Emotional boundaries can be tough to define. On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there. On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.
Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool. Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability. Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons. The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others. The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.
Boundaries are a necessity, though. Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity. I do not happen to believe it is. I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.
“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.
“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.
“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.
“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,” means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.
Arguments and disagreements are understandable. Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first. One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.
Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent. The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another. If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.
Here’s a quiz:
Please define the group about which this paragraph refers.
“I wish they would just keep to themselves. No one wants to see them in public. They’re not welcome here. Good people cannot allow that type of people to live in our neighborhoods, teach in our schools, or be around children.”
Of course, few people will admit out loud or in a comment to this blog that a group immediately came to mind when they read this paragraph, which is a conglomeration of things we’ve all heard said about various groups over the years. We’ve heard this kind of judgmental, exclusive, and unkind language since the beginning of civilization. Because this type of language has existed since the beginning of our human history makes it neither right nor contemporary with how we should treat others.
So, if a group did come to mind, let that be a message to your inner voice that you, along with all the rest of us, still have a little more work to do in becoming an inclusive, loving, and accepting… and perhaps, even celebrating… community of humankind.
“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1681 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861
Whether one is a Republican or a Democrat, poor or wealthy, of one race or another, gay or straight, or any other category one can imagine, President Obama’s State of the Union address held one message that was more important for us to hear than any other part:
“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.” ~ President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012
At our best, we are a unified nation that allows for dissent, but always remembers that we all have one flag. We do not compartmentalize the red stripes from the white stripes, the stars from the blue field. It is one flag. We can find as many ideas of how to make things better as we have American citizens, but we have forgotten something along the way. Our leader must be at the front of that fight.
When I was a boy, my father and I would regularly be at loggerheads. I, in my ridiculous arrogance, thought my father didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d roll my eyes, and huff and puff whenever he said something that I imagined was said solely to embarrass me. The one thing I always remembered, though, is that he was my father, our family leader. I knew that he was always acting in the best interest of our family. As I grew into adulthood, I learned to respect my father’s brilliance as a businessman, dynamic love as a grandfather, and his rock solid wisdom as a father.
A president is not a father, he is a national leader. We have more room to question, argue, and rebut; however, we must also remember that until the time comes for us to change the individual inhabiting that office, he or she is still our president. Our president still makes the rally call around the flag, and we as Americans should heed that call with grace and strength, all eyes moving forward toward success and happiness.
If one is not a part of the resolution; if one is not a part of the constructive conversation; if one is solely beating his breast in lamentation of what is wrong and why it went wrong, then he should step aside and make room for those who want to assist in the process. Our stagnancy in Congress is an excellent example of what happens when we populate the houses of Congress with those who simply want to play the victims, and this means on both sides of the aisle.
Here is my message to Congress: Ladies and gentlemen of the 112th Congress of the United States of America,
Lay down your weapons and pick up your plowshares. You must stand next to one another and look forward rather than standing nose-to-nose, facing one another in unwavering arrogance. How can you possibly see where we need to go if all you keep in your sight line is your colleague as an enemy.
One final note to all public servants, Democrat, Republican, and otherwise – Even if you do not fully agree with the person who is currently president, or trust in his judgment, we the people of the United States of America chose him. If you do not trust the wisdom of the American people, please leave your post, because we are the ones to whom you ultimately answer, and we are the ones who invited you to serve in the first place.
We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
January 1, 2012, is simply another day in the long string of days that have passed during the multiple millenia of our history. Of course, this is true, but is there more to the story? I suspect there is more.
As a civilization, we, along with our planetary brothers and sisters, are learning new things about ourselves. We are discovering we have voices and hearts and minds that must be recognized and valued by those in power. We are anticipating a major shift of spiritual consciousness. We are trying to find our ways back toward intimacy. Is this because the calendar reads, “2012?” Is it solely because the Mayans said there would be a shift of some sort in November of the coming year? Probably not.
The likeliest candidate for this awakening is that after tens of thousand of years, our evolution has insisted we grow. In the same way as plants, in order to survive, become larger or smaller, depending on their environment, we are ready to raise the bar on our consciousness. It’s simply time!
Everyone will have a different suggestion on how to do this. Prayer, meditation, thought, action, or stillness. My vote is for stillness of the mind. I suggest we simply listen to the wind as my ancestors might have said. I call it, “Openly Sensing Life.”
Have you ever had a sudden distraction and thought, “Oh! I need to call so-and-so immediately.” You had no reason to think that thought, but when you called, you realized that person needed you in some way. You intuitively responded to that voice within. Most parents can share examples of this happening about their children more than once. You openly sensed your Life with a capital “L.” I suspect that is where we find ourselves at this point. We are anxious and feeling fidgety about nothing at all; but is it about nothing at all?
Every single one of us is capable of listening and openly sensing life. It requires us to set aside what we so righteously “know.” It requires us to be humble in those moments when we open ourselves to that life sensation. It requires us to set aside our historical and cultural knowledge so that we may be surprised by what we hear. It requires us to breathe peacefully, allowing all the troubles of our lives with the lower-case “l” to dissipate if only for those few minutes.
My suggestion is that this action is not just for one’s own well-being. It is for the global well-being also. When we open ourselves to the forthcoming message from within, we are better able to receive that message. It may help guide us to the growth we seem so ready to embrace.
Some will call this listening for the voice of God. Some will say it is the vibration of global consciousness. People will have many things to call this process. It doesn’t matter how you name it as long as you participate. When a majority of us open ourselves to this voice, we will likely hear how we fit into this important process of growth, and may even discover how we can become more actively involved in this shift.
Of course, there will be people who reply with, “Phooey!”
That’s fine. You who choose not to take part are certainly entitled to express your free will anyway you want. Those who do participate will find answers to questions we may never have known were there. We may find new ways to love and new ways to welcome others into the process.
However one chooses to look at this process, know that it is happening with or without him or her. We will see these changes happen whether we drag our feet, join hands with others who encourage this process, or simply stand by and watch.
So as we approach 2012, listen to what the wind tells you, and as you do, I wish you a happy, abundant, and productive New Year, full of unity, good health, and joy.
Polarity is unavoidable when two or more people or groups have divergent philosophies and desires for action. It’s the nature of the beast. Group A wants this. Group B wants that. Group C wants the other. The part that is sometimes missing is that all three groups necessarily must have something in common because they are discussing the same topic. Commonality is what is often missed in these discussions. This is exactly what is happening in the United States currently.
The Democrats and the Republicans have emerged as vehement rivals. The Republicans blatantly direct the public discourse toward fear mongering and accusations while the Democrats spend most their time whining and pursuing passive aggressive techniques to get their way. It has become a fifth-grade play yard with adults behaving like spoiled, entitled bullies or frightened wallflowers. The result is that neither house of Congress accomplishes very much. There is plenty of posturing, arguing, puffing up, criticizing, and belittling; however, this Congress has one of the smallest lists of accomplishments in American history.
The Democrats, the oldest party in the United States, having been formed from the Democratic-Republican party in 1830 to elect Andrew Jackson, has seen many changes to it since its inception, ending up as it is today as a progressive and liberal party. Their opposition for 20 years was the Whig party who sought to modernize and industrialize the U.S. This party supported a national bank and believed that wealth rather than military might, would win power in the world. The Republican Party burgeoned onto the American landscape in the 1850s as the Whigs began dwindling in power. It was born to halt the Kansas Nebraska Act which would have allowed slavery to move into the North. The Republicans gained a foothold in power until the 1930s when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. That power base lasted until the 1960s when Republicans reestablished support among Americans with the election of revered general Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since the 1950s only four presidents have been elected by the people who were Democrats, including Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
With all the disagreements since the 1830s, and even during the Civil War, rarely have we seen such abominable inaction in our government because of politics. The one thing that can be said about previous eras in our political timetable is that our legislators were, rightly or wrongly, called to action. Today, we see most of the 100 senators and 435 representatives in a stalemate on nearly every issue. The Republicans significantly rule the House and Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate. We have found ourselves in a cesspool of stagnancy that is injuring Americans at every level.
When will our politicos awaken from their angry stupors to recognize what they have injuriously done and tragically neglected to do? What are the magic words that will enlighten our legislators adequately so that we can once again have a strong and healthy economy, a strong and healthy population, and a strong and healthy operation of government? How long will we allow the politicians to blithely sing their own praises, believing everything they say, even though neither group has effectively improved our governmental situation in any substantial way?
As we approach our election in 2012, we must look long and hard at who is running for the highest offices in the land. Are they individuals of integrity, intelligence, and creativity, or are they simply arrogant blowhards who have chosen a national stage on which to lavish themselves in self-aggrandizement? What are we as Americans willing to tolerate this time around?
There is nothing wrong with a two- or more-party system of government. Opposing ideas are healthy in that we have an opportunity to hear the voices of everyone in our country. When we recognize stagnancy, however, we must encourage new blood to join the ranks. It could be a new party, or a new, wise voice who speaks as strongly as FDR, as plainly as Truman, as inspirationally as Kennedy, as eloquently as Reagan, as intelligently as Clinton, and as hopefully as Obama. Somehow, we must inspire those who have a selfless interest in the well being of the American people first and foremost as their purpose. We must find people to populate the houses of Congress who understand that in every issue, there is a mandatory expectation of bilateral resolution. Sometimes one group will have more of what it wants and sometimes the other group will have the lion’s share of the compromise, for certainly, that is a word that has become increasingly dim in American language… compromise. Let us insist on balance and compromise before we have nothing left to discuss.
Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly. A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent. In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.
Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,
“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”
If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data? Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count? If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.
Of course, the last line of the study is an important one. Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men. Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware. Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.
So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk, carry placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you. And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now. In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you? Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!
This year saw the passing of yet another of our family, my beloved mother-in-law, Eva. The part for which I am grateful, though, is that she made her exit on her own terms. Although we miss her mightily, we know that her strength of spirit continues to support us. I suppose this has been the theme of this year – Choices.
In life, if we have any regrets, they are borne from choosing that which was not inspired in our hearts, but that for which we felt obligated even though it went against our internal sense of the world. I know that is true for me. Although I have let any regrets pass into history, I still remember that process so that when I am faced with a choice, I make it according to my best sense of things.
This year has been abundant with joy because I have remembered my truest self in the process of choosing, even when the choices were difficult. I have loved more honestly, allowed others to love me more fully, and invited those into my life that I know are important. Others have gone by the wayside who were not meant to remain. That is the nature of the world, I suppose, even if it brings some sadness with it.
The events and people who have populated this year have shown how truly awesome life can be. My husband, children, grandchildren, colleagues, and friends have all offered their special gifts of love and support. For these gifts, I am most grateful.
My company, Sacramento Vocal Music, has grown exponentially through the efforts of my new administrative assistant, Eva Sarry, and for her presence, guidance, and consistent wisdom, I am so very thankful.
The dozens of precious students who take lessons and attend classes are like jewels to me. Each moment I spend with them is a guaranteed smile on my face. Watching their choices to grow throughout the year, and their performance at our last recital, have lifted my heart beyond reason.
I have been blessed to participate in no fewer than nine performances this year. With each one, a new cadre of talented, intelligent, and truly wonderful people entered my life. These people add their wealth of texture and color to the rich tapestry of creativity that has been woven by those with whom I have already worked over the years. To work in a field that one truly loves is a rare and valuable environment in which to find oneself. I happen to be fortunate enough to be one of those people.
So, to everyone throughout the year who have given so much, I offer my most heartfelt and humble gratitude. May your holidays be one for the memory books. May the abundance in your life grow in every way to levels you never before imagined. For those who have lost loved ones or found yourselves with unexpected challenges during the year, may your memories help you find comfort during this difficult time.
God bless you all and thank you. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!