The Final Information for Fixing Individuals-Issues: Trace, All Issues Are Individuals-Issues
Nobody needs to tell you that we are facing a multitude of problems in the world today, from the global coronavirus pandemic to global warming. increasing anxiety and depression leading to a collapsing economy; Racism and Police Violence to Divorce and Domestic Violence. Think of every problem that needs to be solved and you will find human problems.
In an article titled “Our Current View of the World’s Most Urgent Problems,” researchers from Oxford University’s Global Priorities Institute, the Open Philanthropy Project and 80,000 Hours.org offer these top priorities.
- Shaping the development of artificial intelligence positively.
- Build an effective altruism.
- Reduce global catastrophic biological risks.
- Nuclear safety.
- Improving institutional decision-making.
- Addressing Extreme Risks of Climate Change.
We have the technical know-how to solve almost any problem we face. The problems are really human problems. How can people work together in their own interest? Here is my humble suggestion to get us started.
- Recognize yourself.
We cannot solve problems, whether it is a problem in our marriage, a problem in our psyche or a problem in the world, if we do not know ourselves. Trying to solve a problem without knowing ourselves is like planning a trip from here to there without knowing where to start. How can I schedule a course from here to there if I don’t know where I am? Since getting to know each other is a lifelong (and possibly multiple lifetimes) process, as we get to know ourselves better, we get better and solve problems.
- Accept that there is no me.
We tend to think of ourselves as separate beings. We imagine that there is a separate person whom we call myself or me. But the truth is that we don’t exist except in relation to other selves. Even on a desert island alone, there would still be multiple relationships. We all exist in a rich web of other people and other parts of us. I am my parents and the little six year old boy who was afraid of being abandoned. It is an illusion that there is a separate me in the world.
- Do you know whether we see the others we are referring to as you or it?
The philosopher Martin Buber describes two types of human relationships. I-it and I-you. In relation to nature, ourselves and God, I see us as separate. Others are to be used to our advantage. II-You see us as embroiled in a sacred community relationship. Others are to be respected and valued. As Buber says: “Love is the responsibility of an I for a you.”
- Realize that our human roots are in partnership, but we have lived in domination.
We have lived as nomadic hunters and gatherers for over 99% of our human history, but for the past 6,000 to 10,000 years we have lived in what we euphemistically refer to as “civilization”. Hunters and gatherers lived in an I-thou relationship with their entire world. “Indians,” writes Joseph Campbell in “Die Macht des Mythos”, “addressed their whole life as” you “- the trees, the stones, everything. He further suggests:” You can address everything as ‘you’, and when you do that you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego that sees a ‘you’ is not the same ego that sees an ‘it’. “
- Solving human problems is like playing jazz together.
I’ve been a therapist for over 50 years now. When I started, I knew very little about myself or anyone else. I was like a beginning music student playing “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” and receiving the prescribed response from a client, “How I wonder where you are.” For years I’ve felt more like a jazz musician playing complicated riffs that come to mind intuitively. At the beginning, a session felt like walking over a bridge over a stream – very safe, very predictable, and very far from the water of life. For the past few years, I’ve been jumping across the river and jumping from stone to stone without knowing where to jump next until I intuitively make the jump.
- Not all therapists are healers.
I still remember learning from experienced therapists as a PhD student. My student internship was in a psychiatric clinic and we observed a psychiatrist working with a patient through a one-way mirror. We were supposed to see a master at work, and the expert seemed very adept at leading each session. At one point the patient reached out to shake hands with the therapist, but the therapist did not reach back and said simply, “See you next week.”
When we asked the therapist about a reaction that was unnecessarily cold for us, we were told that it was his job to be a blank screen on which the patient would clarify his childhood problems. I thought then and still think that I had a good demonstration from an I-It therapist who wasn’t a true healer.
- Both partners must have skin in the game.
Most therapists, like most people, keep their personal problems private and separate. That’s good to some extent. We don’t want to use the therapeutic session to solve our own problems. We have to do this in our own therapy sessions. But even more than most, I have found that therapists deny their own relationship problems. I know that was true for me. I had been a marriage and family counselor for many years despite going through two marriages and divorces. I felt like a scam. How could I really help others if I couldn’t bring my own relationship life together? Eventually, I turned to help and spent years in therapy, digging even more deeply into how to have a great marriage. My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for over 40 years.
Now I have Skin in the game in all of my sessions. I realize that both my customers and I are at risk. All relationships grow and change, and we must all grow and change with them. Although I focus on my clients, I know that we both learn to love deeply and well.
- Those who work to solve human problems must have a soul in the game.
Having skin in the game means we have to be ready to put something at risk. Like most people, therapists want to stay safe and still reap the benefits of a loving and passionate relationship. But like the trapeze artist, if we are to reach for the bar and grab it that is waiting for us, we have to let go of a bar and risk falling. No risk, no reward.
Those who work people have been our lifework for many years. For me this is not a job, let alone a career. It is my calling. To do it effectively, one has to have relationships with my heart and soul.
From September I will train, certify and supervise 25 problem solvers who feel attracted to this work, as their soul calls it. If you want to learn more, read it here. It’s nice to meet you.
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