The world, we are being told, is coming apart at the seams. Bear in mind that I write this just two days before the USA makes its choice between Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump and some 136 days after our EU referendum result when we 'got our country back'!
However, to my clients who are working through death, terminal illnesses, relationship break ups, resolution of childhood abuse and constant anxiety and depression their world largely hasn't changed. And to those of my clients who live a bi-polar life or who are further along the spectrum of conditions related to autism or Aspergers than most of the rest of us, our world is finally becoming in tune with theirs.
How do we know about the world outside? Well neuroscientists and psychologists will love to go into do the details of brain structures; the amygdala, the limbic system, white matter, grey matter and they'll talk about 'what the brain does', 'which bits light up when...', and 'how to trick the brain'. The main thing that they have correct, although they never seem to say it, is that none of these physical structures has a direct connection to the outside world. All data is mediated. Which means that on the journey of experience from outside world to your brain/mind - even before you can put an interpretation on it - the data is distorted. Before you can twist data into information it has been changed.
Data - pieces of unorganised information. These are quantities, facts, characters and/or symbols that can be marshalled together so that we can make meaning out of them, reason, plan or think. Look at your keyboard or keypad. All those letters and symbols are data. They are meaningless until you put them together in a pattern that translates your thoughts into words and then into sentences, paragraphs an suddenly you have a Harry Potter or a Hamlet or a Leave / Remain campaign .
Information - recognised patterns of data that provide answers. Maybe. Data only becomes information when it has a use. That recognition is subjective unless we adhere to agreed rules. Thus you can read this as I attempt to follow the rules, the grammar, of the English language. But the meaning of words changes so we have to keep up. We have to have a 'template' in our minds and we we have an uncomfortable response when the 'world' and the 'template' don't match.
So, the question is - 'How is my knowledge about the world being distorted before I can even experience it?' Maybe - 'Who is doing the distorting?' Perhaps more importantly, 'How will I know when there is a distortion?'.
My work as a psychotherapist is to help my clients work out which distortions are useful and which are not. Which are theirs and which created or given by someone else. What data can be ignored, reshaped and maybe even deleted, perhaps resolved. Which patterns reflect our true selves and which are those of someone or something else? My clients who lie further along the autism / Aspergers spectrum have to learn this reasoning as a conscious process as if learning a new language (which indeed it is), those with depression to learn how their own bodies might very well be distorting the data available to them.
Most of us live to some extent in the past and our day-to-day experience is distorted by our past experiences. So we need to explore the data that we receive to choose on what basis we will accept those 'bits of data' and maybe to apply some positive filters to ensure that any distortions are rebalanced. In this way our pattern of our world and who we are is maintained.
Harmful stress occurs when we simply can't make that balance. When we believe that control lies outside ourselves - and this maybe a distortion in itself.
So we come to today where new, different and perhaps some old ideas are promoted as the way forward. Where people who push themselves forward as leaders and whom we allow to occupy that position don't give us data but simply reflect a more comfortable vision (template) of what we believe or want the the world to be.
Is the world coming apart at the seams? Clearly not. It is changing but then it has always been changing. The question is 'How aware are we of that change?' which leads to the question 'Are we prepared to use our own power to influence the change?'
Finally, 'What have we done to help make ourselves and those around us fulfilled, safer, happier?'
Lots of questions with I am afraid, few answers. That's because the answers are different for all of us. Knowing that we can 'think for ourselves' and create our own template, map, reality is a first step to regaining our power.
When we regain our power we can choose which data, information, map to follow and when its time to create something new.
Then we can give ourselves the permission to act...