Attitude adjustment, belief and change: An inside job

attitude, belief, change

One person’s story

I worked with a man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He had a long history with the mental health system and had been used to being treated as “just another case”. He did not feel respected or valued. He admitted that he felt hopeless and could “never have anything”.

Our program was a little different from a lot of other programs. We worked one on one with people in the community, not expecting them to come into the program but going out to wherever they were.

As we worked together, over time, this man started to become more optimistic. He began to have some hope for the future. He was still poor and housed in a rundown board and care but he was happier.

He had said initially that he wanted a computer more than anything else so he could “get things done”. His willingness to go along with the staff to go shopping made it possible for the program to buy him a used laptop. His beliefs that he would always be treated disrespectfully and could “never have anything” were fundamentally changed. This was only due to the fact that he made a small shift in his attitude to allow himself to be helped.

This man eventually went on to give speeches to other providers and clients about his experiences in the mental health system. He became an advocate for fundamental change in how mental health providers work with clients. He had many setbacks but, for as long as I knew him, he never lost his hope that things could get better.

Foundational beliefs

Beliefs are fundamental to who we are. We conduct our lives based upon what we believe in. Of course this works great when our beliefs can lead to thoughts and actions that get us to some place we want to be. It does not work well when our beliefs lead to negative outcomes.

In addition, our beliefs may not be congruent or useful as we age. Some of the beliefs that suited us well when we were 20 can be as unbecoming as a mini dress at 60. We have to adapt and change as our circumstances do especially if we are unhappy about how things have turned out for us.

Attitude for belief change

Usually our first thought is that to change we have to change our circumstances. It’s easier to see things as an outside job. But really, we can’t change things unless we change our attitude. It really is amazing how this works.

There is a paradox here however because, most often, when we change our attitude the circumstances do not change right away. The difficulty is in maintaining the belief that things can change but accepting that it will not be on our schedule. A true change in belief is accomplished by maintaining a good attitude in the face of obstacles when there may be no change in circumstances at all. As we continue to maintain a positive outlook we are then open to the possibilities for change that we would have been closed to otherwise.

How can we keep on track?

To maintain a positive attitude in the midst of experiencing setbacks requires work on our part. Starting the day with meditation, setting an intention, creating our own unique daily affirmation and taking time throughout the day to be mindful or grateful are all great ways to maintain our faith in change. Sometimes we also need the assistance of someone else who can be in our corner to keep us on track like a friend, coach, therapist or spiritual counselor.

To summarize…

We can do little things that add up to big changes if we stay joyfully focused on the possibilities even when things do not go our way.

High on the Playa: Burning Man and Drug Use, Part I

Burning Man 2014 main burn

Burning Man is over for another year but many of us will remain enthralled with the continued media coverage of the event. As the photos and videos roll out and the stories are told we get a small taste of what goes on there and the fun we may have missed. While there are aspects that hold our interest such as the art, attire and camaraderie, we may also be curious about the drug culture at Burning Man.

Now that another man has been burned and everyone is heading back to their regular lives I thought it might be interesting to try to get an idea about the substances people may have used to heighten their experiences during their stay in Black Rock City. Information, might I say, is not easy to come by and is by no means definitive. While large cities put together reports gleaned from several sources to try to get a handle on what kind of drugs people are using and getting in trouble with, small towns usually don’t have the resources and personnel to do the same. Black Rock City is an even more special case because it exists for a brief period each year and then disappears until the following year. However, despite the obstacles there are a number of sources, both governmental and anecdotal, that can help to elucidate the specifics of drug use at the event. Here goes.

Black Rock City Drug and Alcohol Policy

The Black Rock City Survival Guide has a drug and alcohol policy. It can be found here. It goes into detail regarding the laws related to what is defined as trafficking and possession. Specific to trafficking, it alerts participants to the presence of undercover officers and advises that the practice of “gifting” can also be viewed as trafficking by law enforcement. It explicitly states that the use of medical marijuana is not legal in the state of Nevada.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Report

Burning Man Event Law Enforcement Activity Summary (2010 - 2013)

YearBlack Rock City Pop.BLM Operation
(# of Officers)
BLM LE Actions
BLM Officer/Participant Ratio
201051,51551293 (158 drug) / 9 1 per 1,010
201153,73551376 (218 drug) / 8 1 per 1,053
201252,385 70365 (253 drug) / 14 1 per 748
201369,613 70433 (309 drug) / 6 1 per 994

Table 1.1

As can be seen from the table, although the population of Black Rock City increased 35% from 2010 to 2014, the number of drug citations increased by almost 96%. This cannot be accounted for by the small increase in the ratio of law enforcement officers to participants. Either one or both of the following assumptions could be made: law enforcement is more aggressively citing participants or more participants are bringing themselves to the attention of law enforcement by their behavior.

Lawyers for Burners

According to, Lawyers for Burners, the BLM has shifted its drug enforcement efforts from inside the event to the entrance road into the event and Gate road just inside the event. They report that in 2013 about 85% of people contacting Lawyers for Burners received citations while on the way into Black Rock City.

Lawyers for Burners also report that, from the information they received from the BLM for 2012, 253 of 365 citations were drug-related (as can also be seen in Table 1), close to 70% of the total. Most of these citations were for small amounts of marijuana. There were 11 citations/arrests for distribution/trafficking of drugs.

In Part II

In the elusive quest to get an idea of what substances people are using in Black Rock City there remain some other aspects to explore. Some people are still recovering from Burning Man 2014 for better or worse so the picture is far from complete. The powers that be are beginning to pull together their 2014 statistics for public consumption. In addition, other avenues of inquiry will be examined in the next post. These include anecdotal reports, Pershing county/BLM citation/arrest records for 2014, alcohol use at the event and reports of arrests for drug trafficking on the way to the event.

A Note

By no means should this informational pursuit be construed as an indictment of the drug culture. People have always used substances including one of the most dangerous intoxicants, alcohol. If one chooses to use a drug, knowing what one is using and how to use it safely is very important; it can make a big difference in how one survives on the playa.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

1. United States. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). (2014, March 31) Law enforcement activity statistics for the Burning Man event, 2010-2013. Retrieved September 8, 2014 from,