This will relate to you and psychology/therapy/counseling, I promise… just hang in there with me…

Some friends of mine have been really struggling with the BP oil… spill? (Wiki here)… it’s so big, I scarcely know what to call it.  Have seen and heard some things I’ll not reiterate- not because it wouldn’t serve, but simply because we’ve been so inundated with the details of most of this news I’d be afraid that anything I’d have to say to describe such would be heartbreakingly insufficient.  The effects of this are catastrophic, to say the least.

Earlier too today, I was talking with a client about consciousness.  What is “I”, how we know such things and etc, a lot of things rooted in Eastern thought, the ideas of Daniel Dennett (Dennett’s Wiki), Stephen Pinker (Pinker’s Wiki), and the like.  My client began to talk about having the awareness that we’re all “one” (maybe that should be capitalized), and what that means in terms of how we experience our world.

This made me bring up another great thinker, a gentleman named Chuck Chamberlain who wrote a book called “A New Pair of Glasses“.  In it, he asserted what I think is a fundamental truth (paraphrasing), that our real problem as humans is seeing ourselves as separate from “God” (the “universe”, physics, whatever one prefers).  Ignoring this is far from inconsequential.  Our view, true or not, that we are somehow separate from others is part of what enables us to lie, cheat, steal, things much worse.  Even make oil spills.

As I’m alluding to above, whether we are all “one” or not, it’s arguably true that we indeed operate (behave) this way.  We certainly see the consequences, but as with many things, we don’t really see the etiology of them.  The Horizon spill is only the most immediate example.

Had we been behaving since the industrial age as if we are all connected, including the flora and fauna we are surrounded by (or more tragically accurate, that we are surrounding…), our world would look much different.  As promised, bringing this full-circle to the soul of this little corner of the web, the application of the idea that we are all connected has deep-reaching utility in psychology/therapy/counseling.  My world, and I hope the world of my clients have likely been improved greatly by finding ways to operate on this premise.

As noted earlier, it’s pretty easy to see the negative consequences of operating as if all humans, animals, plants, etc are different, whether this is true or not.  There’s pretty amazing benefits to operating as if we are indeed one in the same.  Behaving this way allows me to be as gentle a person as I intend.  It’s a great method for being more considerate/thoughtful.  This may be true, because it’s an idea that lends itself to increasing empathy.  It’s a great way to diminish selfishness/self-ful-ness.  So many people are speaking in the “human potential movement” (*ahem* I struggle with these kinds of euphemisms and etc, but for the sake of simplicity…), behaving as if we are all one is fantastic mindfulness training.  We could certainly use a softer, warmer world (among some of the other ideas above), and this is a great way to help turn some of those problems around.

Again, I find that there’s too many positive things to gain from such an idea to write here.  What prompts this though, is my own deep sense of sadness for the creatures upon whose lives we’ve so encroached because of not just our desire for a certain way of life, but because we avoid the emotional consequences of such a life in part, maybe because of the misperception that we are separate from these creatures, making it much easier for us to operate the same way every day, regardless of the consequences theyhave to endure.  Much as it’s important for us to clean up the spill, have clean means of energy and etc- all of these things are rooted in a philosophy of separateness, that if we sit with a minute, we might realize how much less of our own hurts, sadness, fears, shame and etc might have been avoided had we or the person who stepped on our toes behaved as if this encroachment was really upon themselves.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Petar Sardelich MFT/PT/MAC
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 20:06:30

    @ Roger:Am with you on those ideas as well. One of my fave quotes, which I think gets at what you are saying:"The rights of a species, any species, must take precedence over the life of an individual. This is a basic ecological law. It is not to be tampered with by primates who have molded themselves into divine legends in their own mind."- Paul Watson"It is grossly myopic, I think, to simply assume we are more important than animals. It's also shortsighted to forget that we are animals ourselves.


  2. Petar Sardelich MFT/PT/MAC
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 20:04:06

    @ BOC:Totally where I was going with that idea. "Native Americans" (a terrible euphemism) say "Mitak oyas in", which depending on how you translate it apparently means "For all my relations" and/or "We are all connected". Things would certainly be cooler if we all acted accordingly.


  3. roger
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 18:42:53

    (this isn't meant to engage in polemic or ruffle feathers; just sharing a thought process)One thing that struck me a few years ago about many Western lines of thought (e.g. the Larouche people), and organized religion in excruciating particular, is that a core underpinning of their approach is to deny the identity between humans and animals, and set up entire systems based on reinforcing that difference. Two sets of consequences follow. One is that humans have special privileges and can do essentially whatever they want to non-humans: take, pillage, destroy, enslave and kill anything if it benefits humans (some go farther and remove that condition altogether). Another is that those schools of thought/religions/movements have built elaborate systems of rules, codes, and prohibitions against things most animals do naturally, because if we engage in those behaviors, then we contradict the basic tenet that humans are not animals, and that is not acceptable to the system; viz. thou shalt not kill / steal / have sex when the urge strikes / eat without utensils, and thou shalt suppress most emotions. Interestingly, I'm not aware of that "humans are different from animals" concept ever being an explicit doctrinal statement–rather it's a tacit assumption on which entire moral and behavioral systems of rules are built, and you have to do some reverse-engineering on those systems to get at that primal assumption.Presumably there's some functional purpose to those systems, presumably an evolutionary trait highly compatible with the other evolved trait of living in human societies and lifetime pair-bonding and other things that characterize us (but not exclusively; many of those traits are found in other species). In other words I don't think this is a grand mental conspiracy, but rather that it's an emergent property of the human genome; in other words we as humans can't help coming up with those systems because that's what we do, like talking and walking upright. But free will as a property of the human (or mammalian) brain also means we don't have to subscribe to those systems, and it doesn't diminish anybody to have some goddamned respect for nature and animals.


  4. BOC
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 15:59:28

    Beautifully said. And too our own hurts, sadness, fear, shame and etc. might be self perceived differently if we could be one with those that have hurt us and realize their limited ability to recognize oneness.


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