Q & A

Questions have been sent to the organization from the content of this website, including some common questions that have been asked during training workshops. I have included a few with some answers.

If the problem belongs to me, why does it consist of other people. Why is it associated with other people’s actions?
We are relational beings. We are perturbed [triggered] by our environment and the people to whom we interface with. We do not live in isolation. Our understanding of the world originates in community. However, while things outside of ourselves do seem to be the causes of our problems, these outside things are mere representations of what is occurring inside of us. These things that perturb us are not the cause of the problem. If I am not receptive to the perturbation [trigger] then it would not be a problem to me. If you are sensitive to that trigger then you will be sitting with the problem. For example, some people get annoyed when someone chews gum loudly. While this may not annoy one person it definitely annoys others. Their sensitivities to the outside environment differ from person to person. While the person chewing his gum loudly may seem to be the problem, it could also be seen that my sensitivity to the sound is the problem. I could simply listen to my earphones and suddenly there is no problem, even though the person chewing gum was not changed. Thus there is an interface between us and our environment. This is how we survive. We obtain information from the environment that is processed by our bodies. Thus there is a connection between us and the environment. Without this connection we would not survive.

Does this mean I can solve all my problems alone?
We live in community. We work with each other and need each other for survival amongst other things. Yes the problem lives with me. I can approach the person or part in the environment for a change. Lets take a physical example. Everyday I walk out of my house and trip over a floor mat that has a raised corner. Where is the problem? Yes I can learn to lift my foot higher when crossing over the matt, or I can change something in the environment to change my problem. I can remove the matt, or I can bend the flap downwards. Thus it is possible so seek a change in the environment. When the environment is changed the problem no longer represents itself in me anymore. From that example, an outside solution was found. Sometimes this cannot occur. There is a mountain near my house and I need to drive around it to get to work which increases my travel time and I am often late for work. In this case, I alone cannot drive over the mountain or move the mountain and thus a solution would need to be found on my side alone. The environment will not change for me and I am unable to perturb the mountain to such a degree that it will change. In order for me to survive (not loose my job for being late) I will have to change alone. Sometimes a joint change also takes place. If for example, the road agency decided to build a train tunnel through the mountain thus changing the mountain, I could also change by taking the train to work. Now a joint change occurred. In relational circumstances the same can be applied.

My wife has a problem with me. Its not a problem to me. If she has the problem, shouldn’t she sort it out on her own?
Are you okay with your wife having this problem? It may become even a bigger problem if your wife sees that you don’t care that she has a problem.

I was recently attacked by criminals who stole my wallet. I am annoyed and angry. Is this my problem, am I the cause of this problem?
From the outset I have tried to show that cause and effect are out of my scope of understanding. I do not know the cause of why you were attacked. Some may say that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is still not a definite cause as this does not account for why the criminals decided to do what they did and why there was a synchronism between your presence and their decision to attack. The word cause quickly brings with it the word “blame”. Neither of these words I don’t believe will help with the situation. As I understand it, your current problem is anger and frustration at the situation. This is your problem. The criminals don’t share the same problem. Their problem is probably more like not wanting to get caught by the police etc. They are not angry and annoyed that you had your wallet stolen. It is possible that everyone in the situation has a problem, but the details of it and the emotions felt would be different.
Even if you tried to be mugged, this is still not up to you as someone would still need to cooperate and actually mug you. You are not the cause of the situation.

You spoke of our senses filtering our world. Thus I understand that no one could be certain of anything anymore as their senses are imperfect. My partner is dead set that they know what he sees and believes there to be no other option. I have tried to explain this to him but he does not agree and he believes that seeing is believing. What are your comments on this?
Can you let him believe that what he sees is real to him? Why does he have to see it your way? Is it possible to agree to disagree. What will it change if you show him that you are “right”. Is that not the same as what he is doing?

I am a religious person. In my religion we believe that there is an ultimate truth. If everything in life is determined by our own neurology, isn’t this irreligious? How is it possible to still have an ultimate truth?
When you ask someone to explain their experience of religion to you, you get many different answers from different people even if they are from the same denomination. Does this mean that because everyone does not say or feel the same things they are irreligious? Post-modernism can question everything, disprove everything, turn circles around anything. So what. Philosophers have done this for thousands of years. One does not even have to advocate post modernism to pose a challenge to another school of thought. It seems that even bigger religious challenges come from religions who also have ultimate truths and are equally against post-modernistic non objective methodology. Thus, even non post-modernistic epistemology still poses a challenge. Maybe that is part of religion?

You said that labels can have a psychological effect on people. If my son is behaving badly is he not a naughty boy? What is wrong with calling him a naughty boy?
When you draw a picture and frame it, it is finalised. The same is true for a sculpture, once complete and on the showroom floor, it is done. You name it and everyone calls your picture or sculpture by its name. Some artists use descriptive names such as “angry tourist”; “crying girl” and so on. The point is that the artwork always has that label attached to it. If my child behaves aggressively today, I can label his behavior as aggressive. The problem arises when the label becomes a fixture, like with the artworks. If my child becomes known as the aggressive child, then that may effect his self view. Is he always aggressive? Does he have the ability to not be aggressive? If he is playing in a group and things get out of hand, is it my child as he is usually aggressive?
The point is that behavior can be labeled in the present tense as it occurs, so aggressive becomes aggressing and so on. Even positive labels can be problematic. If I am always known as the clever child, where does that put my siblings? When a child is seen and labeled as intelligent then when he performs poorly on a test, its because he was not acting himself. Being known as the clever child can also be pressurizing as that is how this child’s parents see him.
We as a society are lovers of labels. From clothing names to medical conditions, we label shop as a way of life (borrowed from Luigi Boscolo).
If your son is naughty today then he is naughty today, but is he known to you as the naughty child. Another common one is “my child is shy”. What does this mean, what does this mean to the child. Can my child be acting shy? The language is important.
A person has the capacity to change, has the capacity to be clever, naughty, aggressive, clumsy etc, but no one is one thing all the time.

The recent oil spill (deepwater horizon oil spill) in the Gulf of Mexico has had a large impact on the environment. How could this problem be seen from an ecosystemic perspective?
How did you get to work today? How did you cook your dinner last night? It is likely that at some point in your day, you are using an energy source that is fossil fuel derived whether oil derived, or coal derived. The point is that we rely on these raw materials for survival. People often forget that the majority of the raw material in the generation of electricity too is fossil fuel derived. Thus we are all included in this problem at some level. Now the issue with BP has become controversial and a lot of angry comments have been made. While people are entitled to their opinion, how does blame and anger solve this problem? Has there been foul play. Obviously an investigation needs to be undertaken and learning needs to take place as how to improve oil extraction methods and management.
The problem is that things are connected even if we don’t see it happening in our own backyard. For example, most people would prefer to buy a product at the cheapest price possible. For example, purchasing a new set of tyres that are made in China. If the purchaser does not live in the area where the product is made, they do not see the environmental impact of the manufacturing process that was required to obtain the finished product. Oil is used in the manufacture of tyres as well as electricity. The pollution footprint of each product is usually unknown to the consumers.
It is easy to blame the large consortiums for their mistakes, but we too need to see our own impacts in this global problem. I ask myself, “how am I adding to the world’s energy problems?” “ Do I understand the production process of products and services that I use on a a day-today basis?”.
It is easy to single out one company such as BP as we can see the devastation of the oil spill right in front of our eyes. Its not as easy to see the devastation of the ongoing use of say motor vehicles that are used daily all over the world. While this does not reduce BP’s responsibility, it adds responsibility to all the cooperators who too need and use BP’s products daily. If I drive a car, I am cooperating with this fossil fuel problem. As frustrating as it seems, change starts with me. How am I supposed to expect an oil company to change if I have not changed?
How are you getting to work tomorrow?

I still don’t understand what ecosystemic thinking is. Can you provide some examples of this epistemology?
Things do not originate on their own. Things don’t live in isolation either. For example, we all know what a door is. The label of “door” makes sense in its context of walls. No walls = no doors. Thus doors and walls are related to each other. Imagine having a door standing alone with just open space surrounding it. Thus items in our environment are linked together. This is especially true in nature. Plants and animals (humans included) are integrated with each other at various levels. For example, many plants need to be fertilized before reproduction can take place. Certain insects such as carpenter bees assist in the plants reproduction as the bees obtain nectar from the flower and collect pollen on their body at the same time. The bee then moves to another flower aiding the sexual reproduction of the flowers. Thus the bee and the flower are part of a system whether they are aware of this or not. There are various ways of looking at ecosystems. The point is that there are relational links between parts of nature and the environment.
In terms of epistemology, having an awareness of the connectedness between things in the world and your connection to them, is in keeping with an ecosystemic epistemology.
A key feature of ecosystems is their cyclic nature. For example, a garden can be seen as an ecosystem. While it may be part of larger systems, we can just focus on the garden for now. The plants need water and nutrients to survive. They have the ability to make food for certain insects and birds. The insects and plants die at some point and are decomposed in the soil by bacteria and fungi. This decomposed matter becomes nutrients for the plants to continue growing and the cycle continues. We can infer labels such as producers, consumers and decomposers to the relevant participants in this community but we unsure of which is the first link in the chain.
Going back to ecosystemic-psychology, the word “why” is problematic as it equates to a cause and origin. From the above example one can see that it is difficult to say with authority that one part of the ecosystem is the eternal cause of the system. While one participant may be seen as a probable cause for another part, it too is the effect of an earlier cause. Thus, the cause agent may also be the effect agent at a later time too. This may be confusing so in an example, the door may be the effect of the placement of walls, but the door is also the cause of the idea of entrance and exit of a house for example. The door can be both cause and effect at different times. From this simplistic example, one can see that cause and effect are mere parts of a cycle and thus the truth will keep eluding the one who searches for it. Thus, a study of how things relate to each other would be ecosystemically correct rather than why things relate to each other.

I was abused as a child. I cannot seem to get over this part of my life. Is it possible to change this part of me so I can move on and get on with my life?
I am going to handle this question in an impersonal way that may be harsh. The statements in this question don’t make sense. Firstly, unless you locate in your brain the part that remembers the abuse and you remove that part of your brain, your goal is not possible. Your current life is a product of all your past experiences so what you are saying is that even though you were abused a long time ago, you are still not happy with your life now in the present. It seems that you have linked the past abuse with your current state of mind. Do all people who experience abuse need to get over it? Is abuse an ID card for an unhappy life? Is it the cause of adult problems? If you answered yes to those questions then it is true you do need to get over it. What you need to get over is the belief that abuse equals unhappiness in the future. I am not condoning abuse, what I am saying is that we do not know how the abuse is related to your current problems if at all.
You speak of getting on with your life, what are you doing at the moment? Are you not getting on with your life then? How is it to not get on with your life? Are you not living then? No eating and breathing? What needs to change before you can get on with your life as you put it? Do you need to “unlive” the abuse?
I believe your life is happening now, whether you think you are getting on with it or not, its happening.
I don’t see a way of getting over things, I see a way of living with things. Imagine being the way you want in spite of having the abuse?

I recently broke up with my girlfriend and I have moved on and met someone else but she seems to be in pain still. I feel sorry for her and just wish she could meet someone so that she would feel better.
Feeling sorry for someone, what does that mean? Also, how do you know she is in pain?
If you terminated a love relationship with someone, is there any need to still be in contact?
It seems contradictory for you to feel sorry for her. How do you know what she needs? Life is ups and downs. Why would you want to rob her of her pain if she is in fact in pain? Maybe this pain is what is right for her right now? This may be a defining moment for her. Just because you are fine does not mean that your way of living is right for everyone else. Are you feeling guilty about the pain she is going through? Could or should you have done things differently? It seems that the problem you have is about you and less about her. Firstly, you are the one who is seemingly fine yet you are upset about her pain. You have chosen a life without her, why are you focusing on her?

How do I create a new me?

What is wrong with the old you? What do you want to change?

I think that nature is here for our use and we do not need to worry about the impact on the environment?

Do you value your health? Do you have children or loved one’s who will outlive you? Visit areas that have already suffered environmental impacts that are already affecting their inhabitants.

How do I live a second-order life—in terms of cybernetics? How do I adhere to those ethics in a society that is mainly concerned with objectivity?