It’s the nature of humans to be curious. There’s lots around me to be curious about, and it’s often indulged. Dinner parties usually include a house tour (ah, so this is where you wash yourself). Social media is perfect for stalking. And the news can feed me with what’s supposedly happening on the other side of the world.
It’s also the nature of humans to try and solve problems. Once my curiosity has identified some problems, then I can diagnose a few causes (or just some surface symptoms will usually do). Sometimes it helps, sometimes not, sometimes it just keeps me feeling busy and useful.
But in the past, my curiosity rarely stretched so far as to explore myself as the possible root of a problem. External focus – this is not human nature, but is the nature of the culture that shaped me.
Problems tend to be cycles, negative feedback loops. A mistaken perception that I am not connected to everything else would lead to problems being treated as linear and separate from me, when they very rarely are.
Or maybe I just didn’t like to face the truth; it can be uncomfortable or too effortful.
The truth is that I am part of any problem I see around me, and therefore might be the key to breaking a negative spiral.
The whole problem
Sometimes I might represent the whole problem, if it’s really close to home:
– Maybe my child is crying because of the twisted angry frown I’ve worn all morning. I thought telling him to stop crying would solve the problem
– Maybe my wife isn’t sad because she had a bad day, but because I’m not listening to her. I thought busily sympathising and telling her to cheer up would solve her bad day
– Maybe the atmosphere in the office isn’t awful because the boss is a dick, but because I keep bitching about him to make myself feel better
Part of the problem
Or in many cases, I am part of a bigger problem:
– If I discourage someone from taking a risk due to my own fear of failure, or project a stereotype onto them, then I chip away at their confidence and self esteem
– The more financial wealth I secure for myself beyond my necessities, the more I contribute to the country’s inequality (fuel for diverse social problems – seen this video?)
– Every time I switch on the kettle, I am contributing to climate change which helps villages flood in Bangladesh
I am finding more and more that the best way to address any problem is to first identify and accept my involvement in it. That’s the bit I can definitely do something about.
Once I’ve done as much as I can there, maybe then I can try helping others; maybe I’ll be much better placed to.
But not before I have looked inside.