Understanding has many levels and depths to it. Think of it this way, at college I thought that because I had read the texts then I completely understood, but then nothing in the textbooks prepares you for the process of building a PC from the ground up so that it works with no troubles. In the textbooks it was easy, but in real life it was difficult. Alas, that difficulty slowly wavered after several months of repeating the process. I can now without doubt say that I can build a computer blindfolded and with one eye behind my back.
The same can be said with the work that I've done with mental health. I thought at the beginning that because I had experienced the trauma that comes with it then I knew absolutely everything there was to know about the subject. But in reality I knew nothing. The real understanding came with when I sat down with people and listened to their differing stories and related with them, combined with years of study on the subject.
To tackle any sort of problem then understanding what the problem is at first is pivotal to success, and, I don't just mean the problem that you are facing, I mean understanding the exerting pressure from the problem. For instance you wouldn't tackle a burst dam that's flooding an entire city by plugging the hole, no, anyone that's worth their salt would want to understand why the dam burst in the first place, what factors were causing the water to exert pressure on the dam and so on.
So why, when we communicate with people do we only want to understand ourselves? Now you'll probably be rolling your eyes by now telling me that you do understand and that you do listen, or that you've had a lifetime of listening and are tired. Something I hear quite a lot from people that think they understand, but really don't.
Take Politics for example. I have a quite unique stance in that I think it's all utter trash. I have friends from all over the Political spectrum and hear them talk about, "the other side" such as bleeding heart liberals, or Nazi's, you know, the type of large strokes you would paint anyone that you don't really understand with. But I bet very few people have actually sat there and listened to the other side and tried to fully comprehend what it is that they want, or feel.
Would it surprise you to know that pretty much most people want the same things? Sure, there are bad actors everywhere but the many far outweigh the few. I've spoken to so many people from across the spectrum and listened to their stories that I'm quite certain we want more of the same than we want different.
But no-one tries to understand their exerting force you see? If we did we would be far forward in our humanity than we currently are. Right now we make grand assumptions and paint with large strokes without truly understanding the depth of the situation.
Like for example mass shootings in America, the problem is almost exclusively blamed on mental health followed by a scrutiny of white men. But that's it, there is no further examination or communication. No-one seeks to look at why most mass shooters have problems with mental health or why they are white men. They blame them but are not-so focused on the underlying factors because to do so would open up a line of inquiry that no-one is ready for yet. Like for instance, lack of accessible mental health care or quality provision. The abolition of guns, and so on. Listen, I'm not American and I don't pretend to understand the culture, but surely these are topics that should be bridged by both sides.
Take incels for instance. The media loves to paint a horrible picture of this group and vilifying them at any chance they can get, one of the best scapegoats of all time. And that's it. No further line of inquiry. But would it surprise you that no-one has done any in depth research into why incels are the way they are?
I did my own research, delved into the horrifying delights of these forums. But beyond the anger and violence and hatred all I could see was a bunch of men that had never really understood the caring touch of another person, people that had been cast aside by society and left to rot, and any time a case arises, they are a great scapegoat, further entrenching their hatred of normal society. These men aren't normal people that have turned nasty, these are men that have been abused, uncared for, and cast asunder.
In my experience you don't create a loving human full of sympathy and empathy when all you do is kick them when they are down. You create a little ball of inward and outward anger.
But then again I can't ignore the current protests of Black Lives Matter, and I can't imagine the years of suffering and inequality that took place, and the the following frustration and hatred that was left in its wake as laws were enforced to make racism and discrimination illegal. I've read, spoken to, listened to, and tried to understand hundreds of people of colour and their stories. It's sometimes uncomfortable to read their outward hatred towards their suffering, and the way in which I'm lumped in with all the other people, but there has to be a lot of truth to what they tell. I can't say that it's not like that when I have no real direct experience of this. I will listen though.
People don't riot because they are content.
I can somewhat relate a little. Being born with nothing and brought up on a scruffy council block I was always told stories of how England were our conquerors, and that English people were horrible and out to get us. They thought they were better than us. In fact anyone I spotted with an English accent was given a lot of trouble from me.
Yes, I had been told a lot about the past and let that rule my current state of mind. Whenever we heard the commentator on TV say something remotely bad towards Scotland we were in an outcry.
I experienced cognitive dissonance though when I went down to live there, and what I had been told was definitely far from the truth. You see those that had told me about the English had never really travelled far from their home, or their area to be exact. And now that I was living with them it was quite different from what I had been told. In fact, now, some of my closest friends are English. Slowly my anger towards the English turned into love and respect.
I can hear the cries of the LGBTQ community and their constant quest for acceptance. Interestingly enough I have quite a lot of lesbian, gay, and transgender friends. I have been part of this community for most of my life and I have seen with my own eyes their struggle. It's not an easy one.
Bottom line is this. I see a lot of people arguing with one another about the trivialities of trying to achieve the same goals. Most people in this word crave love, acceptance, partnership, healing, feeling settled, and being listened to. What differs is the way that we think we are going to achieve this with the limited Political options we have. Which sucks really.
In my mind, listening and understanding is the key to acceptance and unity.
But what would I know? I'm just a ranty old man.
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