Posts Tagged ‘American culture’

A study of our academic elite In an Atlantic Monthly article from 2001, “The Organization Kid,” David Brooks writes about going to Princeton University to learn about “what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.”What Brooks found with respect to the over-structured lives of the Princeton undergraduates he spoke to is very close to how I remember my undergraduate classmates at Harvard from 1999 to 2003: I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. No time […]

If you are struggling with anxiety, it may help to know that it is likely in large part the product of particularly American cultural forces. America’s anxiety epidemic The following is taken from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, called “Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives our National Anxiety Epidemic“: Americans lead the world in anxiety. A World Health Organization survey found that 31% of Americans suffer from anxiety at some point in their lifetimes, compared to 25.3% of those in Colombia and 24.6% of those in New Zealand, the countries that rank second and third in rates of anxiety. “[P]eople in developing-world countries such as Nigeria are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans, despite having more basic life-necessities to worry about, ” writes Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. But when […]

As author Taylor Clark argues in a recent Slate article, Americans have a cultural intolerance for bad emotions. “We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them.” Psychologist Steven Hayes says we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be eradicated with medication. This attitude not only ignores the fact that negative emotions are an indelible part of the human condition, but also that negative emotions can be ennobling (when they are unavoidable) — not necessarily a reason to feel shame — and, when we take time to understand them, educational.  The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. – Pema Chödrön Fear, pain — the emotions that Americans too often treat as “bad” — can be our greatest gifts. Fear, says Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, introduces us to all the teaching we’ve ever had. “When things fall apart,” when we lose the security we seek, we can […]