12-Step Program for America: Step 4

By Jim Selman | Bio

Read the rest of the 12-Step Program > Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

We’ve been drawing an analogy between the state of affairs in the governance of our country and the various kinds of addictive conditions we face as individuals. Specifically, we’ve been saying the ‘system’ is broken, we’re out of control and we need to find something larger than the political gridlock driven by special and self-interest groups we’re witnessing in Washington.

In watching the final hours of the healthcare debate, I was heartened when one

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Connecting with Djibouti

A reminder to join Kathryn Mahoney, UNHCR public information officer
in Djibouti, tomorrow for a live Twitter Q&A session. Kathryn is
from New York and has been working in Djibouti assisting and protecting
refugees since May 2009. Send in your questions to her by email ([email protected]) in advance, or if
you use Twitters, send a tweet and add the ‘#askunhcr’ hashtag. In North
America, the event will run:

2 pm EST
1 pm CST
12 noon MST
am PST

Read our post about

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Fleeing to Djibouti: The Life of Somali Refugees

By Shae Hadden

The New York Times reported on March 5th that the U.S. is helping the Somali government prepare to take back Mogadishu. As part of a counterterrorism strategy, this American support may make the country, steeped in anarchy for 20 years, less hospitable for Al Quaeda and Al Shahab and its allies. Young Somali men who have been training for the past few months in neighboring Djibouti,

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12-Step Program for America: Step 3

By Jim Selman | Bio

I have been making the case that our country is trapped in a vicious cycle, analogous to alcoholism or any addictive spiral that inevitably leads to ‘hitting bottom’, and that we need a rigorous ‘recovery’ program. Our Constitutional Democracy cannot work if our founding principles, the Constitution itself , and the institutions responsible for sustaining it are not aligned and functioning as a whole. In the ‘recovery’ literature and all 12-Step programs, the first and primary question to resolve is “Where is the bottom?”  Have we had enough of having enough? Are we ready to acknowledge that the system is broken and we are powerless to fix it? If we are, then we can begin the real journey to recovery.

Many would agree that we are ‘out of control’ (Step 1 of the 12-Step Recovery Program for America). And I propose that we—the people—are the ‘higher power’ that can see what is happening and begin to restore us to sanity (Step 2). The

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12-Step Program for America: Step 2

By Jim Selman | Bio

Anyone familiar with 12 Step programs knows that the literature generally characterizes the ‘ism’ or addiction as a disease of ‘self-centeredness’. This is basically a way of saying that the behavior (that is, the alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) are symptoms—not causes. The nature of the problem is that people become trapped in a ‘self-referential’ relationship with the world, live in various states of denial, and pursue increasingly self-destructive behaviors until they ‘hit bottom’. At that moment, they can begin the process of recovery—assuming they will take the first step—to acknowledge that they are out of control and powerless and that their life is ‘unmanageable’.

I suggest that the relationship between the ego and the individual (the self-centeredness) is similar to the relationship between culture and an organization or society. They are both manifestations of a paradigm that creates self-referentiality. Self-referentiality, in itself, can be useful: it is what allows us to learn from our past experiences and allows us to choose what is meaningful to us. But it can become dangerous—even fatal—when reality changes and we find that

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Experiencing Pain

Women and men experience pain differently. Recent studies reveal that women, when compared to men, experience:

  • more recurrent, severe and longer lasting pain
  • 50% higher rates of pain in head, neck, shoulder, knee and back
  • twice as likely to experience orofacial pain
  • 150% higher rates of migraine headaches
  • 4 times as likely to experience fibromyalgia
  • up to age 65, more likely to experience pain in multiple regions in the body

Men, on the other hand, experience higher rates of multiple painful conditions, including cluster
headaches, coronary heart disease, gout, duodenal
ulcers and pancreatic disease.

Why the differences?

First, our physiology and our sex hormones differ. Scientists don’t know exactly how androgens and estrogens influence how we perceive pain, but they do know that these hormones

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12-Step Program for America: Step 1

By Jim Selman | Bio

I work with organizations that are attempting to change. At the beginning of working with a new client, I point out what’s missing for any organization that has recurring or seemingly intractable problems: what’s missing is a different way of observing. Whether we’re talking about a company, a community or a continent, a new perspective always gives us an opening to create new possibilities, have new choices and take new actions: a new way of observing the world effectively gives us a different future than some variation of ‘more of the same’. =&0=&. When we do, we begin to realize that we have a paradigm problem. Until we deal with that, none of our seemingly intractable problems—from staggering debt to unending war, climate change to the underlying causes of the mortgage crises—can be solved. Albert Einstein expressed this concisely when he said that sometimes our problems cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.

Paradigm problems are like addictions. They are ‘self-referential’ structures that, at some point, disconnect us from a larger ‘reality’. Once disconnected, we begin to follow self-destructive patterns of behavior until we ‘hit bottom’ or have some form of crisis that ‘breaks the paradigm’ and opens possibilities for making other choices. In AA and most ‘recovery’ literature, the self-destructive behavior is understood to be the symptom. The ‘disease’

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