I have noticed that, especially on Internet discussion boards and comments, people feel the freedom to perform what I refer to as “psychic back-alley surgery” on each other – tell others what they should do, what they need to change, or criticize their behaviours, thoughts and/or character.  I can’t say whether this is any more or less than it was in the past, I will just talk about what I observe now.

Some people would say it is the “anonymity” of the Internet that makes people feel free to say things to people that they never would to their face, but I believe it is due to two other trends.

1)      A trend in psychology, at least in pop psychology, towards reductionism, i.e. breaking a mysterious whole (how to be happy?  How to attract women/men?) down into its parts so that, theoretically, anyone can follow the same procedure and get the same results.  Examples:  neurolinguistic programming (NLP), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and the “pick-up artist” manuals.  It becomes more socially acceptable to treat ourselves and others as a bag of parts, as though it’s possible to separate and “surgically remove” an offending behaviour, thought, or way of being.  As though it weren’t connected to everything else.

2)      Psychological analysis and self-improvement has gone pop culture mainstream, through the New Age movement, Oprah, Dr. Phil etc.

When you take yourself apart and put yourself back together, without some inherent organizing principle, do you get a Frankenstein’s monster?

Some people believe in “faking it till you make it” and that may work for some people and for some issues.  However, I believe that a “change” (in behaviour or thinking) needs to be rooted from something inside you in order to really take hold.  And perhaps both people who want to change, and “experts” telling them how to do it, focus too much on altering the results (external observable behaviour or differences in it) and not on the causes (the inner self, desire, fundamental psychological needs, soul) when we try to make “changes”.

As I see it, the inherent organizing principle that allows change to happen is to view the person, whether yourself or someone else, as whole, complete, and un-disassemblable.   Furthermore, undesirable behaviours or thoughts or symptoms come from imbalances or disconnections within the whole, not from a “bad part” or parts that need to be removed.

Of course this raises the question “If I am whole and complete within myself, and OK the way I am, what do I need to ‘change’ for?”  It is for this exact reason that I see the process of personal growth as expansion or inclusion rather than change (i.e. “I used to be like this and now I am like that”)  No, all of it is part of you.  🙂

Knowledge of yourself as a complete and indivisible whole has benefits.  You are far less likely to
succumb to the weariness of the “self” that needs to constantly be “improved”.  Self-knowledge also provides a useful anchor as you sort through the mountains of information available out there in the
self-help and how-to genre.  You can tell what will be harmonious with you, and what will not.

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