I have been in the business of improving brain functioning for forty years as a Feldenkrais practitioner, creativity trainer and psychotherapist. I am far from alone in being someone who improve human performance. There are millions of Feldenkrais practitioners, Alexander teachers, yoga teachers, psychotherapists, counsellors, EFT practitioners, corporate coaches and meditation teachers.
This is good news. Extremely good news. Because at this juncture in humanity’s long journey we have hit a critical point. Current environmental trends are disastrous, and we have the ever-present possibility of nuclear war. Either we evolve a new kind of global civilisation based on caring, human decency, and environmental preservation, or…
But who is to ‘evolve a new kind of civilisation’? Why, the people who are currently alive, of course, and the next generation.
“Ay, there’s the rub,” said Hamlet. The predominate ways of thinking in our globalised civilisation either make things worse or (in my view) fail to rise to the true magnitude of the challenge.
Our proper goal, for our globalised technological civilisation, is to transition to a society that operates within the planet’s capacity to support us (rather than destroying it), and also promote human well-being.
Achieving this will involve profound changes both in people’s ways of thinking, and also in their emotional functioning. Which brings me to the exciting bit:
Over the last eighty years or so techniques have been developed which rapidly improve people’s mental and emotional functioning. Currently the techniques are only applied sporadically by individual teachers with students or clients who seek them out. Their potential for vastly accelerating healthy cultural evolution is not yet recognised, and indeed, the possibility of cultural evolution itself is barely on the map.
But the techniques exist, and the potential is huge.
I have written a long form article on Catalysing healthy cultural evolution. It indicates ways to act on Donella Meadows’ important insight that the most influential leverage points in any human system are people’s mindsets and goals.
In simple terms – but not simplistic – healthy cultural evolution is about healthy people and healthy communities in a sustainable environment.
Indicatively, thinking through the practicalities of evolving a healthy society takes us into:
- Non-abusive childrearing.
- Giving people tools resolve emotional trauma.
- Choosing to live materially modest lifestyles.
Thinking through the practicalities of acting on this takes us into:
And at a macro-level
- Transitioning to a steady-state economy.
- Changing the social determinants of ill-health (e.g. poverty pockets).
- Winding back the war machines… among other things.
There are many aspects to transitioning to a life-affirming culture, as we might call it. However, there is one fundamental question that can arise: What is the nature of human nature?
Many people have a generalised view that people are selfish and greedy, and only out for themselves. And folks could cite lots of evidence to support this view. And if we think that is the nature of human nature, then perhaps it makes sense for us to give up, even though we ourselves may be generous and caring.
I haven’t given up! Buddhists have long asserted that there is a core of decency in each of us. There is an approach to psychotherapy that asserts this based on modern clinical experience. Along with other techniques, it has huge potential for enabling our society overall to become psychologically healthier.
For decades Internal Family Systems Therapists have investigated people’s descriptions of their inner world. The view that emerges is that we are all comprised of ‘parts’ which act as somewhat autonomous personalities. For example, most of us are aware of an ‘internal critic’ – a voice in the head that chastises us (perhaps you have noticed such a part in yourself? All). We all have many parts. Some are traumatised, some suppress the experience of the trauma, and others (good news!) are creative, playful and innovative.
But there is something else. For many people these parts obscure something deeper, which the IFS folks call the ‘Self’. When the Self emerges into consciousness in a therapy session, people exclaim, “This is not a part – it’s me!”
At root, when we have not been traumatised by abuse, imperialism or ideology, we are goodhearted. And – especially good news – even if we have been traumatised, which is the case for so many of us, at root we are still goodhearted.
Experience suggests that the core Self is never injured. Other parts protect it. And when the core Self emerges, it is centred, caring, compassionate, creative, courageous and connected. When we do the inner work to meet and heal our traumatised parts, we find that the description of being greedy, selfish (and sinful) does not apply to us.
Nor does it inherently apply to other people. Perhaps we all have the capacity to do horribly evil things (I think of the Holocaust, and lynchings, for example), but these are only activated through trauma, brain injury or intense coercion.
Richard Swarts, the founder of Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), gives a clear introduction to IFS in this video: https://youtu.be/Qp1S_cUD-To. It is only about six minutes long.
And if you are interested to see IFS in action, here is a video of an actual IFS session.
The Self has no axe to grind, although it may be passionate about the environment and about social issues. Here are video clips that are examples of people who I think are operating from their Self. There is nothing esoteric about them. They are simply operating as decent human beings.
□ This first one is an interview with a DC police officer who stayed centred when he was dragged into the mob at the Capital January 6, and the terrorists were trying to get his gun.
□ This is a colleague who is passionate about a future where we care for people.
□ In contrast, here is a woman who is also passionate. I think she is not coming from her Self, because she has an axe to grind.
□ Here is a video of Marianne Williamson giving an excoriating analysis of the current economic-political system… but without an axe to grind. At the time she was running for the Democratic nomination for President.
andrewgaines [@] andrewgaines.net