I just finished reading an excellent article by Columbus, Ohio Psychologist, David Lowenstein, Ph.D., titled "Creating a Strong, Supportive Family". As a father of 4 young children, this topic piqued my interest. However, by the 3rd paragraph, I realized that much of what Dr. Lowenstein writes is a precursor for many teens and young adults winding up in my firm as a client. He brings up some very insightful and valid points that are so basic we may overlook them in our hectic daily lives.
The premise is this: Since the 1950's, America's strong family network has steadily unraveled. The "feeling of belonging and the sense of sustenance that emerges from living with a stable familial support" leads to people who tend to do better in life. Having a feeling of belonging "to something larger, and stronger, than they are individually" is a vital link to an emotionally healthy life. This strong family network, he claims, is slowly eroding and resulting in unhappy, emotionally spent, and depressed people. Self-medication anyone?
He cites that the traditional family of our ancestors took care of each other. Physically, financially and emotionally. Immigrants relied upon their family as did our agricultural ancestors. Dr. Lowenstein believes that
"families today find it more difficult, due to competing demands from the larger world, to spend time together, to feel committed to each other, to communicate with each other, to share spiritual values, and to cope with crises together." However, he has found that some families have seemingly overcome these modern day threats and have a strong and thriving family. What are some of these qualites?
- A Sense of Commitment to the Family
- Showing Appreciation and Building Self-Esteem
- Sharing Positive Communication
- Spending Time Together
The suburbanization of America has made it much easier for family members to move away. Modern transportation has increased the distances between grandparents, cousins, parent-child or siblings. Despite this fact, families that are together tend to allow themselves to be interrupted by TV, cell phones, and computers. The modern convenieces of life have offset the necessities of family. The functions of family (food, shelter, taking care of sick and elderly) which produced emotional health have been usurped by government and America's financial success.
There is a major emotional cost to living in an affluent country. Do we really have it better? Are we happier Americans than the "Greatest Generation" or the generations that came before them? Many researchers and authors argue that we are financially richer, physically healthier but emotionally sicker.
I've found in my practice that poor emotional health tends to result in alcohol abuse, drug use, habit-formation and eventually addiction. Anecdotally, I think Dr. Lowenstein is right on the point.