Monthly Archives: June 2009

Freedom Ride

This week, I take you for a ride with me on my Harley trike.   As we approach the July 4th holiday, I also thought it was a good time to equate the freedom of the road with the freedoms we enjoy thanks to those men who declared our nation’s independence, and those who fought then as well as today to defend our rights.

Video: Freedom Ride with Dr. Laura

Or watch other videos at youtube.com/DrLaura.

Read transcript here.

The Emptiness of Internet “Friending”

Either directly (e.g., sadness about not having a relationship with a parent or sibling) or indirectly (e.g., having trouble being intimate), more and more callers to my radio program report a sad sort of alienation from close, loving relationships. Yet the numbers of people deeply invested in “virtual” relationships via Internet “friending” social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, is growing exponentially. We are involved more in frivolous levels of intimacy and less invested in warm, caring, loving, involved relationships.

The pseudo meaningfulness we imagine as we add our names and faces to someone’s Internet site is addictive, yet ultimately vacuous. There isn’t really anyone out there who cares enough to hold your hand when you are in pain.

The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of California reported last week that 28% of Americans interviewed last year said they have been spending less time with family members. That’s nearly triple from the numbers in 2006.

In the old days when television was young, families watched together in one room. Now there are TVs in every room of the home, with 500 or more channels, and the family is dispersed, with each “doing their own thing.” The Internet is a one-on-one, non-family experience also – breaking down the cohesiveness of family dynamics, parenting, sharing, and plain old caring.

The problem is that people are, by nature, gregarious. That means we need company. When we spend our time with the technology that minimizes the intimacy of company, we forever alter the ability of individuals to actually experience pure intimacy in a positive, ultimately satisfying manner. And the experience of having lots of so-called “friends” on the Internet is beguiling, but empty — -in effect, a distorted form of solitude.

There is no wonder that so many people have a deep problem with being able to love – they mostly want to be satisfied by flattery, freedom from reciprocal responsibility and the reality of obligations and responsibilities, much less sacrifice for the general good or the benefit of another.

Technological advances in “communication” have actually increased the number of people you can interact with, but have more importantly diluted out the meaningfulness of those same interactions.

Think of families together at dinner, and a whole town helping rebuild your barn. Compare that to what you have now in your life. Which is better for quality of life?

Quote of the Week

We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life.  Many other things we need can wait.  The child cannot.  Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed.  To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow.’  His name is ‘Today.’
               – Gabriela Mistral
                  Chilean poet
                  1889 – 1957

Air Force Jets Honor Slain Officer

This story is actually four years old, but many people seem to have discovered it only recently, so I did a little investigating, and thought it was worth sharing with you.  Because this has made its way around the Internet, like the game of “Telephone,” new things have been added and some things have changed as it’s been forwarded.  My staff went back to the original story to verify the facts, and that’s the one I’m posting here. 

Luke Air Force Base is a little west of Phoenix, and it’s surrounded by residential developments.  People have complained about the noise from the base and its planes.  One day in June, 2005, an individual who lives somewhere near the base wrote the local paper complaining about the group of F-16s that disturbed his day.  Here’s his Letter to the Editor of The Arizona Republic newspaper:
 
“Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base:  Whom do we thank for the morning air show? 

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11AM, a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet.  Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns’ early-bird special?

Any response would be appreciated.

Tom MacRae”

Mr. MacRae received a response from a commander at Luke Air Force Base which was published in the newspaper the following day, but it’s the response from Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, commander of the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base that caught the attention of everyone.  This letter was also published in The Arizona Republic, four days after Mr. MacRae’s initial complaint:

“Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets”:

On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques.

Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.

At 9 a.m., on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son’s flag on behalf of the president of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.

A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who gave their lives in defense of freedom.  We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. 

The letter writer asks, ‘Whom do we thank for the morning air show?’

The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
Luke Air Force Base”

The postscript to all of this is that Mr. MacRae, to his credit, wrote an apology that was published in The Arizona Republic on July 9:

“Regarding ‘Flyby honoring fallen comrade’

I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby.

I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known.

I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused.

This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise.

I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged.

I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that.  I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran.  I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing.

Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

Tom MacRae”

Not Everything Can Be Fixed

It’s funny what stays in your mind – one shot of light in the darkness of memory.  One of the more important “shot of light” memories is from my days in the Marriage/Family/Child Therapy program at the University of Southern California.  I was being supervised during my training and displaying lots of frustration over one particular client.  I couldn’t figure out how to fix, or help the client fix, the problem for which the client came in to get help.

My supervisor, a well-known and talented therapist said five words which reverberated in my head – the head of a “Type A,” over-achiever mentality person that I was (or am).  He said, “Not everything can be fixed.” 

I was shocked and horrified.  To even think that there were limits to what any human being could do, to think that there were no remedies for certain circumstances, to think that I couldn’t “lay on hands” and make all better every person I tried to help – well, all of this was unthinkable.

As I matured, however, I realized he was right.

I had several calls in the past week that demonstrated that truth — that not everything can be fixed — so it shouldn’t be broken in the first place!!  It’s why I do what I do on radio versus having a private practice.  You all get to hear what decisions, choices, behaviors, and actions put you in a (probably) unfixable place.

There was the 21 year old woman who came on the program giggling about how she had listened to me since she was 2 years old.  Now, with two children out-of-wedlock with a guy who won’t marry her because she hasn’t taken down her Facebook profile after she promised she would, she wanted to know how to fix the relationship and get married.

Since he didn’t marry her before the children, since he didn’t marry her after the first child, since he didn’t marry her after the second child, he probably isn’t going to marry her after the Facebook argument gave his dumping her some legitimacy.  I guess 19 years of listening to the program didn’t do it for her.

The second female caller was about the same age, again with two out-of-wedlock children, living at her boyfriend’s parents’ home.  She was shacking up with him, and wanted to know how to get him to move out so they could be on their own, after he said he didn’t ever want to move out of his mother’s home!

The moral of these stories is that when you insist on making impulsive decisions and act only out of the moment, then you will, at some point, dig a hole that you won’t be able to get out of. 

By the way, I told the first woman to move in with her parents, so the children can have a father (in the form of Grandpa), and she was not to date until they were grown.  I told the second woman to give up her dreams and faulty plan, keep her mouth shut, and just live there, giving the impression of being happy, so the kids don’t have to grow up with a negative mother until the kids are grown.

Of course, women are not the only ones who need to hear this message.  A lot of men marry “damsels in distress,” only to be stuck with… distressed damsels!!  They hope to save them and fix them, but….some things can’t be fixed.  I tell them to stay with a smile until the kids are grown.

I don’t accept any of the “…but what about my happiness?” rationalizations.  The answer is that children matter more than you, and you need to sacrifice and behave properly so that they have a better chance of making better choices in their lives.

Some things can’t be fixed, so don’t do them in the first place.  Consider my radio program a huge emotional and behavioral prophylactic, and take the lessons learned from the pain of others and make the right – even if uncomfortable – choices.

The Search for Motivation Is a Hopeless Quest

For me, an “issue” is a subject that comes up with some frequency on my radio program.  And lately, many callers (dealing with a range of concerns from being overweight to being affectionate to finishing school to exercise and more) have phoned wondering where to find “perpetual” motivation.  I know there are audio tape courses, blogs, and books galore on attaining and maintaining motivation, but I believe that is a hopeless quest.  Why?  Because human beings have moods and circumstances that interfere. It is impossible to feel motivated all the time about anything – even things you actually love to do.

There are days you wake up tired; there are days you are distracted by work, plumbing, relatives; there are days during which minor or significant disasters occur (like the backing up of a toilet); there are those days during which you become reasonably upset by someone or something.  You get the picture.  Life happens and it impacts your moods and feelings.  Unfortunately, our culture has become enamored of “feelings” over responsibility, discipline, obligations, and common good sense.  We have come to revere feelings as the grand dictator of reality:  if you “feel” it, it makes it so.  If you “feel” your mother-in-law harbors negative thoughts, then you can retaliate, for example.

This is why I stop people dead in their tracks so often with “I didn’t ask you about your “feelings.”  I asked you about what actually occurred.”  We can talk about how you interpret what happened; we can talk about your ancient feelings and how they impact how you respond to today’s reality, but first, what actually happened??

Feelings are not rational – they have no IQ, and they are self-oriented, as they serve only the self without taking even the “feelings” of other people into account.  Feelings are primitive, and using them as the pivotal point for your reactions to the world is quite childlike.  It takes the maturity of evolving adulthood to temper feelings with the necessity of examining the world and others in it while being less emotional — sometimes, even bordering on dispassionate as you use your rational mind to assess the situation more concretely.

So, back to motivation.  One doesn’t have to feel like “it” to “do it.”  Having some hang-ups about being affectionate with your spouse because of unpleasant childhood experiences is totally self-centered and ultimately irrational since, unless you married that parent (literally or figuratively), your current spouse is being punished for the misdeeds of the prior generation.  And you are continuing the pain of your childhood all the way into your grave.  What is the answer?  It actually is quite simple:  do what is right, do what is healthy, do what is loving, do what is smart, and do what is compassionate.  That means show affection, even though you aren’t motivated.  Exercise every day, even though you don’t feel like it.  Clean your house, even though you don’t feel like it.  Do someone a difficult favor, even though you don’t feel like it.

To operate by feelings instead of compassion, discipline and responsibility is to abdicate being an adult.  It also makes you a slave to irrational, often self-defeating emotions, instead of the master of your destiny.  You are more human when you operate from nobility.  You are more adult when you operate from discipline.

So, dump the idea of “motivation,” and replace it with discipline and nobility, and then see how you feel!