Saturday, 20 October 2012

From badgers to couples counselling - blaming or working together.

Reading again today about badger culls and TB, it made me think again about blame versus responsibility. If there's a problem, there will be some people who find the easiest way out is to point the finger, saying 'It's their fault, nothing to do with me.' In this case, the 'solution' proposed by some has been a badger cull.

Stepping stones across the waterIt seems a simple solution, but life is often more complex than that though isn't it? In this example, there are badgers with TB; and there are cows with TB. Killing some badgers seems to me unlikely to 'solve' the problem. However as long as the 'culprit' is out there, a perception of 'them' and not 'us', then this type of tactic is likely to be proposed. 

Surely it makes more sense to say that there is a problem and ask what we can do co-operatively to find the best way forward? I'm using the badger issue as an example, as I think it shows just how easily we tend to take sides and to blame and perhaps even to want to punish.

Even to talk about 'solutions' as such can be unhelpful sometimes when dealing with complex situations. Sometimes we have to work on what might be good enough; and manage risk; and find the best way forward. It all sounds very woolly, doesn't it? Dealing with uncertainty can feel like that sometimes but is probably much more realistic. Life can be very uncertain and unpredictable; and there may not be obvious 'solutions' to all our problems. Does this mean that we have to pretend that we have all the answers, or that we can allow ourselves to be uncertain at times?

Uncertainty allows a space for more open-minded exploration and may be more likely to find a productive way forward - much more likely than easy answers that may be ill-considered. Blaming can leave us feeling angry, empty and powerless. Thinking about co-operative ways forward opens the door for a broader view and more creative ideas.

This more open-minded, co-operative way of looking at difficult issues can be applied to badgers; to politics; and also to ordinary individuals trying to relate to each other. For two people, (for instance in couples counselling), to say 'we have a problem that we would like to work on together' is very different to saying 'I think it's his fault!'

The open-minded co-operative approach immediately allows a space to think about what's going on. Without blaming, we can feel comfortable enough to do this, even if it's not easy. This can be really helpful in couples counselling. It may seem like we've come a long way from badgers here, but the same basic processes are involved.  This is about how we relate as human beings whether to other creatures; to other people generally; or in our closest associations with our loved ones.

In fact the closer we get to others, the harder it can get. We can feel more defensive; and when we feel more defensive, we attack more and blame more. However in choosing not to take 'blaming' as the default position, we can take a step back and think about working co-operatively with others. We can work together on the problem and we are no longer alone.

Lin Travis Counselling Services