Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dreaming and doing

One of the most intriguing experiences for me as a researcher conducting our study, to date, has been the noticeable shift in the tone of participants when asked the following question in the Society and Politics section of the study questionnaire.

What is your vision for a healthfully functioning U.S.A.?

Of course the answers are many and varied. And, of course, I am a seasoned psychotherapist turned community development consultant, making the inquiries. So, of course, I am trained to read between the lines of what people say and be pointedly observant about what people do.

But I don’t think it takes the close to forty years mental health experience I bring to the study process to realize that simply asking citizens of this country, “how would you really like things to be, if your vision of well-being in this country could come to be” can make a difference in the tempo of a day.

Not one single person, so far, has failed to answer this question without the perceptible change I am noting. Anger and criticism drop away almost instantly in our interview process as hopes and dreams make way to the fore, disparagement replaced by an eagerness to share heartfelt desires about what freedom and democracy mean to that person.  We are, after all, an optimistic citizenry by nature.

At first I was totally surprised by the answers this single question elicited. Now I have come to expect them, eager on my end to get to this part. Psychological interpretation suggests to me that the bitching, moaning, complaining and generalized anger that vociferously fills the spaces of our online, print and broadcast daily fare, in and of themselves, takes a great toll on our well-being. However, we play our part in the spread of this toxicity when we allow it to drain off our vitality and joy.
Case in point:  Last year, about this time, one of my closest friends told me she was determined that the politicians, special interest groups, media etc., etc. were not going to be able to derail her life in this election year. From what I have seen, I think she has done pretty well at fulfilling this pledge to herself.

Has she managed to have a happier year because of this? I can’t rightly say, not having checked in with her recently on the subject.
But I have noticed over the course of this past year, working on this study, that those who are taking an active part in doing the best they can in meaningful, well-chosen ways, these days seem to be a lot more optimistic, in spite of the daily over-dose of election campaign distractions, than are those who are making less of an active, typically community-involved effort. Reading about, discussing, complaining and analyzing our societal problems is simply not enough. Actions speaking louder than words when it comes to overcoming the obstacles facing us now.

Dreaming and doing, in combination, appear to me, in the midst of this Possible Human, Possible Society, to be healthy antidotes to election campaign malaise, 2012.

If nothing else, dreaming and doing, combined, give us alternatives to simply sitting back and feeling helpless and aggravated by that which we are, at least, for the moment, unable to change, our broken political machinations.

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