SIGNS OF A WORLD AWAKENING: CONSCIOUSNESS, VALUES AND GLOBAL ISSUES

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Signs of a World Awakening:

From birds eating overripe pyracantha berries to children whirling 'round and 'round, major species seem to delight in timing ways to alter consciousness. But lack of control, addiction -- to food, tobacco, drugs -- occurs in four out of ten people in the US. The problem of addiction is addressed in many ways: from psychotherapy, nutrition, acupuncture to substitute drugs and incarceration. Perhaps the world is now awakening to seeing basic prevention of basic human problems, by spending its physical and emotional capital on human health and happiness. Here are a few chips off the iceberg, plus: a story on programs a Florida couple set up to memorialize their son, killed by a drugged driver; and a summary of the findings of California's Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem.

- Joseph Biden, chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, citing their recent report that nearly 2.2 million Americans (1 out of 100) are cocaine addicts, points up the urgency for diverting funds from pursuit of casual users to more treatment for the 90% of the addicts who are not now receiving it (more than a few because there are not enough programs).

- US drug policy director William Bennett claimed the findings were based on faulty evidence. It certainly must be difficult to count addicts. Even Biden said that the report did not adequately measure the number of addicts in prison, in drug treatment centers or among the homeless. So in this Bennett is right: The findings may be wrong -- only they probably should be much higher.

- "Learning Factors in Substance Abuse", a research monograph published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1988, did teach us something -- it listed these figures on annual deaths in the United States from substance abuse: tobacco, 346,000; alcohol, 125,000; alcohol and drugs, 4,000; heroin/morphine, 4,000; cocaine, 2,000; marijuana, 75.

- So what are we doing about all this, besides counting? Researchers Jonathan Shedler and Jack Block of the University of Callifornia at Berkeley recently released their 15-year study which concluded that drug abuse is a symptom of deep-seated psychological problems originating in early childhood; not merely "lack of education" or peer pressure. Therefore, efforts should be "aimed at encouraging sensitive and emphatic parenting, at building childhood self-esteem, at fostering sound interpersonal relationships and at promoting involvement and commitment to meaningful goals".

- "The war on drugs calls for more police and bigger prisons," says Washington writer Andrew Schmookler, "while the real work of healing broken lives is treated as a mere afterthought. Never mind that those with the biggest problem with drugs are generally those whose needs our society has most failed to meet -- the young, the minorities, those with shattered families and schools that lead nowhere."

- Even Ann Landers is stumped: "The real question is why are millions of people so unhappy, so bored, so unfulfilled that they are willing to drink, snort, inject or inhale any substance that might blot out reality and give them a bit of temporary relief."

- "We are a nation of addicts," says Anne Wilson-Schaef, psychotherapist and author. Her portrait of the addictive type: someone with frozen feelings, fear, rigidity, judgmentalism, and low self-esteem.

- California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos and his California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem have just finished a three-year study of self-esteem, which pointed out that virtually all American institutions, especially government and media, seem to promote personal helplessness to foster greater dependency. It said that as individuals improve their own lives, society benefits. Back to good old self-reliance! Self-esteem, our secret "weapon". No, no more war words. Our secret resource. Our great potential. See page 28 for a report.

- Meanwhile, the papers are full of exciting stories of women, men, children, families, communities, who stand up for what they want -- lean, safe neighborhoods. At, alas, great risk, they shout at comer drug-dealers with bullhorns, they write down license numbers of buyers, and as the activity moves down the block, that part of the block is inspired to reach for their bullhorns and pens.

- But is there not another secret resource that we have right at hand? The Reverend Cecil Williams of San Francisco has found it in "unconditional love". Neighborhoods once infested with drug-trafficking are brightening up since Williams and other crusaders marched down the streets in a show of strength. "They didn't come to punish us," said a former crack dealer who today leads cleanup efforts. "They reached out with hugs to help us. Many of us are looking for a way out of drugs. We just need people to give us a hand and show us the way."

- And unconditional love begins at home. No one said it was going to be easy.

"To paraphrase an old saying, respect begins at home. If you do not hold yourself in high esteem, how can anyone else ?" asks Rick Gelinas of the Delphi Foundation (see below).

"Let us be clear what we mean by high self-esteem. For a good definition I borrow words from my good friend from Santa Clara, California, Assemblyman John Vasconcellos: '...we are not talking about that narcissistic touchy-feely hot tub nonsense some people think is self-esteem. We are talking about a well-substantiated psychological and sociological reality that has everything to do with a person's ability to live a satisifying and meaningful life and to be a productive member of society.'

"High self-esteem begins, perhaps, with the affirmation that I am worthy of the best, I expect the best, I give the best. Living in that mode must yield, I think, the eventual conviction that I am the best. That doesn't mean I am better than someone else. It means I settle for nothing which doesn't measure up, and I give nothing of myself which doesn't measure up to the best that I can give. It doesn't mean that I am without flaw. But it does mean that I keep my flaws so well in focus, and I know myself so well, that my flaws do not pollute my love of others."

Institute of Noetic Sciences.

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By Carol Guion

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