Trump is not a crazy narcissist. He is the product of a tradition of thought and practice. It may have started with Aristotle or Auguste Comte. Wonderful philosophers, they transcended superstition in favour of rational thought, but they carried a dark seed: they saw the world as a machine as something we could understand, and manipulate. The machine is also divine when weird mysticism can make more money.
What is this school of thought? I’m calling it Goal Centred Positivism. GCP. The Learning Annex is a significant promoter of the philosophy and the evangelists. Strains of this mode of thinking are everywhere. It needs to be identified and addressed in many professions and many world views.
What is bad about GCP? To name this is harder than it looks. While it has instant appeal in its simplicity and commonsense, it is a lie. Not everything is as it looks on the surface. There are limits to thinking positively. Like in The Apprentice — Trumps (fake) reality TV show there is always one “winner” and many who loose, who are fired, who are losers. Life is not a game. Respect for the roots, i.e. being radical, going deeper, seeing the whole picture, beyond the simplistic goals.
GCP is very American, Napoleon Hill was an advisor to two presidents of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The rise of Trump (may he soon fall) has revealed deep social, political and financial schisms and fault lines. It has also revealed this schism in world views prevalent in therapy and personal growth.
I’m writing this here in my blog that is also about personal development and psychology. This goal centred positivism has brushed many schools of more reputable psychology. It is probably present in some way in most. The most blatant example is Behaviour Modification. It is central the frame works set by insurance companies who fund counselling and therapy. It is so important to distinguish life giving schools of thought from this dark flow. What is the antithesis of goal centred positivism? Approaches that have one of the following ideas at their centre:
Trump represents the power of a pernicious world view, it is important to understand the tradition and oppose it. Opposition does not come easily to the liberal, meaning centred approaches to change. Lets clearly distinguish true personal development from the crass version.
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.
Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.
Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?
My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.
A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:
In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.
I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.
Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”
Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.
Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.
Anger and Psychotherapy
I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:
“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”
The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.
It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.
In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:
Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.
In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.
Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.
Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.
Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.
Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.
The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.
The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.
I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.
Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.
Of all the events in the world I think this election in the USA is a climactic point of a long build up, not just for the US but the world. What happens within the Democratic party is more important then what happens between the parties.
Enjoyed the CBC video about writing the novel, here:
Later – upon finishing the book — Thursday, 18 December 2014
It was horrendously violent – and it is hard to believe that such cruelty is possible. However I don’t agree with the article linked to above that is biased towards the priests or the against the Iroquois.
I finished it a few days ago and the book is still with me, it had an impact, not just the violence, but the characters, and particularly the sense of the soul of things and people – the orenda – that gives the book its title.
I’m now about 20% into the book. I like it because have lived some of this life she describes. Middle class intellectuals in some colony. I see other reviewers don’t like hearing the privileged ruminate about their agonies. But we are a select bunch! For everyone one of us who entertain marxist ideals of a change in the system there are hundreds who don’t. It takes a modicum of privilege to even read stuff. So to hear how thes commies and fellow travellers carried on in the fifties is of interest to me. But I can see you had to be there perhaps to get it.
But then I was not there. I’m a generation older. It may not be common knowledge but there was a small wave of Marxist revival in the late sixties and early 70s. I imagine all round the world. It grew out of the vietnam war protests and the countercultural movement. It dawned on some of us liberals that we did not just want Peace. We want the Viet Cong to win. The imperialists needed to be defeated, and they were. It became clear too that national liberation was a viable and worthwhile step in the march of progress. Maybe that was not so clear to Lessing in her time? And the communes and alternative endeavours did not really work, not as a way of changing the system. It may sound crazy but I, along with many thought the “Times were a’ changin”. But really, no. And then China was in a stage before the cultural revolution disasters. It was easy to see there was something to be learned from the communists.
And there was! And then there was not!
Why did she get a Nobel Prise for her work? I think of Obama getting the peace prize – do you have to be a phoney to get it? I don’t think Lessing is a phoney. However she may have been mistaken for someone who is anti communist. It is very different to be a disillusioned to being anti. Jesuit priests apparently do not need to believe in god, they need to be searching for god. I wish there was some sort of world order of people searching for the marxist line of out time. And a Doris Lessing of our time – or at least one for baby boomers. Perhaps Marge Piercy? Is there anyone like her today, filling that niche she filled in 62?