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Towards a Positive Psychology for Society

By Floris Koot on Saturday July 23rd, 2016

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Principles for soulful relating

In their popular book Freakonomics, two economists discover that unwanted children are significantly way more prone to become drug addicts, criminals or drop outs. Being wanted seems to be a cornerstone of life. Sociologists claim that it takes at the least three generations to get a war out of the family system. Both my parents have been in a war. They met because of the war, when my father had to flee his home and hid in the farmhouse of my mother’s parents.

I have been born, because of a war that doomed so many others. Many of my own family members were either fleeing or hiding in the war, and some were killed. This has influenced my life in many ways. In my family there was a lot of fear. As I small child I was not aware of this. And being a bit more of a fearful kid than most, I was easy to bully at times. At the same time, because many of my family had been in the resistance, there was a tradition of standing up for beliefs. Born after the war, I was really wanted, so despite being teased I stayed on my course, and one could even say I was stubborn and recalcitrant. Thus two strong traits of my personality were formed even before I was born. Humans are fragile. Our personality needs little to be dented for life.

World War 2 BabyA World War 2 baby

Framing what helps and what doesn’t

All of us1 long to be seen, acknowledged and cared for on a soul level. We love to be and feel alive and present and of meaning in the world or at the least within our circles. And we love to see those around us in the same state. We care for them.

Within our families or among our social circles we do take care for each other. We push shy people to open up. We push lazy people to act. We silence the ones that are not sensitive enough to someone else’s feelings, etc. We want each other to open up and flourish.

We attack that which blocks people to get ahead. We see how friends and family handicap themselves with self hindering convictions and behaviour. And in order to liberate them, we attack this shell. Thus we attack each other’s personality shell, because we feel it’s in the way of true contact or true unfolding. And, this is essential, when we attack someone’s shell, because it is in the way, the attacked person will strengthen the shell more, in order to protect the core.

Alt text hereWe all longed to be cared for on a soul level

An Attack Against the Soul

The self considers each attack on attitude and behaviour as an attack against the soul. This mix up seems to be essential to most humans. While we think we help, we damage. Often because we have been damaged ourselves. Thus we push, shout, enforce, beat and punish each other farther away from becoming a whole person. My father wanted me to be strong and get a good job. Since school was not my forte, he pushed, shouted, and became openly disappointed, all in the lost hope I would form myself to his idea of a capable personality. And I withdrew myself from him. My core considered itself under siege.

I started to become my best self, only after I started to discover my own path regardless of the expectations of others. That is why many penalties, or even pressure towards demanding results, don’t work. That is why criminals come out of prison even more angry and scarred (literally often too with lots of tattoos), why soldiers come back damaged, why beating a child in order to raise it, has little or no effect.

Alt text hereMy core considered itself under siege

Living with the Scars of Society

Poverty scars. Prejudice scars. Torture scars. Isolation and neglect scars. Pressure, bad food, punishments, enforced rules and insults may scar badly. Too high expectations and too low expectations, in fact all expectations that do not reflect the longing of the soul may scar. Thus we may become blind to an important fact: Our unique self is rarely what others want us to be.

The scarring though is what we know. Like an eye surgeon scarring the eye, so that thickness of the scar will form the right lens, we scar people to become something we think is best. Whole societies have made it an art of scarring people in a way that support that society as it is. We have many convictions about consciously damaging each other in order to help each other to become adapted to our environment. Think about breaking in recruits, gang members or new students, growing up rituals and even growing up at school2; they all scar. Our school systems scar you to fit our society. But is the result the best possible option for both child and society?

Alt text hereThe scarring is what we know

So when we attack another person we never attack their true soul. We attack the outer shell we think is in the way to real contact3. And even when we attack purposefully to damage someone, we strengthen the personality we hate. We see this in many violent conflicts. An attack provokes more than anything a contra force. And those that pass this point, like torturers who break spirits under torture, they will have scarred themselves for life as well. Something often has died within them too. We are fragile. Damaging others is damaging ourselves.

Are our Shells Keeping Us Apart?

Race, gender, sexuality, status, figure, personality, attitude, ideas, living conditions, etc. are all part of the outer shell. So hate or misunderstandings between differences are all about shell. Shells can be so different we don’t even recognise the (same) soul in the other anymore. Thus enduring animosity between families, nations and all kinds of groups can arise. Shells can be so damaged that the individual has lost the capability to be in touch with his own core and or reach out to beyond someone else’s shell.

Alt text hereWhen our shells are different, we don’t recognize our inherent sameness

Fighting others thus creates more misery for the self as well. And fighting the damages also doesn’t help. And when people get damaged, they often get more dysfunctional. Racism, crime, self destruction, depression etc are often also the result of personal or group damage. Even overcoming damage, especially damage done to us on purpose will very likely leave scars too. People with many scars, can become disfigured personalities.

Attacking, forcing, pushing, or helping the shell never helps the soul to grow. We even damage more. Force scars the personality and builds a thicker shell. Force never heals the soul. Never. This awareness is essential if we truly want to make a difference.

So: when we attack bad traits we enforce the shell. Then why do we do this? How can we stop ourselves? How can we heal each other and society?

Alt text hereFinding unity beneath the shell

Hurt is Natural

Being damaged is different from being hurt. Hurt is natural. Accidents and injuries happen. Parents die. Friends and partners leave. We can overcome hurt. We can overcome setbacks. We can take on and overcome challenges and difficulties. We are built for that. We should not avoid it.

The core of human longing is connectedness. Being connected to the whole, to nature, to each other, to food, shelter and safety. When we lack access to any of these, we suffer. We will seek out connection, by asking if we can, by force if we feel we have to. If we are damaged we may use force, where none is needed. We may damage others and push away what we want, thinking it is our only option to bring it closer. Think of people who steal stuff in order to become members of the haves, and instead end up in prison or being despised. People blame others for what they don’t have/are. The blaming damages the blamers as much as it hurts the blamed. Racism isolates people. Once again this is all a sign of a cycle of damage repeating itself.

Alt text hereThe core of human longing is connectedness

The Key to Overcome the Patterns of Damage

Some people seem to respond very well to pressure, they surpass themselves after being hurt. They overcome huge obstacles, that damage many others. It is true, we cannot tell how an individual will respond. Still a majority that gets damaged, will not heal themselves nor transform into an enlightened being. It might even be that people who reach amazing results after being through hell, are mostly overcompensating.

We may not like it, but many high achievers are using hard work, riches and status to prove their worth to parents who seemed only to like their core being, when it got rich. This while their parents hoped to protect or even boost the core by building character or preparing the child for a world full of dangers and challenges. Once again the big mix up between core and shell or trauma body. An insatiable drive to keep on setting things right is often just another face of misbalance.

Alt text hereUsing riches and status to prove our worth after a lifetime of damage

And our parents tried so hard to do well. They wanted to save our souls, by being too nice, too pushy, too strict, too laissez-faire. Unaware of the damage they were providing, they hoped to build a personality that would be a worthy vessel for the soul. They wanted to see us shine, and had ideas how to get there. And they failed. Almost always. They mostly scar us to best fit our society; as precisely as the eye surgeon. And popular successful people are grateful for their family scars. Oh wonder. They worked! Whether you’re grateful or not for your scars; it’s part of being human.

So what is the key to making a difference if everything parents ever tried created its own kind of scar? What could be better to educate than adapting people to their society by imprinting social expectations?

The key is not preparing towards our own expectations, but connecting to the soul as much as we can. Being there when there are pains, setbacks, disasters. Life will provide those challenges. When we believe someone’s personality is holding back and more is possible, we should not push, pull or force. We should invite the soul, speak to the essence. Believe in it. And we should stay open to the facts that we might be mistaken. And most of all, we should live, speak and act from our soul, seeking to be in touch with that of others. True strong men are not strong because of muscle or power, they are strong because of the amount of vulnerability they are willing to take on, their willingness to open their inner doors to others.

Alt text hereStrength in openness and vulnerability

And this is scary, very scary. We all know those cases where we want the other to open up first. This is often the big fight in relationships. Luckily most of us also know some shining golden people, that are our examples. Mostly we think they got where they are because of fame, power and capabilities we don’t have. We should seriously consider that people may become famous, rich and powerful, for two reasons. The first is the damaged way. Single minded purposefulness towards a goal. This is a damaged way. We confuse single mindedness often for strength. I call it mostly madness. Normal people dare to doubt, think and consider before they act. The scarred people don’t. They tell the whole world their lack of feeling is actually leadership and decision making. And the sensitive people become insecure because they compare themselves to the mad people. That is the madness.

The second way is the way of the heart. Then we achieve deep desires, like connectedness, by opening up. By willingly taking risks, daring to be hurt (the normal hurt of setbacks and failures) and listening to inner guidance. Many famous actors are known for their vulnerability and willingness to learn and cooperate. A leader like Nelson Mandela is not for nothing such a bright example in politics. His integrity is way above the rest. Why then do most politicians stick to strategy and interests? Integrity and soul do shine, where strategies often just disillusion more people from politics. People may not exactly know what happens, but they feel something is off, even when the spin doctored story seems so correct.

Alt text hereNelson Mandela

Help those People that Shine.

In my own vicinity I know a few people who radiate health of being. These are the people, when they call I would immediately leave things behind for. These are vulnerable people, that shine innocence. It’s like when a father puts a child on a train and asks other passengers to keep an eye on it, until the mother at another train station picks it up. I always immediately see others appoint themselves as guardian. I do it too. We want to keep the child safe and undamaged. I would say this happens in a healthy society. It takes a village to raise a child. We are all that village.

These shining people are the people we often want to keep happy, so that their light shines on. Many of us seem to help them as they would help the child in the train. And by helping them we are helping our own heart and hope. Through helping them we are helping society, we are growing and securing happiness. At the least I do, because I feel, that as long as they have not been damaged, there is hope. I think they are our real teachers and examples. They are the shining souls that heal us, whether they know it or not.

And I feel that I am healed more when I help them. When I help them I uplift myself. There is no pressure, no hidden agenda, but keeping the heart alive within them and in myself, so that I too may radiate to others.

Alt text hereWe can all help keep the undamaged ones shining for life

When I focus on helping others who have trouble I often feel I make them weaker. Helping them is saying, you have a problem, that I have not, and you will not be good, until you have solved it. This kind of help is damaging too. It does rarely uplift. Many psychologists do little more than (re)socializing the personality, or the shell. Schools do it too. Because we all systematically confuse the building of personality and the capability to achieve with a healthy soul. The personality is at best the servant of the soul, the carrier of the inner being. Capability that voices the soul, is so much more alive, more contributing than a socialized person, committed to tasks and targets.

The golden people I know do more good, have more influence and make a bigger difference than many professionals, civil servants working on routine, following protocol or pushing, pulling, things around to get things according to a plan.

Work, act, speak from your soulWork, act, speak from your soul

So here are some basic principles that come, for me, out of these observations:

  • Work, act, speak from your soul.
  • Speak to the essence or soul of people
  • Support innocence and shining people
  • Dare to be vulnerable.
  • Be open, curious and listen to what is needed
  • Offer what you can, ask for what you need
  • Never take attack personal, regard it as help
  • Play. It’s all madness anyway.
Alt text herePlay!

Notes

1) There may be some people who are either so damaged, they are not in touch with this longing or so hungry that they have other more urgent needs. Think of Maslovs model.
2) Schools scar. Children bully each other, teachers bully or discipline in a hurtful way. And the system itself scars. Testing demands deadening feeling to be rational. Testing with right and wrong answers means many people always think something is expected from them and never really learn to make their own choices or develop their own answers. Focus on knowledge means personal wisdom and social attitude are too often not well developed in many children. Etc. Etc.
3) Sadly many think, real contact is only possible if you are like me. If you have the same race, believe, class or just meet my standards. That is all shell or ego.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Words By Floris Koot

Originally posted on Medium

 

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  • Elizabeth Edwards

    Love it inspiring new ideas now if I can just do it even a little

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