Is Extremism a Mental Illness?

It was frightening to watch the violence at the Pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. What is wrong with these people? Are they mentally ill?

Extremists can be left-wing or right-wing, but their views are beyond the boundaries of the norm. Political extremists are people or groups that hold a set of beliefs that differ from society’s norm to a great degree. They will use drastic measures to gain attention, including violence. Groups that are commonly labeled as extremist include Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Proud Boys.

While America watched the riot unfold at the capitol and learned of this organized attack, it appeared that a large majority of the US population were extremists. Although it was shocking, there is less extremism than we think.  Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other. Americans exaggerate the extremism of the other side. We call this America’s “Perception Gap”. Overall, Democrats and Republicans imagine there are almost twice as many of their political opponents than there really are.

A 2018 study conducted by “More In Common” (moreincommon.com), said that only 6% of Americans fit the definition of “Devoted Conservatives”, far-right people who feel that America is under threat and they’re the last line of defense in protecting traditional values with strident uncompromising views. On the other end of the political spectrum, the study identified 8% of Americans as “Progressive Activists” on the far left, 67% of those surveyed falling into what researchers labeled the “Exhausted Majority.” This largest group looks for common ground, has opinions based on situations instead of conforming to strict ideologies, and hates polarization. Even on the most controversial issues in our national debates, Americans are less divided than most of us think. More than three-quarters of Americans believe our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.

No matter the size, you may think that anyone who commits themselves to violent means is mentally ill. Not necessarily. Many offenders do not have mental illnesses or criminal histories. Mental illness is not a necessary condition for violence. Correlation is not causation.

Extremism, Radicalisation & Mental Health: 2019 Handbook for Practitioners, is an excellent resource for understanding the role of mental illness in terrorism. “There is no empirical evidence to suggest that terrorism is predominantly committed by mentally ill individuals, and where mental illness is present, it may not be relevant to the risk [of violence].” However, various types of mental illness may cause an individual to be vulnerable to extremism. It’s complicated. There is no simple formula for the role mental illness plays in shaping extremism.

If not mentally ill, why do people go to such extremes? Many extremists who carry out these acts share underlying traits. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that the following makes people more prone to radicalization: feeling alone or lacking meaning and purpose in life; being emotionally upset after a stressful event; disagreeing with government policy; not feeling valued or appreciated by society; believing they have limited chances to succeed; feeling hatred toward certain types of people. Many extremist groups thrive on righting what they perceive as a historic wrong.  A shared sense of victimhood is often what bonds extremists.

A 2016 report by Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies finds that the underlying causes of violent extremism are very similar to the underlying causes for other social issues, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, gang activity, and criminality. The cure is really the same for everything that affects society, which is a good public health system, education, job training, and a strong sense of community support.

At the time of this writing, more than 100 individuals involved in the Capitol riots have been arrested. Each of them has a unique reason for their behavior. As a starting point for discussion and understanding, I would ask each individual, “What problem does your attempted solution fix, and also what life experiences might have led you to this solution?”

Trump Incited a Violent Coup Against Democracy. Now What?

President Trump incited a riot in Congress in which five people died. This riot is the culmination of an election result. President-elect Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes. But Trump could not accept it. He wants to believe that he is the winner. And he is desperate to have others believe he won. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it,” said Trump. He was fixated on overturning the election.

On Jan. 3, the Washington Post broke the news of an hour-long call in which Trump attempted to persuade Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to recalculate the state’s vote in his favor. On tape, Trump told officials, ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’. Raffensperger said, “We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” he said. A national election security coalition announced that, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Trump lost nearly 60 election fights in court (and counting). “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” said Judge Stephanos Bibas, one of Trump’s own nominees. In essence, the emperor has no clothes. But now, after an attempted coup, even prominent Republicans have disavowed the president. They would like him to resign.

As I understand it, there are three courses of action to remove Trump from office before he causes more damage in the two weeks remaining in his term. He can resign, he can be impeached, or he can be subject to the 25th amendment, which states that if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the vice president becomes president. No president has ever been impeached twice. If Trump were convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office again. Strong action is required. If we normalize bad behavior, we unleash more of it in the world.

This outcome is not a surprise. We’ve known of his weaknesses all along.  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”, is a book from experts in the psychology field that repeatedly point out Trump’s malignant narcissism. These professionals made the cry of a “clear and present danger” that Trump’s mental health poses to the nation. They argue that the President places the country at risk of undermining democracy itself due to his dangerous pathology. This pathology is largely, but not exclusively, due to Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder. As these authors predicted, Trump has only grown more erratic and dangerous as the pressures on him mount.

Claire Jack, PhD, wrote “5 Reasons Why Narcissists Are So Dangerous”, published in Psychology Today. She said they do not respect experts. They act without consulting others’ opinions. If a narcissist wants to do something, they will. They’ll put other lives in danger if it meets their needs. They have low empathy. Being right, winning, and dominating are far more important than worrying about how someone will feel. They like drama. Narcissists thrive on drama. She nailed it, and here we are.

Losing the election caused a narcissistic wound for Trump. He cannot tolerate losses. People without narcissism can self-correct. Trump’s impeachment did not result in a more tempered attitude or behavior. Instead, Trump called the process “a dangerous attack”. In fact, he doubled down on his efforts to rally loyalty from his base, to the point of calling for violence.

There is no fury like a wounded narcissist. Trump has plotted with others how to get revenge against anyone who did not go along with him. “Policy doesn’t animate him. Revenge animates him,” said an adviser who had recently spoken with the president. “He can’t admit that he lost. He would literally do anything in the world,” one official said. A second administration official said: “Guy can’t just help himself and go away.”

Let’s be clear, Trump is not going away by resignation, impeachment or by the 25th amendment. Narcissists don’t resign from office. He can be stripped of his office, but he will not stop his pursuit to be vindicated. He will remain a danger to democracy.

Is It Okay to Cut Off a Family Member?

A family is a group of people who share a common ancestry or who are bound as a unit. The US Census Bureau defines a family as a group of two people or more related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together. In an ideal world, family is our source of love, security, and loyalty. Until it isn’t. Sometimes family members can be toxic.

The US is deeply divided politically. Many people have purged friends and family whose political views are offensive to them. I read that Ricardo Deforest of Tampa, Fla., said, “I hate to say it because family is everything. I disowned them. In my mind, they’re not family anymore.”

I saw a Facebook post, targeted to mental health therapists, which asked if it was okay to cut off family members. A lively exchange followed in which most therapists strongly agreed that one should cut off toxic family members. They had no reservations about alienating people who do horrible things even though they are blood relations. You can only take so much, try so much, and do so much until you decide to leave. Giving up on people that relentlessly hurt you is taking care of yourself, and you deserve to be safe.

We wouldn’t tolerate bad behavior from acquaintances, but should we make more of an attempt with family members? Family is still family no matter how they’ve hurt you. Family ties bind us in a way that other social ties do not. We will work harder to maintain relationships with the people that we share our lives with.

Where do you draw the line? Some decisions are easy. If there is a present danger of sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse to children or elders, it is not only wise to leave, but there are societal safeguards in place to assist the process. Domestic violence is not tolerated. You are not expected to make a consistent sacrifice in your own well-being. 

But life is not always black and white. Families are complicated and cutting off family is giving up, perhaps prematurely or unnecessarily. Sometimes we have to learn how to love someone with detachment or from afar. You can still consider them family, albeit from a distance.

The experts in setting boundaries with family members are people who attend Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics”. They teach people the concept of detachment. The principles can apply to any toxic family member. 

According to Al-Anon, “Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. It does not necessarily require physical separation. Detachment allows us to let go of another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives. We learn not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people and not to allow ourselves to be used or abused.”

Knowing your boundaries and establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is a life skill. Determine the need for creating a boundary or changing an existing boundary by listening to your feelings. For example, if we feel angry, used, or guilty, we probably need to set a boundary. Ideally, we want to create a healthy middle ground between the extremes of either controlling others or allowing them to control us. We can set boundaries with others who attempt to control us by telling us how to think, feel, or behave. And we should refrain from the same. Either end of the spectrum between rigid or non-existent boundaries is unhealthy for us and others.

What’s the best way to communicate boundaries? Al-Anon says it best: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, just don’t say it mean.” In other words, manners matter when communicating your boundaries with others. We think better of ourselves when we are direct, honest, and respectful. Listen to objections as long as they are stated in a respectful manner. Then carefully consider your response.

Impatience Is Killing Us

Almost 20,000 Americans died of confirmed Covid cases in the past week, and next week’s toll will probably be worse. David Leonhardt, New York Times journalist, said that tens of thousands of lives could be saved if Americans would change their behavior. He said it is clear that our impatience is killing people.

I get it. We’re into 9 months of Covd19 restrictions and it’s wearing on us. You may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious, or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping, or you may struggle to face routine chores. We all want to return to our pre-Covid19 lives. It is tempting to throw caution to the wind and become careless.

We need more patience, people. Others have had it worse. How much can the spirit endure in isolation?

Kaavan, the world’s loneliest elephant, was finally freed after living for decades in a Pakistani zoo. His only companion died, allegedly of sepsis brought on by bull-hook nails digging into her skin in 2012. His wounds became infected and the chains around his legs left permanent scars. He drifted into psychosis and obesity. He finally got a new life thanks to the actress and singer Cher, who co-founded a wildlife protection charity.

Astronaut Scott Kelly survived a year in space in cramped quarters. He said there was never a moment he felt like coming home early. “I could have stayed up there longer if there had been a good reason. So I never really doubted my ability to do that. Some folks have a challenge being isolated like that. It’s hard, but it’s not so hard you can’t do it.” Another challenge, he says, was sharing a relatively small place with the same people for so long – “even though all those people are great.”

Nelson Mandela was confined to prison for 27 years. “I could walk the length of my cell in three paces,” Mandela recalled in his autobiography. “When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side. The width was about six feet. That small cramped space was to be my home for I knew not how long.” Mandela’s prism on the world was a small window with six bars but little to see. Robben Island was five miles off the coast. He didn’t have access, as we do now, to newspapers, telephones, and a television. He was seventy-two when released and went on to re-create a nation and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

We all lose our patience occasionally, but doing so frequently can cause harm. Patience is the ability to stay calm while you’re waiting for an outcome that you need or want. It is a tough skill to master. Emotional outbursts, aggression, frustration, and impatience are often associated with early childhood. This reflects a weak system of self-control. Our capacity for self-control should improve with time. As a means of practicing self-control, we engage in actions that require effort to sustain.

Impatience is a feeling of rising stress. Try to develop strategies to deal with your impatience as you notice it. Take deep, slow breaths, and count to 10. Doing this will slow your heart rate, relax your body, and distance you emotionally from the situation. Sometimes you might need a longer count, or to repeat the process several times. Impatience can cause you to tense your muscles involuntarily. So, consciously focus on relaxing your body. Relax your muscles, from your toes up to the top of your head. Challenge your negative assumptions instead of letting your impatience build. Aim to reframe the circumstances in a more positive light.

Although some people are naturally patient, the rest of us need to practice for it to become a habit.

Patience is worth cultivating. If you practice patience daily and connect it to a narrative of why it’s important, it can grow and develop just like other skills.

It is clear that patience, while restricting our activity, will get us out of Covid19 alive.

What’s In a Title?

I hold a bachelor’s (B.S.) and master’s degree (M.Div.) in addition to a doctoral degree (D.Min. in Pastoral Care and Counseling). I am a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in the states of Illinois and Iowa. I completed a two-year advanced studies program in family therapy. I am a certified drug and alcohol counselor in both Illinois and Iowa. And I am certified as an approved supervisor by the AAMFT (American Association of Marriage & Family Therapists). Does my education and experience entitle me to the use of “Dr”? Apparently, some people don’t think so.

The next US First Lady Jill Biden holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education. A Doctor of Education (EdD) is a professional degree designed for practitioners pursuing educational leadership roles. Joseph Epstein, writer and former editor of The American Scholar magazine, wrote an opinion piece, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” He suggests that Jill Biden should think about dropping the title because it feels fraudulent and even comic. He referenced a quip “a wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child.”

Epstein thinks that a Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but no longer, due to relaxed standards in university education. To add insult to injury, he advised Dr. Biden to “forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.” In other words, know your place. He even called her “kiddo”.

His column was met with a strong backlash. Northwestern University, where Epstein had taught for 30 years, issued a statement saying it “strongly disagrees with Mr. Epstein’s misogynistic views”. The university’s English department said in a separate statement that it rejects the opinion piece “as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university.”

Biden’s spokesperson called the piece a “disgusting and sexist attack” in a tweet that addressed Wall Street Journal editors directly, adding, “If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her.”

“What patronizing, sexist, elitist drivel,” tweeted Kate Bedingfield, the president-elect’s communications director. “Dr. B earned a doctorate in education, so we call her Doctor.”

Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, said Dr. Biden earned her degrees through hard work and pure grit. She is an inspiration to me, to her students, and to Americans across this country. This story would never have been written about a man.

British historian Dr. Fern Riddell experienced a similar problem upon discovering that a Canadian newspaper only grants doctorate titles to medical doctors. Academics are called by Mr., Mrs., or Ms. She finds it outrageous. “This is our expertise and people need to know when someone is an expert.” It became a gender issue when a wave of men called her vulgar and immodest.

Dr. Claudia Antolini is a science communicator with a bachelor’s in physics, a master’s in astrophysics, another in space science and technologies, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics. She tweeted “Are you a woman with a doctorate? No matter your discipline, drop a picture here to show that we are here, we exist, and we won’t drop our title for any mediocre man’s comfort.” In response, thousands of women with doctoral degrees added “Dr” to their Twitter profiles in solidarity.

Admittedly, I have often felt that I’m being misleading to call myself “Dr.” The title is generally thought of as belonging to a medical doctor in common usage. Therefore I feel a need to clarify that I have a doctorate in counseling (D.Min) and am not an MD or a Ph.D. Frankly, it is cumbersome, and I avoid the title in certain situations to save time.

I have also been told that, when asked, I should say I am a marriage counselor, not a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. This person thought I was being arrogant to add that I am licensed by the state. I find it important that people know that I hold proper professional credentials in my field of study and that I have training in tools that will help them.

Credentials are essential for seeking a professional for a particular problem. Stating my credentials does not make me arrogant or an education snob. In fact, once we get past the introductions, I like to be informal and I much prefer to be called by my first name. But in solidarity with credentialed women who are belittled and disrespected, I submit this column as Dr. Gail Gabbert, D.Min., LMFT, CADC.

Is Love Addiction a Thing?

It might be said that we are all addicted to love in that we all need it. We require attachment to survive.  We crave social connection, especially romantic connection. We want it, seek it, and feel like a failure without it. When we are in love, we feel an overwhelmingly strong attraction to another person. It can be thrilling, but also frightening, and perhaps even deadly.

There is sufficient evidence to support the claim that love can be an addiction, similar to substance abuse addiction. A short definition of addiction is the inability to stop once started, and ongoing use despite negative consequences. Love relationships that are difficult to end, although there are obvious harmful effects, can be said to have addictive traits. Pathological love can be seen as a pattern of excessive interest towards romantic partners, resulting in a lack of control, loss of other interests, poor functioning, and other negative outcomes. 

Where does it come from? Some people believe love addiction is an impulse-control disorder, a mood disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an attachment disorder, such as having a history of abandonment from primary caregivers.

Love addiction comes in many forms as described at http://www.loveaddicts.org

Co-Dependent love addicts live in fear that their partner will leave them, and do anything they can to try and prevent it from happening.

Obsessed love addicts cannot let go of their partner, even if their relationship is highly toxic.

Narcissistic love addicts attempt to exert complete control over their partner, through dominance, seduction, violence or other means.

Relationship addicts have separated from their partner but feel unable to live without them.

Ambivalent love addicts desperately crave love but are terrified of intimacy. They often sabotage relationships, make themselves sexually unavailable, or obsess over someone who is unavailable.

Romance addicts often have multiple partners but move on once the initial ‘flame’ has died down.

Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA) defines recovery as a state in which you are able to love yourself as much as you love others. Romantic love enhances your life but does not determine your self-worth. Healthy love is one in which you seek love and compatibility with someone who can reciprocate.

If you find that your love relationship is clearly harmful and needs to dissolve, but you are unable to end it, help is advised. 

Want to Feel Less Stress? Turn Off the Noise

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In fact, the eyes do provide lots of information about a person’s emotional state. But research now points to the ears as a source of information about one’s inner world. To be more specific, earwax can reveal stress levels.

One study demonstrated that a build-up of the stress hormone cortisol can be measured in earwax. Cortisol is a “fight or flight” hormone that sends out alarm signals to the brain in response to stress. Cortisol can be measured in blood, but this provides a snapshot of one’s hormone level in time, whereas earwax shows a build-up of the stress hormone. Researchers are hoping that earwax can provide a measure to supplement or inform diagnoses of depression and anxiety. It will make mental health assessments more accurate.

Noise itself is stressful. Have you noticed the high number of people blowing leaves in your neighborhood? Many of us who work from home, thanks to COVID-19, are annoyed by the sound. Leaf blowers are at the top of noise complaints. It’s distracting to be in a Zoom meeting and have a loud, irritating leaf blower outside your door.

“Exposure to noises from crowds, traffic, and other everyday sounds can become harder to tolerate and increase stress levels, leading to anxiety and a reduction in overall quality of life”, according to audiologist Dr. Stephanie Tompkins. She also suggests that noise sensitivity can lead to isolation as an attempt to avoid noisy situations.

Did you know that people often become more sensitive to noise as they age? This can affect their mental and physical health such as a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. As we age, it is normal to become less tolerant of certain noises that feel too loud and jarring.

It is difficult to feel calm and centered in the midst of noise pollution.

What can you do? Reduce your time in loud places. Reduce the noise in your home. For example, I mute commercials when watching TV. Mute general noise in your home by absorbing it with carpet, drapes, and rugs. Plants soak up sound waves. Wear filtered earplugs and noise-canceling headphones. Keep in mind that not all noise is bad noise. Using a white noise machine to minimize the impact of outside noise can reduce stress caused by noise pollution. Set aside noise-free times. You’ll feel better.

Let’s Not Be Gridlocked on our Differences

One takeaway from the Trump-Biden presidential election is the polarization of America. In viewing social media, many people voiced surprise, even shock, that so many people were on the opposite side of the divide. How can this be such a close race?

Social media has turned into a format to share preferred world views. When these world views collide, they can create animosity. How could you believe that? Lines have been drawn in the sand in terms of what we cannot tolerate. This election has caused us to clarify which friends we are most aligned with and which we most different from. I have a friend who took a Facebook hiatus to establish some distance from views that she did not support or condone. She then purged 150 “friends” from her network. Another friend expressed himself passionately that he cannot and will not remain friends with people who share the values of his opposing candidate. Should we draw a line in the sand and block contact with people who were previously in our social circle?

The United States needs another reconstruction from what seemed at times like political civil war. Joe Biden will take the helm of a divided country to bridge the divide. He will embrace the nation as a whole, not just Democrats. He understands that compromise is good, and modest progress is still progress. While Joe Biden is tasked to bridge a political divide, the rest of us are tasked with bridging the divide on a personal level in our social circles. If we don’t, our country will continue to polarize. I believe it is our civic duty to engage in dialog to move our country forward.

That said, there may be times when we are best served to terminate abusive relationships in which we are bullied or disrespected. Political extremists are generally not interested in the give and take of dialog. They may be overconfident in their positions and intolerant of differences.

Spencer Critchley is the author of “Patriots of Two Nations: Why Trump Was Inevitable and What Happens Next,” about why Americans have such polarized views of the world. “We must learn to respond to people in a more intuitive way,” Critchley says. “We must build trust. Connect first, debate later.” He makes several suggestions for talking with fellow Americans of opposing political beliefs.

  1. Right from the start, show respect, goodwill, and vulnerability. Leave your defenses behind and show you’re ready to be honest and authentic.
  2. Control the natural human instinct to judge people who disagree with you. Just be aware of what they’re saying without trying to correct them. You can return to your differences later, maybe, after you’ve established trust.
  3. Look for your points of agreement. De-emphasize the differences. Trust can grow from shared values.
  4. Focus on building trust, not making points. When ideological opponents can stop vilifying each other, and can stop viewing different viewpoints as evil, American society can resume the work of compromise and progress.
  5. Don’t expect opposition to disappear. The point is not to eliminate conflict but to repair our society’s ability to handle it constructively.

 Our goal should be to establish a dialogue about our differences that communicates respect rather than allowing our differences to fall into a gridlock.

It Is Our Moral Duty To Warn

As a mental health professional, I am a mandated reporter and have a duty to warn potential victims if I believe that my client may be in imminent danger of harming others. In fact, it is my duty to warn the victim even if it means breaking confidentiality. The danger must be imminent and the report should be made to someone who is in a position to reduce the risk of the danger, such as law enforcement and the intended victim. I have not been told that the duty extends to Covid19 and the duty to protect others from communicable diseases. But don’t we all have an ethical duty to prevent harm to others?

Our current knowledge of Covid19 leads us to believe that it is a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. Even asymptomatic carriers can be contagious.

My sister-in-law told me of her concern while frequenting an outdoor restaurant with friends. The owner of the establishment chose not to wear a mask while preparing or serving food, and also chose not to enforce these precautions with her staff. My sister-in-law felt unsafe and wondered who to address her complaints to.

What happens when a business won’t follow the guidelines? People may file complaints if businesses are not following mask guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but local health agencies have limited power to enforce rules. Their actions generally take the form of education and requests, rather than enforcement.

I intended to gather with my family for pumpkin decorating last weekend. It was canceled because the hosts didn’t feel well. They wrongly assumed that they were experiencing side effects following a preventative flu shots. However, they subsequently learned they had been exposed to Covid19 on the job without realizing it. They both tested positive for Covid19, having been exposed on the job, but neither had been warned about the exposure from their employers.

Employers are caught between a duty of privacy and a duty to warn. Covid19 presents new, unanticipated liability risks for employers. An employer’s duty to warn of a known risk of Covid19 infection needs to be weighed against another legal duty placed on employers – the duty to maintain the medical privacy rights of its employees.

My Covid19 positive family members did not wait for their employers to take action. They took it upon themselves to contact their co-workers with whom they had had close contact. This then allowed their co-workers the opportunity to quarantine and get tested to safeguard their circle of contacts.

Contact tracing is used by health departments to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. It slows the spread of infection. For contact tracing protocol, see Contact Tracing by the CDC, June 21, 2020, cdc.gov.

It’s a moral responsibility to protect others from coronavirus.  Even if we are not worried about our own health, it is our moral responsibility to protect others whose bodies may not be able to fight off the virus as easily. Covid19 symptoms are mild for most, but severe for some.

If you witness regulation violations, consider reporting it to your local health department. If you suspect you have Covid19, self-isolate, and get tested. Give your contacts a heads up on a possible spread of infection.

I Wish You Enough

There is a poem attributed to author, Bob Perks, which goes like this:

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.”

We are rarely fully satisfied with what we have. Whether it is love, money, friends, or toys, we always seem to want more. We are content with what we have until it is no longer new. It becomes commonplace, and we want newer, bigger, and better things. We are happiest when we don’t want.

I’m reading The Big Tiny, by Dee Williams, which chronicles her journey of downsizing from a spacious single-family house to an eighty-four-square-foot tiny house on wheels. It caused me to wonder if I could live a minimalist life. Could I strip myself of materialistic possessions as a trade-off for financial freedom, time with family and friends, and peace of mind? I’m not sure.

Did you know that the self-storage industry has skyrocketed in the last 20 years? Americans need 2.3 billion square feet of extra space just to fit their stuff. Our homes on average are three times the size of the average household 50 years ago. But it’s not enough. We have more cars per person, eat out twice as much, have big-screen TVs and multiple devices, yet we are not happier.

Have you heard the term “hedonic treadmill”, also known as hedonic adaptation? It is the tendency of humans to return to a set point of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes, once our needs for food, shelter and water are met. As a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. You may have heard studies of people who have won lottery jackpots who are initially thrilled, but who say that they are no more or less happy than before winning the lottery a few years later. The happiness boost doesn’t last that long or wasn’t as intense as you’d imagine.

But here’s the thing. The anticipation of more is what makes us happy. The anticipation phase causes an increase in happiness chemicals. When the allure of the acquisition fades, it no longer boosts our happiness quota. We need something to replace it. This perpetuates the hedonic treadmill.

I’m told that in Buddhism, suffering is caused by craving. One element in the state of enlightenment is eliminating craving, being free from desire, being content, and being sufficient within oneself.

I feel challenged to want less. I want to learn to control my impulses and stop purchasing things, eliminate clutter, do more of what I love, spend more time on the things I love. Cravings for more will come and go, but the moments will pass.

What is enough for you?