Isaac Newton said ‘we build too many walls and not enough bridges’. There is talk in the news of us building actual walls but we also create personal walls that don’t serve us well. The world is going through some interesting changes at the moment. In fact, the world is always changing but we are not always so aware of it - boarders, cultures, people, wars, peace, leaders, economic climates etc. I think that we, in the UK, are feeling it more keenly because it directly affects us now.
In my lifetime I have never heard so many open political opinions and heated arguments. One significant difference in the world now is technology and the ability to travel relatively easily. The world feels smaller and we are much more aware of the differences in choices, economic situations, landscapes, quality of life, and expectations and the vast chasm between those who have and those who have not.
It seems to me that what we are going through in the UK with Brexit and the impact of Trump and other things going on in the world that we become more polarised in our views. This often happens when people experience an underlying feeling of fear, scarcity or threat.
In Transactional Analysis we talk about each person developing a Frame of Reference, a way that we view the world and when we look at the world through that Frame of Reference we notice things that reinforce that for us and we don’t notice things, or filter out things that contract our view. We unconsciously create blind spots. The more under threat we feel, whether it is real or imagined, the more rigidly we stick to our Frame of Reference and the more of reality we filter out.
'Through awareness of our own process we can bring our unconscious and hidden processes into consciousness and the make choices to do things differently'
Take Donald Trump as an example, he is not a man I support as President of the United States. I feel scared about him being in the power, the support he has and what he will do with that power. I also have some concerns for him as my belief is that he is not a psychologically stable man and I am worried about the outcome for him personally.
When I listen to him speak I filter it through my Frame of Reference, I hear lies, deception, contradictions. I hear prejudice and racism and I disagree with EVERYTHING he says. I do not listen objectively to him, I do not hear the bits of what he says that I may well agree with. I have ‘made my mind up’ about him and that affects my ability or willingness to truly hear what he has to say. This is not useful.
I am not unique in this. As human beings, this is a very common process that we play out every day with a range of different people. We are often not aware that we are doing it as its
unconscious and impacts us and our personal and professional relationships. What this causes is division between people which creates conflict, isolation and destruction and polarisation.
If we want less conflict in the world, then we need to address this issue and build our personal awareness of what we are doing to continue to this. We cannot change the world but we can change ourselves and if enough people change themselves then that changes the world.
Through awareness of our own process we can bring our unconscious and hidden processes into consciousness and the make choices to do things differently. This takes effort, courage and motivation. Self awareness is not always a comfortable journey but it does empower us to make changes that serve us, our friends and family and the world better.
We need to engage in conversations with those that we experience as different from us, we need to understand, engage and listen to others views and build bridges between people, nations, cultures and beliefs systems rather than creating walls.
Leilani Mitchell Dip, Couns, CTA(P), TSTA(P) is Director of The Link Centre, a training centre in Sussex offering counselling and psychotherapy courses as well as a range of CPD workshops. Leilani is an internationally recognised psychotherapist, trainer and supervisor and regularly speaks at conferences throughout Europe and is involved in various projects supporting refugees.