows for high intensity shift rotations and immediate tangible outcomes). You need experiences that give you accomplishment highs so you can get addicted to positive emotions. Remember, at their core, emotions are just neurochemical responses to stimuli. When you encounter stimuli that produces a negative neurochemical response, get away from it immediately (this is the red hot enemy zone and you cannot gain advantage in this territory). Focus on securing green/safety zones in your life (stimuli that produce positive neurochemical responses). Your training has taught you to be resourceful. When it comes to teams, you might need to form new ones that are beyond your normal comfort and awareness zone but no different from basic training or any other training exercise you’ve been through.
Here’s an example of a civilian who understands people who have faced legal challenges http://www.inc.com/catherine-rohr/why-you-should-hire-ex-cons.html. On the therapy side, there are many “mental health professionals” who one needs to just run away from. They will use their personal opinions to tell you what your thoughts and intentions are, give you a mountain of dysfunctional behavioral examples to prove to you that your behavior is destined for doom, and diagnose you with “illnesses” for which there are no biological indicators (your behavior is not a biological indicator it is a symptom that can have many root causes). DO NOT waste any energy talking or arguing or convincing these types. It is as productive as trying to tell an enemy who is torturing you that the Geneva Convention should be honored. Make a mental note to yourself (duly noted), any time the rage swells up and keep your comments to the absolute minimum because whatever you say IS being used against you. At the same time there are those who practice Positive Psychology http://harvestinghappiness.com/hh4heros/about-hh4heroes/, Acceptance and Commitment therapy http://www.thehappinesstrap.com/about_act and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy http://albertellis.org/ (ask an expert for additional techniques and yes, sometimes you do need medication to help you re-balance but make sure it’s the right one and that you actually do better on medication). Remember: Happiness is the toughest job you’ll ever love (focus on being at peace each day)! To clear misconceptions, Positive Psychology isn’t just about “thinking happy thoughts” it is about taking action to overcome learned helplessness (negative thinking that stems from trauma or repeated setbacks in life/events beyond one’s control) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-02-19/features/sns-201302191830–tms–pagliarictnrp-a20130219-20130219_1_negativity-state-lotteries-helplessness
For Military Leaders (of all ranks): this battle is against Xenophobia and it’s kind of a long one (generational/has been waged over centuries). Combating fear is a military specialty. Military have always led the charge on difficult social integration. When others demonstrate, military implements and releases the lessons learned as a roadmap for others to adapt to their local terrain. Just a reminder of what has been accomplished here in the US:
In Progress http://www.cmrlink.org/content/women-in-combat
This blogger calls it ethnocentricism and shows how it can be used for good or bad (our choice) http://www.voices.yahoo.com/ethnocentrism-todays-society-547011.html The Civilian need: techniques for enhancing social solidarity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solidarity and productivity.
For Civilian Leaders: soldiers (male and female) are often demonized as people who love killing others. My experience: they are the type of person who says, the situation I see is so beyond FUBAR I’m willing to get killed in order to try and change it (and kill those who insist on perpetuating it by brute force – this includes oppressive regimes in all countries). I know I’m not smart enough to do it myself so I’d better go get training. Despite the stories of those who got to the military running away from something else, those who are not willing to risk dying on a daily basis don’t make it through because they find other options (myself included – after night warfare training I decided I love sleep and warm beds too much to serve; bullets have a pesky way of interrupting both).
The military are also global peacekeepers. http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/military.shtml. For civilians who enjoy chastising military, study history! Military governments emerge when civilian leadership fails. Civilian leadership fails when it allows for/engrains systems that generate social inequity. The bigger the social inequity, the greater the sub-surface social tension. The greater the sub-surface tension, the greater the rise of para-military forces. Do not confuse para-military with military – they are NOT the same thing! Google it if you want to understand. This doesn’t just happen in “poor/under developed countries” https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2007/09/afp2-s28.html. Situations like the repeated Fort Hood shootings are not just a military problem, they are a reflection of an intolerant civilian system that attacks and destroys everything that is “not normal.” I’m not the only one ranting. Conformity is necessary for social cohesion but when it leads to “enforcement” through the situations depicted in this caricature something is very perverse (not just wrong):
If the NSA is evil, what about those who practice malicious journalism or those who lobby for systems that benefit oligarchs or pretending that children who shoot up schools are the result of bad parenting when there are plenty of absolutely horrible parents whose children don’t shoot up schools? Who is free enough from sin to dare throw a stone in a glass house?
With respect to Spanish hope, well, there’s this Psychiatrist named Christopher Columbus who went to the bank and said he needed to start a dairy company that only employed those labeled as “mentally disabled.” It is now one of Spain’s largest dairy companies and competes on a global scale with the likes of Nestle. The truth is stranger than fiction and quite often more fun!
From the book http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Unreasonable-People-Entrepreneurs/dp/1422104060
Christopher Columbus http://schwabfound.weforum.org/content/crist%C3%B3bal-col%C3%B3n
La Fageda Case Study (note my manufacturing bias) http://www.ieseinsight.com/doc.aspx?id=984&ar=3
Website (click on Castellano for Spanish version that is typically recognized as Spanish – there is more than one type of Spanish in Spain) http://www.fageda.com/
Like my Capella peer mentor Marjorie has taught me: let us not bemoan the road that got us here. Let us thank God for the insight it has given us and use this blessing to build a better world for everyone.
Find your “impossible dream” and LIVE to make it happen (dead soldiers can’t win wars so stay alive; don’t give ANY enemy power by killing yourself or destroying your life at any level over OPS [other people’s sh**]!)….
Note: I promised Dean Garrett (College of Engineering) to honor his request to all schools/colleges: “why don’t you Carnegie Mellon students talk more about how we help you, even those who have graduated?” I also know this will trigger the same “request/admonition” from others so here are “cliff notes”:
Carnegie Mellon (CMU): how to analyze (analysis is not about crunching data – any machine can do that and to prove it we create some of the best machines in the world; analysis is about designing systems that lead to solutions)
University of Connecticut (UCONN): how to think (don’t memorize and apply; learn, synthesize and integrate plus be ready to abandon what you learned and start over tomorrow)
US Army ROTC at UCONN: survival (to all those who trained me – I still think you were in regular communication with my parents and are still keeping it classified because how else could you have figured me out so quickly? LOL!; to all those getting trained along with me – thank you for the gift of growth!)
Episcopal Cathedral School (Puerto Rico): how to be (they specialize in redirecting creative intellect that loves to challenge others – just one of us would be a handful at other schools so no wonder class sizes are small)
Westland’s Primary (Kenya): how to excel (literally no matter how good you were, they expected more; you better not groan because you get more x10!)
All Saint’s Cathedral Kindergarten (Kenya): Christianity is about discipleship and tolerance of diversity (no I couldn’t use those words when I was in Kindergarten but the lessons from teachers – play nice, be kind, you honor God through your actions to others, especially those who are different from you – have stayed with me through life).
Family: how to live and how to love (no need for explanation)
Friends: how to share and how to trust (ditto)