People of all ages receive more important and helpful advice and information than ever before in human history
about how to be healthy, happy, and have satisfying relationships with others. Yet we still have millions of people
of all ages who start and continue to behave in unhealthy, self-defeating ways, even when they know better. They
often continue to behave in those ways even after having suffered in some way for doing so.
Those ways include, but are not limited to smoking, drinking, using drugs, three big things adults would rather
young people never do. We even have all manner of laws against young people engaging in such things, and
consequences for doing so. Yet we still have millions of young people who do such things, and millions of adults
who often wonder "Why?", especially given the potential outcomes of doing so that so many adults know first
We have an analogous situation regarding education. Teachers are teaching in more effective, researched based
ways than ever before, and accommodating those with special needs more and better than ever before. Yet we
still have way too many young people who function below levels they are capable of, and than we or they would
like them to, and too many dropping out at a time when education is more important than ever. Many ask "Why?"
regarding this phenomena as well.
The answers to the question of "Why?" are always the same. Behavior of any kind starts and continues because it
serves a purpose. It's always goal-orientated. People have to get something out of doing something, or they
would never start, or would stop.
And the more emotion people generate, the more driven they will be to engage in behavior that is intended to
satisfy their "mistaken" goals. For example, the angrier someone makes themselves over what others do, the
more driving they will be to seek revenge, or prove he/she is in control instead of others. The more anxiety,
depression, shame and guilt someone generates, the more driven he/she will be to see relief from things like
alcohol or drugs. The more loneliness someone experiences, the more driven they will be to get the attention,
acceptance, approval or even love of others, and often in less than healthy ways. Finally, the more shame and
anxiety students generate regarding their performances in school, the more driven they will be to seek to avoid
future failure, perhaps by not working, staying home, or even dropping out someday.
If you make a list of all the things we see go "wrong" in young peoples live that negatively impact their readiness,
willingness and ability to learn, you'll find that many are defined by generating a dysfunctional amount of emotion.
For example, anger problems, anxiety disorders and phobias, depression, low self-esteem (which is really a
combination of shame and anxiety). Or, they are things young people do because they generate a dysfunctional
amount of emotion, or to get relief from it. For example, become violent, bully, abuse others, smoke, drink, use
drugs, self-mutilate, eating disorders, or suicide. In a school setting, doing less work, staying home from school, or
|A Dysfunctional Amount of Emotion
We all want to live as long as possible, to be healthy instead of sick, to be happy instead of unhappy, to be
successful rather than fail, to have good relations with others, and as much freedom to do as we'd like, and control
over our own destiny as possible. Those are goals we all have. Ideally, all our energy and efforts would take us
closer to realizing those goals. However, no one does that perfectly or all the time. People often have what
Rudolph Dreikurs called "mistaken" goals that get them off course. They get some short term gratification or
satisfaction in some way, but in doing so, make it less likely that they'll get what they really want in the long run.
Dreikurs observed students in classrooms for many hours and said that when they "misbehave", they more often
than not have one or more of the following "mistaken" goals.
Avoidance of Failure
"Mistaken" because in having those goals and realizing them, they are less likely to get along with teachers and
others students, and less likely to do well in school as they might otherwise want to.
I taught health education for 33 years. Another common mistaken goal is what I like to call
Withdrawal-Avoidance-Relief. So many of the things we talk about and try to prevent in health education (i.e.
smoking, drinking, using drugs) have the "mistaken" goal of trying to withdraw from or avoid some
unpleasantness in life, and get relief from the feelings that go with it. These things do allow people to temporarily
withdraw or avoid unpleasantness, and get relief from feelings they don't like having, but as is well known and
document, doing such things can lead to a host of health, social and legal consequences that making getting all
those other things we all want much less likely. In addition, in young people, starting to smoke, drink, or use drugs
can also have one or more of the other mistaken goals as well. For example, it could be a way to connect with
people (attention), to prove you can do whatever you want (power), or even a way to get back at parents you're
angry at (revenge).
A key point though is that one of the major things that gives purpose to unhealthy, self-defeating behavior is that
people generate what I call a dysfunctional amount of emotion in response to their life events. By dysfunctional I
More than is necessary or helpful
More than they want to have
More than is healthy for them
More than they know what to do with
A type and amount that works against them
instead of for them.
The more emotion they generate, the more purpose unhealthy, self-defeating behavior will serve in their lives. For
example, the more anxiety, depression, shame, guilt and loneliness someone generates, the more purpose alcohol
and drugs for example will serve in helping them get relief, or to withdraw from or avoid the unpleasantness in
their lives about for which they generate such emotions.
It's been often said that in many ways the "War on Drugs" has been a failure. To the extent that's true, it's because
there always has been and continues to be a demand for drugs in this country. And as long as there is, there will
be people who will risk their lives and the lives of other to either create and provide a supply of drugs, or access
that supply. The thing that creates that demand is that drugs continue to serve a purpose in peoples' lives. They
do that because people continue to generate a dysfunctional amount of emotion in response to their life events.
|More Emotion = More Purpose
|More Emotion = More Driven
Given all this, it's only logical that one of the best ways to build true resistance to tobacco, alcohol and drug use, or
to prevent so many other behaviors in young people we don't want to see, including suicide, is to help them
generate a more functional amount of emotion in their lives in response to their life events. Doing so pro-actively,
or after the fact, will reduce the purpose that might be served by starting and continuing to smoke, drink or use
drugs, take one's own life, or engage in any of the many other behaviors we don't want to see them engage in.
They will be less likely to have those "mistaken" goals young people so often adopt, and be less driven to achieve
them if they do.
Teaching them Mental and Emotional Karate, or how to defend themselves against any of the "blows" other people
and life throws at them is the perfect way to help them generate a more functional amount of emotion in response
to their life events. Therefore, it's the perfect way to build true resistance to such things as smoking, drinking and
using drugs, or to prevent suicide and so many other behaviors and the problems that arise from them.
|Mental and Emotional Karate
|Mental and Emotional Vaccination
|We vaccinate young people against all manner of diseases. Teaching them Mental and Emotional Karate, and
giving them the "tools" or "moves" that go with that, can literally serve to "vaccinate" them against engaging in so
many behaviors we don't want them to, and against the problems that so often come with doing so.
Home page A shot in the arm