October 15, 2004
October 15, 2004


The basic attitude that a person holds determines what type of behavior that society can expect. Attitude is comprised of ones belief system, goals, and values. Attitudes, also, adjust ones emotional reactions.

If life is not worth living, one might expect the person to become asocial, suicidal, or a terrorist. The behaviors are based on this depressed state of mind. The path taken will be determined by current events specific to that individual.

If marriage is sacred until death do them part, then, a spouse might endure bumpy or even dangerous events that outsiders find inexplicable to maintain. If, instead, one has the concept that when love runs out, so does the marriage, then divorce is the choice. Occasionally an individual will have conflicting attitudes. From a religious viewpoint, the sacred marriage and its attendant behaviors follow, but the second alternative advanced by current cultural mores that one does not need to live in a loveless marriage opposes the primarily held value/attitude. Those unaware of the conflicting messages develop anxieties. These anxieties can trigger unexpected panic attacks. Seemingly the panic attacks appear to surface inexplicably and therefore, the individual becomes fearful of the body apparently terrorizing itself. Then, the panic attacks become more frequent.

There is a complicating factor in marriage and that happens when the ego needs are not met by the partner, the attitude concerning the commitment becomes skewed. When the individual is in danger of developing or has already developed life threatening stress reactions, one has to choose whether the obligation to ones partner or to ones self has the greatest priority. Staying with a mate coerced by ones attitude rather than allowing ones self to honor a commitment to oneself can lead to anger, resentment, or worse, rather than freeing the will to maintain the human needs which will maintain a balance of happiness and kindness. (Therefore attitude can be a very complicated issue.)

If there is a death in the family, the attitude towards death determines much of how the bereavement is handled. If the stages of bereavement is understood, then the initial attitude is cushioned. A movie about three widows and how each handled their loss clearly delineates attitude controlling behavior. One kept the grieving to herself and frantically tried to replace the pain with indiscriminate suitors. Her attitude was plainly that her grief was a private concern. Another could not let go of the pain and had a heart attack. Her attitude was that her husband was the only one in her life; there could be no other. The third woman’s attitude was that while she had lost a significant person, she was still alive and was open to both pain and love, therefore, she allowed herself to grieve and to love again.

While attitude determines ones actions and emotions, teens have a unique component of surging unpredictable hormones which act as a monkey wrench thrown into the mix. This is why the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) of mental health professionals do not consider their weird reactions as definite mental disease, but aberrations that can and probably will expire when the hormonal system stabilizes.

Teens strongly feel a concern about what other peers believe (which is attitude) in order to fit into the crowd. This is a necessary part of socialization, but can be potentially dangerous, as adults know, and can lead them down antisocial or misguided paths. An open accepting attitude on the part of the adult will allow the youth to confide in the parent for guidance. Providing the teen with specific factual knowledge allows the teen the freedom to arrive at an informed decision. Since the young adult is making an inner-directed choice (choice is an attitude), it contributes to the maturity and confidence to become a successful adult.

Attitude guides every behavior so that the direction is predictable. I once read an analogy that I often use: Attitude is the hub of a wheel. The spokes are the many behaviors stemming from that attitude. Therefore, the rim takes you in the direction/goal of the entire wheel. For this reason, attitudinal changes create rapid behavioral revisions.

However another analogy will possibly clarify what I mean by the significance of changing an attitude to bring about a permanent result: The metamorphosis will be as complete and predictable as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

However, individuals often have many conflicting attitudes which need to be sorted out, prioritized and then a plan of action for the best results may occur. Since the attitudes become knotted as tightly as a thin chain this is not an easy task. Anyone who has tried to undo a knotted thin chain knows how difficult it is to get a smooth result and that goes quadruply for those emotionally chained to a seemingly undoable situation.

What one needs to remember in those trying times, is that there is help, but it is seldom obtained without someone feeling hurt, at least for a short period of time. Just as the grieving widow needed to externalize her grief, but still leave herself open to living, one must follow her balancing act and learn how to accept unconditional loving towards oneself and humanity.