Community of Danger

TOO FASTO TO LIVE /TOO YOUNG TO DIE

The one thing we can be certain about is that in our society the absence or dilution of the psychological sense of community…(sense that one was part of a readily available, mutually supportive network of relationships upon which one could depend and as a result of which one did not experience sustained feelings of loneliness)… is the most destructive dynamic in the lives of people in our society.
Seymour Sarason
The Psychological Sense of Community

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SENSE OF COMMUNITY

Lyon(1989) suggests that a good community fosters public safety, has a strong economy, provides health care and educational opportunities, an has an optimum population size. It is clear that the ecosystem in which one lives has a strong influence on one’s ability to develop a balanced and wholesome life. But our ecosystems have been compromised by many factors. Seventy-five percent of Americans now live in cities, and many people experience social isolation in this highly mobile and technological society with its 50 percent divorce rate. People living in the suburbs are no more likely to express satisfaction with their neighborhoods or with the quality of their lives than those living in cities (Adams, 1992). People are looking for relationships that can be characterized as kind and understanding, but it is growing harder and harder to find open and expressive relationships. People’s ties with each other are increasingly fragile, and their bonds with others are being disrupted more often as friends move away or change jobs. There is a basic human need to belong, which includes the need for frequent personal contacts and for bonds with others marked by stability and emotional concern (Baumeiste & Leary, 1995). Unfortunately, an increasing number of people do not have this bond with others in their lives; these socially isolated people tend to be unhappy.

A possible antidote to this crisis can be found in the development of a psychological sense of ommunity. Sarason (1974) originally defined the term “psychological sense of community” to mean a supportive network, a stable structure that one can depend on for psychological significance and identification. Sarason further stated that the psychological sense of community should be the overarching goal of all community interventions. He (1974) believed that achieving a sense of community is one of the majors tasks of life. The absence of this sense of community is one of the most destructive forces in our society, leading to alienation and anonymity.

Community Building: Values for a Sustainable Future, Leonard Jason, 1997, p.71

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