In my travelling and daily activities I often run into ideas, rules, measures that are developed only to decrease anxiety or fear. Look around, read the Internet or newspaper, or watch TV: the world seems to have become a scary place, right?
Economic disaster is slowly creeping forward. Detroit, once home of the world’s biggest car industry, just went bankrupt, terrorists can strike anywhere, anytime, even in Norway. The police in Iceland killed its first offender, global human interference causes changes in the climate and the weather with disastrous results. We even have earthquakes in Holland. No wonder that more and more people lose trust in everything and start to feel more uncomfortable than ever. We have become afraid, very afraid…..
Am I exaggerating? Well, look at the statistics in Europe. There is a shift of the disease burden from physical disease to mental problems and limited mental functioning. I know the numbers in this country, a relatively quiet country with a population of 16.6 million, and disregard the persons under 10 years old and over 75 years old. Hold on to your chair:
• 850.000 people suffer from depression (around 6-7%)
• 8% of the population is alcoholic (800 people die from it each year directly and 1500 indirectly due to accidents caused by the use of alcohol)
• 1.7 million people suffer from anxiety disorders
• 20% of the Dutch people are smoking still
• 10% of the population is taking sleeping-pills
• 12% of the population will suffer a burnout during their working career
• around 15 % of the population smokes cannabis
• 1 million people run, swim, bike or fitness their discomfort away
• considering the growing epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome, around the same number are eating their discomfort away.
Are we as happy as we always pretend to be? Clearly not, otherwise we did not need these measures to rebalance our wellbeing with exogenous or endogenous chemicals.
What are the reasons for this? I am a simple coach who observes his environment and thinks about it.
Maybe a reason could be that we lost the way to fulfill our sense of belonging since everywhere we see: YOUtube, MYspace, Iphone, SELF-development. And the youngest generations having the feeling that the world is turning around them and that they only have rights and no duties or responsibilities to society. The downfall of community-feeling, the empty churches, or bowling alleys, (read: “Bowling alone” by Robert Putnam). We are more than ever and feeling lonelier than ever before. We do not stand up against injustice, we are afraid to lose our jobs or our status doing that, no that was something for hippies in the sixties, or the nuts from Occupy. No, we were taught only to stand up when our own interest is in danger.
We learned not to trust the Church. Recently this institution that was based on our trust and belief, turned out to be the largest pedophiliac network and these crimes were practically unpunished. We learned that banks are no longer there to create wealth and security for society as a whole, but just do that for a few ruthless bankers at the top, at the expense of all of us. Politicians makes us laugh about their vain attempts to restore trust. Less and less voters turn up at the ballot boxes, a clear sign, since also here self-interest dominates their behavior.
Again, I am not politically left or right or socialist, democrat, or liberal. These are ideas which have outlived their use. We can find good and bad ideas anywhere and on any side.
Anxiety and fear penetrated every level of society and every aspect of our lives. We have insurances, and we made laws, rules, regulations, certifications, protocols, etc. Based on a basic lack of trust, that’s why there are so many rules. Yes, there will always be people trying to escape the rules but on a daily basis we feel the paradoxical effect by making new and stricter rules for everybody. So basically one is generalizing and punishing the people who obey the rules, to limit the people who do not, but these people will always find a new way anyway. Now we call that collateral damage.
But how are we coaches, are we good role models in this aspect?
Take our workouts: many athletes are overloaded, overtrained or injured (or coming back from or on their way to injury). Why? We are more afraid to do too little, but by doing so, we neglect the risk of overload.
We tend to be control freaks, trying to get and keep control over our own environment and our athlete’s . And this may sound strange coming from my side, we also like to monitor as many factors as possible to control the training process, hoping that more data will give us more control (which clearly isn’t the case!). If 5 years back to back your athlete does not improve, you’d better ask the question what YOU are doing wrong. But as described above, the tendency to protect ourselves and when encountering a mistake, an error or something that is not going well, we learned to look outside first (the ”others”) , instead of inside.
Well, here are the basic well known ideas, and the real challenge: acting on it.
• make mistakes, but only once
• don’t be afraid to help others
• don’t be afraid to ask for help/advice yourself
• ask others you see struggling, if they need your help
• don’t be afraid to lose your job, if you are as good as you think, you will always find a new job, there is always a need for quality people
• never accept the dominance of the narrow-minded, the ignorant, the psychopath, the fundamentalist, the selfish, the envious, even if they are in power