Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

What’s Wrong & How To Fix It

Originally posted on March 7, 2013

Of course this title is presumptuous, but it’s a grabber. Really, I don’t claim to address all problems, as the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz movies sang in If I Only Had a Brain: “I would answer every riddle for every individ’le….”

On the other hand, I do think that a great deal of socio-psycho-pathology—minor stuff, people being foolish with each other—I’m not talking about major mental illness—has to do with several themes:
    1. Common cultural assumptions that disguise childish attitudes of unrealistic expectation and entitlements.
    2. Common illusions that are not recognized as illusions and taken as real. These have to do with the sense of self as unified, the sense that one is primarily conscious, that whatever illusions are operating are trivial—for the most part people are clear-thinking, that we say what we mean, and on and on. Careful examination of all of these and many other suggest the opposite.
    2a. Since it seems as if there are few illusions—well, they wouldn’t be illusions if they seemed like illusions, now, would they?—, there is no great reason to look for or minimize them. There isn’t much need for intellectual humility.
    2b. Intellectual humility is actually too close to being humiliated by teachers and/or tests by not knowing precise facts. People need to restore their self-esteem by assuming they’re okay. Anything that hints at less-than-okay is rejected. This problem in differentiation must be corrected, mainly through a school experience that doesn’t penalize and thus humiliate the lack of knowledge of facts.
  3. Most people really don’t know any better way of working out problems without feeling either humiliated that one may have submitted to the other or ashamed that one had to use near-sadistic brute force to win. There is a primitive belief that people can argue without all the emotional garbage, that it’s a vigorous disagreement between equals. This is so not so in most cases.
      3a. Conscious conflict resolution and negotiation is not taught in the world much and as a field, peacemaking, has only begun to be thought out.
  4. We have not begun to open to the degree that we think and act unconsciously and subconsciously. It’s sort of like our not really believing in germs because they’re invisible.

It will take some time to shift these common beliefs and get a more realistic balance in thinking that recognizes the true nature of depth psychology. Part of this will require a shift in the valuing of people—and self-valuing—not in whether one knows facts to gumption, willingness to keep going. We need to reduce shame—direct or indirect—as a toxic agent and instrument of motivation in school and childhood sports by at least 2/3!

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