Journal of Organic Psychology /
Natural Attraction Ecology (OP/NAE)
Project NatureConnect Akamai University Institute of Applied Ecopsychology
VOLUME 1, NUMBER 2011-2012 Dr. Michael J. Cohen, Editor
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Einstein’s World: Can Nature Heal a Traumatized Psyche?
- Anonymous Organic Psychology Program Participant
When contemplating how to apply what I learned from Einstein’s World, by Michael J. Cohen, to a real life situation that could have benefited from the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) it brought to mind a few years ago when I volunteered at a public school.
The school was considered an ‘alternative school’ which provided education to children, kindergarten through 12th grade, with psychological and behavior problems. As a result of their psychological and behavior problems the children were deemed to be unsafe in mainstream school settings and a disruption to classroom instruction and learning for other students. The school was also a temporary home to students who were in violation of school district policies and sentenced by school district hearing committees to spend time in an in-school suspension program.
My partner at that time worked as the school administrator. We often discussed my partner’s role in the school and how I felt the policies in place were a deferment to the well-being of the staff and students. My partner expressed to me the school was a ‘last resort’ for these children to get through high school with a diploma so they could become ‘productive citizens’. I was told the school district and state policies were the ‘best alternative’ for their well-being compared to the cruel practices of state mental hospitals of the past. I was also told if these state institutions were still open the children would have inevitably ended up in them without the intervention of ‘caring adults’ to help them succeed in the ‘normal world.’
The school did address the children’s psychological issues by holding individual and group therapy. The school attempted to keep drugs and weapons from entering the school though the use of metal detectors and pat downs. The school implemented a point system that compensated children for their good behavior and punished improper conduct. The school also sent a number of students to workforce programs to assist them in finding suitable jobs after they graduated high school.
When children had behavior disruptions during school they would be sent to time out corners in other teacher’s classroom, isolated and walled off from any contact. Some behavior disturbances were handled by trained and certified adults who would physically restrain children so they would not harm themselves or others. If this failed the child would be locked in a concrete isolation room, a little larger than a closet, until they calmed down. While locked in these rooms children frequently would beat the doors or punch and kick the walls.
The current standard of discipline in some schools enforces the fact that children are never in control of their own lives. They are abused and neglected at home. They in turn go to school and enter into a controlled environment with a list of restrictive rules and punishment/rewards that seek to control them rather than explore ways to involve everyone in the process of improving their community and its behavior and performance.
After decades of research and application of varying strategies to control children and provide proper training for school faculty Western Civilization is still learning about the damaging effects of its policies. The over usage of restraints and isolation, influx of lawsuits, hospitalizations due to physical injuries, and the mental distress and trauma of staff and students is a reflection of why the strategies have and continue to fail. (Mom Logic, 2008; US Department of Education , 2009; Matthew Staver, 2009; Vaznis, J.,2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2010).
In addition to the interaction with children I spent a great deal of time around the school faculty. The school staff dealt with a diversity of challenging personal and job related issues. The school’s employed a full time city police officer. He was later fired for his ongoing negative interaction with children and the improper ‘take down’ of a child. The teacher who supervised children in isolation was fired for an aggressive and harmful interaction with a student. One teacher killed herself. The school therapist was reprimanded and moved around to different jobs by the school district because of her unethical behavior and involvement in cheating on state controlled exams. Other teachers and staff clearly exhibited signs of excessive stress, relationship difficulties, diminished self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, anger, and alcoholism. The product of stress and understaffed schools results in the faculty, at times, reacting from negative emotions rather than modeling positive and supportive behaviors. As a result, these reactive adults even with restraint through alcoholism intervention and group therapy, fail to model the appropriate behaviors they desired to see in students.
Overall both students and staff suffered from decreased time in classes with educational instruction due to time outs and restraint polices. Children were supervised for nearly everything they did in school. This resulted in providing students and staff with a very restricted environment similar to what individuals might experience while in jail. Each time a rule was broken or a child did not comply it resulted in some type of punishment. This approach is unsuccessful because there is an immediate decrease or elimination of the problematic behavior when there is a negative consequence. However, this does not support the student or resolve the behavior itself and may increase the likelihood of future behavior disruptions. (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1994). When faculty is rewarded by a quick result by stopping a behavior it increases the likelihood that the same technique will be utilized when the behavior is exhibited by a future student. During my experiences at the school, if behaviors could not be controlled by school staff new strategies had to be drafted. In some cases behaviors led to ‘zero tolerance’ policies that were applied to the entire school or adopted by the whole school district.
In Einstein’s World, Michael J. Cohen states: “But can nature heal a traumatized psyche? Good medical science respects nature’s regenerative powers. It provides the proper environment and time for nature to heal physical detachments, as only nature can. Unfortunately, when it comes to our psychological selves, we have declined to provide nature the same healing room in an attractive natural area.”
Einstein’s World explains and demonstrates how we could implement the Webstring Model and its processes into our daily lives and institutions. Einstein’s World enables us understand that parents or caregivers, school faculty, and law makers need to work together to restore relationships, a sense of self, and personal well-being. In addition, students should be encouraged and allowed to take part in the process of improving their schools and its rules. As a result, children shift from being just students and become leaders. As leaders they will formulate a community who seeks to fulfill self-empowerment and improve their local and global community. (ERIC, U.S. Department of Education, 1997; Michael J. Cohen, 1998).
By utilizing the Webstring Model and its processes we can reverse our need to ‘have control.’ By learning to be ‘in control’ we would be equipped to discuss and find effective ways to create supportive practices that produce positive effects rather than generate reactive negative emotional and physical consequences. In addition, time and money spent to implement school discipline policies and procedures could be reduced.
In conclusion, the foundation of helping our global community relies on our ability to experience life as other people do. When we experience life through another person’s eyes we gain the ability to be open to them in a non-judgmental way and are able to let go of expectations and preconceived notions of what the person should be. When living from this perspective we can begin to be fully present in our shared experience and connect to one another ‘in the moment’ creating peace and global citizenship.
Abuse in Schools Turns Deadly. (2008, July 15). Retrieved from Mom Logic: http://www.momlogic.com
Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. (2009, May 19). Retrieved from U.S. Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov
Cohen, M. J. (1998). Who Needs to be Educated? Retrieved from Ecopsych.com: http://ecopsych.com/infonews.html
Cohen, M. J. (2010). Chapter 6. In Einstein’s World (p. 4).
Eric, U.S. Department of Education. (1997). RESTORATION THROUGH NATURE:Educational self-esteem activities for reducing drug use and irresponsible relationships in students at risk. Retrieved from Ecopsych.com: http://ecopsych.com/restore.html
Matthew Staver for USA TODAY. (2009). Restraint can dispirit and hurt special-ed students.
Sulzer-Azaroff, B. &. (1994). Achieving educational excellence: Behavior analysis for achieving classroom and schoolwide behavior change. San Marcos, California: Westen Image.
US Department of Education. (2009, July 31). Summary Table of Seclusion and Restraint Statutes, Regulations, Policies and Guidance, by State and Territories. Retrieved from US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/
Vaznis, J. (2009, May 4). Restraining of students questioned. Retrieved from Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com
...Enjoy further information about Organic Psychology and Natural Attraction Ecology:
- Publishable Article<http://www.ecopsych.com/hallucinatearticle.html>
- Process Synopsis<http://www.ecopsych.com/transformation.html>
- Fundamentals <http://www.ecopsych.com/mjcohen22.html>
- Testimonials <http://www.ecopsych.com/testimonials.html>
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