Social Therapy

Click photo to watch a short video about personal transformation.

The best systems imaginable will soon become dysfunctional if the people in them are not themselves whole.
The pain and trauma that we all bear as a consequence of the way we live are immense and the acknowledgement and healing of that is an ESSENTIAL component of broad social progression.

This pain and trauma comes from all directions; a constant barrage of frustration, worry, disempowerment, grief, stress, disappointment and irritation with job, finances, school, social media, childcare, politics….
It is so commonplace and pervasive and just downright normal that there is no escaping it and we have no choice but to desensitise ourselves to it all or we simply couldn’t bear it.

And so when we see homeless people in the street begging, we look away.  

Even though we know that the materials to make our electronic devices are often mined by children, with no protective gear, for less than a dollar a day, we buy them anyway.

Even though we know that our meat and dairy products are primarily produced from animals kept in unimaginably wretched conditions, pumped up with hormones, antibiotics and chemicals, we continue to enjoy them, along with so, so much else – clothes and shoes, furnishings, kitchen utensils, you name it.

“…however unwittingly, every single one of us is a participant, every one of us culpable in the destruction and defilement of the world…”

Please understand that none of this is said with even a trace of condemnation nor judgement of anyone – it is all but impossible NOT to make choices which, when followed down the line, don’t involve some kind of horrific exploitation of human and/or environment.
And so, unpleasant as it may be to admit, however unwittingly, every single one of us is a participant, every one of us culpable in the destruction and defilement of the world around us. And yet it is not our fault. Not really.

To some degree or another we all feel this and it weighs on our collective conscience. Were we to be placed face to face with the sick child, dying of metal poisoning and her grieving mother, or spend a day working in a slaughterhouse or an intensive dairy farm, or see our own son living on the street, the pain would be too much, so we look away, pretend it isn’t happening and carry on. 

The problem with making the pain bearable is exactly that though.

We grin and bear it.

However, when the pain is unbearable, we eventually have to do something about whatever it is that’s causing the pain.

“…how can we weave the emotional support people will need into the process of structural change?”

At some point, in order to motivate us to really change, we must individually and collectively face and experience this overwhelming grief that we so routinely block out. This is no easy thing to do. This is grief akin to that of watching jackals tear your mother apart in front of you while you are trapped under a log and unable to go to her aid. Forgive the brutal imagery, but only when we are willing to voluntarily open ourselves up to that kind of painful experience; to fully FEEL the reality of what is going on around us; only then can we truly see how urgent and profound the changes we need to make are and be motivated to make them.

In order to confront that kind of wall of unbearable pain, we need help and that’s what this section is all about: how can we weave the emotional support people will need into the process of structural change?

Many of the ideas and possible solutions put forward here, being nothing more than reasonably straightforward engineering and logistical challenges, are actually not that hard to accomplish. The fact that many of these obvious beneficial upgrades could easily happen and yet don’t, demonstrates that the biggest obstacle in the way of change is actually us. So deeply ingrained are we in this twisted paradigm that the notion of a world free from the pressures of debt, monthly payments and the constant fear of poverty are seen as some kind of Utopian delusion.

“…openness and transparency, honesty and forthrightness, being trusting and generous… these days such traits make you a mug…”

We suffer from all kinds of psychosocial maladies, making us fearful, distrustful and suspicious of our fellow man. Indeed, qualities such as openness and transparency, honesty and forthrightness, being trusting and generous… these days such traits make you a mug: someone to be taken advantage of.

An integral part of the transformation of the society must be the transformation of some of these poisonous and destructive attitudes that exist in so many of us. One could even say that the entire undertaking of the transition is an act of socioeconomic therapy: the society is deeply ill and hurting itself, more and more with each passing day. A way must be found to allow for the hurting to stop, and for the healing to begin.
Healing, relationship building, conflict resolution and collaborative action all need to be woven into the very fabric of the society. Every single person should be a participant, bringing their own unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience to the table. 

The MFP intends to support and facilitate the large scale healing of society. How might this grandiose sounding undertaking be accomplished? Well, as with all of the other Policies here, it is an ongoing, evolving process, constantly being refined and updated, never complete. What follows are some ideas to get the ball rolling. Their targets: our outdated and destructive “core beliefs”, “underlying assumptions”, and “automatic thoughts/behaviours.”

“One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games.”

Carl Gustav Jung


Games and Guilds

There are, of course, many valid approaches to this massive and essential undertaking. The frame being offered here is one centred around the notion of play and games. Broadly speaking, these “games” would break down into three categories:

– healing and relationship building
– collective intelligence (sensemaking/decisionmaking)
– arbitration and conflict resolution

These are not games in the sense of winning and losing, but games in the broader sense of frameworks for complex interaction and co-creation. “Players” take turns, but there is no “object”, no win scenario, no checkmate moves to be made. These are infinite games of collaborative exploration, bonding and healing.

A few examples of the kinds of games that might be employed are at the bottom of the page.

This focus on play is not to trivialise the importance of what is being attempted, quite the opposite. Playfulness is a powerful, robust yet fluid state of mind that is ideal for taking on new and difficut things. More on this below.

The design and stewardship of the “playgrounds” will be the responsibility of Guilds, whose members will be grounded in a range of fields such as psychology, grief counselling, group work, 12 step programmes, game design and so on.

The Importance of Play

  • Play encourages curiosity, an open mind, a willingness to learn and to suspend judgement.
  • The playing of games is immediately engaging and fun, creating participation and involvement.
  • Play generates novelty and surprise, the opportunity for discovery and exploration.
  • All mammals use play to learn about the world and to hone their skills. It is deeply embedded in our psyches and ready to be called forth at any time.

The Guilds

  • A Guild is a group of people working together to facilitate the healing and reconnecting of people.
  • Members of a Guild will be proficient in a range of games, therapies and practices which they offer for free to the community.
  • Guilds may be static or mobile, travelling to where they are needed as “roaming bands” or establishing themselves in one place so that people may go to them.
  • Part of the work of the Guilds is to train and seed new Guilds, eventually expanding to serve everyone.

Games and Practices

Below is a list of a dozen or so games/practices/protocols, in the 3 categories mentioned earlier. It is by no means exhaustive, just a start really, and most games can work in more than one category. What they share is the potential to create genuine connection, authentic communication and collective insight. Each requires participants (players) to be fully present and engaged, to relate openly and genuinely, to be truthful and to withhold judgement.

For each there follows a brief explanation along with links to documents, videos and websites that will afford the opportunity for deeper delving if desired.

Collective Intelligence

  • The Glass Bead Game
  • Questions
  • Rule Omega
  • Open Space

Healing and Relating

  • Here
  • Guru
  • Confession
  • Improvisational storytelling

Arbitration and Conflict Resolution

  • NVC
  • RJ

The Glass Bead Game Is a game of structured conversation. Players take turns of agreed length, spoken or written, in person or remotely, synchronously or asynchronously. The specifics are completely flexible – length/number/type of turns, subject matter, number of players, etc. The only rule is to respect the turn, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to speak, knowing that they will not be interrupted or talked over. When it is not time to speak, it is time to listen, fully, not feeling compelled to jump in, knowing that the next time to speak will come.

Click here to go to a playlist with an introductory video and some example games.

This simple structure creates a dynamic, generative, playful and enjoyable arena for deep and complex, even difficult and highly charged discussions to take place. Above all it is creatively inspiring, with brand new syntheses and possibilities emerging out of every game. It can be played by anyone, anywhere, in any circumstances, in any medium and when practiced regularly dramatically improves one’s abilities in several key areas:

  • listening attentively
  • empathising and relating
  • non-attachment to ideas
  • being concise, not waffling
  • ability to find common ground

Read more about how to play the Glass Bead Game Here

A more in-depth Analysis can be found here

Questions is a game of rapid fire possibility generation. It is extremely simple, not even requiring a clock. The only rule is that all moves must be in the form of a question. Questions generate more questions and as the game proceeds it tends to circle around a particular line of enquiry which the group can then pick up and follow using whatever methods it chooses.

Thus, rather than any one person deciding what the group should focus their time and attention on, the decision emerges from the collective.

It also functions very effectively as a brainstorming exercise, where no question is too silly, too outrageous to be asked.

Rule Omega is an idea that was articulated in the GameB milieu.

In simple terms it posits that no one person ever holds all of the truth, that all perspectives are valid, but partial and that the aim of constructive discourse is to add the other person’s partial truth to our own, expanding both of our perspectives. 
Indeed, only through the open, earnest dialogue can this deeper synthesis be uncovered – neither of us would be capable of arriving at it on our own. The diagram to the left gets the idea across very succinctly.

And so, when you say something that seems crazy, deluded or just plain wrong, rather than jumping in with all the reasons you are an idiot (don’t you know a circle when you see one? How can you say that’s a rectangle? What are you, shape blind? Etc, etc) I instead give you the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe you have sound reasons for seeing things the way you do and maybe that perspective would be useful for me to understand.

Rule Omega is more than just talking nicely to each other. It is an active practice of continual discernment, separating out the “signal” from the “noise”, both in oneself and in what others say. One could say that it is a process of separation, distillation and synthesis. 

To the right are a few videos explaining and demonstrating Rule Omega further.

Brief explanation and expanded conversation: “Pro” version

Brief explanation and expanded conversation: “Amateur” version

Open Space Technology is a protocol for harnessing the creativity, expertise and insight of large numbers of people around a particular theme, idea or project. It, or something like it, will likely be the new model for collective governance and decision making structures in the future.

The group, not any one “leader” generates the topics for discussion, upregulates what is valuable/promising and downregulates what is not. Every person is free to move around as they wish, engaging with that which is most meaningful to them. 

It involves widespread and diverse participation, freedom and personal responsibility and is a highly effective, fun and engaging way of generating insight and creative output. It also harvests the best of what comes out of the sessions, making a permanent record for everyone to access as they wish later on.

The very short animated video above left explains the basics very well and the video below that is a 6 minute summary of a real Open Space session.

You can visit the Open Space World website here.