Bob Dylan, the man, has just won a Nobel prize. Hallelujah!
When I work with people in therapy I notice that often, just before they are about to make a big breakthrough – a significant leap to another level – they often have to come face to face with some of the worst things about themselves that are standing in the way. If they can confront and, as it were, embrace or integrate their dark side, then they will move to the next level and if not, they won’t. This process, however, is never easy. It is always painful when one has an image about oneself as being a kind, helpful person only to discover one has a shadow side living inside one that is exactly the opposite! Well, the same thing holds true of the evolution of the larger human collective – humanity as a whole also has a dark side – and so does America and I believe that, as a nation, America is poised on the threshold of making such a leap.
If this is the case, then Trump is absolutely essential to this process and he is offering an enormous gift to the American people generally and to the Republican party specifically. How so? What he is doing is holding up a mirror reflecting everything that is worst about this party – and indeed, worst about ourselves – everything which is low and disgusting and conspiratorial and hatred-filled and which prevents this party moving forward and therefore which badly needs confronting. In an article in today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote: ‘Assuming that Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t…. and his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition…He is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.’ I wonder: will the Republicans have the humility to take this on board? I hope so. There is a character in a Thomas Mann novel that tells us: ‘If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst!’ And there’s a hell of a lot of that ‘worst’ out there today.
And of course Trump not only embodies that worst but incites it. Every day in the news, we are informed about some new transgression of his or some new person he has insulted. It is well known that he is a bully, a sociopath, a narcissist, a misogynist , a racist and a sexual predator, that he is greedy, a liar, a manipulator and a fantasist and conspiracy-theorist, has a highly inflated view of himself, demeans everyone and everything and that his vision of the world is both narrow and negative. He clearly has multiple personality disorders. For me, he embodies every single trait of the immature, weak, insecure, macho-infested, wounded masculinity that characterises the shadow side of a patriarchal mindset that simply has to die, as it has dominated the world for far too long and is the main reason why our planet is so full of violence and chaos today.
Yes, I think Trump not only embodies the Republican party’s dark side but also America’s dark side and even perhaps the dark side of many of us non-American men as well. Certainly, as a result of all his goings on being paraded in the news every day, he is giving all of us the opportunity to perhaps look at some very ugly parts of ourselves. So perhaps we men need to stop projecting our shadow onto Trump, let him off the hook for a moment and instead look inside our own hearts and see if we too might be carrying some facet of Trump-hood inside us. Perhaps we can even be grateful to him for offering us the opportunity to confront aspects of our own selves standing in the way of our being more fully human!
Of course, it is not by chance that Trump’s opponent in the race for President is Hillary Clinton. While she is certainly not without her faults (it is damn hard, believe me, to operate within the system as she has done for thirty years and not be implicated in it to some extent), I believe she nonetheless embodies many of the qualities required not only to lead America in the tough times that lie ahead, but also to assume leadership on the world stage. A lot of the reasons why she is despised is because she is a woman – a woman with power – there is still a strong misogynistic streak in America, even among women. Hillary is the archetypal warrior lady. She’s a fighter. She is highly intelligent and she works damn hard and I respect her tough-heartedness and courage and she is certainly not devoid of tenderness as her detractors like to suggest. OK., her foundation may have received money from one or two dodgy sources, but it was never money she used for her own self-aggrandisement but always for her projects. People forget that all during her life, she has done a lot in many different ways, to help women and oppressed minorities and this requires a lot of love, integrity and commitment. It is tough work. And what’s wrong with being ambitious? I believe she truly wants to change the system, to create a better world with greater equality for all and I trust that she will keep her word and fight to make all the changes in government that she talks about and that it will no longer be business as usual, that is, politicians not keeping their word, but rather, business being done along brand new lines.
At the time I admit I was sad that Bernie Sanders didn’t make it and while I love much of what he stands for, I feel a) that many of his policies will be implemented by Hillary – she’s said she would – and b) that the kind of complex challenges which we face in the world today can best be handled by intelligent warrior women like her as opposed to by old men. The fact that today we are witnessing a whole new raft of these strong women ( Angela Merkel, Teresa May, Nicola Sturgeon) emerging on the world stage, has to be celebrated. This is what the world needs if it is to evolve and heal, namely, the continued emergence of the feminine presence in leadership positions to celebrate the end of the oppressive, backward-looking patriarchy which is everything that Trump represents.
I therefore think it is fantastic that the new US President will be a woman. America is a very fine country. I was privileged to have lived there for over a decade and I am all the better for my experiences, having encountered some of the wisest people on the planet. So when we remember that Jung, who coined the term ‘the Shadow’, told us that ‘the tall mountain casts a long shadow’, we understand why the US shadow is so big and dark. Trump-ism is emerging everywhere not because America is slipping backwards but because the country is moving forward quickly and thus is having to confront all the many skeletons in its closet so that it can continue on its upward journey. For confront these skeletons it must do. There is no way of avoiding this. And what Trump offers is the full monte. Put simply, the world we are moving into today has to transform and move beyond old fuddy-duddy and deluded worldviews. It is not about building walls and denying climate change and waging war against Islam. It is about letting the drawbridges down and honouring climate change and respecting Islam.
As a psychotherapist, I find that if people want to make changes in their lives, they need to see what doesn’t work in their lives and where there might be some part of themselves that is sick or ugly. Often change comes about through experiencing pain and being courageous enough to face dark truths about ourselves. The gift – and I really mean gift – that Donald Trump is giving America is that he is continually holding up a mirror to his country of an aspect of its own wounded, pathological, narcissistic and heartless psyche.
Note I said “an aspect” of its psyche not its whole psyche. There is much about the American character that is also noble, wise and visionary, but Trump represents something that is very, very ugly and by his continuing to remain in the news with all his stupidity and hostility, he is continually reminding his country of this fact and as such is actually doing a very great service. My hope is that Americans will stop projecting their shadow onto him and start taking responsibility by looking inside themselves and recognising certain Trumpian features inside themselves. Viz., the mindset that went to war in Iraq, that is violent, dumb and obsessed with guns. This self reflection is something which the Republican party in particular needs to do. Above all, it needs to ask itself: what has happened to its soul that has made it deviate so far from those noble ideals which initially gave it birth and has thus resulted in its having created this Frankensteinian monster to represent it. Thomas Mann, in one of his novels, made a character say: If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst.
I hope Americans are doing this.
One of the reasons why the press has had such a field day with Tony Blair following the publication of the Chilcot report, is that we love to find fault with people, especially if they are wealthy and famous and have committed some indiscretion. And Blair, who took our country into an illegal war that should never have been fought, features on all three counts. He exaggerated the threat of the WMDs, he went to war even though peaceful options had not been exhausted, and he made no preparations for peace. He tried too hard to please the Americans. He sent men and women into battle ill-equipped. Nearly 250,000 Iraqis got killed and ISIS emerged out of the disbanding of the Iraqi army. Blair also refused to heed the greatest anti-war march our country has ever seen, and as is now well-known, the war was engaged in solely for geopolitical reasons and of course, for Iraq’s oil. If you read Naomi Klein’s extraordinary book The Shock Doctrine, you will see that the real aim was to pummel Iraq to smithereens – to shock the country so badly so that there would be no resistance to the large corporate interests in America taking over.
So of course Blair has a huge amount to answer for. However, this does not explain why he is being so demonised, on top of, a few months ago, also getting pummelled for possessing a multi-million pound real estate portfolio? Why is he so, so reviled?
The main reason is that we really love to have someone to hate, as it makes us feel so much better about ourselves. Our tendency to demonise used to be focused on Saddam Hussein, then it shifted to Osama bin Laden, then the late Jimmy Saville took over the mantle and now it’s old Blair. And it works like this. We all have a dark side, a dimension to us that we don’t know about and don’t like to see and which Carl Jung called “our Shadow”, and it is the opposite to what we primarily identify with about ourselves. In other words, if you and I like to believe we are only generous and selfless, then we’ll probably have a dark, Shadow side to us that is also mean and selfish which we will probably refuse to accept about ourselves.
Thus, in order to stay in the dark about this aspect of ourselves, we look around for people to use as objects onto whom we can project it onto, for then we don’t have to look at what is unpleasant to face inside ourselves. So in Blair’s case, if we don’t want to own the fact that we may be materialistic or greedy (perhaps we think we are only “spiritual” and generous!) then he is a jolly good hook to dump our “stuff” onto! He’s also a great hook for our greed, for our inauthenticity (“Teflon Tony”), our tendency to be fawning (his relationship with Bush), our abuse of power and our grandiosity. And if we can make Blair into the baddie, then it follows that we become the goodie. In other words, when we project what we don’t want to look at in ourselves, onto another – in this case, onto Blair – we can feel purified and self-righteous.
Indeed, I think that Blair probably felt the same vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein who carried his shadow. I think he saw his own dark side in the power-hungry and ruthless dictator and unaware of this, felt that he would be feted as a world saviour if he were only to rid the world of this tyrant. Actually, by waging war against Saddam, he was simply trying to rid himself of his own inner tyrant!
Certainly, I admit that I initially took part in the demonising of Blair. However, if I look closely at myself, I also ask myself how I would have operated if I were in his shoes, and my answer is that if I had no self-knowledge of the inner demons driving me – which Blair obviously didn’t – I might well have made some of his mistakes, for power, we remember, is incredibly corrupting and great power even more so!
Put simply, is there some aspect of a Blair inside me? The answer is yes and I want to start owning this instead of continuing to project what I refuse to look at in myself, onto him. I choose to stop saying “Oh that dreadful Blair and by default, that wonderfully virtuous me!” I wish to do this because I know that the more I can be aware of my own dark side, the more I can work to transform it and in the process become more whole as a person. Blair’s presence helps me do this.
The point I want to make, then, is that those people who reflect aspects of our own dark sides, give us a gift in that they ask us to view the mote in our own eye and so help us stop playing the game of being a pot calling the kettle black. When as a psychotherapist, I work with people to help them become more aware of their Shadow side (repressing it takes up a lot of energy and in extreme cases, can lead to a very delusory self-image) I often ask them to think of someone of their own sex with whom they have a big charge with and see what that charge really is, and then to look back at themselves and ask themselves if what they have been making that person carry, is something that they are denying or don’t want to own. It mostly is.
My point is simply that if we can see what our shadow sides are, then we can do something about them – we can work at integrating them. If we don’t, then we let them control us as was the case with Blair. In other words, had he seen where he was inflated, greedy, distorted by power, narcissistic and messianic, and, deep down, felt impoverished (he had a difficult childhood and was very poor), we would not be in the state we are in today. A hundred and ninety-seven servicemen and women would still be alive and we would not, as a nation, have so disgraced ourselves on the world stage.
QUESTION. ‘Serge, can you comment on the whole Brexit situation?
Well, it ‘s crazy times, isn’t it. This leaving the EU which we’ve been part of for so many years, has resulted in Cameron falling on his sword, a rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn and the possible splitting up of the Labour party, together with our seeing some rather ugly racism rear its head in England. As Lord Hazeltine said on the late-night news: ‘We are facing the greatest constitutional crisis the country has had since the great war.’
For me, who wanted England to stay part of the EU, this break feels such an abrupt one. It’s as if a partner whom you had felt secure with – even though there were always a few ripples of unrest – suddenly tells you that they want a divorce and that life will be much better for you without them. You don’t realise how important and secure-making the relationship was until it is no more. And now everything is up in the air. None of us know, least of all our politicians, where anyone or anything stands and what our ‘exiting’ really involves.
Well, I don’t want to discuss the ins and outs of Brexit. Rather, I want to look at how we deal with crisis, for this is what we are all facing and we’re all affected in one way or another. What will it to do our status abroad? Will our businesses be affected and our pensions? What will happen to the economy, the euro, the pound, etc, etc? What about England’s future? The one thing true at this time is that there’s a hell of a lot of insecurity in the air.
A political or an economic or a social crisis – and this crisis is all three, and I’d also call it a spiritual crisis – is always a personal crisis, which the Chinese have a great word for. Crisis for them is translated as a ‘dangerous opportunity,’ and I think this is exactly what we face. For crises, if they don’t destroy us – and some of them certainly can, although I don’t think this one is quite of that league – can also have the capacity to expand us, if that is, we have the courage to face them and not deny them and take time trying to see what they have to teach or reveal to us.
As a psychotherapist, I work with a lot of people going through crises, which are generally around themes of loss – loss of a loved one, loss of one’s job, loss of health, etc – and once I’ve helped them deal with the shock effect and our tendency to want to deny things that are unpleasant (most crises hit us out of the blue – we aren’t expecting them), I try to make them see that there is always a positive side.
Often, then, a crisis can be a blessing in disguise. Could this be one? Could all the heartache and anger and confusion and uncertainty in the air today, be pointing us in a new, positive direction? I would like to hope so, if that is, we can all invest our energy into positively musing what could be – what could potentially lie ahead – as opposed to lamenting what we feel we’ve lost.
There’s a great line in the poem Morte d’Arthur by Alfred Lord Tennyson. ‘The old order changeth yielding place to new’ and certainly the ‘old order’ is changing in England. And very quickly. It is no longer a question of left versus right. Things are becoming much, much subtler.
Indeed, our world as a whole in the last decade has become much more transparent, and today many more of us are much more wise to the fact that not only are many of our politicians not giving us what we want but also that many of our institutions are becoming increasingly dysfunctional. This in America, has certainly been responsible for the rise of the two ‘populist Washington outsiders’, Trump and Bernie Sanders.
The truth is that there is a lot wrong with how the EU operates today. It started with a wonderful vision but has got bogged down over the decades with the result that much of its original fire and enthusiasm has become compromised. Basically, the EU needs to evolve. Just like the UN (see its abysmal failure to deal with Syria), it needs to move to a higher level, become more integrated, more open, more functional, more able to deal with the needs of parts in the light of what is required for the larger European community, thinking also of what is best for the world as a whole.
My perception is that for too long, European countries have tried to address their difficulties by trying to paper them over and not address their deep causes, and this crisis is not going to be solved this way and so is bringing many things to a head and is also causing many other European countries to look at themselves and their relationship with the EU from a new perspective. (Most crises have an ‘intelligent purpose’ hidden inside them if we can only pull it out!)
Serious world problems like inequality, corruption, racism, terrorism, injustice, the problem with immigrants – they all need examining more closely and the ‘gift’ of this crisis is that it is opening up many cans of worms that had previously been conveniently covered over. To use another analogy, lots of different cats are currently being let out of lots of bags and this is forcing us to see a) that certain problems can no longer be overlooked, and b) that many of our old ways of dealing with them are no longer working.
Basically, the game needs to change.
In my early thirties, I went through a huge crisis in my personal life. I had a serious illness, a woman I loved left me and I lost a lot of money through some big mistake being made. These things all happened at the same time and this triple whammy initially absolutely floored me and I was full of anger and denial, blaming everyone and everything for what I saw as a ‘big injustice’ that had suddenly descended upon me. I felt quite a victim. However, I had the luck of having a wise friend who helped me see that my dark cloud had a silver lining and that my crisis had a deeper purpose to it. I saw that I needed to evolve as a human being.
I realised to my horror that I was full of arrogance, fear, intolerance, prejudice, small-mindedness etc and that these aspects of me were standing in the way of my being a real person and needed to ‘die off’ to allow a more resilient or ‘fuller’ me to come into being, and that in reducing me ( at one level), i.e., knocking the wind out of my sails, my crisis was actually helping expand me at another level – helping me become a bit more human! Although this transition took time and was not without its challenges, I look back on that year as being one of the most important ones of my life as it pointed me in a whole new direction.
I think that if my life hadn’t fallen apart, it would have gone on in its old tracks which were not satisfactory. I wouldn’t knowingly have derailed myself as I was stuck in my comfort zone – and, folks, we all hate and resist change. I needed a big crisis to come from outside and turn me upside down and inside out!
I would like to suggest that the radical derailing we are currently all experiencing in this Brexit crisis, can be a similar gift. There’s another Chinese aphorism that goes: ‘Unless you change direction, you are bound to end up where you are headed’ and as I see it, a space is starting to open up both within our country and within Europe that can possibly move us all in a new direction.
I would like to feel this could be a blessing in disguise both for England and the EU and maybe somewhere down the line, we will unite together again in a much stronger and much more integrated spirit.
There is a character in a Thomas Mann novel who says: ‘If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst’. In other words, we need, all of us personally, and nations nationally, to confront our dark side or our shadow. In America, one is seeing this via Trump – maybe he is a gift, as he embodies one aspect of thy country’s very dark face – and only if we can see and then confront the dragon, can we properly transform it, and maybe over here with this referendum, we have to confront our egos. I believe we need to become more international, more global (viz ‘Think globally, act locally’). But I don’t want to be fanatical about my opinions. I think we need a new kind of democracy whereby the opinions of EVERYONE can be included. I don’t know how this can come into being, but maybe it could be a new political ‘next step’. Again, my little opinion on this referendum issue is that I agree that there is something wrong with most of our institutions, ie the UN (it was pretty shabby in its trying to deal with Syria) and the EU. But that is because they need to evolve. There gets to be something ‘wrong’ with you and I, when in our lives, we stay put and don’t evolve to the next step. And I think there is the wisdom in the EU to self evolve. For me, the ship doesn’t need abandoning nor having its holes patched. A wholly new kind of EU ship needs to be born out of the gradual demise of what we have at present. But I am not a) pretending I am right – it is just an idea, and am not b) demonising those of you who disagree. Wars continue ‘out there’ – out in the world- folks, because you and I haven’t yet healed the conflicts inside us. I.e. We externalise our inner capacity to demonise. We gotta explore this. Put some energy into healing ourselves, i.e. we need to put some energy into earning our inner living as well as our outer. Big challenge, n’es ce pas? Politicians ain’t too great at that. They’re too busy doing their outer stuff…
Why this hostility between the stay in-ers and get-out-ers? It’s got like a religion – out of hand. We get so identified with our beliefs about what’s right and wrong that we think our beliefs are who we are. They are not. Those who think differently from us are not bad or wrong or deserve to be pilloried or humiliated. They are beautiful human beings who think differently about something and should not be crucified. Remember Wordsworth talking about the healing principle in life that reconciles opposites. We must remember this and know there are truths on both sides and no one is bad or dumb or wrong and that we human beings just have a habit of liking to concoct facts to fit our beliefs. I bet that whichever side wins that few of the prophecies are proved correct be they on the positive or the negative side.
Inquiry of Philip Green at the House of Commons
It is interesting how all bullies are, underneath everything, cowards. And tycoon Philip Green, recently fallen from grace, who loves to be in the hot seat where everyone bows down to him because of his money and where he is always in a position where he can control and push people around, may have realised that yesterday when he was in another kind of hot seat , a rather less comfortable one. He was being questioned by a parliamentary committee over the shortfall of cash in the BHS pension fund which he’d owned for 15 years, then selling it to a known bankrupt as a result of which BHS has collapsed with thousands of people being made redundant.
And he didn’t like it one bit. One saw the insecurity and paranoia on his face. I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt if he’d shown a bit of heart and admitted he’d put a lot of people in a precarious position. But not a bit of it. No remorse at all. You could see his fragile ego was fighting for its life. He wasn’t so much concerned about the pensioners who’d lost their pensions but with the loss of his self-image and becoming the latest ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. In his mind, everything was everyone else’s fault and poor little ‘Sir’ Philip was the victim now of everyone getting at him. Boo hoo. ( I asked myself what kind of inferiority complex required someone to have not one, but three super yachts!) and I thought it sad that our system not only hands out honours to damaged and insecure little schoolboys like him who need big toys to play with. Why do we give honours to people who are not honourable? He fits the typical insecure psychological profile of many men who are driven by money, fame and power: inside they feel small and are terrified of being controlled and not feeling powerful . Did mummy smack him a lot as a little boy for being bad and wee-ing in his bed, I wonder!
But I also look at the part of me judging him. Who am I to do so? What do I get from it? I think we all like scapegoats to project our shadow side on so maybe we don’t have to see a Sir Philip Green archetype inside us. What would I do – what would we all do – if we had his billions?
Here’s my fantasy: that he learns from his mistake. He changes and puts the full amount back into the Pension fund that got removed and has a St Paul on the road to Damascus conversion, and suddenly sees himself for who he really is – the good, kind, generous man hidden underneath all that surface froth – and he devotes the rest of his life donating his money to good causes and using his considerable business expertise to make a difference in all the many ways he is capable of it. And yes, keep one yacht. I think if you really enjoy it , dude, you won’t need two more. I wish you well.
Question: What is your view of the state of the world at this moment? Do you think we’ve a hope of making it or are we toppling right over the precipice?
Well, if we just get our information from the media, you’d think we hadn’t a hope in hell as the media just loves telling us about what’s going wrong with everything, the result being that we all get a bit hooked into disaster and some of us even take a vicarious pleasure out of it, plonking down in our armchairs of an evening to watch the news to see was what’s the next juicy bit of ghastliness coming up? Who has Trump offended now? How many died in that earthquake? Have ISIS really got hold of nuclear material? And so on…
OK, this is all happening and some pretty terrible as well as some very superficial things are going on, but many other very good things are also taking place which we are often wholly unaware of as they don’t get reported about. Why? Because good news isn’t dramatic or exciting and so it doesn’t sell newspapers! Many years ago a group of us got together to try and start a positive newspaper, only giving the good news. Guess what. It never took off!
Actually, there are many wonderful people all over the world doing many incredible things – designing new technologies to irrigate deserts, creating new economic systems to try to eradicate inequality, helping refugees damaged by the ravages of war, etc. Look at Médecins Sans Frontières, for example; fantastic bunch of people. I recently wrote a book which explored how we can ‘make a difference’ in the world and this led me to discover that actually millions of people have this as their aim. And in every country: Russia, China and North Korea all very much included. Generally, they do their good work behind the scenes. Thus, for every brave woman like the well-known Afghani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai who, if you remember, stood up against the Taliban who shot her in the face for championing the education of girls – there are hundreds of other equally brave women standing up against evil and corruption and equally deserving of Nobel prizes. The problem is that they are completely unknown.
Anyway, it is because of such people, that I have great hope in my heart. I feel it won’t be too many years in the future when we will stop awarding knighthoods to the likes of ‘Sir’ Philip Green – who, a few years ago, stole £571 million out of the pension fund of BHS to help fund the construction of his third super yacht – and award it to truly noble people, who do truly good things for the world, for these people sure exist. As my hero Bob Dylan put it ‘The times they are a-changin’, and yup, Bob, they’re doin’ so a hell of a lot quicker now than half a century ago when you wrote that immortal song.
It’s interesting: we seem to get two kind of messages today. One side says ‘Yes, it’ll be tough. We’ve got some dark roads still to go through but we’ll make it – fear not,’ while the other side categorically says ‘No way José. Things are too far gone. The environment is now too damaged, the system too dysfunctional, we’ve gone beyond the point of no return. No way back. Sorry!’
Yet perhaps it is good that we receive this conflicting information. If we all felt things were going to be OK, we might sit back and do nothing and so things wouldn’t be OK (for, after all, if they are to be OK it is up to you and I to make them that way. Change, if it happens, happens through us!) Conversely, if we felt everything was hopeless, we might give in to supercharged despondency and also do nothing. This way, we are challenged to stay on our toes as the world is full of surprises, nothing more so than the continued ascendance of ‘The Donald’. But perhaps here, there is some method in madness. The fact that so many people support him is a reflection of some part of the American psyche ( or should I say ‘American psycho’!)
The thing is that so long as our dragons are buried in their lairs, we can’t see them. They breathe their fire on us but we can’t do anything about it as we don’t know where the flames are coming from. However, once the dragon is out of his lair and we see him for what he is, then there are things we can do, and I think the gift that Trump’s presence is giving the American people is that he is reflecting for them a certain part of their dragon-like nature which needs a lot of addressing as it sure ain’t pretty and it is very dangerous. The good thing is that a lot of the American psyche is also very good and very noble and this part of itself is, even now, contemplating how best to deal with its dragonry…
My reading of the world at this moment is that a huge struggle is going on between two hugely conflicting worldviews. On the one hand, we are surrounded everywhere by outmoded behaviours and values, which are both holding us back and destroying our planet and therefore need to die off, yet are often fighting furiously to try and stay alive and maintain their positions. On the other hand, we are seeing many movements for change going on all over the world and which are being led by people totally committed to working for a new and healthier future and who are aware that the process of salvaging our society requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns, a dramatic shift in the very design of human societies.
What I find so reassuring is that those leading this transformation are no longer society’s outcasts, poets and assorted weirdos, but those in high positions in government, industry, science and the arts – people in positions truly to make a difference. Put simply, what, forty years ago, had existed at the edge of our society – etc, namely alternative technology, alternative medicine and strategies like my spiritual retreats – are today at the centre of society (the word ‘alternative’ being changed to ‘complimentary’). People who come to my retreats nowadays are no longer a groups of out of work ‘consciousness explorers’ but people in government and corporate leaders. I remember when I worked as a publisher in my youth, going to have lunch in a little whole food, vegetarian restaurant in London called Cranks. Often, my friends laughed at me. Today, you are seen as a bit of a crank if you don’t eat wholefood! And this is all healthy.
So that is why, in answer to your question, I am hopeful and positive. If we believe that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, then surely its corollary also applies and there is nothing weaker than ideas whose time has past! Perhaps, this is one reason why we are currently seeing the implosion of the Republican party in America. Yes, one doesn’t like what ISIS is up to and it is true to say that the world is finding it hard to address the many very complex problems lying behind the emergence of terrorism. And goodness knows what that tubby-faced little creep with the weird hairstyle and an inferiority complex in North Korea, will get up to next – certainly the ‘being a tyrant ‘ business has not yet lost its allure – and yes, global warming is a damn serious issue (despite what the climate deniers believe), yet despite all this I believe a powerful new integrative spirit is afoot in the world and that the forces for goodness are more powerful than those for badness. However, as I said earlier, I do still think we all need to stay on our toes, take nothing for granted and avoid complacency.
Corporate vs Heart
Question: I work for a large corporation and receive an excellent salary for my work. While I like my work, I am starting slowly to change how I see the world and I am seeing that my firm does not support my values and beliefs as much as a small company or charity perhaps might. So I have two questions for you: do you think it is emotionally damaging to continue to work for a company that does not share one’s vision of the world and do you think I should I give up working for it?
Boy, those are both biggie questions and I am sure you are not the only one around asking them, as with our world becoming ever more transparent, more and more of us are becoming ever more aware of the fact that the value systems of many companies may need shifting. Interesting, isn’t it, how having a conscience or becoming more aware of what is ‘wrong with our world’ often makes our lives more complicated!
At one level, I suppose you need to ask yourself what is the lesser of two evils: do you compromise your pay packet in order to stand up for your values or do you compromise what you are increasingly coming to stand for, in order that you keep your good salary? Perhaps you need to ask yourself which is the most important: your money or your life! Ha ha! If you have eleven children to feed or you don’t want to sacrifice your luxury holidays, then the question is decided for you.
Interestingly, what makes this issue more problematic is that you like your work! I mean if you hated what you do and did it just because it brought in the bacon, this dilemma would be easier to resolve. That said, who knows that you can’t also have your cake and eat it! I say this as you are presuming that only smaller firms or charities have values similar to yours and that none pay well. Maybe this isn’t the case so I would certainly try and see what smaller firms or charities pay and also if there are some big organisations around with values you agreed with.
I am someone who likes the idea of life being an adventure and I think you need to use this dilemma positively, as an opportunity to explore new avenues and perhaps if you found somewhere new to work that did pay less, you might find your new work so creatively fulfilling that making the shift would be worth it for you. (I think the more dissatisfied we are, the more we feel driven to need a lot of money to compensate!) I also think we need to measure well being or abundance in ways other than just material. Yes, materially you might be downsizing a bit, but because your new work might be so interesting emotionally and creatively, taking it on might actually be up-sizing! Personally, I think the kind of work we do is very important and I feel very sorry for people who have to do something they hate simply to put bread on the table, and I know this is a lot of people’s lot in life today. But at least it ain’t yours!
In my life, I have always worked with people, trying to help them get well, sort their heads out, be more themselves and I love doing this as I love people. It makes me feel good. In no way would I substitute this for sitting in an office all day even if I was paid huge amounts. The price I’d pay would be too big. But that’s me. I think you need to listen to your heart as this part will tell you what you need to do. This is not a problem you face. It is a great opportunity.