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Coping With Everyday Life

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What This Blog is About

This blog is devoted to discussing how to cope with everyday life, and your hosts (see menu listing of your four blog hosts) will post information from the world of psychology, counseling, and education. Our message revolves around three basic themes: First there is acceptance. There are certain basic truths in life that we simply must accept before we can decide how to act. Second is the notion of meeting challenges. Unfortunately, too often we avoid challenges that confront us because it’s the easy thing to do. Successful coping, however, requires us to take a more difficult road and meet life head on. Third, we must learn what things are under our control. We get in all sorts of difficulties when we try to control things we can’t. The truth is there are only two things we can control: Our own thoughts and our own actions.

We invite our readers to join in our discussion and share their own insights. This blog is not an advice column, but a forum in which to share ideas.

If you are interested in pursuing the psychology literature on any topic we cover, feel free to contact us by email at charlesbrooks@kings.edu. We also encourage you to visit our website (www.subtlesuicide.com) to learn about our published books on subtle suicide, dysfunctional giver/taker relationships, and research on how psychology applies to everyday life.

OPTIMISM MUST FOCUS ON ACTIONS

An eminent psychologist told how when he was young, he bought into his parents’ encouragement when they said he could be anything he wanted to be. “So I decided I would be a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs when I grew up. Of course, as I grew older, it slowly dawned on me that I had nowhere near the requisite skills to be a major league ballplayer. Mom and dad were wrong.”

So what did our famous psychologist do? Did he quit life and blame his parents for all his misfortune? Absolutely not. He focused realistically and positively on his strengths, and worked hard to develop those skills. The point is, when stressed over failure, you must focus on doing a realistic appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses and base your actions on them. Do a behavior inventory of daily activities. Are they actions that make you feel more adequate and bring you satisfaction? Cultivate those actions that make you feel productive. Remember that praise from others is nice to hear, but actions that bring you personal fulfillment are much more important in enhancing psychological growth.

Make efforts to interact with people who complement you and your actions. Maintain your autonomy in those interactions because independent action increases personal satisfaction. If material rewards come from actions that make you feel productive, consider the rewards icing on the cake, not the reason you’re baking the cake. Exercise caution about using mood-altering prescription medication until you have done a thorough behavior inventory. Appreciate and enjoy the little things, especially those that are consistent with your values. Perhaps a smile from a child, a quiet walk in the park, contacting a friend, a good movie or book, helping others in need….those things that bring you satisfaction. If you are spiritual, use faith to give you confidence and remind you everything is not for you to control, but you can develop the courage to challenge things under your control.

Coping with your life from a realistic optimistic perspective will spur you to empower yourself and initiate autonomous actions that will give you feelings of personal control. Coping with your life from a pessimistic perspective will encourage you to turn sheepishly to others to manage, direct, and control your actions. Would you seek counseling expecting the therapist to wave a magic wand and make you all better? Do you look for the miracle drug to turn your life around and transform you into a new person? Those are dead-end roads, folks.

But you must understand and accept that coping with challenges in your life may be worthwhile but it’s not always easy. You’re going to have to put forth some effort to determine what you can control, and focus your actions within that context.

 

 

 

 

 

OPTIMISM AND HEALTH

You probably know people who see the cup as half-empty, and others who see it as half-full. Optimists and pessimists, right? You probably label others and yourself as one type or the other, but you would probably like to be an optimist about most things. One thing for sure is that if you’re like most people, you don’t like being around pessimists and grouches who bring you down by always looking on the dark side. Let’s face it, a pessimistic spouse is a threat to marital stability; a pessimistic work colleague is a threat to productivity and morale; a pessimistic friend is……..well, a soon-to-be-former friend.

Some say being a pessimist is an appropriate way to view reality. To a pessimist, the optimist is unrealistic. For instance, a couple may have plans for a golf outing. The wife says, “Did you hear the weather forecast? And look at those clouds. Our golf round is going to be ruined. What a bummer. I hate rain.”

Well, there’s no doubt that the expectation of rain mirrors what may be shaping up as reality, but the optimistic husband might point out: “Yeh, looks bad. Put the golf clubs away. Remember that movie we’ve been wanting to watch? Let’s make some popcorn and hot chocolate and have a movie afternoon.”

The pessimist’s retort? “But the forecast calls for bad thunderstorms, heavy winds, and possible downed power lines. Why get involved in a movie and then have the power go out?”

“Screw it then,” he responds, “I’m going drinking with the guys.” Uh, oh, here comes another argument!

When we talk about optimism and pessimism, realism is not the issue; the issue is how you respond to reality. If you’re a downer, your social life will suffer. Who wants to be around someone who generally looks on the dark side of things? But not only does your outlook influence how you get along with other people, it also can affect your physical health. Can an optimistic approach to life translate into good physical health? Does pessimism increase your odds of getting sick? The answers might surprise you.

Some studies have actually exposed volunteers to cold viruses. Lively, energetic, cheerful, optimistic, and relaxed folks tended to get fewer colds than sad, nervous, pessimistic, and short-tempered volunteers. Another study found that optimistic first-year law students had better immune system functioning than pessimistic students. Optimism has also been found to be associated with a higher number of infection-fighting killer cells in the immune system, lower rates of stroke, and reduced rate of cardiovascular problems.

The health-enhancing effects of an optimistic attitude are pretty well established, but let’s take it a step further: can optimism guarantee you a long and healthy life? The key word there is “guarantee,” and the answer is, “Of course not, no more than are eating a healthy diet, exercising, and not smoking guarantees you a long and healthy life.” Whereas a positive outlook can bolster your immune system, there is little evidence that such an outlook can increase your longevity or cure you from an already-contracted disease. For instance, survival rates for terminal cancer patients is not affected by whether the patient is an optimist or a pessimist. Of course, optimists with cancer are likely to enjoy what time they have left than pessimists.

One thing for sure, whether we’re talking longevity or cure, compared to pessimists, optimists are likely to have a higher quality of life, and we mean both physical and psychological quality. When it comes to effective coping, it pays to be an optimist, as long as you’re realistic about it. Optimists are more likely to succeed and develop a “can-do” attitude about life’s obstacles, characteristics that will trigger their immune systems to be stronger and give them a healthier attitude about stress. Optimism is a great psychological support system. And remember, you are not born as an optimist or pessimist. You can learn to cultivate a positive outlook in yourself. You can learn to think about events in your lives more accurately, objectively, realistically, and rationally. In short, you can learn to confront adversity in more positive ways.

There is no doubt about the power of optimistic actions for your physical and psychological well-being. When you are guided by realistic optimism, your immune system will probably function better. You will also be more likely to see problems and difficulties in life as challenges that can be met and overcome, and you will be more likely to be liked by others. Finally, when you fail you will probably analyze how to correct your mistakes rather than simply blame yourself as being unworthy and weak.

 

PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY

To cope effectively, you must evaluate how you respond to reality. If you’re a downer, you’ll find yourself in conflict with others, and eventually alone. Your emotional approach to life will influence your social network and the number of supportive friends you have. Ask yourself: “How do I explain my life circumstances?” We all experience failure and have setbacks; we are all rejected at times by others. How do you interpret these events in general? Do you blame yourself? Sometimes you are to blame, but if self-blame is your habitual pattern of approaching setbacks, you’re setting yourself up for future problems.

For instance, how would you react if the president of the company you work for called you in to pick your brain about a proposed strategic plan? If you are prepared and see meeting him in his office as a chance to demonstrate your skills, you are viewing the session as a challenge you can meet successfully. Your preparation and optimistic frame of mind will put you in a relaxed and confident state that will increase the likelihood the president will be impressed. But if you view the situation as threatening, as something that will expose your weaknesses and shortcomings, your pessimistic outlook will almost guarantee that what you fear will indeed happen. Your pessimistic demeanor will make you more defensive, less likeable, and the meeting just might be what you thought it would be – a disaster.

Your views of reality must also be realistic. Young people often look at their future as some sort of hopeful fantasy world, and adults can also fall victim to this tendency, especially if they are insecure about the future. One of my college students invited me to sit in on a presentation about her research to a 10th-grade high-school class. When she was done, the teacher asked if any of the kids had a question for her about becoming a psychologist. One kid blurted out, “No psychology for me; I’m going to be a Bill Gates and make billions.” The teacher pointed out that he needed to improve his grades so he could get into a good college. The kid replied, “Bill Gates dropped out of college so I don’t need to go to college to become rich.” Maybe so, but the kid was overlooking the fact that Gates dropped out of Harvard, which means he had a proven high-school record of high grades and other indices of high intelligence and a strong work ethic. I could only wonder, “Does this kid think he has the stuff to gain admission to Harvard?”

One last thing to note is that your perception of reality need not be based on how “happy” you are. Effective coping does not require that you try to achieve “happiness.” Good coping means developing a realistic and optimistic lifestyle, not a momentary state of being, that empowers you to initiate autonomous actions to give you feelings of personal control and satisfaction. On the other hand, developing a pessimistic perspective and waiting for your “ship to come in” will encourage you to turn sheepishly to others to manage, direct, and control your actions. That’s what happens when adults turn to cult leaders, charismatic politicians, and even parents, to direct their lives and tell them how to think. Pessimism fosters dependency on another. Such dependency is the enemy of objectivity, and it precludes effective coping.

There’s really no secret to effective coping. In your personal struggles with everyday life, your focus must be realistic, optimistic, and guided by your values (which we’ll have more to say about in a later post) and your capabilities. From that context will emerge a productive and satisfying way of living.

June 7, 2018: We are re-posting Mike’s story about coping with cancer, first posted on October 8, 2017. Mike’s employer has created a Go Fund Me account: https://www.gofundme.com/mikescancerjourneyfund

October 8, 2017: Today’s guest writer shares some thought-provoking beliefs about the journey that is life. Although the specific coping actions he takes may not be for you, the philosophy behind his actions is consistent with themes we try to develop in this blog. His powerful comments are certainly a model for us all to consider.

THE CHALLENGE OF CANCER, SHARED BY A COPING ROLE MODEL

September 28, 2016

My wife and I moved recently to Cocoa Beach, Florida from the Tampa Bay area. We try to make it a point every day to go for a walk to the beach to see the sunrise and greet the new day. That is where we met Charlie Brooks.

After a period of weeks of passing by one another on the beach, he cautiously inquired of the lemon-size growth on the right side of my neck. By now, I am pretty comfortable giving an explanation to those who ask. I said, “It’s a tumor.” I explained my condition further and described a little of how I deal with it.

So how do I cope with stage-four cancer? A good place to start is “one day at a time.”

A little background:

For almost eight years now, I have been dealing with the fact that I have cancer. 2008 was a most difficult and stressful time in my life. After eighteen years of marriage, my wife walked out and began divorce proceedings. Estranged from my young daughters, without friends or family nearby, I felt abandoned in a place I no longer wanted to be. I trudged thru those tumultuous days one at a time, but to be honest, I really was not coping very well with everyday life. 

In December 2008, I came down with the flu or what I would describe as flu-like symptoms (the apartment I moved into weeks before had a very bad mold and mildew problem and may have contributed to my illness). Both my glands on my neck swelled and were very sore. After several weeks I regained my health but the gland on my right side of my neck never returned to its normal size. I did research on what might be the cause and how to self-treat it, but for the most part I ignored it believing it would go away in time (like everything else, this too shall pass).

As a spiritual person (I had served as a minister for twelve years), I had been praying that something has to change in my life. I was mentally and physically tired. This change would either have to come from beyond my control or from within myself. I made some changes in my life to help cope. I returned to congregational worship on Sundays. I spent time at the local library searching their music collection, listening to music and reading books. I also set up a Facebook account.

In March 2009, I received an email from a former girlfriend of whom I had not had contact with since I was a teenager (answer to prayer?). What was really strange is that I had not reached out to her and she had no idea where I was in my life. We spent hours on the phone rekindling our relationship which began some 32 years earlier. I made the decision to relocate to Florida where she was living. Four months later we were married and have been inseparable ever since. She has been my sunshine helping me cope with everyday life.

The growth on my neck.

It took some time to settle in, to become employed and to obtain health insurance. During that time, the growth continued to develop. In 2011, I decided to go to an ear, nose and throat doctor (Otolaryngologist), who also performs head and neck surgery. I had several tests run, the results of which revealed I had non-small cell carcinoma (squamous cell). “It is malignant,” he said. My heart dropped. These were words I never thought I would hear concerning my life. So now what? Where do we go from here?

The doctor explained his next steps to treat the cancer. The protocol involved another test, then undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Regarding the surgery, he said he may have to remove a portion of my tongue, my voice box, and part of my jaw bone which would require reconstructive surgery. He added, “You will also have to learn to eat and speak again. Even so, you are looking at a possible five-year life expectancy.” He actually gave the odds of life expectancy but I no longer remember what he said. I do not believe they were in my favor. I left his office devastated by the results and distraught over his medical recommendations (his bedside manner was lacking to say the least).

I returned home, sat down with my wife, and explained to her what the doctor said. That night was pretty much a blur as far as remembering our feelings, emotions and words. As for me, I now had some medical answers for my condition. What was left to do was to decide how to proceed.

I gave myself a few days to mull over the doctor’s words and allow things to settle in my mind. I held off telling my daughters, family, and employers until I could come to a resolution. Life at this point hadn’t really changed. My wife loved me. I was working, and doing all the things I did prior to learning of my prognosis. But internally, I was grieving and going through a grief process. I sought to compartmentalize the cancer, dealing with my thoughts and feelings a little at a time. Even now, this seems to be, in part, how I cope with my condition. It is not something I think about all the time. The bottom line was and is acceptance of the fact that I have been diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer.

Decision Time

It was really the decision-making process that helped form my ability to cope with cancer. Knowing what I have is not enough to put my mind at ease. What do I do about it and to what degree or cost am I willing to subject myself, my wife and family to in order to gain some sense of well-being? Thus began a journey of researching and discovering my options from Western to Eastern medicine. This was not just a medical experience, but a very personal human event.

Having been a minister for twelve years, generally working with congregations with older members, I witnessed first-hand the results of cancer-treatments in different parts of the country. Part of ministry is meeting people at their most critical times of their lives and being of service to them. However, for the most part, I was less than thrilled with their outcomes. This was not about their faith experience, but the physical struggles they experienced during and after treatment, not to mention the great cost of medical expenses incurred by those families.

Many would confide in me that if their cancer returned, they would not undergo the treatment again. I thought to myself, “If this is the best this country has to offer, I’ll pass.” I developed a mind-set then and still refer back to it to help cope with everyday life and that is, there is a difference between quality of life vs. quantity of life (live well vs. live long). I believe it is within our nature to strive for both, but when our failing physical health becomes a factor in determining length of life, the quality of life becomes primary. I should also state at this time, that my mother had died of pancreatic cancer. She began to undergo chemotherapy but discontinued the treatment due to the side effects. The treatment would not be a cure and she had only months to live. I remember one of her last words she spoke to me. She said, she never thought her life would end this way.   

With the full support of my wife, I decided I would not pursue nor undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. I did attempt to have only the tumor removed without undergoing the other treatments, but no doctor I contacted would consider doing so due to liability. 

I emailed the doctor I originally received my diagnosis from and informed him I had chosen not to undergo cancer treatment. I received an email from him, telling me, “Good luck, you’ll be dead within three months.” I did not respond and it only made me more determined to pursue other forms of treatment.

I should note that this response is not just tied to western medicine physicians. One alternative medicine doctor suggested to me that I should quit work and spend my days meditating near a pond and contemplate life. He may have meant well, but to me, that was the same as saying, why don’t you just resign yourself to the fact that you are going to die. Just curl up and wait to die.

Over the years since being first diagnosed, I have undergone several forms of alternative medicine treatments (cost is always a factor, as health insurance does not cover alternative medicine). There are many different forms of treatments available outside the U.S., but the cost, time away from work, travel, and treatment, make these unattainable for most.    

I take a daily regimen of supplements (thanks to my wife), exercise and try to keep stress in my life at a minimal. Up until a few months ago, I was working sixty-three hours a week. I have reduced the number of hours to forty per week in order to pursue other personal interests. Whether or not any or all of this has contributed to beating the statistical odds, I do not know. What I do know is I am still here and living as normal a life as I did prior to the diagnosis. In fact, in a very real sense, I feel more alive than I did then. I do not take life for granted, but enjoy each and every moment of life and the good measure of health I have been blessed with on this day.

Some thoughts for me on my coping with everyday life –

1. Faith in God. I know not what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. God knows my life and nothing comes to me that does not first go through Him. I’m not seeking a miracle healing, though I desire to be healed in this life, but if healing doesn’t come, God is still God, and I will return to Him.

2. Connections between people and not possessions are what matters most.

3. Having an attitude of gratitude, thanksgiving, appreciation and forgiveness.

4. There is a song by Randy Stonehill. The lyrics state, “I’m gonna celebrate this heartbeat, cause it just might be my last. Every day is a gift from the Lord on high, and they all go by so fast.”

5. The only difference between my life and another is that I may know what I will die from. I say may because not even this is a guarantee.

6. The only things I have control over are my thoughts – what I believe — and my actions – what I do and how I respond based upon what I believe. Beyond that, things are beyond my control. It is enough.    

 

 

 

HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, AND OPTIMISM

Have you ever said, “All I want is to be happy. Why can’t I be happy like everyone else?” Unfortunately, happiness is one of those elusive states; seek it and you’ll probably miss it. Happiness is not a state of being; it is a lifestyle, something subjective that evolves from how you live. Happiness should not be seen as an end in itself, a goal, but more a feeling of contentment that emerges from that lifestyle.

“If I win the lottery I’ll be rich and happy.” Probably not, at least over the long haul. We know that happiness produced by an outcome will likely be transitory. A man was awarded a huge sum of money in a personal injury suit. He said, “I threw it away on dumb things because I felt guilty about receiving ‘dirty money’ that wasn’t earned.” A couple was injured in a car accident, and eventually received a sizeable settlement out of court. They went on a spending spree: a new house, all the latest modern appliances, new furniture….you name it. The money ran out, of course, and stresses on their marriage began. They had regular arguments on who was to blame for the sudden reversal of their “happiness.” They lost the house and filed for divorce.

Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert notes that in one study, a year after winning the lottery, winners were less happy than were paraplegics one year after their accident. How can that be? If you ask that question you forget that you are considering the lottery winner and the paraplegic from your present perspective, which probably doesn’t include being a lottery winner or a paraplegic. Thus, winning the lottery looks pretty good to you and being confined to a wheelchair looks pretty bad. For those who actually live in such circumstances, however, they make their current estimates of happiness in comparison to their earlier life and to the anticipated future.

The lottery winners learn that the anticipated happiness of winning the lottery was unrealistic; the paraplegics learn that the anticipated impossible challenges imposed by the injury were not overwhelming or impossible. In both cases it was not the outcome (good luck vs. severe injury) that determined their “happiness” a year later; rather, it was the lifestyle they chose following the outcome. Overnight wealth can be squandered and lead to long-term problems; paraplegics can choose to find meaning and purpose in their lives through spiritual, artistic, athletic, and other types of pursuits. Good fortune can lead to frustration; misfortune can lead to contentment over meeting a challenge

You are likely to be “happy” only when you are realistically and optimistically focused on developing a lifestyle consistent with your values, and which brings you a sense of contentment or satisfaction. The search for happiness may be futile, but an optimistic approach to life can enhance your satisfaction and coping. Optimists tend to develop a realistic “can-do” attitude about life’s obstacles, and decide that stress is not all it’s cracked up to be! They are more likely to see problems and difficulties in life as challenges that can be met and overcome, are more likely to be liked by others, and are more likely to look for realistic explanations for negative events. Pessimists habitually blame themselves for “bad luck,” and self-blame translates into stress that compromises coping.

            Good coping also requires focusing on optimistic actions, not words. Thoughts without actions are fantasy. Negative thoughts can also lead to depression. Do you tell yourself, “I’m too much of a pessimist; I need to be more of an optimist”? Before you decide your level of pessimism about life and yourself, take a good long realistic look at your behavior, not at your casual spoken comments. Talk is cheap; actions reveal your essence. Words reveal character when they are accompanied by actions consistent with your values.

IS TRUMPISM THE NEW NORM?

In answer to our title question, Bruce Kelley, Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest says no way! Reader’s Digest has resumed its search, also conducted last year, for the Nicest Places in America. Last year they solicited nominations from readers and received 300. The list was winnowed down to 10 finalists, and Gatlin, TN was the final winner.

Kelley also notes other trends in society that push back from the dark mood engendered by the political world. USA Today has a Humankind section that highlights positive stories submitted by readers. The New York Times has a section called “The Week in Good News.” Some commercials on TV regularly appear that sell a variety of everyday products and services, but fly in the face of hate messages by featuring interracial couples, or convey other themes of inclusion. Student groups at some colleges and universities around the country run RAK days, “Random Acts of Kindness,” which encourage students, faculty, and staff to do just that with people they don’t know. NBC Nightly News always ends with a feel-good story of people helping other people. (No doubt you know of other examples worthy of sharing in a comment at the end of this blog.)

All these things have in common the theme of the importance of doing things that bring you satisfaction. The trends listed illustrate independence, autonomy, optimism, and disengaging from a dark side of humanity that stresses insults, disparagement, bullying, and intimidation. The trends show how easy it can be to resist the mudslinging and take the high road.

Digging a little deeper, the trends noted also show that when you feel lost, angry, frustrated, and without values or moral compass, you have options beyond simply falling under the spell of the hate mongers. There is no single human imperative wired into your genes. You do not need to join a cult and subjugate yourself to the leader because you feel inadequate to find your own way through life. You do not need to look for scapegoats to blame for personal shortcomings, and on whom to displace your anger and frustration. And you should not choose those options because spewing hatred or surrendering your autonomy to others will likely fail. These lifestyles compromise self-acceptance, feeling satisfied and productive, and enjoying a spiritual bond with humanity. When you fall victim to these impulses you will suffer because as you sit along the roadside criticizing, insulting, and pouring out blame on others for your travails, society will continue to evolve and leave you behind.

Psychologists know that reaching beyond yourself and acting within a circle of actions that you can control, brings personal contentment and inspiration to continue, not because “I feel happy,” but because “I feel a part of humanity, something bigger than myself.” Such service in a spirit of treating others as you would like them to treat you, will foster good coping with everyday life. Is this not why some choose to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, or volunteer to help victims of natural disasters, instead of wallowing in cult-like dependency or displacing all they dislike about themselves on others?

So here’s a thought for all of us. Don’t give in to the vitriol, distrust, abuse, profanity, insults, ego-centricity, and condescension; don’t give this dark side validity by emotionally and impulsively lashing back. Of course, stand up for your beliefs and strive to make them consistent with the evidence and with logical, critical thinking. But also vow to fight indecency with decency. You will be coping effectively, you will feel more satisfied and productive, and you will be energized to reach out to your fellow humans in need.

COPING LESSONS FROM THE BOY SCOUTS

I saw a Facebook post about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) dropping the word “Boy.” The usual Pavlovian knee-jerk comments about political correctness (PC) followed, decrying how we can’t even say “boy scouts” anymore without offending women. Actually, according to other reports, membership in the Boy Scouts is declining, and removing “boy” is a strategic move by the organization to bolster membership by encouraging girls to join. There is no government or liberal plot to force the sexist boy scouts to put aside their evil ways.

Isn’t it a shame how the PC card is often played out of desperation by defensive, insecure, paranoid, and dependent folks who know they’re holding a losing hand? For them, “PC” is code that means, “Change is coming that takes me out of my comfort zone.” In our coping context, obsessing and screaming about PC suggests poor coping skills in the screamer. Change is a threat to their psychological security so they play the PC card with regularity. For some reason, they have trouble seeing that for the most part, PC is simply a plea for common courtesy and respect in our interactions with others. Yes, PC can be overdone, but those instances are usually easily recognizable by their absurdity. The point is, for those secure in their own skin, the change implied by PC is not a threat to their psychological welfare.

But, back to the Boy Scouts. What about their strategic decision to drop “Boys”? Listen to what Kristina Hernandez, a media consultant and freelance writer, has to say about this issue in an Op-Ed piece. Hernandez talks about her 7-year old daughter who joined a Cub Scout pack that previously was open only to boys. She says, “I have watched my daughter’s confidence bloom in the short amount of time she has been a Cub Scout. She has been able to do everything the boys do, from learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, to starting a fire, to racing her own derby car, and shooting a BB gun.” Hernandez, a self-described conservative who believes that “genders do matter,” says she is grateful to BSA for opening their ranks. “I want my daughter to have every opportunity that boys have, to be empowered as a woman and know that she is capable of doing what boys do, but in her own, female way. Femininity, or masculinity, need not be lost because the BSA allows girls and changed their name.”

In the context of effective coping, these comments are a rational, thoughtful breath of fresh air when contrasted with the petty, infantile, self-serving PC ravings that obscure the true essence of what BSA has done. The PC crowd wants to perpetuate their safe, comfy world where girls learn to be sensitive, emotional, caring, supportive, and domestic. If boys develop such traits they are sissies and sacrifice their masculinity. This world says boys must learn to be aggressive, assertive, dominant, and independent. If girls show these characteristics, however, they have lost their femininity and become man-haters. Ah, the secure clarity of how it was for the PC crowd a time long past.

Welcome to the 21st century, guys! Psychologists have long known that the key to effective coping is having a wide range of options when choosing actions to confront challenges. The modern woman has the traditional feminine traits, and has no problem raising children, cleaning house, or cooking; but if the situation requires her to be assertive, competitive, and forceful, she can do so without feeling less of a woman. By the same token, a man today might have no problem “being a man,” standing his ground firmly and decisively, and initiating forceful action; but he can also show emotion and sensitivity, dust the living room, change a diaper, and support his spouse’s career without any threat to his manhood. The breadth of traits shown by today’s women and men makes them far better able to cope with life compared to those who are secure only in traditional roles. Is it not a coping tragedy when a woman is confronted with a situation that requires assertiveness, but she withdraws so she won’t appear less feminine? Is it not equally tragic when a man is confronted with a situation calling for warmth and emotionality, but withdraws out of fear of appearing less masculine?

Hernandez notes that her daughter’s uniform shirt reads, “Boy Scouts of America,” but she adds, “That name will be altered soon but the ingrained character, independence, and honor of the Boy Scouts will not be changed. It will only look different, with strong women of character emerging from the program, right along with the boys.”

We might add that our society will also be strengthened by a new generation of Americans, men and women of all backgrounds and persuasions, better equipped to cope with everyday life, and thereby ready to “participate in humanity” with values, morality, and honor. What we are seeing almost daily — whether it be in the noble crusades of high-school students tired of being shot at, young athletes tired of being sexually abused by a perverse physician, or women tired of being subjugated to the whims of powerful men – is a movement reasserting the can-do spirit of two-and-a-half centuries ago, a spirit that joined the Declaration of Independence with The Constitution and gave birth to our country. It’s a spirit that offers to put “United” back in what “USA” means, and it gives an old bird like me a needed jolt of hope for tomorrow.