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The Big Answer


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The Temporary Society

a book by Warren G. Bennis and Philip E. Slater

(our site's book review)

As always, Slater is a force against too much mobility and too little commitment or connectedness or rootedness; he also warns against the overstressing of any relationship or system, such as marriage and family. He advocates reducing stresses on families via better social networking and reducing stresses on marriages via more close relationships with others so that the marriage doesn’t take all the pressure.

Slater advises we reduce stresses on marriages via more close relationships with others so that the marriage doesn’t take all the pressure
Slater advises we reduce stresses on marriages via more close relationships with others so that the marriage doesn’t take all the pressure

He notes that when two people try to be everything to each other and fill all of each other’s needs, disaster usually follows, since relationships—societies themselves—simply aren’t designed to cope with such pressures. The attempt to get spouses to fill all of each others’ emotional needs is doomed. Scheduling time with close friends (and even finding such friends in the first place) takes more time than many stressed-out, fast-lane Americans seem to have, so pressures on marriages mount precipitously. But such efforts at the ultimate steep-gradient relationships in which two people are each other’s everything are usually going to cause huge problems that are hard to cope with. Hence the divorce statistics and the abuse-of-people and abuse-of-substances statistics. Slater addresses child-rearing in his usual insightful manner:

Divorce rate in the US from 1935 to 2010
Divorce rate in the US from 1935 to 2010

Child-rearing . . . has never been, throughout history, either a full-time or a one-person task, but the adjunct of an otherwise full life; the mother’s eccentricities have not been [in the past] magnified by constant and intense interaction with the child. The child, meanwhile, has been [in the past] his own hero, not merely the central character in his mother’s drama, and although he may have been pushed to achieve, his achievement was more clearly his own [and not lived through so much by parents].”

The child needs to be her own hero, not merely the central character in her mother’s drama
The child needs to be her own hero, not merely the central character in her mother’s drama


Praise is a bad way of instilling self-esteem—it  produces not self-esteem but dependency; verbally encouraging is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements ('I'm wondering how you felt when you drew that' or 'I appreciate it when you help with dishes')
Praise is a bad way of instilling self-esteem—it produces not self-esteem but dependency; verbally encouraging is bad for kids if it is done with You statements but good for kids if it is done with I statements ("I'm wondering how you felt when you drew that" or "I appreciate it when you help with dishes")

The child’s achievements become trophies the mother (and often the father as well) can display to prove her worth. Such young people end up displaying problems with motivation, identity and ambition, since performing for praise replaces actions done for their own sake and chosen from the child's internal locus of control. These young people were not empowered to be at cause. They are people at effect, and they try to go out in the world and accomplish something but are so used to parental noses in their business that they feel lost and sometimes depressed. They are other-directed and inner-directed, 2 types of Riesman-described conformity. Their other-directed aspect is because parents often act like peers cheering them on rather than parents offering pressure-free encourgement. Their inner-directed aspect is because parental pressures generate superego guilt if the kids don't cave in to it. How in the world will the child detect the whisper of his own will, heart, and desires over the cacophony of parental demands?

How in the world will the child detect the whisper of his own will, heart, and desires over the cacophony of parental demands?
How in the world will the child detect the whisper of his own will, heart, and desires over the cacophony of parental demands?


Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011
Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011

No one had (he died in 2013) more insight into the advantages of flat-gradient nurturance over steep-gradient nurturance than Philip E. Slater. He saw the former creating win-win people and the latter creating win-lose people. He knew that the 21st century needs the win-win type. That is where MCs come in. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match