Sep 12 2010

Women were expected to “dress for success” even while they waxed floors.

From the Literary Digest, October 16, 1926

You don’t hear, at least I haven’t heard, many people using the terms dysfunctional families anymore. It just seems the tide has turned away from the self-analysis, introspection and self-help that were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Now, it appears people look to diagnoses from doctors and filling perscriptions for feelings of inadequacy or depression. I see this as sad, because I know how much self-help from facilitators like Louise Hay and John Bradshaw helped me as they did many people across the country during the self-help years of the 1980s.

When I try to figure out what is the difference between the 1980s and now, I factor in the growing influence of computers in our lives. It looks to me that we often tend to isolate our interactions to those with whom we can electronically communicate. A quick soundbite or Tweet is immediate, but it also may limit our need to reach out for contact with actual human beings. It satisfies keeping in touch in a cursory manner, but as it puts the get in touch “check in the block,” it does not fulfill the need for face to face interaction. We give and receive so much from each other when we visit in person. As the tide seems to have turned from self-help to seeking professional medical help, it looks like we are not reaching out for our associate’s insights like we used to.

It seems many people are on computers holding down jobs in a workplace or otherwise producing income streams for the better part of the day. That’s a great number of hours spent interacting with an unfeeling cyberworld rather than with families, friends and neighbors. And, when one figures in the additional leisure hours spent isolated in front of the television, even when in the company of others, it is easy to see we are not bonding with people whose companionship we would otherwise share.

Having thought about it for a while, I’ve decided we are increasingly tending to disconnect from our fellow humans and are shutting ourselves down to those around us. We either wear false smiles or are not available to our friends and families while we isolate to suffer by ourselves. We often face the glow of the computer screen, doing work, we say, while really using the computer to mask our sadness.

In some ways, I find our lack of human interaction today as bad as when I was growing up in the 1950s.  Then, the code of behavior was clearly spelled out for each individual and no one dared admitting they didn’t, or would rather not, fit in the system. At least it seemed that way in my neighborhood.

We really did have the June and Ward Clevers, neighbors like the parents in the Leave it to Beaver television show, living up and down the block. I can remember that their houses always appeared in order and delightfully so when I would visit. Were the women back then into keeping house, working non-stop on being immaculate in their housekeeping and appearance to hide their sadness? I don’t remember people discussing feelings, reading self-help books or freely letting feelings show.

Maybe, that’s somewhat like today. The rigid codes of behavior have greatly lessened, but are we isolating on the computer to deny healthy personal interactions? Does that glowing screen and our back to the room replace June Cleaver’s pearl earrings and necklace?

If you are too young to remember the Leave It to Beaver show on TV, click play:

Notice how Ward Cleaver reacts when June tells him her sister had a baby girl rather than a baby boy. Can you imagine the message to all of the little girls watching?



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