The big wheeze

We are overwhelmed by wheezing these days. Some 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, and one of every 10 Americans will suffer from the condition at some point in their lives.

As to the cause of this soaring epidemic, conventional medicine is unequivocal, pointing the finger squarely at pollen and other airborne irritants like animal dander and dust mites.

But what most doctors don’t appreciate is that up to 50 per cent of asthma is caused by a food allergy.

(more…)

We are overwhelmed by wheezing these days. Some 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, and one of every 10 Americans will suffer from the condition at some point in their lives.

 

As to the cause of this soaring epidemic, conventional medicine is unequivocal, pointing the finger squarely at pollen and other airborne irritants like animal dander and dust mites.

 

But what most doctors don’t appreciate is that up to 50 per cent of asthma is caused by a food allergy.

 

(more…)

Last week David Brooks wrote a column in the International New York Times with the extraordinary assertion that in 18th century America, when the Native Americans and the European settlers lived cheek by jowl, not a single Indian defected to go live with the settlers, but many settlers took off to live with the Native Americans.

At the time, the colonial settlers had embraced what we regard as the ‘good’ and ‘civilized life’: rich, ‘advanced’, with single-family dwellings and a good deal of privacy.

The natives, however, had a lifestyle we might consider primitive because it was communal and tribal, with virtually all activities, from childcare to hunting, done in the company of others.

 

(more…)

Not long ago, I attended a talk featuring a man who’d accidentally killed several people in a car accident through negligent driving – a case not unlike that of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic champion convicted of accidently murdering his girlfriend. (I’m changing some of the particulars but staying with the real meaning of what happened there.)

The man – we’ll call him John Smith – was tried, convicted of negligent homicide and served his prison term, during which time he lost everything: his business, his house and all his savings.

After he came on he began addressing his downfall as something that could have happened to any of us. Ten minutes into this speech, he was so booed and interrupted that he was forced to abandon his talk, pull up a chair and just take questions.

 

 

(more…)

Not long ago, I attended a talk featuring a man who’d accidentally killed several people in a car accident through negligent driving – a case not unlike that of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic champion convicted of accidently murdering his girlfriend. (I’m changing some of the particulars but staying with the real meaning of what happened there.)

 

The man – we’ll call him John Smith – was tried, convicted of negligent homicide and served his prison term, during which time he lost everything: his business, his house and all his savings.

 

After he came on he began addressing his downfall as something that could have happened to any of us. Ten minutes into this speech, he was so booed and interrupted that he was forced to abandon his talk, pull up a chair and just take questions.

 

(more…)

In the recent British referendum and the ongoing American Presidential campaign, we’ve all had a front row seat to one of the biggest misunderstandings in the West, namely, that most relationships, good and bad, are forged from the erroneous idea that we have to be the same to get along.

In fact, conflict is considered so antithetical to the human experience that when others disagree with us, we conclude that they must be stupid or ill informed. To justify this position, we find it necessary to debate them, demonize them, and announce their ignorance to the world. In our minds, conflict can be resolved only with I win, you lose.

The key to a more holistic relationship with anyone is to conceive of the relationship as a “thing in itself” and to focus on the “space in between”—the glue that holds it together—especially when you do not agree with each other.

(more…)

In the recent British referendum and the ongoing American Presidential campaign, we’ve all had a front row seat to one of the biggest misunderstandings in the West, namely, that most relationships, good and bad, are forged from the erroneous idea that we have to be the same to get along.

In fact, conflict is considered so antithetical to the human experience that when others disagree with us, we conclude that they must be stupid or ill informed. To justify this position, we find it necessary to debate them, demonize them, and announce their ignorance to the world. In our minds, conflict can be resolved only with I win, you lose.

The key to a more holistic relationship with anyone is to conceive of the relationship as a “thing in itself” and to focus on the “space in between”—the glue that holds it together—especially when you do not agree with each other.

Better together
Once you view yourself as part of a bigger whole, you will begin to act differently toward others. By making this one simple change of perspective and offering yourself as a vehicle of service to the connection, you will easily find the Bond that is always present and embrace difference within that larger experience of connection.

The scientific evidence shows that people who fire together wire together; whenever a group works together for a common goal, the brains of all parties begin to get on the same wavelength, strengthening the Bond within the group. Coming together in small groups with a superordinate goal provides a social cohesion beyond money, job, or size of property. A common and larger purpose creates instant closeness in any social setting and offers an excellent tool for maintaining cooperation in your office or neighborhood.

Furthermore, as many experts in conflict resolution recognize, working on a shared problem helps to unite people who are in opposition on other issues. For instance, the Search for Common Ground project managed to connect two sworn enemies, the Macedonian Slavs and Albanians, by encouraging them to work together on a project to clean up their local environment.

Here’s now to have conversations, post-Brexit or during the US campaign, when you’re speaking to a member of the other party.

Using dialogue to overcome deep divides
Create a safe environment. Get the other party (or parties) to agree about what subjects are comfortable to discuss and what conditions make it comfortable. Then lay down ground rules enforcing these conditions.

If you are meeting with more than two people, form a circle with your chairs before you begin. It’s often helpful to elect one person to be the mediator, to remind participants, who are often schooled in the art of debate and competitive point scoring, about which conversational tools help maintain supportive dialogue.

The mediator should be alert to potential arguments, name-calling, stereotypical behavior, unfairness, or disintegration of the process. He or she should also keep time and ensure that the conversation stays on point.

 

  • Build trust by sharing goals and reasons for participating.
  • Frame the dialogue as a series of questions, not topics to be debated or discussed. Plan questions in advance.
  • Start out with a single question. Give everyone a chance to answer.
  • Go deep, but don’t debate. The purpose is not to reach a decision or have a debate, but to explore and share deeply.
  • Don’t monologue. Each person should have an upper limit of time in which to put forward his or her view.
  • Be alert to your own emotional reactions, particularly to those whose views differ from yours. What does that surge of emotion say about your own views or prejudices?
  • Engage in deep truth telling about what really matters to you in your community—or indeed your country.
  • Be fully present. Listen with heart and mind.
  • Don’t be judgmental, no matter how different someone’s worldview or actions are from yours. Just describe the actions or view and your response to it. (“When she does X, I feel Y.”) Talk only about what you think and feel, not your assumptions about how the other person thinks and feels.
  • Root out misperceptions and stereotypes in your views of others during the process.
  • Avoid generalities (“always,” “never”), and speak just to the facts: what happened in particular circumstances.
  • Make it personal. Tell stories from your own past, which helps to place your interests and point of view in context. Speak always in the first person rather than on behalf of a particular point of view. Telling our own stories puts a human face on issues and helps to forge connection. Describe certain key turning points in your life, your heroes, role models, parents, or parent figures. Reveal what you most dream about.
  • Ask open questions unrelated to the area of conflict in order to get to know the person whose views differ from yours. This helps to solidify trust.
  • Reflect back what you think the other person has said.
  • Frame questions about a contentious issue in neutral language, without implied judgments. Instead of asking “Doesn’t your health care plan care about the millions of American children not covered by health care insurance?” say something like “What do you believe should be done about children not covered by health insurance?”
  • Look for common interests, emotions, values, or experiences that emerge in the conversation. As time goes on, you will be amazed by the similarity between your core values and interests and those you have considered your opponents.

As I contemplate the deep divide between the American people and how to re-unite the country – or Britain, for that matter, after the divisive Brexit vote – I think of the work of Don Beck. A former professor of social psychology at University of North Texas, Beck, a florid 75-year-old Texan, is most known for a system he has developed called Spiral Dynamics, which identifies the fine gradations of belief systems and their level of complexity of any given society.

As a political consultant on resolving societal conflict, Beck calls himself a human “heat-seeking missile,” drawn to the world’s hot spots: South Africa, Palestine, Afghanistan, Israel. His current work attempts to break up the thinking that fuels us-versus-them prejudice by showing people on one side that those on the other side are not all the same.

In Beck’s experience, what often polarizes people or pulls societies apart is a simple lack of appreciation of the spectrum of different beliefs that exist in cultures outside their own.

“We don’t have the language of difference, so we tend to stereotype,” he says.

(more…)

As I contemplate the deep divide between the American people and how to re-unite the country – or Britain, for that matter, after the divisive Brexit vote – I think of the work of Don Beck. A former professor of social psychology at University of North Texas, Beck, a florid 75-year-old Texan, is most known for a system he has developed called Spiral Dynamics, which identifies the fine gradations of belief systems and their level of complexity of any given society.

 

As a political consultant on resolving societal conflict, Beck calls himself a human “heat-seeking missile,” drawn to the world’s hot spots: South Africa, Palestine, Afghanistan, Israel. His current work attempts to break up the thinking that fuels us-versus-them prejudice by showing people on one side that those on the other side are not all the same.

 

In Beck’s experience, what often polarizes people or pulls societies apart is a simple lack of appreciation of the spectrum of different beliefs that exist in cultures outside their own.

 

We don’t have the language of difference, so we tend to stereotype,” he says.

Lessons from South Africa

During his sixty-three trips to South Africa in the 1980s, Beck became known as a bridge builder between the country’s black and white populations; as a consequence, he played a behind-the-scenes role in helping to smooth the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy.

 

In his dealings with the business community, he began to realize that many of the pro-apartheid Afrikaners, the dominant white group, were unable to differentiate between various black tribes, while members of the African National Congress, the party led by Nelson Mandela, also had difficulty distinguishing between different types of Afrikaners.

 

Beck began delivering presentations all over South Africa to educate whites and blacks in the fine distinctions between the many different Zulu tribes and white groups.

 

I was able to break up,” he says, “the definitional systems that fueled prejudice.”

 

It was Beck who first came up with the idea of using South Africa’s entry into the World Cup rugby play-offs in 1995, depicted in the film Invictus, as a means of creating nation-building euphoria, in order to unify a country emerging from apartheid. Beck had a special fascination with the psychology of premier-league games, and through his experiences working with the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints, he had developed a belief in the power of sports as a peacemaker.

 

This was a bold idea, given that the Springboks, the South African rugby team, were the very symbol of apartheid. Rugby was considered a white man’s sport. Virtually all players were Afrikaners, the white pro-apartheid minority; rugby coaches even shouted out plays in Afrikaans. English-speaking or black players seldom made the team, and consequently, the black population in South Africa actively boycotted the sport.

The unifying power of games

In 1995, Beck presented Kitch Christie, the Springboks coach, with a paper entitled Six Games to Glory, which detailed a series of psychological strategies that would help transform the team from underdog to world-class contender in the games leading up to the World Cup. Besides the strategies for winning the game, Beck’s paper included ways that the Springboks could stand as a focal point of pride for the fledgling country and connect the township blacks with the Afrikaners.

 

Psychologists call this a superordinate goal – a goal only achieved by large cooperative teamwork of two or more people. Engaging in sharing and teamwork tends to transcend differences, because it emphasizes the very heart of humanity — we are all in this together. And if we are all in this together we are no longer competing for scarce resources.

 

Beck’s document offers many strategies that can be used to create superordinate goals in other areas. He suggested that the Springboks adopt a collaborative or common identity — the green and gold colors of the team shirts, and a sports crowd song, with a Zulu drum to lead the team and arouse the crowd.

 

Beck arranged for the team to visit Mandela’s tiny prison cell at Robben Island, in order to emphasize their larger role in their country’s destiny. Above all, his exercises were to help develop a sense that each member of the team faced a life-defining moment requiring that they pull together as one.

 

As the games progressed, Beck’s superordinate goal began to infect the country; young blacks from the township tore down anti-rugby signs and hung photos of their Springbok heroes. During the World Cup, which the Springboks went on to win, Mandela was persuaded to appear in a Springbok green and gold shirt — the colors that had always symbolized his oppressors — as a tangible sign of unity and forgiveness.

 

We’re all in this together

To Beck, creating a superordinate goal is one of the best ways to achieve peace in areas of political conflict. In his work, Beck often meets with both sides in an area of conflict and shows them a positive vision of future possibility, but one that requires that both sides work together and use their common geography and resources to create a solution for all who live there.

 

Recently, he presented the Arabs and Israelis with a plan to make occupied Palestine “the Hong Kong of the Middle East,” an affluent society with both sides sharing resources for services such as education and health care.

 

Once you begin to see the whole, you can see past your own assumptions and beyond differences to our Bond and the common humanity that binds us all together.

 

What we need is not to make America or Britain great again. We need to make each country whole again, and to do that we need a goal we all share that can only be achieved by all of us pulling together as one. 

As I contemplate the deep divide between the American people and how to re-unite the country – or Britain, for that matter, after the divisive Brexit vote – I think of the work of Don Beck. A former professor of social psychology at University of North Texas, Beck, a florid 75-year-old Texan, is most known for a system he has developed called Spiral Dynamics, which identifies the fine gradations of belief systems and their level of complexity of any given society.

As a political consultant on resolving societal conflict, Beck calls himself a human “heat-seeking missile,” drawn to the world’s hot spots: South Africa, Palestine, Afghanistan, Israel. His current work attempts to break up the thinking that fuels us-versus-them prejudice by showing people on one side that those on the other side are not all the same.

In Beck’s experience, what often polarizes people or pulls societies apart is a simple lack of appreciation of the spectrum of different beliefs that exist in cultures outside their own.

We don’t have the language of difference, so we tend to stereotype,” he says.

Lessons from South Africa

During his sixty-three trips to South Africa in the 1980s, Beck became known as a bridge builder between the country’s black and white populations; as a consequence, he played a behind-the-scenes role in helping to smooth the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy.

In his dealings with the business community, he began to realize that many of the pro-apartheid Afrikaners, the dominant white group, were unable to differentiate between various black tribes, while members of the African National Congress, the party led by Nelson Mandela, also had difficulty distinguishing between different types of Afrikaners.

Beck began delivering presentations all over South Africa to educate whites and blacks in the fine distinctions between the many different Zulu tribes and white groups.

I was able to break up,” he says, “the definitional systems that fueled prejudice.”

It was Beck who first came up with the idea of using South Africa’s entry into the World Cup rugby play-offs in 1995, depicted in the film Invictus, as a means of creating nation-building euphoria, in order to unify a country emerging from apartheid. Beck had a special fascination with the psychology of premier-league games, and through his experiences working with the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints, he had developed a belief in the power of sports as a peacemaker.

This was a bold idea, given that the Springboks, the South African rugby team, were the very symbol of apartheid. Rugby was considered a white man’s sport. Virtually all players were Afrikaners, the white pro-apartheid minority; rugby coaches even shouted out plays in Afrikaans. English-speaking or black players seldom made the team, and consequently, the black population in South Africa actively boycotted the sport.

The unifying power of games

In 1995, Beck presented Kitch Christie, the Springboks coach, with a paper entitled Six Games to Glory, which detailed a series of psychological strategies that would help transform the team from underdog to world-class contender in the games leading up to the World Cup. Besides the strategies for winning the game, Beck’s paper included ways that the Springboks could stand as a focal point of pride for the fledgling country and connect the township blacks with the Afrikaners.

Psychologists call this a superordinate goal – a goal only achieved by large cooperative teamwork of two or more people. Engaging in sharing and teamwork tends to transcend differences, because it emphasizes the very heart of humanity — we are all in this together. And if we are all in this together we are no longer competing for scarce resources.

Beck’s document offe
rs many strategies that can be used to create superordinate goals in other areas. He suggested that the Springboks adopt a
collaborative or common identity — the green and gold colors of the team shirts, and a sports crowd song, with a Zulu drum to lead the team and arouse the crowd.

Beck arranged for the team to visit Mandela’s tiny prison cell at Robben Island, in order to emphasize their larger role in their country’s destiny. Above all, his exercises were to help develop a sense that each member of the team faced a life-defining moment requiring that they pull together as one.

As the games progressed, Beck’s superordinate goal began to infect the country; young blacks from the township tore down anti-rugby signs and hung photos of their Springbok heroes. During the World Cup, which the Springboks went on to win, Mandela was persuaded to appear in a Springbok green and gold shirt — the colors that had always symbolized his oppressors — as a tangible sign of unity and forgiveness.

 

We’re all in this together

To Beck, creating a superordinate goal is one of the best ways to achieve peace in areas of political conflict. In his work, Beck often meets with both sides in an area of conflict and shows them a positive vision of future possibility, but one that requires that both sides work together and use their common geography and resources to create a solution for all who live there.

Recently, he presented the Arabs and Israelis with a plan to make occupied Palestine “the Hong Kong of the Middle East,” an affluent society with both sides sharing resources for services such as education and health care.

Once you begin to see the whole, you can see past your own assumptions and beyond differences to our Bond and the common humanity that binds us all together.

What we need is not to make America or Britain great again. We need to make each country whole again, and to do that we need a goal we all share that can only be achieved by all of us pulling together as one. 

Why wait any longer when you’ve already been waiting your entire life?

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