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Welcome to CombatCounselor Chronicle, an E-zine dedicated to giving you the most current, pertinent information on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based CBT available.

Chris Sorrentino, a.k.a CombatCounselor, is a leader and expert in cognitive behavioral therapy. He combines 30 years of experience in psychology with the discipline from having served as a U.S. Air Force officer for 20 years, 4 of those in combat zones, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2005.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Social Dystrophy™: Are Technology or Values to Blame?

Would "Social Dystrophy" be an appropriate term for the lack of social skills endemic in today's population? I came up with the term “social dystrophy” while exercising at the YMCA last week, having experienced more then the usual number of rude and obnoxious people that day. I cannot take credit for coining it because somebody already created a website,, having apparently had similar experiences with humans.

According to, “dystrophy” can be defined as “faulty or inadequate development” faulty or inadequate nutrition or development”. Dystrophy would then imply that there were some social skills in the first place, which may not necessarily be the case and may eliminate the term as an appropriate label for what we are experiencing. I may be generalizing, and I know there are many pitfalls in that and there are many socially adept people out there, young and old, but the problem seems to be getting worse and worse with the advent of new communication technologies (being invented almost daily). Let me elaborate and provide some poignant examples as well as potential solutions.

I was at the market the other day looking for my rewards card before placing my items on the conveyor (there was no line when I arrived and few customers in sight). Before I had a chance to hand my card to the cashier, some middle aged guy rushes up and starts putting his shopping items on the conveyor. As they whizzed past me on their way to the cashier, I looked back and politely asked "would it be OK if I continued to put my items on the conveyor and finish checkout?" while the cashier looked on in dismay. The man, who was accompanied by his teenage son, glared at me defiantly and stated "I didn't turn the conveyor on!" Really? Is that an answer or any kind of excuse for being rude and in such a hurry that you cannot wait until I complete a simple task? Dumbfounded by his ridiculous answer, I politely asked if he would remove his things so I could continue with my shopping, but his reply cannot can be repeated here, cursing and insisting that I was being rude simply because I wanted to continue my shopping without having to move his out of the way. Let me just say that the situation deteriorated from there with the man using profanity and insulting my character…what an excellent role model for his teenage son!

Then there are the people at the gym who turn the fans around the cardiovascular equipment on without bothering to ask the people who have been there for some time, and do not like the fan blowing on us, if we would mind if they “turned the fan on”. How difficult would it be to say, “excuse me, can I turn this on? Too difficult, obviously, for a social misfit who does not care about anybody but him or herself or does not have the social skills or training to communicate with other humans.

Still at the gym, there are the people, usually young, who barge past us in the locker room on their way to a locker they just cannot live without. Many times there are areas of the locker room totally empty and available, but they NEED THAT locker, cannot wait a few minutes until we are done, or do not have the skills or inclination to say "excuse me". Is that really so difficult?

Then there is the guy in his BMW that lays on his horn when I have the nerve to continue in the lane that I was traveling in after leaving a stop light. If he had not been too busy talking on his cellphone, he would have been cognizant of which lane was his and where he should have been driving. Instead, he thinks I am the moron when in fact he should have been ticketed for an illegal lane change, aggressive driving, and disturbing the peace.

I could go on and on and experience numerous instances like those above DAILY! Really? Daily? Yes, DAILY! Well, why is this happening daily and why does it seem to be getting worse as time goes on? In this reporter’s opinion, technology and a lack of clear core values are at the root of the problem.

Technology has grown so quickly and become so engrained in our culture, our lives, that we “think” we cannot live without it. How many times have you seen a car swerving all over the road, only to catch up to the driver and find them chatting or texting on their cellphone? If you live in any metropolitan area, or anywhere else for that matter, you see it all the time. Everywhere you go people young and old are talking on the phone or texting their friends about some inane subject, completely oblivious to what is happening around them or considering what affect their behavior may have on others. They simply do not care! It has gotten to such an extreme that people are texting the person standing next to them or in the same room! C’mon folks, is it really that demanding or difficult to look someone in the eye, open your mouth, and emit the words it takes so long to “thumb” on your smartphone (a misnomer).

The ability of humans to communicate is slowly deteriorating because of technology. Whether it is cellphones or computers, the internet or email, laptops or iPads – you name it – technology has made us (yes, I am not immune) not only more productive, but lazy! Before cellphones, computers, and the internet became commonplace, which was not all that long ago, people waited until they returned home to call a friend or even write a letter which may have taken several days to arrive once posted, and everybody seemed to be a lot happier, a lot less stressed than we are today. If technology and human behavior continue at this pace, the ability to communicate verbally, face to face, making eye contact and the whole shebang, is going to become a thing of the past. It is quickly becoming clear, particularly in the younger generations who have grown up with these technologies, that human communication is deteriorating rapidly and we should all be very concerned about that dilemma.

Finally, I believe it is a loss of focus on or undefined core values that can account for much of the self-centered behavior we see daily. The world in general and our country specifically, politically, corporately and personally, has lost touch with what is important to us – our values. I see it day in and day out in my practice, when I ask a client to tell me what they value, they look at me like I have a penis growing out of my forehead. “My values? What do you mean exactly?” When I explain what values are, they routinely come up with “my family” or “my job”, still not quite grasping the concept.

Values, according to Encarta Dictionary, are “the accepted principles or standards of a person or group”. They define what we are about and, if clear and well defined, help us act in a moral, ethical, or legal way when presented with novel or familiar situations. That sounds pretty important! But few people can tell me what their values are and that is pretty scary. It is no wonder that people are running around thinking of little but themselves when they have no moral, ethical, or legal map to help get where they are going. That is why the world and our nation are in crisis, financial and otherwise, at this moment and it is also why people do not care about anybody but themselves.

Put down the phone, clarify your values (what is important to you), look people in the eye when you speak to them, treat people with dignity and respect, and act on your values...even if you are having a bad day, or are anxious or selfless, not selfish and the world will be a better place to live.

More on values in a future post…

Key Words: social, dystrophy, values, value, core, inept, incompetent, CombatCounselor, combat, counselor, psychology, therapy, CBT, ignorant, ignorance, SocialDystrophy, technology, phone, text

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