Outside the Box
There are many phrases which are fast becoming common currency or clichés of late. One such phrase is “to think outside the box.” Each and every one of us likes to think that we are objective and impartial. However, despite our best efforts we find ourselves, alas, to be all too human, that is all too partial and prejudiced. To be impartial and objective is a very good ideal, but like all ideals, it is more of an aspiration than a reality. However, it’s a worthwhile aim – at least we know we are going in the right direction.
I suppose in the end of the day “self-knowledge”, or whatever wisdom we have garnered through suffering, is the most worthwhile knowledge we can learn. Consequently our project in life is to make ourselves if I may be permitted an existential flourish here. Or if we to look to Carl Ransom Rogers, we might subscribe to what he terms “self-realization” or “self-actualization”. We might even engage in more formal counselling or psychotherapy, and in so doing actively and positively attempt to get to know oneself. For the last eight weeks I have been engaged in counselling, attending weekly to the inner “self” or “being” or “soul”. Such care of soul is essentially healing. In Gaelic spirituality there is the wonderful concept of “anamchairdeas” (soul-friendship) or “anamchara” (soul-friend). In counselling one is literally becoming an “anamchara” or friend to one’s very own self, one’s very own “anam”. I love this term “anam”. Indeed, it is of course, cognate to its Latin partner “anima” or soul.
One might at first gaze think that counselling is nothing short of “navel-gazing”, a preoccupation with the self – a veritable a narcissism, or worse still philosophically, a veritable solipsism. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Firstly counselling works at breaking down the ego in its many manifestations, thereby unmasking inauthenticity in its legion aspects. The real self or soul will eventually shine forth like the sun breaking through the clouds which cloak it in such different apparel from day to day.
In this way, bit by bit, as authenticity becomes the “sun” or centre that illumines one’s life, objectivity about reality becomes more “real”. One is less dealing with one’s own issues, or reacting emotionally to events, as one deals with the daily issues one encounters. To some extent from the warp and woof of the fabric one can begin to unravel the ties of one's own issues and then begin to look more objectively at the overall pattern in the tapestry. Please excuse the surfeit of metaphors here. Sometime words trip up one another as I hastily attempt to give them form and shape.
And so it becomes easier as it were “to think outside the box.” It becomes easier “to look at something from a different angle” or “to move back from a problem to gain perspective” to use other metaphors. I will return to this theme again as I think that sound philosophical principles can not alone lead to clear thinking, but also to a calmer and less stressful and frenetic existence.