Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom helps people realize their unique importance. Using my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, my experience with therapy, coaching, somatic healing, and personal growth I create products to help you discover, develop, and express the elements of your identity critical to your health and your contribution to our world. My goal is to research, develop, and disseminate these materials so that every individual can reconnect with their uniqueness, realize their passion and purpose, and live the life they were born to live.
My stories and experiences about relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting, etc.
This week I go back to the roots of the Are vs Should Problem.
For me this whole quest began when I was a kid and realized I had made a deal with the devil to blow 2/3 of my day working whatever job I’d be lucky enough to get. Any plans I had to travel, explore, or play were necessarily and all of a sudden pre-regulated by this ‘deal’.
In return I’d get to have the money I’d need to do the traveling, exploring, and playing. Only I couldn’t, because I’d have to work.
Sure, maybe I’d get a week of every year, but that seems like a consolation prize compared to what I had planned.
The beginning of the Are vs. Should Problem is in here. For me. Maybe for you. I made a deal. I lived up to my end of the bargain (mostly). I made the sacrifices. But I don’t feel like it paid off. Robert Johnson at least got some awesome guitar playing skills out of his deal with the devil.
Although now I see I did get something. I got a chance to do it over.
I realized yesterday that the Are vs. Should Problem really started in Episode 42: Safety. I knew the idea had been rolling around in my head, but I didn’t realize I actually stated it formally in that podcast. So, really, the Are vs. Should Problem officially begin in Episode 42.
So it’s kind of like I was unloading ideas in Episodes 1-41, then made a sort of shift toward organizing the ideas in Episodes 42-49, then realized what I was doing by Episode 50. Not to say any of the Episodes were more or less important, just noting a definite trend.
So in THIS Episode examining the time we spend pursuing our careers vs. the time we spend loving each other, I was really getting to the meat of the Are vs Should issue. And that is, what do we value and how do we measure success?
What do we value?
And how do we measure success?
This Episode gets at the ARE and the SHOULD as terms we use to measure how well we are living our lives. And it’s confusing because so many people, and so much of the system, measures success in money, power, and accolades. Yet so much of what we NEED, and so much of what we are MISSING, is measured in love, and smiles, and calm.
Depending on how you define ‘uncomfortable’, 100-200 million people worldwide can’t meet their basic needs. Folks are born into societies and cultures where they are doomed to fail. Millions of people on this planet will live their entire lives worried about dying, finding food, or having a safe place to sleep. These are enormously huge problems that I truly don’t understand. Nor do I understand how complicated the solutions are.
But I do believe one thing: if we wanted to solve these problems, we could. We could at least make them better. And I truly believe that the solutions begin within each one of us.
To solve these problems we need to fix ourselves first. We each need to put on the proverbial oxygen mask so that we can take care of ourselves so that we can take care of each other. And right now there’s a lot missing from that equation.
First, many of us don’t care about ourselves. Some of us are so sad, stressed, malnourished, hungry, or whatever to take the luxury time necessary to change our beliefs, habits, and behaviors. And I’m not judging, that’s understandable.
Second, many of us who DO have the luxury of pondering our existence just don’t think it’s important to do so. Many of us are too wrapped up in our jobs, iPhones, addictions, or whatever.
And last, most of us wouldn’t know what to do if we DID figure out how to change ourselves because the rest of the world is out there running on autopilot. Once we figure things out, we need to share it with our community – and many of those communities just don’t exist any more.
What I’m trying to say is that I truly believe the Are vs Should Problem is the CAUSE OF and SOLUTION TO, all of our problems. That might be a stretch but let’s just go with the idea that this concept might help us solve some of our problems.
See, I think if we can figure out how to reduce our time spend doing things we feel like we SHOULD be doing then we would have more time to ponder who we really ARE. And if I think we can make that shift in how we spend our time, we will find out that we actually crave connections to our brothers and sisters. I think we actually are inspired to do good. I think we do actually want to share resources instead of horde them. I think we do actually want to take care of our planet. I think we do want to spend our lives finding solutions to issues like world hunger instead of becoming investment bankers and stockpiling financial wealth.
But I’m a naive naval gazer. Or I used to be. And now I want to be again.
I want all those things to be true so I’m believing all those things to be true.
And if you follow the assumptions I’ve made thus far:
DNA is the precursor to human magic and MUST be fully expressed.
Expressing our individual uniqueness is our human purpose.
Reducing the things we feel like we SHOULD do frees up time and space for us to do the last thing.
By becoming the people we are destined to be we will realize, as a species, the way things used to be.
Peace and happiness result from more ARE and less SHOULD.
The CHALLENGES we face as humans can be solved.
Then maybe you’re interested in learning more? That’s what I’m here for.
Please take the time and let me know how you feel.
In this Episode I want to take a minute and acknowledge a few things. First, that not everyone has the luxury of pondering the Are vs. Should Problem. In even bringing it up I am letting my white privilege show. I grew up with enough food, enough safety, enough clean water, and enough love to meet my basic human needs. As a result I have LUXURY time to gaze at my naval and ask questions like, ‘Who Am I‘, ‘Who’s Right?’, or ‘Who Tells My Story?”. To hundreds of millions of people, these types of questions are ridiculous and privileged. I just wanted to take a second and point that out – in case it isn’t obvious already.
Secondly, a lot of us are so stuck in our ‘Should’ that we never realize anything is wrong. Many of us accept our anxiety, depression, angst, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness as elements of ‘being human’ that we can’t do anything about. Many of us aren’t lucky enough to ever wonder ‘Who Am I’ or ‘Where did I go wrong?”. Of course some people couldn’t care less about these types of questions, but I wonder why some of us are lucky enough to be curious about it and others are doomed mediocrity or apathy.
This week I talk a little bit about why we struggle with healing and suggest that recognizing the Are vs. Should Problem is key to improving our lives. Though it isn’t easy, it can be fairly simple.
Full Episode, audio and video, coming here this Friday.
“We went from modifying our behavior to suit the Earth, to modifying the Earth to suit our behavior”
I’m sure I didn’t make that phrase up, but it does describe what I think is a critical flaw in human evolution. Starting maybe 12,000 years ago, we changed the way we live. In the beginning, the alterations to our ways of living were subtle and had mostly beneficial consequences. In the past few hundred years, however, things really started taking off. The industrial revolution. Interchangeable parts and mass production. Severe capitalism and wealth accumulation. For lots of reasons outside my comprehension, humans ‘ramped up’ the shift toward modifying the Earth to suit our needs. And we also changed our needs quite a bit.
My background in Evolutionary Biology gives me keen insight into the interaction between individuals and their environment. I accept Natural Selection as the best model we have to describe this back-and-forth process. Individuals enter the world with slightly different characteristics, and these differences have a differential ‘fit’ with the environment. This fitness differential translates to reproductive success, and the DNA associated with fit individuals is passed on to future generations. This describes a natural interaction of individuals and the environments in which they live.
When individuals figure out how to ‘game the system‘, the process changes. Humans learned how to ‘trick’ the environment by modifying elements to increase ‘fitness’. We invented medicine to help us live longer. We created machines to rapidly exhaust natural resources. And all of this seemed well and good until it didn’t.
In his seminal, “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garritt Hardin talks about how humans mistakenly assumed we would be unable to exhaust the Earths’ resources. We thought the abundant food, water, space, and fuel on planet Earth could never run out. Until they all did.
The idea that we can modify the Earth to suit our needs without any negative consequences is similarly short-sighted. And that’s what Unnatural Selection is all about.
Millions of people have no interest in the Are vs Should Problem because they can’t meet their basic human needs for things like food, clean water, and safe shelter.
These problems can only be fixed if we live more in the Are and less in the Should.
There are no two ways about it, I believe that we need to be more Are, and less Should. I am even starting to believe that the world’s biggest problems can only be solved by people who realize their full ‘Are’ potential. It seems imperative that we learn to develop our Are potential and to shun the Shoulds. Being in our Ares is what is going to fuel the creativity necessary to move forward as a species and solve our most pressing issues.
And, sure, some people already live more in their Are who have invented awesome things like rocket ships an iPhones, but many of these amazing inventions don’t mean much to a lot of people on Earth. I think much of the industrialization and consumerism we see today is fueled by the Should and not the Are.
Similarly, many people do not have the food, water, and shelter necessary to even ponder the Are vs Should Problem. I realize my white privilege is what allows me to even ask whether I am the person I AM or the person I feel like I SHOULD BE. I get that. Not everyone has that luxury. But we all deserve it. We’re all born to be who we Are, but our circumstances and opportunities available dictate whether we have luxury time to ponder such things. And the solutions to these food, water, and shelter problems is going to be found by someones’ (or many someone’s) Are.
Every person on earth deserves to have their needs met. We deserve to have food, clean water, safety, community, and all of the other basic needs. We also deserve to wonder and to be curious. We deserve to have the choice about whether we thrive or survive. We deserve the chance to be who we Are.
So I feel a sense of urgency around the Are vs Should Problem. We need more of us to think. To learn. To create. To figure out. But to do these things we need to allow ourselves to bIf more of us learned how to minimize the Shoulds, we would make more discoveries, invent more useful items, and more quickly solve the world’s most pressing problems.
Obviously this means that we, as individuals, need to work on this – and I promise, I will develop a “how-to” in the not-too-distant future, but we also need to pave the way for everyone else.
Think about it. We can put people on the moon. Entrepreneurs go to ‘space’ for fun. Most of us have the internet in our pockets. Don’t tell me we can’t figure out how to take care of each other. To give each other the opportunity to be who we Are.
Twenty years of training and working as an Ecologist and Evolutionary Biologist means I see everything as a system of interacting parts. I really can’t see the trees for the forest. When I look at a part, I see the system to which it belongs. It’s a curse.
An example is when I worked for a state environmental agency. I absolutely needed my manager to explain to me how my position fit in to the larger system (the agency). I needed to understand how the system worked, at least on a cursory level, to really understand what my job was. Even at one of my first jobs delivering pizza, it wasn’t until I had participated in the whole life cycle of phone order to ticket to cooking to delivery to balancing the drawer at the end of the night that the whole thing made sense and that I had a sense of purpose.
In the context of the Are vs. Should problem, the ‘system’ (and this could be many things, but here I mean American capitalism as an example) is waaaay to skewed toward the Should to the point that the Ares are steadily losing value. In this scenario, it becomes extra difficult to develop our Ares when the deck is stacked against it.
But more than that, the global system leaves too many people unable to even ponder the Are vs Should Problem. If you don’t have enough food, shelter, and medicine to keep you safe and healthy, you have no need to ponder life’s more philosophical problems. You care not for the Should nor the Are, as you are too busy trying not to die. This, I suggest, is a problem with the system that can potentially be solved by getting everyone more in their Are.
In other words, we need to look upstream at how the larger system works, and how it impedes our progress, to make it possible for us to change.
Man, that’s the best snippet up there. Watch it if you didn’t. It will tell you all you need to know about the type of guy David McRaney is.
I’m still not sure how this happened, but David McRaney agreed to talk with me about Curiosity, and here’s over an hour of his unique viewpoints. I still refer back to several things he said during this interview. David is the host of an awesomely educational (if not humbling) Podcast called ‘You Are Not So Smart‘, author of several books, and apparently plotting a new video format project. In all of his work, he removes the veils of error that encumber us bumbling humans.
And that’s not to say that David is pretentious or ‘holier than thou’. Quite the contrary. Though Mr. McRaney does point out the many fallacies and errors that humans make every day, he doesn’t blame us for not knowing better. Rather, David is a journalist who insists on helping us become more aware of ourselves. . . and each other.
David’s work, if I can be so bold to say, aims at making us better. By pointing out our faults he is not trying to sting, he is trying to induce growth. And, dare I say it, CURIOSITY.
David is also a really cool (and rare) combination of trained journalist (the old school kind who uses words like ‘beat’) and self educated psychologist. He is THE most thorough researcher I have ever met, and I was a scientist for 20 years.
So, yeah, I believe him when he says he has never been bored.
He also shares how the term ‘angst’ came to be.
This interview is full of wisdom. I hope you enjoy listening to David McRaney.
Inside each of us are several characters. These parts are all ‘us’, but they are distinct from one another. What distinguishes these parts is the roles they play in managing our lives. We are, at the same time, the nice guy, the responsible gal, the tactful them. We play many roles in different aspects of our lives. At work we are cordial and diligent. In bed we are adventurous and raw. As athletes we are courageous and assertive. These different roles help us achieve different goals and help us get along with the dynamic and varied people we interact with each day.
What’s most interesting to me is how these parts develop and WHY they exist the way they do. During my decade of therapy and self-help I have learned that my parts, or characters, were developed in childhood – mostly to alleviate some pain or fear. I learned to embrace ‘being smart’ and a part was born that felt better about himself if he reminded himself that, well, at least he was smarter than some people. I have other parts that similarly justify their pretentious or arrogant beliefs because they protect me from sadness, separation, or isolation. We all have these parts we’re not proud of, but they served us well during times of duress when there were no adults around to guide us or teach us a better way.
In other words, many of the parts we carry into adulthood are the result of decisions made made to help us survive a scary or dangerous situation in our youth. Again, at the time these parts were formed, they served their purpose most excellently in helping us survive, feel better, or to find peace. But as we grow, we can learn better ways and we have new experiences that can modify our behaviors. Except that’s not always what happens. Often, these parts become stronger through habituated repetition over time. Often times we DON’T learn and apply new information because these parts are so strong. Especially when trauma is repetitive and frequent. I was repetitively bullied, and relied on my ‘being smart’ part to make me feel better about being a weak target for bigger kids. This made me feel better throughout my youth, but as I grew taller and the bullies stopped picking on me, I was left with a pretentious arrogance that negatively affected me as an adult. It has taken a long time to understand this part, to console it, and to help it find peace. As I understand these parts I am able to make better choices when I interact with people, to feel safer, and to grow.
With apologies to people suffering from true multiple personality disorder, I offer an explanation about how we are comprised of many parts as a way of better understanding ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. In the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, it is essential to understand how we are organized so that we can better organize our beliefs and values.
In the content of the Are vs Should Problem, we have to look at our selves as being comprised of more than just two parts; the Are and the Should. In fact, there are many Shoulds. I’m not sure if there are multiple Ares because I believe the Are is defined by our unique DNA. So for now we’ll consider ourselves as being comprised of at least one Are, and multiple (maybe 5-25) unique Shoulds we have learned and developed as we became Domesticated.
In my personal IFS work I have come to understand this model and believe it is not only incredibly useful, it fits in very well with the Are vs. Should Problem. These parts have origins, develop distinct personalities, and seem present consistently enough to warrant focused consideration.
This week I’ll use the IFS model to describe our ‘parts’, how they relate to the Are vs Should Problem, and how these parts come to be.