Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regaining Control

Helplessness is the enemy of happiness and the ally of fear. A vital element of feeling happy is having a sense of control, of being free to shift your attention to the things that are important to you and mold your behavior accordingly. ~Dozier
Traumatic events in people's lives usually have this in common: they create a sense of helplessness.

Loss of a spouse, a child, a limb, or having to face death, oneself, are surely some of the most emotionally affecting challenges people face.

But few challenges impose a sense of helplessness more than the cascading events where a person suffers loss of job and watches as belongings are lost, and then one's apartment or house. And then, being in a state of homelessness fully scrambles ones relationships with family and friends. It is a disorganizaing and disorienting experience. Then you get screwed up further.

In his highly regarded book Fear Itself, Rush Dozier writes about people put in traumatic life circumstances,
... you tend to feel at the mercy of events that threaten to overwhelm you. This creates intense fears that have a negative effect on the immune system. Studies have placed groups of rats in enclosures that give them mild electrical shocks. One set of enclosures allows the rats to stop the shock by turning a wheel or pushing a lever. The other enclosures give the rats no control whatsoever. The results of such studies invariable show that the rats with no control suffer many more health problems.

Other studies have compared people in high-powered, stressful jobs with lower ranking employees of similar age and health. These have found that despite the pressure of their jobs, top executives tend to have a significantly lower mortality rate than their subordinates. The most important variable between these two groups is the control they have over their environment.

Executives tend to perceive themselves as in charge of their destiny, whereas employees usually feel much more at the mercy of decisions made by others. Greater control appears to mean a more robust immune system and greater protection against stress-related disorders like high blood pressure.

But the sense of control must be subjectively perceived or there is no benefit. ...

If science has uncovered one important technique for managing fear and stress it is this: Try to avoid, whenever possible, circumstances in which you feel helpless and
vulnerable. If this cannot be done, then, despite the circumstances, try to maintain a subjective attitude of optimism and reasonable control.
Unhappily, if not unconscionably, homeless-help nonprofits operate in a manner to preserve (that is, control) their funding sources [be it private donations or government contracts] at the expense of doing what is best for homeless people and at the expense of getting the truth out to the public about what homelessness is all about and what it is like.

In Sacramento, many so-called homeless-help organizations are the barrier for people trying to re-establish their lives. Truly, it is a strange tangle and a diabolical situation: The whole of the homeless-aid aparatus is one of controlling homeless people.

Sacramento's quasi-organized vast homeless-help bureaucracy has wholly forgotten its original purpose and is nowadays solely in the business of keeping itself in business. [You could appropriately liken it to the Military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against, three days before he left office: "Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded."]

The news today is that for the year of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 the county – with help from federal stimulus funds that will show up on October 1 – will provide shelter for the homeless that will be much the same in the new year that it was in the fiscal year that will end at the end of this month. Same old; same old.

The horribleness and rampant wasteful spending will continue unabated. The public and county Supervisors have been fooled, again. The homeless-help bureaucracies will live on, like a growing cancerous tumor, living on the blood of conned donors and others in the public sphere. And left to suffer are the controlled homeless, made helpless, who have little control over their own lives. And have no help finding an exit to their circumstance, because money is funnelled to perpetuate homelessness.

Eisenhower ended his Military-industrial complex speech in a way that applies today to the matter under consideration in this blogpost:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

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Blogger judih said...

From what you say, Tom, the best chance a person has of regaining 'control' in a situation of helplessness is realizing that control can come from within, if outer circumstances are relentlessly demoralizing.

(humour is one method - ask a survivor of war). But knowledge of what you've written has gotta be step number one.

June 20, 2009 at 7:47 PM  

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