Category Archives: psychology

A nixed economy – From a defunct mixed economy to a bionic economy

The $700 billion bionic economy

In the 1970s television series, The Six Million Dollar Man, test pilot Colonel Steve Austin was nearly dead from a test flight crash. Deciding that “we have the technology to rebuild this man”, the US government rebuilds Austin, augmenting him with cybernetic parts giving him superhuman strength and speed. Austin becomes a secret operative, fighting injustice where it is found.

Thirty years later in 2008 in the real world, the US economy has crashed from profit testing gone wrong and was on the verge of collapse. Deciding that “we have the means to rebuild this system”, the government decided to rebuild a defunct system and turn it into the $700 billion bionic economy. Augmenting it with taxpayer dollars, top executives of irresponsible financial institutions received $1.6 billion USD worth of super-economic strength and speed, like bonuses, home security systems, private chauffeured cars, club dues, and private financial planners–no irony there– just to name a few. The bionic economy became an overt government operative, rewarding financial injustice where it was found.

Definitions of a nixed economy, a defunct mixed economy, and a bionic economy

nix: to stop, prevent, or refuse to accept something (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

nixed economy: an economic system which has been stopped, prevented, or refused to accept the consequences of its own behaviors

defunct: no longing existing, living, or working correctly (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

mixed economy: an economic system in which some industries are controlled privately and some by the government (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

defunct mixed economy: a mixed economy that no longer exists, lives, or is working correctly, whereby major industries are controlled by the government

bionic: using artificial materials and methods to produce activity or movement in a person or animal (Source: Online Cambridge Dictionary)

bionic economy: an economic system in which major industries are controlled by the government through the use of artificial materials and methods to produce desired activity in an otherwise defunct economy

A nixed economy: The Free World not living in accordance with a mixed economy

Oil surge and Iraq War
From the mid-1980s to 2003 a barrel of oil had remained around $20 to $40 USD. The energy crisis from 2003 to 2008 culminated in a barrel selling at a record high of $147 USD in July 2008. On March 20, 2003, the United States coincidentally began its invasion of Iraq, based on false intelligence–the world’s No. 4 in oil reserves. In May 2007, as the barrel of oil was soaring, the Iraq Oil Law was proposed. The law intended to give major western oil companies long-term contracts and a safe legal framework to manage oil fields in Iraq. Due to internal conflicts this proposed law triggered–further inciting instability in the region–no law was passed.

Oil prices from Jan. '03 to Dec. '08 contributing to a bionic economy
Oil Prices from Jan. 2003 to Dec. 2008. Source: Wikipedia

The Housing Bubble, Subprime Mortgage Crisis and Market Crash
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The financial services firm had a whopping $600,000,000,000 in assets–the largest bankruptcy filling in US history. In a bid to save an ostensible global collapse of the banking and economic system–since it is unknown how a mixed economy would have handled the situation–the Bank Bailout Bill was submitted to the House of Representatives on September 21, 2008. But many in Congress felt it was forcing taxpayers to reward bad banking decisions. The House voted against it on September 29, 2008. The result: That same day the stock market crashed. The Dow fell over 770 points, the largest point drop in any single day in history and global markets plummeted.

The Senate quickly re-introduced the proposal by attaching it to a bill that was already under consideration. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was approved and signed by President Bush on October 3, 2008. Less than two months later on December 30, 2008, the housing market also met its fate. On this date, the Case-Shiller home price index reported the largest price drop in its history.

The subprime mortgage crisis was in full swing between 2007 to 2010. During this time period over 60 notable financial institutions worldwide–including the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and American International Group–the two alone had a combined value of nearly $200 Billion USD–were either acquired or went bankrupt. From 2006 to 2012, half of the United States–this writer was almost a victim as well–would be affected by the credit crisis and bursting of the housing market bubble. In 2008 alone, 3.1 million Americans filed for foreclosure, which at the time was one in every 54 homes, according to RealtyTrac. The repercussions were long-lasting. By 2016, homeownership in the U.S. had dipped below 63% – a 50 year low. (Read more at Investopedia)

Auto industry bailout
It is surprising that from 2008 to 2010 the auto industry would take a turn for the worse, with the “Big Three” approaching Congress in November 2008 to request an over $80 Billion government bailout or face bankruptcy? A major tenet of Capitalism is limited government intervention whereby free markets are free from any government intervention. Unless one views the $80 Billion bailout from January 2009 to December 2013 as “limited government intervention”, then by these definitions neither the rules of capitalism nor mixed economy was followed.

Timeline of Complete Economic Failure in 2008

July ’08 – A barrel of oil sold at $147 USD – Highest price in history

 September ’08 – Lehman Brothers files Chapter 11 – Largest bankruptcy filing in US history.
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is not passed by the House and the Stock Market crashes – Historic one day 770 point drop

October ’08 – Emergency Economic Stabilization Act – Financial Institutional $700 billion USD bailout signed

November ’08 – $80 Billion auto bailout – Largest auto bailout

December ’08 – Largest home price index drop in Case-Shiller history

The dangers of a bionic economy

The imminent danger of having an artificial economy is that those who interfere with free or even mixed economies ultimately control the parts. When a bone breaks and heals naturally, then the body itself is in control of the healing process. When that part is artificially replaced, as was the case in 2008, then it is no longer a natural healing process. It is an unnatural intervention with predetermined goals serving the interests of those in charge of the replacement.

No one will ever know what the aftermath would have been like had the nixed economy taken its natural course. The “Great Recession of 2008” showed a complete and utter economic collapse. Was it a sign that a new system is needed?

Who benefits from a bionic economy? According to a Federal Reserve Bulletin published in September 2017, as of 2016, the richest 1% of Americans owned 38.6% of the wealth. The bottom 90% owned only 22.8% of the wealth. That is nearly twice as much. The three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans. And the wealth gap is only widening.

A bionic economy devalues money and human life

Check out the article November 2017 Market Watch article titled, Here’s all the money in the world, in one chart. The ratio of hard currency–$36.8 Trillion, compared to non-tangible wealth–$1.2 Quadrillion is mind-blowing! In other words, physical money consists of only 8% of all worth in the world. The non-physical “money” makes up 92% of all wealth.

Here is more sobering news about the bionic economy. Global debt is estimated at $215 Trillion ($250 as of 2019). That means global debt is almost seven times greater than all the hard cash in the world! How would the average person be treated by a financial institution asking for additional funding if, for every dollar he had, he already owed seven?

Ready for another amazing bionic economy feat? $70 Trillion (33%) of that debt was accumulated in the last decade alone. Despite a recent warning of a global debt crisis from the World Bank, the bionic market keeps ongoing. How long and on what foundation can the bionic economy perform as it has been? What value does money really have and who is benefitting from this bionic economy?

Remember the 3.1 million Americans whose dreams of homeownership were used to lure them into a borrowing financial trap? Where was their bionic compensation for being negligently counseled and losing their home? Where was their bionic loan to bring them back to life and save them from foreclosure, bankruptcy, and emotional hardship? Interesting how the mixed economy was good enough for the millions of victims to recover naturally, but not for the perpetrators! A bionic economy not only questions the value of money, but it seems to call into question the value of human life as well.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

North Korea Solution – Step back and demilitarize

North Korea

In the shoes of North Korea

In June 2009, I participated in a Negotiation training at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC. North Korea had just pulled out of the Six-party Talks two months prior and one of our exercises was to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table. Sound familiar?

One by one participants volunteered to represent the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. When it came to North Korea the room went silent. At this point in my career, I was managing a group home for youth in conflict with the law and had been in the counseling psychology field for over a decade. I sat for a moment and thought about it. North Korea now had an eager representative.

I do not remember the exact details of the negotiation process, other than it ended quickly and without an agreement. The frustration in the room was palpable. I was in control because there was nothing to negotiate. They wanted something from me (at least a few did), but I didn’t need anything from them. I said what I wanted and no one could do anything about it. My sense of perceived power was immense. The greater their frustration, the more emboldened I became. Sound familiar?

How the US could deal with North Korea – A Case Study

Fast forward several years later. I was still the director of the group home and in came a referral from Boston. “Jerry” was short and stocky in stature and was as tough as they come. He was heavily gang-involved and had recently survived multiple gunshot wounds. His gang allegiance was so strong, that he’d rather return to be with his crew and possibly get killed than stay in the program. He didn’t care. He wanted out and started behaving accordingly.

Jerry immediately began threatening and posturing towards staff. I went to have a look. It did not go well. My presence escalated the situation. Jerry felt more threatened and as a result, he started threatening me. I had to keep my ego in check and depersonalize the situation. Had I taken a similar threatening approach, having over 600 pounds of combined staff weight near me, it would have ended in an ugly and potentially dangerous physical restraint. The risk of injury to either Jerry or my staff was extremely high. No one wanted that.

I could sense Jerry’s rational state was deteriorating and his desperation was increasing. This young man had everything to fight for and nothing to lose. A physical intervention would have only condoned an old pattern of using threats and violence as a method to fulfill needs. Such a response would have been at a physical and psychological cost, as well as a potential financial and legal cost. Furthermore, how as role models could we help Jerry if we behave exactly as he does? Sound familiar?

Jerry needed to feel safe and assured that we were doing our best to de-escalate the situation. So what did I do? I left. As the director, my responsibility was to ensure everyone’s safety and doing so required me to step back and withdraw. My job was to build trust and model the behavior I was asking of Jerry. Before leaving, I told Jerry that we would do our best to work with him and that his cooperation would be appreciated. Jerry left the next day to another program which he ended up completing. Win-win.

Although a different situation, there are some similarities and key takeaways for how the US could choose to deal with North Korea. As this is a multi-party affair, let’s look briefly at the five other countries to better understand their perspective and consider alternative peaceful solutions.

North Korea

What does North Korea really want? Ostensibly to become a nuclear power equal to the US and not be threatened by potential US military action. Why does North Korea feel so threatened by the US? First, the United States and South Korea have had a military alliance since 1953. Second, nearly 30,000 US troops are in South Korea, regularly conducting extensive military drills on North Korea’s doorstep. Third, Japan, which is only 600 miles away, hosts the largest number of US military in a foreign country–nearly 40,000 troops–and hosts the Seventh Fleet, the largest of US navy’s sea forces. Lastly, is the island of Guam, which hosts a US military base of about 4,000 personnel and is about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.

Whether real or imagined, North Korea most likely interprets this robust military presence–which could easily attempt to invade a small country–as an imminent existential threat. This fear needs to be acknowledged and seen as a trigger for North Korea. Former US President Jimmy Carter said it best, “Until we’re willing to talk to them and treat them with respect as human beings, which they are, then I don’t think we’ll make any progress.”

Japan and South Korea

From the North Korean perspective, Japan and South Korea are most likely viewed as extensions of the US military arm and threat. One can assume that both Japan and South Korea want peace and security in the region. Kudos to Japan for keeping its cool and not responding in a rash way or with retaliatory comments in light of the two recent missile launches over its country. There is something to learn from their outward show of calmness in an otherwise tense situation. Japan and South Korea are wisely looking for a peaceful global response, and not solely relying on American muscle.

Russia and China

From the outside, both Russia and China hardly appear to be encouraging North Korea to stop their nuclear development and testing. According to a Chinese spokeswoman, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive.” Is it really? It only appears complicated for the US, South Korea, and Japan. China and Russia are barely batting an eye, although they both have a better relationship with North Korea and can be most influential in bringing peace to the region. As for North Korea, their nuclear capabilities are only improving.

Both Russia and China are most likely also not pleased with America’s extensive presence in the area. It could be advantageous for Russia and China for North Korea to have nuclear capabilities. For the two superpowers, North Korea is a check and balance on the peninsula and a thorn in the side of the US.

Recommendations to De-escalate tensions with North Korea

De-militarize the area and step back

The United States must lessen its perceived threat to North Korea by stepping back from discussions and reducing its military presence in the area. Lowering fear and anxiety increases the level of safety in a crisis situation and makes the possibility of dialogue more likely. Russia and China would likely approve of such measures as well and the US could no longer be blamed for raising tensions and escalating fears.

China and Russia need to take a more active role with North Korea

US Secretary of State Tillerson aptly responded after a missile launch over Japan in 2017 when he said, “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.” Russia has been relatively quiet stating that more sanctions are not the answer. China only states that “all parties should exercise restraint”, however, North Korea seems to be exempt from this plea. One begins to wonder what they both truly want as an outcome.

As long as the US, South Korea, and Japan continue responding in kind with threats and displays of military might, China and Russia can continue watching a game that has been playing since 2003 when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The second benefit of the US stepping back and demilitarizing the peninsula and area is that China and Russia will be put in a position to act and not just make comments about what others need to do. The international community would then soon see whether both China and Russia want peace and stability in the area or not.

Positively encourage North Korea to denuclearize

There is a third benefit of the United States taking a back seat and de-militarizing the peninsula and area. North Korea would have a difficult time justifying its reason to continue its nuclear weapons program. This increases the chances of them reducing weapons testing and manufacturing. It also increases the chances of them coming back to the discussion table. If North Korea still continues on its current path, then international consensus could put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

US and Russia need to take action on Pillar 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The United States and Russia need to show the world, not just North Korea, that they are serious about global denuclearization. Why should a country disarm when the ones telling them to do so do not do it themselves? Why should some countries be allowed to have nuclear arms and others not?

The Second Pillar of NPT is Disarmament. It states “all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament.” The second and third points of this pillar must be the focus for all nine nations in possession of nuclear weapons, especially the United States and Russia who each have a nuclear arsenal of around 7,000 capable weapons. Of these, each has around 1,800 that are operational. Next, come China and France with about 300 nuclear weapons apiece.

The North Korean nuclear weapons crisis can happen anywhere, therefore, the threat of nuclear weapons needs to be broadened beyond North Korea. Let North Korea be a reminder of what is at stake if all nations, especially those with nuclear capabilities, do not take the mandates of NPT seriously. Let North Korea be a reminder of how nuclear armament threatens regional as well as global peace and development.

Progress begins when the US does exactly what it is asking of North Korea–denuclearize. The United States, Russia and China must lead by example and fully comply with the NPT mandates. This is active leadership. This is being a leader in a nuclear world.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He optimizes employee engagement and leadership potential by counseling leaders and enhancing group dynamics. He is the creator of the youth inspired EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

A warning about the use of labels on people

labeling
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Product labels have their place

Product labels have become increasingly important the more conscious we become about what we consume and purchase. A healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns, and social responsibility are a few reasons we search for and read labels. One ingredient, one raw material, or even a product’s origin is enough for a consumer to disregard an otherwise appealing product. This use of labeling is for both the benefit of the individual and the community. This is, however, where the benefits of labels stop.

Labeling allows us to discern information, however…

In an age of overwhelming access to information, the desire to share knowledge increases, as does skepticism around accuracy and its source. Everyone can’t be right, so who is telling the truth? There is some truth on all sides when we listen without judgment to find common ground and seek understanding.

Humans instinctually discern the goodness and value of the information we gather from our senses. From an evolutionary standpoint, a slip in judgment could have been a matter of life or death. The problem is, too often we make rash one-sided judgments of people and therein lies the danger of labels.

Labeling people leads to dehumanization

labelsOpposing views, as displayed in the political arena, are usually not resolved through inquisitive processes to further understand the other(s). Rather, people with differing viewpoints are labeled in dismissive and demeaning ways. The goal is to diminish their worth and tarnish their reputation. Dialogue under these conditions cannot take place.

Name-calling is unpresidential

Small leadership gestures have a big follower impact. On a larger scale, leadership under an umbrella of fear, threats, and verbal aggression slips into dictatorship. Such a manner of conduct breeds animosity and divisiveness. The contentiousness that results has the propensity to lead to violent behavior and clashes.

Believe it or not, Wikipedia has a “nickname” page for Donald Trump. The list is surprisingly (or not) extensive. This a dangerous political method of dealing with opposition. Labeling systemically condones an “us versus them” mentality, allowing it to become the accepted way of dealing with differences. We are witnessing the damage this divisive behavior brings to our diverse communities.

Labeling places people at risk

Once labeled, a person is reduced to several unflattering stereotypes. Once dehumanized that person is perceived as less than human. Their needs, voice, and value are diminished. Susceptibility to discrimination, mockery, oppression, neglect, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional) increases.

In extreme cases, significant harm and even death can result. One needs not to look too far in the distant past to see how hateful and dehumanizing language can lead to an act of genocide. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 is a stark reminder of how the Tutsi minority for decades prior was verbally degraded and labeled as cockroaches and snakes. What does one do with cockroaches and snakes?

Read product labels, stop labeling people

Continue reading labels on products on shelves and on racks. They hopefully make you a more informed consumer.  A label on a bag of organic apples grown from a local farm helps the consumer determine the value and worthiness of the purchase.

Degrading labels on people are not accurate and only decrease a person’s value. This can become a slippery slope leading to oppression and the likelihood of injustice to arise. Use great caution before consuming a demeaning and dehumanizing label placed on a person. Rather than labeling people seek to understand and find common ground. Take the time to look into what is not on the label.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Process Facilitator, Youth Specialist, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns: We are possessed

Possessive adjectives and pronouns

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.” -Epictetus

How often do you use either a possessive adjective or pronoun in your daily communication at home or at work? Does their pervasive use bring about happiness by showing true possession of something or someone? Or do they harbor seeds of unhappiness and disappointment by having us irrationally believe that we possessive objects or people when we, in fact, do not?

Material possessions

We commonly use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show ownership of things. “This is my car.” Is it? You pay for it, you insure it and drive it, but is it really yours? What if it is stolen. Whose is it now? More importantly, how does your perceived possession help you deal with the loss? “I can’t believe my car was stolen! Who would steal my car?” This an extreme example but even a scratch on your car can trigger strong emotions due to your perceived possession.

Think of all the hurt and conflict that results from things done to people’s perceived possessions. Possessions end up possessing us. At any time, any object you possess can be damaged, destroyed, stolen, or lost.  Your belief about the possession ails you, not what happens to it. The stolen car itself does not cause your grief, rather it is your perception of the car you once used! Having a less possessive attachment to an object results in a less reactive response when something goes awry. Your happiness also benefits when you truly see objects for what they are–things.

Personal relationships

We often use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show possession in relationships. “This is my son.” “My spouse is waiting for me.” Showing possession in relationships is equally misleading. You cannot possess a person. Rationally we know this, however, deceptive possessive language clouds our ability to make this distinction clear. “There is no way my son would ever steal, but some other thirteen-year-old would!” My spouse would never leave me!”

In both cases, the idea of possession blurs the ability to see the son or spouse as individuals. The misconception of possessiveness in relationships leads to hurt and pain when expectations in the relationship are not satisfied. Parents, partners, and coworkers personalize behaviors that belong to the other person when they fail to see the child, partner, or colleague as a person who also exists outside of the relationship.

What do we really possess?

Feelings and thoughts may not always be in our immediate control, but we are always responsible for our words and actions. Use possessive adjectives and pronouns when talking about your verbal and physical actions.  No one can make you say anything or behave in a certain way. All that we utter and do are truly all that we possess.

Everything else we claim to possess is just an illusion. Using possessive adjectives and pronouns in any other context can easily mislead someone into believing he or she actually possesses an object or person. Believing these untruths can bring more unhappiness to a person when suddenly there is something wrong with the object or person or if the object or person is no longer with you.

The solution

Be mindful when using possessive adjectives and pronouns and find other ways to express yourself when describing objects or people in your life. For example, instead of saying, “This is Anne, she is my wife” say, “This is Anne, we are  married/partners/a couple.” If someone asks, “Can I borrow your car?” answer with, “Yes, you can use the car.” and not “Yes, you can use my car.”

Happiness is not about the objects and people you believe are in your possession. Happiness is about how you treat them with your words and actions. It is about taking ownership and being mindful when you speak and act. No one can take that away from you—unlike your car—nor can you blame others. The world would benefit tremendously if we all spent more time and energy taking responsibility for our words and behaviors instead of trying to possess objects and people that truly do not belong to us or anyone.

The benefit

Managing family, relationships, and work is about how well you interact with others and  respond to life events. Understanding and accepting what is in your control—namely your thoughts, words, and behaviors—is paramount in improving your ability to cope. Knowing that you only have control over your response empowers you to focus your energy on that.

Minimize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns to describe objects and people. Focus and internalize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns when referring to your thoughts and feelings, and most importantly to your words and behaviors. Doing so will improve your well-being. Family, friends, colleagues, as well as strangers, will benefit from your efforts as well!

About the author
Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. Jean-Pierre has dedicated 18 years of work to youth and families in both the United States and Austria. He is the author of “What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.”

Relationship: How the word undermines itself

Relationship
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Relationships define who we are

Relationships are vital to human existence. They take on numerous forms in families and partnerships and exist in all systems. We are essentially in some degree of relationship with somebody at any point in time. Much of how we define ourselves and others is through relationships.

Here is an example: I am a mother, wife, sister, vegetarian, painter, swimmer, and writer. Some of these categories describe what the person does. However, all identify her as someone similar to others. At least one other person is like her in some way and sometimes that has more meaning than the activity or classification itself. We even conceptualize and make decisions about experiences and objects with one another, whether buying a consumer product or deciding where to go on holiday.

Hierarchical relationships can lead to injustices

Human relationships can be hierarchal and have certain responsibilities associated with each person or group involved. The level of hierarchy and degree of responsibility is subjective. Outside influences such as culture, race, gender, or tradition usually have a significant influence on this decision as well.

Look at the definition of relationship by Oxford Dictionary. Complications can arise with definition 1.2 which reads as follows:

“The way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.” 

Herein lies the potential for maltreatment between individuals and groups. How one party regards the other will influence how that party behaves towards the other. Likewise, how one party is being treated by the other will influence how it regards that party. Here are some examples of relationships where hierarchies do or may exist:

parent-child              teacher-student               employer-employee     doctor-patient          prison guard-prisoner             clerk-customer              wealthy-poor          educated-non-educated      

With real or perceived hierarchy, either party can easily lose sight that both are human and have shared needs. By putting aside how they are perceived through title and status, each is better able to see the other as a person. This makes the obvious visible. Perceived or real abuse of power quickly diminishes the ability and need to relate and understand one another as humans.

Relationships are first and foremost human

We often forget that our most basic relationship to one another is human to human. We tend to make it relational by making it title to title, status to status, or label to label. Forgetting this simple fact puts any individual and group relationship at risk of unjust treatment. Our humanness always exists in any relationship regardless of the nature of the relationship.

A new word like humanship or personship needs to replace the second part of definition 1.2–how we behave towards each other–to help remind everyone that our most fundamental connection is human to human. This is necessary to minimize unhealthy and harmful relationships. How are you humanly treating the other person in the relationship is the more important question. This question minimizes the harmful impact of real or perceived abuses of hierarchy. It can help stop the abuse of power or the mistreatment of others in dysfunctional relationships.

For example, a wealthy person may feel superior to someone of lower economic status, purely because of the definition of the relationship, which differentiates between the amount of accumulated wealth and purchasing power ability. The definition of the relationship alone points out differences of status which can influence unjust attitudes and treatment of one another. Another example could be a school principal seeing her role as more important to the janitor due to the differences in job title, position on an organizational chart, and responsibilities. In both cases, the relationship does not diminish the fact that each person has their value in the system.

Limit the definition of the word relationship

The word relationship should just describe how two people or groups are connected and not describe attitudes and behaviors towards each other. Why? Because of the differing roles and duties—more so when hierarchy exists—inherent in relationships can diminish one’s ability to regard and treat the other as a person. One can be easily consumed by how the roles in the relationship should be played out according to societal norms, disregarding the human element. Let’s revisit some previous examples by replacing the word “relationship” with the words humanship/personship to describe how one regards and behaves towards the other.

Using humanship/personship to clarify humanness

My relationship to Mary is that she is unemployed and begging. I pass by her each day on my way to work. What is your personship to Mary? My personship to Mary is one of acknowledgment and concern as she is a person with the same human needs as me. I greet her and occasionally give her some change.

What is your relationship to John? John is our school janitor. How is your humanship like with John? My humanship to John is appreciative and respectful. His contribution to the school’s maintenance and cleanliness is imperative in creating a positive learning environment. I tell him that often.

For the sake of all relationships, the word we use to define how individuals and groups regard and treat one another needs to stress commonalities and humanness and not denote differences or hierarchy. The word relationship, by its definition, undermines that goal as people and groups are in numerous forms of relationships where differences, not similarities, are highlighted. The words personship or humanship keeps our fundamental connection to one another as person to person or human to human. This helps improve any relationship by ensuring positive regard and proper treatment of one another regardless of the relationship. Using either personship or humanship removes the hierarchical status inherent in most relationships and with it superior attitudes and behavior that may arise.

We are always behaving to fulfill shared basic human needs regardless of the relationship we are in when doing so. Next time you are asked “What is your relationship like with …..?” begin your answer with “My personship/humanship with….” Notice if there is a difference in how you conceptualized the relationship. How did your attitude and behaviors change toward the person or group?

Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another
Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another

Values Speak Louder Than Words

Values speak louder than words
Image courtesy of clconroy / morgueFile

Values influence how we behave

Actions speak louder than words. Yes and no. Although we do communicate much information through our behaviors, our actions are a physical representation of our values. Our value system determines how we go about fulfilling our needs. Before looking at the values being expressed in the picture, let’s first see what needs are being met.

Power: The young men feel worthwhile to self in their ability to perform a handstand. Others are most likely watching so they are also contributing to the well-being of the group through physical feats and entertainment.

Belonging: At least one other person is watching (the photographer) and quite possibly others too. Maybe they are part of a group of friends hanging out at the beach. Similar to power, belonging is a basic need that encourages us to behave for the sake of being part of a group.

Freedom: To be oneself and act freely and responsibly—behaving in a way that does not deprive others of their ability to fulfill their needs.

Fun: Looks like they are enjoying themselves. Who doesn’t want to have fun!

What values are being expressed as the two young men satisfy these basic needs?
Achievement, athleticism, challenge, competition, cooperation, confidence, determination, enthusiasm, fitness, mastery, perseverance, recognition, self-control, self expression, and strength to name a few.

There is more going on than two young men performing a handstand. What you are really seeing are these values in action. How is this insight helpful?

Understanding the values being expressed by your teenager, partner, coworker, neighbor, or stranger will help you better understand how they go about fulfilling their needs. Understanding needs and values helps depersonalize one’s behaviors. This is useful when dealing with others whose behaviors you do not understand or disagree with.

Looking at someone’s values helps you see that they are trying to satisfy a need for themselves and not do something against you. This helps you become accountable with your response when you feel mistreated by someone’s actions. No matter what someone does “to you”, you always have a choice in how to respond. What needs and values are being challenged? What values are driving your behaviors?

If you find yourself in repeated conflict situations or see unhealthy patterns in your encounter with others, it may be time to have a look at your values. The good news is there are many to choose from. Like clothes, values can be changed at any time if they no longer fit.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Expert. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

 

Basic Needs Drive Teen Behavior

Teens satisfying basic needs
Image courtesy of Taliesin / morguefile.com

Teens behave to satisfy their basic needs—just like we all do.

If teens are doing what everyone else does, why are their behaviors judged and scrutinized? Four out of five basic needs are being met with this group of teens rafting (the behavior). The five basic needs are:

Survival: food, clothing, shelter, and overall safety

Belonging: being part of a group and having an identity greater than oneself

Power: having self-worth and feeling worthwhile to others

Freedom: having the liberty to live as you want while respecting common laws and the rights of others

Fun: being able to enjoy the pleasures of life

Look at the picture. Clearly the group is having fun. All other needs, except survival, are being met too. The more an activity satisfies other basic needs, the more significant that activity becomes. The young people feel a sense of freedom as they carelessly and playfully float. Since they are in a group, they belong to the rafting activity. One cannot tell how long they have known each other. They could be long-term friends or could be part of a summer youth camp and have only known each other for several days.. As individuals in a group, having purpose and meaning, the need for power is being fulfilled as well. In sum, 4 of the 5 basic needs are being met, making the activity rather important.

What is typically bothersome to adults is not that teenagers are trying to satisfy their basic needs. Rather, what adults have issues with is how teens go about satisfying those needs by scrutinizing the details. Is there anything worth complaining about in the picture? No. Imagine four highly excited young people now coming out of the water. Maybe they are laughing loudly, joking,  swearing, kicking up sand as they walk by, and dripping water on blankets as the rafts pass over sunbathers.

Here are some possible thoughts or responses.
“Teenagers are inconsiderate.”

“Teenagers are rude.”

Teenagers are obnoxious.”

Everything they had been doing to satisfy their basic needs is now forgotten and reduced to a five-second interaction and judgment. Could the teens have been quieter, respected the personal space of others, or apologized had sand or water fallen on blankets? Yes. Maybe then their complete behavior would have been more appreciated and less scrutinized.

Teens, like adults, behave to satisfy their basic needs. Keep that in mind when you are momentarily bothered by what a teen does.

Adults don’t always do it right from start to finish either. Parents behave in ways that bother teens too! Teens have the courage to go all the way and push their limits, whereas adults may hold back, shortchanging the experience and the benefits they could have reaped had they tested their boundaries a bit more.

If the teens had bothered some sunbathers, it most likely wasn’t their intent. They were most likely so wrapped up in what they were doing that they were unaware of anything or anyone else outside the scope of their activity. Don’t be so quick to judge. Adults and parents could benefit by copying how teenagers satisfy their basic needs with passion and intent.

For information on my parenting and self help book “What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth” please visit: http://www.whatyoucanlearn.com

Conflict Resolution — A fresh look

Approach conflict resolution like you would crossing a river
Image courtesy of Yodod / flickr.com

Why do you encounter the same conflict over and over? Probably because you are using the same strategy you have been using many times before. Conflict resolution is not achieved because for you it is. Conflict resolution works best when those involved can identify the particulars that make this situation different from the last.

Successful problem solving requires you to look at all situations with a fresh perspective no matter how similar they look. The hiker above may have crossed the stream from the same point a hundred times, but he has never crossed it the same way twice. Why?

Water flow and levels are in constant flux due to rainfall. Water temperature varies with the weather. The stones on which the hiker steps on are weathered or not in the same place. These are but a few of the changes that exist each time the hiker crosses the stream even if it is at the same point.

It is futile to imagine crossing the river in exactly the same manner. Similarly, there is no point in looking at the same student, child, or employee sitting before you in the same regard as the last time you were in a conflict resolution situation with them. No matter how familiar a conflict feels, there is always something different about it.

What is different this time? How can this difference play a key role in resolving the issue? How can you get those involved in the conflict — possibly you — to see how these key nuances could get you to a resolution, just like the hiker has to roll up his pant leg higher because the water level is a bit higher than the last time he crossed due to the excessive rainfall the day before.

For more tips check out Conflict Resolution Strategies

Changing Your Focus Creates New Possibilities

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.01.36 PMIt is not what we look at that bothers us, rather it is what we choose to focus on. The young woman has an object of interest in her sights and is now focusing more closely on a particular aspect of the subject. What she focuses on will determine the outcome of the impression she makes. Another photographer may focus on another part of the subject giving it a new perspective and new meaning.

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus stated that people are not disturbed by things but by the view they have of them. So is the case when leaders are confronted with organizational issues with subordinates or when a parent is working out a problem with a child. Contention arises when we neither make an attempt to focus on mutual interests nor seek to understand other perspectives.

When this occurs with organizations that service young people or in the parent/child case, the young people feel the brunt of the stalemate or battle. In the former, a worker’s strike or contemptuous attitude to spite administration or workers could adversely impact services causing quality to diminish. An organization’s mission could be compromised. In the latter case, a parent may use punishment or restrictions until the child concedes or the child may become defiant and obstinate if needs are not heard or met.

Those effective at problem-solving have a knack for looking at something from all perspectives, broadening his or her level of understanding, therefore allowing greater possibilities to find a resolution where all parties are satisfied. My upcoming book, What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth, offers parents the possibility to minimize these setbacks and negative impact on the parent/child relationship by changing how they look at their teenager. The book gives parents an opportunity to focus on all aspects of their adolescent, resulting in a more balanced and healthy relationship. And as a bonus, the parent may even learn something about themselves in the process.

Celebrating the life of Dr. William Glasser

William Glasser’s Eulogy

Dr. Glasser was influential in both my personal and professional life.  I never met him personally but saw him present his mode of therapy while I was studying Counseling Psychology at Lehigh University in the mid 90s.  He along with several other leaders in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy were invited to role play their mode of treatment.  I was awestruck by how he easily connected with the client (an actress) and I will never forget how in comparison to the other therapists, he made the client feel hopeful, enthusiastic, and empowered.  At the end of the role plays the actress was asked to talk about how the sessions went and of course Dr. Glasser came out on top.

I was already hooked onto the concepts of Reality Therapy from what I had read in graduate school and when I saw the venerable Glasser that day demonstrating the effectiveness of Reality Therapy/Control Theory I became an ardent practitioner and believer.  I am actually in the process of writing a book for parents with teens, using the teen as a model of inspiration to both improve a parent’s ability to parent and also to improve the parent’s ability to live a more fulfilling life.  The first lesson and upon which the book builds starts with an explanation and understanding of fulfilling basic needs based on Dr. Glasser’s work.

Words cannot express the influence he has had on my life and those with whom I have worked.  Every accolade mentioned in the obituary was rightfully earned.  It is my belief that his teachings will only gain in popularity and spread with the passing of time.  I am grateful for his contribution not only to the field of psychology but also to the advancement of human understanding at a basic and fundamental level.  Go well William Glasser!