Linking being a psychotherapist with being an activist

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…

The Times Rich List

Just perused the “Rich List” published every year by the Times and the fact that we have such a list says something about the culture we live in and what obsesses us and we also see that the gap between the rich and the poor has grown much much bigger in the last few years and which I feel is the greatest problem in the world.

Those who often suffer because they have too much of everything and those who suffer because they have nothing of anything. Oxfam tells us that last year, the hundred richest people earned enough to end extreme poverty four times over. Wow! Also the richest 200 people in the world have about $2.7 trillion, which is more than the poorest three and a half billion, who only have about $2.2 trillion combined. Wow! This is not blaming the super rich, very many of whom give away lots of money and do great good in the world, but this great disparity is a reflection of our dysfunctional system which seems to me to be divided between three distinct economies, each of which seems to be governed by different laws.

One economy exists for the super rich, where super expensive art, property, etc. continues to go up and up in price whilst risks are minimal and clever accountants allow one to pay minimal tax. Another exists for middling people like most of us who do pay tax but is inherently insecure, and a whole other economy – or “non-economy” – exists – or fails to exist – for the super poor who have little help from the system and who often live in “sacrifice zones” on the planet and who have no hope on their own of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. It makes me feel very sad.

Perhaps the Times next year should publish a ‘Poor list,’ so we can see the true state of the world, how much poorer people have become the world over, only I guess that wouldn’t be sexy, would it, it wouldn’t sell newspapers and it ain’t something many of us “denialists” like to look at!

Reflection on the Nepalese earthquake

I feel very devastated by this recent Nepalese earthquake and the suffering of those beautiful, noble people, so many of whom in the last war did so much for England and gave their lives for us, and all the aid we’re offering is 5 million pounds. Seems stingy to me. Maybe the government will offer more… I quickly emailed my good friend who lives there, a beautiful priest whom I first met at Kuala Lumpa airport and we’ve been buddies ever since but I haven’t yet heard back and hope and pray he and his family are still alive.

It feels that our planet is so angry with us for all the damage we’ve been doing to it over the years, and the great tragedy is that it always seems to be those who have least and who are poorest, who get most bashed. In Nepal, thousands died because they couldn’t afford to build earthquake proof houses. As I write, the casualty list is over 5,000. I’ve recently come across a new word: extractivist. The world is in the throes of an extractivist mindset, which is an economic model based on believing we can go on removing ever more raw materials from the earth, i.e., a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with our planet. Just as we men can tend to “objectify” women, so can we do – and we indeed do – the same thing to our planet, that is, we use her for what we can get out of her without taking any consideration of her soul. But don’t lets just blame our capitalist system.

Playing the “blame game” never gets one anywhere, and we forget that the same disregard of our planet also happens under socialism and communism. E.g., China’s a huge extractivist polluter and the people there are paying the price with their lungs. Indeed, this whole mindset can be traced way back to Francis Bacon who, in the 1700’s, was credited with convincing Britain’s elites to abandon all notions of the earth as a ‘life-giving mother’ we should respect and reverence, and instead suggested we be her dungeon master. And we’ve been pretty good at that game.

William Derham a clergyman and philosopher followed this up by writing in 1713 that “we can, if need be, ransack the whole globe….travel to the furthest ends of this world, to acquire wealth”. Wham bam thank you ma’am; It’s just what we’ve been doing all those years and now our planet is fighting back!

Update:

Thank goodness! I received an update from my friend and he is okay, but his situation is far from:

We are safe by God’s grace and protection. Well, our present church building is creaked or almost gonna be broke down. Our village churches have no buildings and believers houses have been collapsed. We are in a deep tragedy and morning. Many of our believers have no place to stay and even no foods and medicines. Our government is not reaching those emergency places. Therefore, we need at least 200 tents, the provision foods, medicines too with cash support. Therefore, we would like to request you all to pray with us and help for our victims whatever is possible. Please lets request people to help for our victims and injured people. Anyone can help with prayers whatever. We have been praying and helping people since a few days. We have our non-profit Christian organization which is government registered as NGO.

You can contribute or help directly to this:
Bank Information for Help
Nepal Bangladesh Bank
Bhainsepati, Branch, Lalitpur Nep
AIC:- 004079671S
World Teach Nepal
Swift Code:- NPBBNPKA
Pastor David Kumar Muktan CEO-President-World Teach Nepal