Natural Processes Replaced by Hasty Remedies by Leon Paterson
In this short essay we will explore how our natural responses to managing our problems are being avoided and overruled. Instead replaced by quick fix answers that avoid any kind of useful managing of feelings. Through a number of examples I will demonstrate the potential risks of solution based approaches. And how we can never come up with a satisfactory solution without fully understanding the problem.
We now live in a world where quick fixes and solution based approaches have become the norm. We seem to expect instant, universal, ready made answers to all our problems. Our unique needs and requirements obscured by the collectivised din of a shared culture.
And that culture dictates to us the sorts of responses that are appropriate to our problems. All around the UK there are professional counsellors being trained in solution based therapy. This approach was first popularised in the 1960’s as a response to the psychoanalytic movement. Inspired by the radical and innovative hypnotherapist Milton Erickson.
Solution based approaches work in a more direct way by focusing on change directly. However this approach is radically different from Erickson’s as he took the time to investigate the background and nature of people’s issues. In contrast solution based approaches spend little time investigating the problem and go for the solution directly.
The reason this becomes so problematic is without understanding how a problem works, there can be no accurate solution. President Trump’s recent decision to build an American embassy in Jerusalem as a solution to Israel/Palestine conflict is an example of this. The day the embassy opened over 100 Palestines were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers.
Clearly the current American administration have very little understanding as to the nature of the problems between these two nations. A similar thing happens in meditation/therapy rooms all over the country where a one size fits all mindfulness based cognitive therapy approach is prioritised.
The current fad in our culture is to use mindfulness/meditation to become less affected and more detached from thoughts and feelings. People are taught to take a passive role in their own experience and observe their thoughts like clouds passing in the sky. They take the observer role and become passengers in their own thinking and feelings.
This means rather than learning how to think, they learn how to detach and avoid. I will now be so bold to express this in metaphor form to demonstrate the ludicrousness of this solution: If somebody keeps cutting themselves because they’re not using a knife in the kitchen properly. Would it be helpful to teach them how to objectify their body so they would disassociate from the pain. Or would you want to provide them with knife handing skills, so they learned how to stop hurting themselves and use a knife safely in the kitchen.
The thought of avoiding feelings by finding strategies for disengaging would have seemed abhorrent to philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard. In his view the challenge is not to avoid panicky, fretful feelings but to acknowledge and understand the choice they offer us. Feelings are so important to our everyday wellbeing because before solution, before problem, there is a situation where something has changed to create some sort of upset.
Our dynamic moving through the world sense of flow is disrupted in some way. Attention moves from the world out there to how we manage ourselves. We have been alerted by feelings of discomfort that something isn’t right and needs attended to.
In this situation the ideal thing would be to stay with the feelings, letting them guide you as you explore the upset. Allowing you to more fully understand what the problem is and what you can do about it. But the reaction to get rid of uncomfortable feelings is so accepted within our culture. The move away response so well learned, you’re often moving towards something without fully understanding what you are moving towards or away from.
So it’s simply about getting rid of the so called ‘bad’ feelings. And this may well be part of the reason our society appears to be having a mental health crisis. Our doctors, psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners, with the best intentions, all serve to dehumanise us by disengaging you from your natural processes. Stopping you from using your feelings, alongside your other capacities to safely guide yourself through life.
The lack of trust in the usefulness of our feelings has been over ruled replaced by quick fix ready made answers. Instead of giving you the skills in how to manage your problems and difficulties. The solution based industry, which includes health professionals, is peddling avoidance and detachment, whilst keeping your culture in an balanced stasis of crisis and concern.
You can hear Leon talk and take part in a free workshop at the event on the 27th of June 2018 at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh