In my mid-teens I read a book by David Holbrook called “Sex and Dehumanisation.” It was a good time in my life to read it, it spoke of the high suicide rate amongst prostitutes and how losing moral orientation led to a lack of self-worth; it drew the distinction between love and lust, as the ancient Greeks would have put it between Agape and Eros, and the necessity of honouring the former.
On the radio recently I heard an article about ‘Pa’ Jackson’s Corinthian Casuals, who beat the Football Association’s cup winners Blackburn Rovers (8 - 1) and Manchester United (11- 3, still that club's biggest defeat). Their record would have been even greater had they not had a rooted objection to competition. The Corinthians' philosophy was that gentlemanly conduct was always superior to the will to win at any cost; they would not take advantage, withdrawing players if they were winning by too great a margin, they did not take penalties and disapproved of the concept. They were the greatest football team of their day, and they proved beyond question that the true amateur is always superior to the professional. You see, the amateur acts from love while the professional prostitutes his skills for money and that base motive taints and conditions performance.
You may have been stirred by Lord Tennyson’s immortal words on the Charge of the Light Brigade,
“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.”
It is worth remembering that the officers in Tennyson’s ‘Cherry Pickers’ were expected to spend more on their mess bills than they received in pay.
If Holbrook was right, and if we extend the principle to life as a whole, the horrific and rising tide of mental illness in Western Civilisation finds its explanation in the grasping, selfish, target led values by which ‘winning’ is everything and honour is a word which has fallen out of use.
A few days ago I was asked to teach in a college, the topic was Stress Management, I was appalled to find several textbooks stated there are two approaches to stress management, Problem Solving Approach and Emotional Approach, and that problem solving is better (when the problem is solved stress goes away) while the emotional approach boils down to no more than Denial.
I will spare the blushes of the (well- known and highly regarded) writers of those books by not naming them!
As a solicitor my approach was problem solving, I wanted to know the facts so the Law could be applied to the clients’ problems, in order that they be resolved. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of problems that some can be solved and some cannot, at least in the way the client wanted; but, even if a problem is resolved, it is also in the nature of the phenomenal World that as soon as one problem is solved others arise to take its place. If this is the approach you take to problems, no matter how hard you try, you will never be free of them.
In Counselling I learned the facts of the client’s story are not what matters; the question is, “How does that make you feel?” The Emotional Approach to problems is not denial, far from it. If a client succeeds in driving a problem from his conscious mind it merely hides in the sub-conscious and the problem is not solved at all. The Emotional Approach to problems is to bring them into conscious understanding so that it can be seen what they mean to a client. If the client can see the positive aspects of the ‘problem’, and there always are positive aspects, then the problem is no longer a stressor to the client and he or she will be better able to deal with such events in future.
The real stressor in problems is the conflict between how the client wanted the World to be and how it is. If the client can realise that it is actually alright for the World to be as it is, there is no more stress. Yet the World, in the form of managers, government ministers, and now it seems, teachers is in Denial of this, demanding we must all achieve so and such. The real cause of stress, then, is the pressure we put on individuals with “must” and “ought” and “need to” in setting targets as the only goals, suggesting that what people do is all that matters and what they are is of no importance.
Some years ago, in another college, also teaching Psychology, I asked of a group of students, “Are you human beings or human doings?” After only a little thought most replied, “We are human doings.” This is what they had been taught!
It would be enough for this article to rail against well-known and highly regarded writers of Psychology textbooks for their spiritual and practical ignorance of Human nature and their factual ignorance of Counselling. Grave though the accusation is, it is not the point. When people are made ill by being caused to believe that what they do, not what they are is all that matters, when they are abused and exploited by micro-managers, self-esteem declines and so, performance declines.
It is seventy one years since Winston Churchill famously said,
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The young spitfire and hurricane pilots, of whom he spoke, in challenging the awesome might of the Luftwaffe, a challenge which gave Churchill the chance to keep the flame of Western Civilisation alight, were not professionals, fighting for money. What they fought for was love of country, love of humanity, even love of Love itself. These were true amateurs in the spirit of Tennyson’s Cherry Pickers and the Corinthians, it made them invincible.
Of course we should all do the best we can with the world of problems, that may be a duty but it is not our true purpose, and if we fail so be it. It is not until we learn to love ourselves and to do what we love, because we love it, that we will achieve freedom from stress or success in the World.