Mind Matters


Warsaw, Switzerland, the jaundiced eyes of cataracts,
bullying, and healthcare! What kind of a weave will this make? We'll see. And
speaking of sight, let me start there. Recently, I underwent cataract surgery
on my left eye. Immediately post procedure, I could see light and color with a
new “white” intensity. It was only then I noticed how “jaundiced” a filter had
covered both eyes. My right eye also has a significant cataract but because I
was seeing through a yellow veil on both eyes, I had no idea how jaundicedly
sepia-toned my world was. Metaphor for life – sometimes we see through a hidden
veil, or filter, imposed upon us by our family of origin, or by the culture
that surrounds us. Sort of like the teenager I met once while working many
years ago in a mental health clinic in a steel mill and coke plant town outside
of Pittsburgh. This youngster had been born and bred in that little smelly,
smoky place; but when I remarked to him one day how bad the pollution was, he
looked at me surprised and asked, “What pollution?”

This thick air was all he knew – despite the fact he could
hardly see the sun through all the smog. Sometimes we psychologically do the
same: we are so caught in a toxic environment of relationships, family of
origin, work system, national culture, that we don't recognize how we are being
poisoned. It’s all we know; we have no clue as to how to think or perceive
otherwise.

I agree with travel writers Rick Steves and Pico Iyer that
visiting other places in the world can be an expansion of consciousness (as
long as you don't insist on everything being like you had it back home) – sort
of cataract surgery for consciousness. So with newfound clarity of vision, I
went off to visit relatives in Warsaw Poland, and to attend a psychologically
intense workshop in Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

It's been almost 65 years since the end of World War II; yet
it is only very recently that memorials and museums have been built to
commemorate the grief and trauma of those times. Expand the devastation of
9/11/2001 one-million fold and you have the devastation of places like Warsaw,
Dachau, Dresden, Baghdad, Beirut, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Darfur, Rwanda, Soweto,
the trail of tears of Native Americans. These are the man-made horrors which
indicate that no one is exempt from the ability to inflict cruelty and terror
unto others.

It takes years to rebuild what takes moments to destroy.
Seeing Warsaw appear as though it is finally piecing itself back together into
a new normal gave me hope. And on this visit, my Polish cousin was this time
actually able to speak, albeit tearfully, of her experience as a young child in
a farm labor camp during the war. Another realization in Warsaw was how after
the war, Poles had to contend with Stalinist Russia, with thousands dying in
Siberia.

My Switzerland experience was to be of great psychological
intensity, but in fact was a lightening and freeing experience after the
heaviness of Warsaw. Little neutral Switzerland is a beautiful place, cows with
tinkling bells graze on lush green hills, the sun shines.

Julie Andrews could be just around the corner singing a
happy tune (yes, yes, that was Austria – close enough). Switzerland, though,
has its shadow in its neutrality. An Israeli attendee informed our workshop
group how the Swiss were happy to take Nazi money and goods, and how they
refused to give sanctuary to refugees during World War II. Yes, indeed, no
one's hands are clean if, when we witness violence, we collude with it by doing
nothing or by benefiting from it.

And so, on to the topic of health care. It was a joy for a
while not to hear the bullies in the US (who are not in the bully pulpit) spout
sputum. Women from all over the world attended the meeting in Switzerland, and
they all came from developed nations where healthcare was a given. They were
perplexed (as I am) why healthcare wouldn't be a universal given in such a
country as the US. These women represented Sweden, Ireland, England, France,
Malta, Israel, Holland, and Canada, to name but a few. I didn't have an answer
for them except that our American culture is one of “rugged individualism” and
that behemoth insurance corporations use fear to capitalize (capitalism is what
it is about after all) on that sacred cow of our culture (remember the
jaundiced eye? Here is one of ours).

Okay so now on to bullying. School is starting, young
bullies are back. But how can we possibly prevent bullying at the level of the
child when our culture condones bullying as a national pastime? What is the
role model of adults and society here when we hear talk show hosts demean and
demoralize guests and destroy truth with diatribe? What is the difference
between the societal norm that laps this up and the ten-year-old bully on the
bus who slings verbal assaults at the cowering kid in front of him?

A government resource guide (see
http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/) notes the common characteristics of
children who bully:

Impulsive, hot-headed dominant

easily frustrated

 lack of empathy

 has difficulty
following rules

views violence in a positive way.

In addition to children you know, are there adults you've
seen who act in the same manner? In fact, family risk factors for the
development of a child bully include the modeling of that behavior at home,
and, I would add, the modeling by media personalities as well. Mr. Rogers is no
longer our role model for decency and communication! Other risk factors include
emotional neglect by parents and over-permissiveness, as well as its shadow
opposite of harsh discipline.

Bullying is not the same thing as conflict. Note again the
report given by government researchers. Bullying is “aggressive behavior and it
involves an imbalance of power or strength”. When two or more people have a
conflict or disagreement and there is a sense of equality – no power imbalance
– that is not bullying. Bullying occurs when there is an imbalance of power and
someone is being victimized. The bully needs to get the message that, “Bullying
is wrong and no one deserves to be bullied. We are going to do everything we
can to stop it.”

Hopefully bullying can be averted in our children. Given the
cultural context in which it is corporately condoned, I wonder. We as a
community need to begin to own and to take responsibility for having maintained
a jaundiced eye that allows bullying to continue on a societal level. Remember,
it is not the underserved or the underprivileged who are the bullies in our
midst. Without a collective clarity of vision soon, we may all become blind.


• Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling
psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She
welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com
or (610)388-2888. Past columns are posted to http://www.DrGajdos.com/Articles.

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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