Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category

Pluralism is the Strength of Our County!

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I keep getting myself in trouble at social dinners for the simple statement that I am mixed blood. I simply refuse to self-identify as “white”, a meaningless term with lots of baggage that does disservice to my family’s wonderfully rich background. (Obviously I am turning into a somewhat controversial guest to have at dinner, albeit inadvertently.)

For one thing the word “white” has no meaning and no real definition. As one young dinner guest pointed out recently, “I thought white was just what everybody aspired to be?”  That’s not an unfair summary of U.S. history. I still have a sign from Boston dated 1918 that says “No Irish Need Apply!” In some post-Civil War southern states hiring the :shanty” Irish was considered an nearly-acceptable alternative to owning the African-American slaves who no longer existed as slaves. Leasing convicts was about the only other option available.

And I’m used to hearing “Canuck” applied in various tones of voice to other branches of my family tree. And then there’s my great-great-grandmother, the Algonkin who married a French merchant in Quebec City, Canada. Not only did she gives up her native tongue when she married, she wore French clothes and spoke only French ‘til the day she died. How do I know? Because I was lucky enough to meet some of my great-parents when I was a child and heard stories told with some pride in her sacrifice but more embarrassment over her heritage. Only one picture (a portrait, a daguereotype?)
Existed of her because, as the family said in hushed tones, “She was a bit dark skinned, you know.”

In Canada today, which has First Nations terms not used in the U.S., I would be considered “Metis”. (Someday I’ll talk about Louis Real and the great Metis Uprising that actually got the Canadian Pacific Railroad the government funding it needed for compleion so the Royal Mounties could be speedily swept to central Canada to quell these uppity “savages.” The word Metis itself literally means mixed, but I was brought up to deck anyone who called me a “half-breed.”

And then there’s my grandfather Nikolai. I didn’t even find out his name until my father lie on his deathbed in 1995. You see, grandfather Nikolai had died in the War To End All Wars (WWI) and his memory was preserved by denying his heritage and pretending he was “Polish.” But when I worked in Poland in the 1980’s and tried to trace my family tree, my Polish friends sadly informed me that his last name was not Polish and most likely Russian. (And possibly not a “true” Russian, but a gypsy or worse yet, a Jew!) He had apparently passed for Polish when he immigrated to the U.S. because of all the languages he spoke. Lost in a semi-safe crowd at the height of the Cold War, he disappeared from family respect.

When I describe my childhood, I explain it was somewhat like the United Nations backstage, with everybody squabbling or ignoring each other in a multitude of mutually-unintelligible languages. God help the poor victim who married into the family from another background and was subject to the hostility vented on the “outsider.” My favorite maternal aunt was shunned from almost the whole family because she had the nerve to marry an “Eye-talian” whom she loved. Fortunately, he had a large family who took her in with adoration, she learned to be a great Italian cook, and they lived happily with their children for decades.

My poor mother was Irish & French-Canadian (both suspect) and was never considered to belong. Since the big goal of every immigrant to this country was to pass for Anglo-British, she bleached my fine baby hair to straw with undiluted peroxide, pinned it into painful Shirley Temple curls, and harshly slapped me or washed my mouth with soap if I dared picked up a word of the many languages spoken around me. I had to pass for “white”, as in WASP, which left a bad taste in my mouth forever after.

I was half-raised by my grandmother Mary Katherine Lynch from County Claire in Ireland, and thank God for her intervention and that of her large brood of my mother’s siblings. My ancestors sit beside me at every dinner table and I wouldn’t desecrate their lives by labeling myself “white,” a bland and vague word associated with white supremacy, the KKK, terror, and a general, overwhelming assumption of superiority and power, especially if they are male to boot!

In my teens I was “adopted” by Matchwaya Rom in New York City, and treated and taught as a daughter. I lived in Hawai’I and saw true pluralism in everyday life. I was befriended by a Japanese family who had lived through WWII, and knew how close they were to being interred in a U.S. concentration camp as an “not-white enemy.” In Nepal and India I was given a name and a caste (Matwali –that of Sherpas and foreign anthropologists) to bring me into the group, and in Haiti, my friends introduced me as their “cousine” and insisted joyfully that I must be part African.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I have been naïve enough to be believe that E Pluribus Unum actually means “from the many to One”. I believe we are humans, and cannot see each other in groups of “us versus them.”

And the saddest thing to me is that we as a country cannot see Mr. Obama as our first truly “mixed” president because way too many people are so obsessed with just one strain of the many rich traditions and bloodlines that make him what he is: a man with just as rich a heritage as most of us have, more truly representative perhaps than any before him of the real population of this United States!

Does One Small Voice Really Matter?

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I was at a disturbing dinner table conversation with a group of young people the other day. (“Young,” in this case, meaning 20’s through 30’s.) The topic came up of whether one person’s voice speaking out was of any value. And the shocking consensus of the young people at that table was a resounding “no!”

I admit to being an idealist. I admit to having a vested interest in the topic since I tend to risk my job, welfare, or life speaking out against what is wrong. The latest book I wrote is just a recent example. But to hear these young people dismiss even the voices of Gandhi or Martin Luther King or JFK as meaningless! I was overwhelmed.

One of them even said “There were others saying the same thing. Gandhi just added to his voice to theirs.” That may be true, I acknowledged. But what if he hadn’t spoken? What if Martin Luther King hadn’t spoken? Would the course of history have been the same? At sixty years old, I’ve heard these people speak or seen the direct effect of their voices. It made a tremendous difference to my heart, soul, and mind. How could they be dismissed so casually?

One of the people at the table had recently passed the Bar Exam and was looking forward to working for Legal Aid. I asked her directly if she wouldn’t be one small voice speaking out for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. “Of course not” was her reply. I wondered how many real courtrooms she had been in, when the accused was too overwhelmed or scared or uneducated to speak for themselves. What happens when your lawyer disparages the very role of being that one voice who will speak for you?

At one point I had to go outside for some fresh air. The truth was that there were tears in my eyes, and I didn’t want to spoil an otherwise social evening. But I was terribly bothered. If you don’t speak up when there is an injustice, how do you know someone else will? What if there are other minds thinking the same thing, but afraid to speak their thoughts out loud?

Should I demean the achievements of President Obama because he only said what other people had said? Or should I applaud him for taking a strong public stance and trying for the chance to do something about what he thought was wrong? I believe that “Yes we can!” echoed the sentiments of many people but I’m still going to give credit to the man who said those words out loud and often enough that something changed. I don’t know yet how much he can accomplish in respecting what’s right about this country and fixing what’s broken, but I hope everybody begins to say to themselves “Yes I can!” when faced with something that needs repair.

I don’t want to think that “one small voice” doesn’t matter because my experience has taught me that it does!

Do I wish I had a louder voice or a bigger audience? Of course I do! I don’t have the money or the celebrity status to automatically be heard. And approaches to Attorney Generals, Grand Juries, and state representatives have just resulted in form letters saying “we don’t investigate individual cases.” I don’t understand that. If you don’t start by investigating one case, then how do you ever find the pattern of wrongdoing? But I’m not going to stop whistleblowing. To be silent in the face of venom would be worse.

I think the problems I’m working to call attention to are serious ones. They require resources and power to fix that I just don’t have by myself. So I do what I can, speak up whenever I can, and try to find the resources that can (and have the guts to!) investigate and fix a broken system.

By the way, I have no grandiose illusions of being Gandhi or any of the inspiring people I mentioned. But they are my heroes and they taught me that the worst sin of all is to be silent when you see what is broken or wrong. Those who don’t speak up become accomplices in the evil, whether it happens in Nazi Germany or your local street. One small voice it may be but I’d rather be small than silent!

A Bad New Twist to Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

In my career, I’ve written so much about self-fulfilling Prophecies, SFP’s. That’s the idea that what you believe will happen, you will create by the subtle non-verbal messages you send out to create your future. Visitors to this Website have always been fascinated by the positive aspects of this concept, and the potential for its use to create good things.
Well, a number of my colleagues, knowing how much I’ve taught and written about the subject, have suggested I discuss a current phenomenon they call the “Self-Deceiving Prophecy!” Since it’s directly related to the content of my new book (Surviving Human Venom which comes out this month), I felt it was time I faced the question.

Self-Deceiving Prophecies occur when you believe the worst about others and your own future, and then act in ways that make them come to pass. Current news stories and this current election appear to be full of examples of this. I admit that having just finished a book on the venom humans can spew at their worst has made me sensitive to such examples. But the mundane but malicious evil that I call “human venom” seems to be turning into an epidemic. Unreasoning hatred of others appears to be an epidemic!
Let me give you an example of this phenomenon. Last week I walked into a local store. I said a cheery hello to the clerk (let’s call her “Corky,” a pseudonym to save the real person embarrassment.) I’d had many friendly conversations with her before, mostly about our favorite movies and the difficulties of life in a rural area.

But something was different this time. Her radio was tuned to a station whose announcer was sounded loud and angry. I couldn’t even make out the subject of his rant, but when I suggested that she turn that station off, an amazing thing happened. My friendly neighborhood shopkeeper started yelling something about a presidential candidate lying. I smilingly and non-committedly said I wasn’t sure I trusted anyone politician.
Whereupon “Corky” started yelling that documents had been forged, the candidate wasn’t even a citizen, and how could he be allowed to run for office! The extreme statements were of such an intense hostility that I couldn’t resist asking her where she had gleaned this information. She furiously informed me that if I read the blogs and emails, I’d know the facts too. I suggested that chatting on the Web did not always yield reliable information, and asked for her sources.

At which point she turned on me, indicating that my very calmness proved I was the Enemy! She yelled at me, “Well, at least I’m not a Socialist! I work for a living!” Confused, I pointed out that I did too, as she well knew. Furthermore, I had never been a registered member of any Socialist Party, so I had no idea why she had turned on me so suddenly.

Remember, so far, I had not even made a statement for or against either presidential candidate. My worst crime appears to have been that I was calm when she thought I should have been angry. Under the watchful eye of a seemingly just-as-confused young customer, I dropped the few items I intended to pick up and fled the store. Out in the parking lot, I found I was still shaking from the intensity of the hostile verbal assault.

I had the oddest feeling that even if I walked back into the store waving the American flag, I still wouldn’t know what to say to her to get us back to friendly conversation or to be safe from further attack. She knew that two of my three sons had spent years with the Army in Iraq. (In fact, one of those sons is career military.) Two of my sons appear to be supporting one candidate, one was leaning towards the other candidate, and I was still making up my mind. So what was all that anger about?

I’m still afraid to go back into that store, and I’m pretty sure that “Corky” retains ideas and stereotypes of me that just aren’t true. But where did they come from?

Back to speaking of American democracy and reasoned debate. (Well, we were talking about presidential elections, weren’t we?) I realize that something has changed over the sixty years I’ve been alive. I thought that political campaigns were a time for gathering accurate information and having serious discussions, then making a choice while realizing that no one can predict with 100% accuracy what crisis will occur and what any human being will do when faced with that crisis and a gaggle of other politicians who all have different opinions on what should be done.

But I didn’t think that democracy meant that if I said I like strawberry ice cream while you preferred pistachio, that it might result in your picking up a chair and bashing me over the head while screaming insults. Is that what our society is coming to? Are we headed for Nazi Germany and the overnight stereotyping and vilification of anyone who disagrees with you? Is what a Self-Deceiving Prophecy leads to?

Is history in danger of repeating itself? Has it become okay to label a person different and then make them a criminal and a scapegoat? Remember, we’re talking about vilification NOT based on evidence but on assumptions!

It makes me glad I took a break from writing timely articles during this election season. I’m not sure I would have been prepared for the mindless stereotyping and vicious vilification that is everywhere! As my new book describes, I’ve been dealing with a county-level version of this maliciousness for the last four years. We’re all in serious trouble if human venom has become a terminal infection!

P.S. And for those of you who are interested, the only practical result of the incident I described above was to convince me that I could never vote for a candidate who inspired such mindless anger and hatred in his supporters!

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Realistic Leadership

Friday, October 20th, 2006

If you’d like to purchase this or any of Dr. Daniels books, please use the contact form to let her know. There are extremely limited quantities available, so make your request soon before they are all gone!

Originally Published 1983 by Prentice-Hall Inc.

Based on the concept of collaborative management, this intensely practical guide shows you how to develop a more realistic style of leadership and how to maximize group effort toward achieving a combination of company and personal goals. It presents scores of realistic ways to get more out of yourself and others. It ties together various concepts and skills, enabling you to see how they are related. It discards the surface frills that make techniques appear different and gets right down to the basic similarity of methods that really work.

Emphasizing a positive attitude toward the job, Realistic Leadership shows you how to develop a healthy optimism toward people that can revitalize your attitude toward your office. Yet it measures every method against the standard of reality: Does it get the job done? You’ll be asked to think before you act, to experiment before you choose, and to feel before you judge. Exercises and questions will help you build on your experiences and current knowledge; discussions of formal theories in plain English will help you develop new skills for dealing with old problems.

An absolute must for anyone in a leadership position, realistic Leadership can help you become a truly effective and dynamic leader by showing you how to:

  • Understand the unconscious attitudes that influence your everyday behavior
  • Recognize the many different styles of leadership — and choose the most effective one for you in each situation
  • Develop a greater understanding of other people, sensitivity to their needs, and responsiveness to their input
  • Acquire a variety of skills to manage all of your resources most effectively.


REALISTIC LEADERSHIP
Chapter 1: Evaluating The Role of Leader

From the time you get your first promotion, from the time you’re asked to supervise even one other person, maybe even from the time you’re first hired, you are put in the role of leader. Have you stopped to think what this means? What does a leader do?

You’re being asked to influence other people to work together to accomplish a common goal. You have to set a direction for others to follow. Somehow you have to create a team and give it a spirit. You have to exert a positive influence on the group while obtaining something of value from them. It’s a big job!
What kinds of things do you need to know or do in order to be effective? You will need:

  1. To understand your own hidden assumptions, those unconscious attitudes that influence your everyday behavior.
  2. To be aware of the many different styles of leadership and to be able to choose the most effective for you in each different situation.
  3. To develop an understanding of other people, sensitivity to their needs, and responsiveness to their input.
  4. To develop a variety of skills to manage all your resources most effectively.

Let’s look for a minute at the resources with which you work. We can summarize them in three categories:

  1. THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH
  2. THE EXTERNAL RESOURCES OF YOUR TASK
  3. YOU INTERNAL RESOURCES (YOU!)

Throughout this book we explore the most effective ways to manage all three categories of resources. We will be balancing the need for human-relations skills and task skills. And we will especially focus on you, the most important resource of all. Your ability to develop self-awareness, shed personal bias, and learn from an objective analysis of any situation — these are the abilities that will make you a truly effective leader. Add these abilities to the specific skills you will be learning, and you’ll be dynamite!
The easiest definition of leadership is the ability to decide where you’re going and to know how to get there. There are many skills that can help you in both defining your goals and selecting the most effective strategies for achieving them.

__________________PEOPLE SKILLS____________________

You can’t be a leader without having a team behind you. You need their information, their efforts, their skills. You need their cooperation to get things done. The people who work for you are a vital resource, and your ability to deal with them will greatly influence your effectiveness. Even learning the concepts and skills presented in this book will be of value only if you also learn to read the feedback of the people you work with. Learn to read their responses and use this feedback to adapt ideas and techniques to your own particular situation. A leader can make or break a group effort. Here are some things you need to be able to do in order to support your team and facilitate its efforts:

  • To listen, and to understand the messages you receive from others.
  • To delegate effectively — not be overly bossy and yet still be able to evaluate performance accurately.
  • To deal with conflicts and problems by encouraging openness and maintaining credibility.
  • To express your own ideas clearly and persuasively, without forcing them down other people’s throats.

These skills will aid you in every situation: running a meeting, mediating disputes, diagnosing problems, planning a project — any situation involving other people.
In recent years there has been much emphasis on human-relations skills. Motivating people to their highest level of productivity requires that you understand their needs and desires. But as a leader, you must be able to manage both the human resources and the external resources that are available to you. In this book, we focus as well on task-related skills.

_________________________TASK SKILLS_______________________

A leader must always be looking for more effective ways to get results. Whenever there is a job to be done, chances are good that you will not be given unlimited resources to do it with. Good planning to accomplish a job therefore requires you to manage time and money effectively. You must be able to set priorities in order to know how to allocate resources. Analyzing and evaluating data enable you to make you to make decisions based on logic, not guesswork, as well as to have contingency plans ready when the unexpected occurs. Developing the initiative necessary as a leader means that you will have to learn to take risks in an appropriate and logical way. Here are some of the specific skills that are helpful in getting the results you want:

  • To manage time effectively — that is, to get the maximum amount done without exhausting your resources.
  • To gather information — the most balanced and accurate possible — and to know when to stop gathering and start doing.
  • To use information well in planning — to understand what to trade off, to set priorities, to evaluate risks.
  • To cope with the unexpected to know how to minimize losses and maximize gains.

It’s a big job to balance the needs of the people and the needs of the task Knowing how to fit together the jigsaw puzzle requires the effective use of the most important resource: you.

__________________INTERNAL RESOURCE SKILLS____________________

In order to be able to objectively consider all the input available to you, you must be clear about your own needs and desires. You can’t listen to another person’s real messages if you have preconceived ideas about what they mean. You can’t judge another person’s performance by unspoken and possibly unreasonable expectations of your own. You can’t manage time or resources effectively if you are making decisions based on your own hidden assumptions, instead of relying on more balanced data.

How do you avoid these pitfalls? The best way is to learn the art of self-analysis. I prefer to think of this as ’spring-cleaning’ your mind. Every now and then you need to take out all the old, time-worn ideas and assumptions you’ve stored in your head. Some of them have been there so long that you’ve probably come to ignore them. Take then out, dust them off, and regard each one carefully. Ask yourself the following questions about each one:

  1. Why do I believe it?
  2. From what experiences did I ‘learn’ it?
  3. Does it logically and consistently fit in with other information that I have?
  4. Is it functional? Does it really help?

The fourth question is the most important one. Assumptions are beliefs or attitudes based not on a logical analysis of all the data, but on personal experience. They are appropriate if they result in positive or productive behavior. Notice that I did not say that they are appropriate if they are ‘true.’ Since by definition they are based on less than all the data, we cannot know for sure if they are ‘true.’ They are appropriate if they are useful. If an assumption is not useful to you, then throw it out! Spring-cleaning your mind periodically keeps it clean and open. And it keeps you effective!
We will talk more about how assumptions can be ‘not useful’ when we talk about Self-Fulfilling Prophecies later in this chapter. Throughout this book I’ll be asking you to dust off your assumptions about many topics, such as power, manipulation, employees, work, right and wrong. How did you feel as you read those words? Take the time now to joy down your responses to the following questions:

  • How do you feel about power?
  • Is manipulation a dirty word to you?
  • What do you expect from employees?
  • Is work something people like or hate?
  • Is there always a right way and a wrong way?

When you finish this book, you may wish to go back to the responses you made above and review them. You may find that you have gained some new insights into your own assumptions about some very important issues.
We will be looking at how you react to authority and how you expect people to react to your authority. We’ll explore ways of guiding people, as well as ways to encourage them to guide themselves. We’ll discuss the way your hidden assumptions affect your behavior, and how to use them for positive effects. Nobody is perfect, but diagnosing your own strengths and weak spots can help you be as effective a leader as is humanly possible.
You can learn many specific techniques to improve your weak areas. You can also develop a well-balanced perspective on events that will keep you happy and healthy while managing even the most troublesome office situations. Some of the skills covered in this book include:

  • Distinguishing different styles of leadership, and selecting the most appropriate style for ach different situation.
  • Applying theories of motivation, and using people effectively without abusing them.
  • Maintaining an objective outlook that allows you to switch perspectives, and acting effectively in solving any kind of problems.
  • Managing stress constructively so that you can stay enthusiastic without becoming exhausted.

Why must you do such a balancing act in order to be an effective leader? It is very simple. Research has shown that the most important variable in determining how a group works is the expectations of their leader. This process is called:

______________THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY________________

(to be continued)

Books

Friday, October 20th, 2006

My new book is available now at Amazon.com!

Information about older books:

Alright, they’re from books I wrote, but the material remains still relevant and still interesting. (Or so my readers say!) On this page I am planning to share parts of my three books that have already been published. Two of them were originally published by Prentice-Hall Inc., but fortunately I hold the copyrights to all three.

Some original copies of both these books still exist and show up on Amazon.com and other places from time to time, but I thought you might like to read them here since they are hard to find. (I even have a few extra copies which I snatched up when they went out of print but my stock is running low.) Meanwhile, all three books are being revised and the new editions will be published within the next two years. So descriptions first, then we plunge into chapters!

Realistic Leadership

Living Your Religion in the Real World

A Culturally Different Perspective on Psychology

About

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

Dr. Daniels on her 50th BirthdayIt’s so nice to write a biographical sketch that doesn’t have to fit into just one paragraph. I’m afraid I’ve just been too busy and have had a life too rich in experiences to fit into that small a framework! Especially in an age where CV’s and resumes are getting more and more condensed for computer requirements, it is great fun to stroll down memory lane and brag a bit about the things in which I’ve been interested and of which I am proud.

I have 2 Ph.D’s in psychology, one for transpersonal psychology obtained in1975 and another in clinical psychology earned in 1988, and am a Life Member of the American College of Forensic Examiners with whom I hold Diplomate status as a Forensic Examiner and a Forensic Psychologist, as well as a Certification as Medical Investigator Level V. I am a Full Member of the American Psychological Association, and a California licensed psychologist.

I was the Executive Director and a psychotherapist at the Crossroads Center, a private counseling and consulting group in New Hampshire. In addition to a clinical practice that included adults, children, adolescents, and families who had experienced trauma, I was also a nationally certified biofeedback practitioner (with BCIA) who specialized in cases of stress disorders and chronic pain.

I conducted workshops and in-service training, gave numerous professional presentations, and have taught at the State University of New York, the University of New Hampshire, and Humboldt State University in California, as well as a variety of community colleges. I also have a wide variety of experience and professional continuing education.

I am very proud of the fact that I ran an educational non-profit called the Spectrum Cross-Cultural Institute For Youth, Inc. (SCIY) from 1988 to 1993. We gave multi-cultural presentations in hundreds of schools throughout the U.S. and overseas, and helped schools and teachers develop curricula that fostered pride in children’s heritage and mutual respect for differences.

I even had a chance to draft legislation to ’support multi-cultural and multi-ethnic education for New Hampshire students.’ I lobbied for 2 years with support from all political parties and philosophies (yes, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals!) and saw the bill unanimously approved by the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 1990.

Through all of this, I found the time to raise 3 wonderful sons, and write 3 books and a syndicated newspaper column from 1982 to 1988. I even had my own talk radio show in Boston for about 6 months in 1983. I think if radio had been as open to controversy then as it is now, I’d still be on the air!

I relocated to California in 1993. After nearly 17 years of working with victims and survivors of trauma and abuse, I felt I needed some experience working with those who had committed these things. So I ran a parole outpatient clinic part-time for a year, then moved on to a forensic practice and temporary contracts in over a dozen prisons. In these years I’ve also worked on over 500 Child Protection Services cases and spent over 400 hours working in a county jail.

I took some time to myself after being in a terrible car accident in 2004 on a California highway. Ten months of physical therapy and coping with the effects of the trauma helped me refocus myself. Now I have a small forensic practice and a counseling center called New Leaf Counseling here in Northern California, and I am very much enjoying the freedom to try a web page of my own.

And if you think the above seems like a lot, ask about my hobbies!