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Jay Oatway
3,437 followers -
Media Geek. Speaker. Author. Consultant. Tech Lover.
Media Geek. Speaker. Author. Consultant. Tech Lover.

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Suffering as Awareness

In this TED talk, doctor Patrick Leenen presents a new approach to mental health treatment, which leverages suffering and responsibility to address every part of a sick person’s life.

"Nobody likes to suffer, it hurts, but instead of reducing the pressure, we can use it as a powerful tool to evolve!"

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The system doesn't allow people to focus on the main source of the problem, the system is broken, it does not address complex situations adequately.

The level of suffering influences our motivation to take responsibility for our own recovery. Taking responsibility is a fundamental element in any effect treatment.

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[ Motivation and Awareness ]

The first principle is that the degree of suffering influences the motivation.

As you can probably imagine, if my level of suffering is too low, then I probably won't be motivated to change my behavior. On the other hand, if my level of suffering is too high, the chances are I'm not able to change, due to too much pain or pressure.

So if I can influence your level of suffering, then I can also influence your behavior. In the case of Jane, the family doctor and the specialist mental health care, decreased the level of suffering by decreasing her symptoms, but therefore, they also decreased her motivation to address the main source of the problem. So influencing the level of suffering is a key element in this approach.

[ Monitoring and Assistance ]

The second main principle is to focus on the main source of the problem, instead of the symptoms presented.

Again in Jane's case, we stopped her treatment, we also stopped her medication, and all we did was follow up. We only monitored the level of suffering rising again.

Eventually she opened up, she told us about her addicted son. So we treated her sons addiction, we give him the care and attention that he needed, and we also provided him with an alternative place to live. Within four months, Jane's symptoms cleared, without additional treatment.

[ Preliminary Results ]

This approach has been proven successful within my company over the past three years. And as a comparison.. up to 85% of the people who are treated in regular addiction healthcare, will fall back into former habits within the first year. Using the new approach, we are able to reduce this fallback to only 10%. Now just imagine the personal benefits for our patients, imagine the social benefits or even the financial benefits for the patient.

[ Decentralised Healthcare ]

It is my personal mission for the upcoming years, to make this new approach trainable and therefore accessible for every professional healthcare worker.

But you also can start using this new approach today, helping your relatives, helping your loved ones or colleagues. And in order to do so, I have three recommendations for you:

1. Recognise suffering – keep asking why, in order to detect the main source of the problem. Keeping asking questions, instead of jumping to conclusions.

2. Stop focusing on what people want (symptoms) – start focusing on what they really need. These two are not the same.

3. Use the level of suffering – nobody likes to suffer, it hurts, but instead of reducing the pressure, we can use it as a powerful tool to evolve!

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Alan Watts describes our cultural tendency to seek simplicity, order and closure. The life and death of symbols and myths.

"What we call everyday reality is pretty much a myth, a self-defense against the marvel of the real world - which can't be pinned down and we don't know what it is, and thus we're scared of."

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Spirituality and Truth

God is Dead – the reason why philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche predicted such a post-truth age as ours.

"All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth."

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[ Spiritual Authority, Objective Truth ]

Nietzsche, German counter-Enlightenment thinker of the late 19th century, seemed to suggest that objective truth – the concept of truth that most philosophers relied on at the time – doesn’t really exist. That idea, he wrote, is a relic of an age when God was the guarantor of what counted as the objective view of the world, but God is dead, meaning that objective, absolute truth is an impossibility. God’s point of view is no longer available to determine what is true.

[ Post-Truth Year: 2016 ]

Nietzsche fancied himself a prophet of things to come – and not long after Donald Trump won the presidency, the Oxford Dictionaries declared the international word of the year 2016 to be “post-truth”.

Indeed, one of the characteristics of Trump’s campaign was its scorn for facts and the truth. Trump himself unabashedly made any claim that seemed fit for his purpose of being elected: that crime levels are sky-high, that climate change is a Chinese hoax, that he’d never called it a Chinese hoax, and so on. But the exposure of his constant contradictions and untruths didn’t stop him. He won.

[ Multitude of Perspectives ]

Nietzsche offers us a way of understanding how this happened. As he saw it, once we realise that the idea of an absolute, objective truth is a philosophical hoax, the only alternative is a position called “perspectivism” – the idea there is no one objective way the world is, only perspectives on what the world is like.

This might seem outlandish. After all, surely we all agree certain things are objectively true: Trump’s predecessor as president is Barack Obama, the capital of France is Paris, and so on. But according to perspectivism, we agree on those things not because these propositions are “objectively true”, but by virtue of sharing the same perspective.

When it comes to basic matters, sharing a perspective on the truth is easy – but when it comes to issues such as morality, religion and politics, agreement is much harder to achieve. People occupy different perspectives, seeing the world and themselves in radically different ways. These perspectives are each shaped by the biases, the desires and the interests of those who hold them; they can vary wildly, and therefore so can the way people see the world.

[ Reason as Optional Perspective ]

A core tenet of Enlightenment thought was that our shared humanity, or a shared faculty called reason, could serve as an antidote to differences of opinion, a common ground that can function as the arbiter of different perspectives.

Of course people disagree, but, the idea goes, through reason and argument they can come to see the truth. Nietzsche’s philosophy, however, claims such ideals are philosophical illusions, wishful thinking, or at worst a covert way of imposing one’s own view on everyone else under the pretence of rationality and truth.

[ Dismissal of Facts ]

For Nietzsche, each perspective on the world will have certain things it assumes are non-negotiable – “facts” or “truths” if you like. Pointing to them won’t have much of an effect in changing the opinion of someone who occupies a different perspective.

Sure enough, Trump’s supporters were apparently unperturbed by his poor performance under the scrutiny of fact-checkers associated with the mainstream and/or liberal media. These forces they saw as irretrievably anti-Trump in their perspective, with their own agenda and biases; their claims about the truth, therefore, could be dismissed no matter what evidence they cited.

[ Renewed Objectivity ]

So if Nietzsche’s age has arrived, what should we expect living in it to be like? According to him, perhaps not as miserable or futile as we might think.

Even if he was right that all we have to go by are our different perspectives on the world, he didn’t mean to imply we are doomed to live within the limits of our own biases. In fact, Nietzsche suggests that the more perspectives we are aware of, the better we can be at reaching a watered-down objective view of things.

At the end of his 1887 book On the Genealogy of Morality, he writes: The more eyes, different eyes, we know how to bring to bear on one and the same matter, that much more complete will our “concept” of this matter, our “objectivity” be.

[ Post-Truth Adjustment ]

The presidential election saw two sides utterly immersed in their own perspective, each refusing to acknowledge any validity in the opposing view. The idea that social media exaggerate this and create an echo chamber has now entered the mainstream. But if we really are living in Nietzsche’s post-truth times, we can’t rest within our own perspective, assured that, in the absence of an objective truth, our truth will do.

Listening to the other side and taking it into account – seeing the world through as many eyes as possible – is now more important than ever.

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Contradiction and Creativity

How the human capacity to discover, accept or renounce contradictions drives creativity and culture.

"Living a contradictory life is profoundly human. Perhaps contradictions are a necessary ingredient for intellectual creativity."

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While most humans struggle to maintain a sense of psychological unity, contradictions produce destabilising breaches in the self.

Whether conscious or unconscious, these fissures nourish creative inspiration, which can be interpreted as a way to resolve or sublimate internal oppositions.

I believe this can be said of all domains of creation. Perhaps art, literature, science or philosophy wouldn’t be possible without intrapersonal contradictions and the desire to resolve them.

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