A few years ago, I used to feel there was a dichotomy between my roles as psychotherapist and social activist. Increasingly, I am coming to see where they converge, as many of our personal difficulties mirror social problems and many social and economic problems are reflected in our emotional symptoms.
Interestingly, what I have also found with my clients, is that those people heal their emotional wounds much more quickly to the extent that they are willing to stand up for social values they believe in and see their lives not solely from a personal viewpoint – what do I want; what’s in it for me? – but who also experience being part of a larger whole and needing in some way, to live in a way that contributes to this larger whole of life. In other words, if many of our personal problems revolve around our not experiencing enough “meaning” in our lives (as when we subscribe to society’s diminishing description of us as mere “consumers” (Yuk!)), I have found that the more we commit ourselves to, as Gandhi would put it, being “the change we want to see happen”, i.e., trying to actually embody the values we believe in in how we live our daily lives, the happier we feel.
Why? Because it gets us out of being so overly identified with our little egos, where true meaning is not to be felt. I’m not saying ego is bad. We all need some ego. The problem emerges when we think that the ego viewpoint is all of us and that we are nothing more than the images our egos tell us we are. This is why if we wish to heal ourselves, we need to find ways to embrace higher states of consciousness or, as I argued in my recent book, open our hearts. Too much traditional psychotherapy is simply about re-arranging the furniture in our prison cells and this gets us nowhere. The name of the therapy game has to be to lift ourselves out of our prisons, so we can become more who we really are. My favourite quote of the moment is one by Jean Huston, namely, “We are all born Stradivariuses but raised to believe we are plastic fiddles”. When we stop believing this, our world will change. Most of those men – because , let’s face it, they are mainly men – who are into power and fame and disrupting our ecosystem in the name of making more and more and more money – are basically men who deep down, feel plastic fiddle like. If we don’t know how to be – how to celebrate the beauty and richness all around us – we need to possess and have more and more things.
If a man doesn’t know how to love a woman, that is, unite with her, he’s gonna try and possess her… The chains that incarcerate our world are both outer – political, economic and social – and inner, the beliefs we have about ourselves. Our challenge is to free ourselves at many levels…