Responding to Problems – Two Examples
An Epidemic of Drug Abuse
We are told we have a national heroin epidemic. Probably not quite. That’s an easy description.
It seems that we have been passing out prescription pain medication a little too easily. I have not heard a clear statement about why this issue is suddenly so prominent. If the issue is pain, then what kind of pain are we dealing with and why is it happening? Is it physical or emotional? Regardless of why, it is an issue and why is it happening?
And then we come to the issue of how we respond. After I left my job in the inner city of Baltimore I got a call from the man who had been our lead community organizer. He had become the administrative head of a drug treatment program generally referred to as a methadone program. He asked me to become a clinical consultant. Most of the staff were social workers and counselors (recovering addicts) and he thought, with my time on the street, I could help the staff especially since they were not meshing well with the psychiatrists. Fine with me.
What I found was not a nest of recovering heroin addicts but a diverse group of all kinds of people wrestling with a myriad of drug problems. It didn’t matter whether it was heroin, opioids, hallucinogens, or any other drug, they all had personal and vocational issues. In short, we had to respond to the human condition and it did not reduce to one form of treatment. People are different and programs need to be flexible.
It seems we have a national problem with one indicator being drug issues. Much of the problem involves factors discussed previously. The question is what we are dealing with and how wisely we respond.
Empowerment or Subjugation of Women
And then there are issues which are basic and may be wholly unrecognized.
One of the things that interests me as a psychologist is the operation of the unconscious mind. Above I mentioned that we are all racists and it is clear racism operates generally as an unconscious attitude. There is another unconscious attitude which appears fairly universal and that is misogyny. It is generally defined as dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. How can this be so widespread? We are talking about our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sisters. I don’t have a ready answer about the reason for its existence but it is clearly pervasive. It had an effect in our recent election.
I have some thoughts. Misogyny leads to women being subjugated and dismissed. Often it is said that it is about maintaining control of paternity. That is hardly a sufficient answer because it is so widespread even where paternity is not at issue. More likely is the matter of power and possession. Men do not like to yield power and in relationships it is desirable for them to yield to the creation of a partnership. Sometimes they do in their own relationship but will fight against the rights of women in general. It is a curiously complex phenomenon.
Another area where it is apparent is sexually. Women captivate men emotionally and in the sexual release there is a yielding of power which, while men want it, they may have trouble with the outcome of the experience. No matter how we look at it, women are somehow threatening to men and men often feel women must be controlled.
As we look at our troubled future it is apparent that women can play an important role in building a constructive future. It would help if we could understand that, just as with racism, there is an unconscious need to control women. Men would benefit from understanding why there is this fight within themselves. We can already see that microloans for women are having huge benefits, personally, in their families and in their communities. Recognizing and owning the process underlying misogyny would pay huge benefits.