Concrete vs Abstract responsibility for teenagers

Many Teenagers are struggling to complete the tasks that they are responsible for… often times their achievement is interrupted due to the fact that they view the tasks as meaningless or irrelevant to their life.
The “meaningless and irrelevant” assertion is often […]

The Relativity of Oppression

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Oppression exists, and much like other abstractions, oppression is often cognitively enmeshed with content or with something more concrete. There is often a more tangible entity that gets labeled as ‘oppressive’ or as the ‘oppressor’… through time we often allow for more tangible entities (such as a person, lifestyle, belief system etc) to be labeled objectively (and without relativity) as literally being ‘oppression’.

This tendency creates an irony for many ofus as often it is the constructs about oppression which become the oppressor (the constructs become oppressive – the individuals ability to live a most authentic life is oppressed by an unconscious adherence to an oppressive construct).

here is a list of some common constructs concerning oppression that can lead to an individual oppressing themselves:

  • being a stay-at-home parent is oppressive
  • rules and laws are oppressive
  • all religion is oppressive
  • science is oppressive
  • medicine is oppressive
  • set schedules are oppressive
  • education is oppressive
  • work is oppressive
  • power is oppressive
  • gender roles are oppressive
  • grading is oppressive
  • competition is oppressive

 I am going to steer us away from a conversation on dialectics = (yes, all the above variables are both oppressive and emancipating)

whether something is oppressive or emancipating is relative … ex. being a stay at home parent could be the source of oppression for one, and the source of emancipation from oppression for another.

History has played a huge role in creating social constructs (belief systems) that many of us are unconsciously dictated by…

For example, Women were systematically and institutionally oppressed for a long period of time in our country by inhibiting their access to careers. In doing so, females were oppressed from attaining existential fulfillment, independent financial security, and the power to positively influence the various components of the system.

The construct which was born out of this reality was: “to be free from oppression one must have unimpeded access to career.” Well many of us have experienced that in the United Stated many careers are extremely oppressive… they can impede our ability to attain: ‘existential fulfillment, independent financial security, and power to positively influence the various components of the system.”

This creates a potential for radical dissonance as many parents would be more fulfilled with more time spent with their families (or spiritual development, personal hobbies etc), but they don’t allow themselves this option because of there unconscious adherence to the construct: ‘being a stay at home parent is oppressive.’

The solutions is to allow curiosity, flexibility, subjectivity and relativity to become involved in the process.

What is the source of MY oppression? What experiences do I inhibit access too because of a belief system which may not be serving me right now?

I personally experienced this dissonance when I entered into parenthood.

I held the belief system that “schedules are oppressive” – After many years in formal education I arrived at this construct as my incredibly scheduled life caused me emotional discomfort – I found happiness in spontaneity (which I dichotomously labeled freedom) and concluded that schedules oppressed my freedom – thereby schedules oppressed my happiness.

Upon becoming a parent the idea of freedom becomes almost humorous as you are completely enveloped into a developmental stage of service – With freedom being heavily influenced by individualism, there is not much ‘freedom’ when you are a parent of young children 😉

yet the desire for freedom remains – and happiness still manifests when I feel like I have more freedom…

Here is where the paradigm needed to be shifted… schedules were the only means of affording time for me and my wife to meet our individual and spousal needs… in other words, schedules created the freedom to meet our needs … and in meeting those needs we are more happy.

so………….

schedules emancipated us from a deficit in perceived freedom… wow

And here is the kicker… If this paradigm isn’t adjusted again as the children get older it could once again be that schedules are the source of our oppression.

In conclusion, what we often label as objectively oppressive may not be oppressive in different relative instances… further, the process of labeling something as objectively oppressive may actually be the source of our oppression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

When Attachment Theory and Existentialism Compete

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In this post I will be investigating the relationships between one’s core sense of purpose in life (existentialism) and contrasting that with the most basic needs associated with human bonding (attachment theory).

The question that I am playing around with is: “Are there some people who have a life purpose which is incongruent with maintaining a securely attached relationship.”

Attachment theory is empirically validated by many scientific fields from biology to neurology to psychology – the oversimplified conclusion is that “humans need secure, predictable, vulnerable, emotionally available, attuned, compassionate, supportive, safe, emotionally expressive, inter-regulating relationships to function at their fullest capacity.”

Attachment theory (in humans) began by investigating early childhood development. Researchers were able to substantiate that when the primary caregiver (usually a parent) offered all the wonderful variables above (attunement, emotional availability etc.) the child was more likely to progress through various developmental milestones, to be able to function independently, to be emotionally stable, and to find fulfilling relationships in adulthood.

Later, researchers found that having a securely attached relationship between spouses also yields the some of the same positive benefits.

Existentialism is concerned with finding a life path that intuitively ‘feels’ meaningful and fulfilling. The goal of an existential intervention to help a person in leading a life which is most congruent with their purpose.

Generally speaking, existentialism works very well in conjunction with attachment theory = When I am able to help partners to form a secure bond they are often more able (more regulated, more supported, more emotionally balanced, more confident etc) to engage in behaviors which help them to leading a more fulfilling life.

Then I arrived at a realization … my purpose in life is to be happy.

If ones purpose in life is to be happy then it is very hard to debate the necessity of a secure relationship in achieving fulfillment… secure attachment is the foundation for emotional regulation and it is very hard to ‘feel’ happy when you feel emotionally insecure. This would also translate into many behaviors aimed at nurturing our biological system – If you want to feel happy (feelings are the result of our biology) you must take care your biology.

In my own life journey the single most important and effective variable that impacts my ability to be congruent with my purpose is my secure bond with my partner of almost 20 years (in 2017). But this reality may have blinded me a bit to the reality that not everyone’s highest purpose is happiness.

What about those instances in which secure bonding is actually incongruent with the person’s purpose… I’m not suggesting that a secure attachment is ineffectual with these people – I am saying it is incongruent with their goals pertaining to purpose.

What if you wanted to live a life of Zen, or to be the absolute best – the master of a discipline, or the most notable person in your field, or engaged in behaviors which facilitated growth through discomfort etc.

I have often sought to understand people who live lives a lifestyle which necessitates life choices which will likely inhibit them from maintaining secure attachments.

Some examples would be: Living alone in a cave in an effort to reach transcendence, practicing your discipline every waking minute to be the best at your craft, sacrificing everything that would impeded one from being the most powerful leader, or being in an alternative lifestyle such as having ever changing sexual partners.

Attachment theory is validated… and it is a biological reality. But we are more than just our biology – we are also something metaphysical or spiritual, and there are times when our spiritual aspiration are in conflict with our biological truths.

One of my Favorite shows is “chefs table” on Netflix… and there is a theme to many of the depicted lifestyles… they chose their craft over their relationships (and arguably over their own biological health). And the proof is in the pudding – they are the best of the best. (I am basing this on the assumption that mastery or excellence is a more important purpose to some of the chefs than the pursuit of happiness)

and now we arrive at the conflict between the two above theories from a psychotherapeutic perspective…

From a purely existential lens the goal would be to sacrifice all for the pursuit of mastery if mastery is the the highest purpose. This would arguably lead to complete existential congruence at the expense of happiness.

from an Attachment standpoint the goal would be to achieve whatever level of mastery was possible within the boundaries of a nurturing and secure bond with another human. This would arguably lead to greater happiness at the expense of complete existential congruence.

I have clients who may choose Existentialism over attachment when there is conflict (there usually isn’t by the way)… and it is my job not to project my purpose onto my clients.

This is further complicated by the reality that trauma and a lack of self-awareness can impact someones relationship with purpose and attachment… so we must be very perceptive and flexible in isolating the desires of the core self.

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Choice is Oppression

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Wow that is a provocative way to start! of course Choice is also liberation and a billion of other things, but in the post I want to shine some light on how individualism has created a blind infatuation with choice – and how ‘choice’ is actually the very source of our oppression.

perhaps the single most pervasive and uniting variable in the US is our individualism – Our desire to emancipate the self from any barriers to self-fulfillment. It can be so hard for us to see that fulfillment is both in maintaining and emancipating from barriers. both in having choice and in allowing ourselves (irony noted) to not have a choice.

The other Day my 5 year old was balancing on a kitchen chair and was distracted by some other stimuli that stole his attention. He lost his balance and fell pretty hard, only kind-of catching himself on the chair before hitting the wood floor. he’s fine.

Of course he had been told many time not to do this… but even at 5 his strong desire to have a choice in all matters was stronger than his desire to avoid bodily injury in cases were injury was most probable and where there wasn’t really any benefit associated with the risk other then in validating that ‘he had a choice’ (meaning it wasn’t particularly rewarding- fun – for him to be standing on the chair = he just wanted to do it because he wasn’t supposed to).

As adults we have countless examples of such experiences with children and teens – its maddening! “Why can’t they just follow the rules!”

but we tend to avoid looking at the metaphorical mirror to see how often we are doing the same thing. “What don’t we have any rules to follow!” 😉

the defensive sides of us want’s to quickly retort, “wait a minute – I have rules! I would never kill someone… I don’t steal people’s cars! I don’t pee in public places… well wait .. I don’t unless…I don’t drink and drive… well actually I don’t get drunk and drive….well”

I’m not trying to focus us in on the big examples – this isn’t just a conversation about strict adherence to morals.

Ask yourself this question – What choices would be good for me to remove if I had the goal of being a physically, relationally and psychologically healthy person?

If exercise is a choice how often are you going to choose it? How many variables would you have to realistically quantify in order to make that choice? ex. I drank too much last night, I have a minor headache, its windy, my class has a sub teacher, I’ll work out tomorrow etc.”

If intentionally engaging in the health of your relationship is a choice how often would you choose something more suited to the self? How often would you go somewhere you didn’t want to – have sex when your partner was hot and bothered and you were tired- clean up when the mess wasn’t yours – be emotionally available when the ball game is on – play with your kids when you are always exhausted from work?

What if your passion and spirituality surrounds doing something uncomfortable such as camping in the fall, surfing at sunrise, getting first tracks on a ski mountain, practicing your musical instrument, traveling to connect with important relationships etc?

How are our choices oppressing us?

Perhaps if another drink after midnight wasn’t a choice we would have enjoyed the first lift, perhaps if staying in bed wasn’t a choice we would have caught a sunrise set of waves, perhaps if TV was not an option we would know how to play our instruments. Perhaps if waiting for perfectly comfortable weather wasn’t a choice we would have gone camping. Perhaps if choice wasn’t an option I would blog more…

Authenticity and congruence are difficult variables to describe in a spiritual sense… yet we all feel what they mean.

we have offered ourselves the choice to be incongruent… to be inauthentic… to avoid our passions… to live without fulfillment… and to engage in activities that hurt the body and relationships we live in

and this is why choice is our oppressor… we have attached to choice with religious rigidity and in doing so we fell from our authentic path… we chose to avoid our destiny to satisfy our addiction to comfort and individualism.

It feels really wonderful for me to think about freeing myself of this burden… to allow myself the freedom to have no choice in the area of congruence. To be congruent – especially when it is the less comfortable choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Democratically Denying Education – the internal flaw of democracy

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The inherent paradox of Democracy… democracy is sometimes bad for democracy.

Let me define Education as teaching or unfolding a process which encourages the development of: critical thinking, philosophy, dialectics, math, knowledge, logic, art, the scientific method, self-care, spirituality, mindfulness, reflection, systemics, and the development of dialectic maturity, open-mindedness, empathy, compassion, and gratitude among many many other things.

Democracy needs education to function properly; without an informed electorate it would be unclear as to what any given person’s vote was based on… this turns voting into a game of chance where we the people are choosing one person or policy based on either no information, false information, or fallacious information.

Yet the freedoms inherent in democracy allows for the electorate to vote against policies which would ensure that the electorate was properly informed. We can democratically choose to deny the resources needed for us to be properly informed … in such an instance it is actually democracy which causes the dysfunction of democracy.

Democracy is a form of government which allows the citizens the privilege of voting for the best policies to govern the direction of the republic.  This privilege becomes the source of our oppression when we choose collectively (and democratically) to vote in policies which deny us the ability to make decisions in our best interests.

This can and is happening in a number of ways in our shared country – USA (and many others)

There are two main policies that are needed for a democracy to function adequately in relation to an informed electorate:

1.)    Democracy necessitates policies which protect an appropriate amount of educational resources so that we may offer a proper education to all our citizens.

Without an educated electorate, we are denying our citizens the ability to make informed decisions. This can lead us into making decisions that are simply not accurate or decisions which lack an understanding of the potential consequences. For example we could all vote to conserve water in our district by cutting down all the trees (which ‘drink’ lots of water).  Through education we could come up with alternate policy suggestions that would not be so detrimental to our local geography.

Denying an education can make us ill prepared to deduce the validity of a potential solution. For example, the populace could be persuaded to vote in a policy to reduce drug use when that same policy has been studied to actually increase drug use in other counties. In this way, the electorate may have the best of intentions, but they would be voting in ways which manifested the opposite result of that which they intended.

Finally, denying education can leave us without the tools to identify a fallacy. For example, the populace can be persuaded not to vote for a well validated solution on the grounds that the person who came up with the solution has a morally questionable family member… the fallacy being that a solution can be invalidated by the morality of the people involved with the solution (if I say ice cream is cold, is there anything related to my morals which could be used to dispute the validity of the statement?)

Without a high standard of education the populace is essentially controlled by propaganda… then very ironically our freewill becomes the very thing that leads to our own subjugation. When we democratically deny ourselves education we remove our ability to use democracy in a way which serves the interests of the populace instead, democracy becomes the tool of the informers to use propaganda to control the populace while the populace lives with the perception that they have power and choice (as they believe that their vote is a reflection of their will and not a reflection of unconscious persuasion).

2.)    A Democracy needs policies to ensure regulations exist which protect the citizens from fallacies, misinformation, lying, and other forms of conscious and unconscious social manipulation (especially in relation to the appointment of representatives in a representative democracy – the US is a representative democracy = we vote for people to vote on our behalf.)

It would be somewhat of an unrealistic expectation to have a mean level of education which protected the populace from being manipulated by the use of some very intelligent devices.

We need some sort of policies to protect us from misinformation. There is simply too much information for the average person to be able to check the validity of every statement they intend to use in formulating their decision (to make a vote). Currently it does not appear that we have adequate regulations in place to ensure that politicians and news stations are not misleading or misinforming the electorate. The difficulty with the issue is that a medium does not have to flat out lie in order for a majority of the population to arrive at a false conclusion. For example, a huge portion of the country still believes that the Iraqi Government had something to do with 9 11 (I don’t think that any representative believes this to be true) … the electorate made many important votes based on this misinformation… many people are in office because of this misinformation. It can be advantageous to misinform the public… in relation to capitalism, misinformation can lead to larger profits… in relation to political or other social escalation, misinformation can lead to the attainment of much desired power and promotion.  Some people want more power and some people want more money… how can we protect the general public from those select individuals who would use their free will to intentionally mislead the public to use democracy as a tool of their narcissism?

I do have a couple potential solutions for misinformation… one, every political add should go through a control group – if the group was not informed of validated information the add should not air (additionally if the add was shown to pass on no information that could be used to make an informed decision… for example if the add was simply an irrelevant or subjective criticism… the add should not air). Two, no program should be allowed to call themselves the ‘news’ unless their audience is studied to have a low misinformation rating. Whether or not a medium lied, any party should have to make a statement if stats display that they misinformed the public… so if 80% of people who watch a News show concluded that frosty the snow man exists then the station could be held responsible for properly informing their viewers.

 

Fallacies can be difficult for even the most attuned philosopher to uncover… and sometimes even when a person knows that a statement is fallacious; they still may have been unconsciously persuaded due to the way they were emotionally impacted by the fallacy.

Additionally, overgeneralizations and intentionally manipulating the public with ‘moral’ issues has diminished the public’s ability to vote in ways which would actually manifest positive solutions.

I am going to use a very heated example, so please excuse me if I offend anyone…

I sometimes am driven to conclude that the abortion debate is being used by both parties as a means of psychologically manipulating people to vote for their representatives. Instead of focusing on a collaborative and less divisive solution (such as reducing unwanted pregnancies) the representatives are persuading us to vote on values (such as “I believe in increasing women’s rights” or “I believe in protecting life and promoting health”). Additionally, they are encouraging us to focus on over-generalizations that would not be so complicated if we simply deconstructed the problem a bit… the problem is that people are voting to validate the a value (and the legitimacy of their ego) rather than voting on a solution which could positively impact manifestation of their value. For this topic, what if a representative proposed a set of policies which would reduce rape in this country and afford all women with the health and education services that have been validated to reduce unwanted pregnancies? This could end up helping or country to manifest both values (which were never exclusive of each other). If we allow people the freedom to manipulate us based on our values in political contexts than we are not allowing the democracy to select solutions which would help to implement our values in a constructive way.

The solution is solutions… I have developed a solution engine which I will talk about in a future blog = the solution engine is called ‘Dialectic And Deconstruction Solutions’.

Political adds should contain deconstructed (simplified) solutions which are cognizant of the benefits and negatives which are inherent in any solution or action. Political attacks which are simply bullying the opponent or are being used to question the morality of a person or group of people should be removed. Democracy demands that the electorate has something to vote on…

Democracy defeated itself when we democratically arrived at a point at which we are voting for people who are not responsible for proposing coherent dialectically compassionate solutions.

In this way we have uncovered another necessity to democracy = the electorate has to have something specific to vote.

I wonder how much this has to do with the way that we subjectively interpret the value of ‘freedom’… is it so important that we have the freedom to democratically arrive at a place where we can remove education and solutions from our democracy?

The Dialectics of Democracy 🙂

Requiring a Politician to propose a solution in a set way is a violation of their freedom which enables the collective to have the freedom to govern the democracy.

Requiring the adherence to a strict standard of education removes the democracies freedom to remove its’  freedom to make informed decisions.

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.