New York City shut down on Sundays up until the 1950’s. Not unlike many other cities across the country, it was commonplace to walk around NY on a Sunday and see nothing but closed stores. Society at large instinctively knew it was good to take a break from the stresses and pace of daily commercial life. In fact, even today you can still find a few businesses ( like Chick Fil A), as well as some cities, that still have laws in place prohibiting business from operating on Sunday.
Instead of commerce, people would go to church to commune with God and their particular spiritual advisor. They got their problems off their chest and shared their dilemmas. At a minimum, they left feeling as if someone was listening to their concerns. Yet, by the 1960’s this tradition had died out and the church was replaced by the New Age movement and the rise of reliance upon psychotherapy to cure our emotional ills.
Although both the church and the psychiatrist’s couch offered people a place to talk about their problems, the differences between the two were profound. The church offered its services for free while psychiatry came with a hefty price tag… at best only partially covered by insurance. So, while the affluent still had a place to go for counsel, those with less financial resources were not so fortunate. Moreover, while the church perceives most problems as spiritual in origin and approaches them on that plane, psychiatry treats most problems on the psychological plane. Psychiatrists attempt to explore the inner workings of the conscious and subconscious minds and, failing resolution, prescribe medication.
Undoubtedly, life is hard as author Scott Peck writes in his book “The Road Less Traveled.” The shift in approach, and the withdrawal from turning to spiritual sources that occurred in the 1950’s, changed how we dealt with issues such as stress and neurosis. Today, the solution is prescription drugs. The FDA, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and pharmacies are the new, sanctioned drug dealers. Insiders at the D.E.A put drug usage for both prescription and non-prescription drugs at a whopping 70% of the population!
We use drugs because we have become so alienated from God and one another that we no longer have anyone to talk to or with. With churches now empty and psychiatry only for the rich… where do the rest of us go for honest and heartfelt counsel?
For men, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that we are taught to be “tough” and “silent.” If not silent, then certainly not expressive of the stress we surely endure in a fast-paced, highly technological society as we daily race to provide for ourselves and our families. For example, if I were to talk to a male friend about the issues I face, I run the risk that he will not only think me weak, but also tell his wife… who may tell a friend. Eventually, my sincere attempt to gain perspective, and perhaps guidance, may be what ultimately harms my reputation and, therefore, my business reputation. I have personally witnessed people under financial pressure who were forced to borrow money in what they believed to be a confidential transaction, only to see the news of their situation spread like wildfire resulting in stress that far outweighed their stress of needing to borrow in the first place! Other men see this happen and, so, they suffer in silence enduring the pressures of day-to-day life with no healthy outlet. Too often this leads to tragic ends such as divorce, alcoholism, drugs, job loss or saddest of all, suicide.
We each have our own challenges. Regardless of gender, there is no substitute for the willing ear (and sometimes shoulder) of a true friend or spiritual advisor. No drug can come close to delivering the compassion and closeness we all seek. Let’s look around and reach out to one another knowing that not one of us gets through life escaping the built-in need to reach down and share our humanity…or periodically ask for Divine guidance.