Psychological Self-Help

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a computer--"I'll calmly give the right answer; I don't
want to get emotional about this." (I've got it
together...almost. Payoff: Hides all my feelings.) 
a distracter--"I'd rather talk about something else,
something irrelevant to the issue at hand." (No body
cares what I think anyway. Payoff: Hides everything.) 
family rules --in healthy families rules are flexible and
reasonable rather than rigid and inconsiderate. The rules should
be democratically arrived at, not dictated. 
outside contacts --in healthy families there are good
connections with persons outside the family, so that we are not
fearful, placating, or blaming inside or outside the family. 
Satir gives detailed suggestions for achieving these healthy
conditions in families. We know a lot about how to provide a healthy
environment for families. Why aren't we using this knowledge? 
Another "classic" about the family is The Family Crucible by Napier
& Whitaker (1978). It describes a family systems approach to family
therapy, but in the process it clarifies how psychological problems
evolve from relationships within the family. Perhaps we do not have
"individual" problems as much as we have "family" problems, i.e.
difficulties arising from interactions and conflicts within our family.
What are the common sources of problems according to this
viewpoint? Polarization (stress between two or more people),
escalation (participants intensify the conflict), triangulation (two
people gang up on another, sometimes as a way of avoiding their own
troubles), blaming (a "it's your fault" defense), diffusion of identity
(the family does not permit a member to be his/her own person and
free), and fear of immobility (a fear that the family will disintegrate or
die, and you can't escape). Even though this book is for professionals,
it can enlighten any reader. 
There is growing evidence that advances in modern medicine,
better nutrition, sanitation, clear air, and exercise--all the things we
obsess about--are not responsible for doubling our life expectancy and
improving our general health! What is responsible? Leonard Sagan
(1990) says it is the affection and security associated with the modern
family compared to the hard rural life 200 years ago. Good health
involves learning to be self-responsible, to use knowledge, and to be
optimistic about controlling your life. Good health is as much a
psychological achievement as a medical one. And the family is
instrumental in our psychological development. In contrast with the
high stress popular magazines constantly write about, modern living,
without the threat of wild animals or raiding parties and without
families of 10 to 15 (plus 2 or 3 deaths in infancy or childhood), is
surely less scary than it used to be. Still each child needs lots of love
and attention. In general, small, stable families who want a baby
provide more care. But, while our society attends to acid rain, the
Spotted Owl, chicken manure in Arkansas rivers, etc., it does little or
nothing to improve the psychological-emotional environment within
our homes, which is critical to our health and adjustment. Did you
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