To Change our Thinking: Philosophical Practice for Difficult Times
In her scholarly article, To Change Our Thinking: Philosophical Practice for Difficult Times, Helen Douglas (2016) emphasizes the significance of companionship and personal engagement in the pursuit of practical wisdom. She asserts that the false view of the human nature is as a result of the unequal relationship between the theoretical and practical ways of cultivating wisdom. Philosophical counseling can mean a lot of things to different people, but according to Douglas (2016), it means philosophy in action. It refers to the process of engaging a person in a meaningful conversation so as to bring perspective and understanding to that person’s experiences. Although some people are unaware that such a career exists, philosophical counseling can be traced back to Pythagoras.
Douglas first came across philosophical counseling during her studies, and she was quick to notice that it was her favorite profession. Since 2002, when she started a counseling practice in South Africa, she has helped hundreds of people to rediscover meaning in their lives. Douglas has on many occasions pointed out that philosophical counselors cannot replace psychiatrists or psychologists. On the contrary, the work of philosophical counselors is to provide a pre-established diagnosis for life problems in open-minded environments. Although philosophical counseling is still in its infancy stages, it’s becoming popular in Europe, America, Spanish countries, Asian, and some African nations. Most people remain ignorant that the service exists. However, the problems facing the current generations highlights the need for philosophical counseling. People need to think clearly about their lives in different ways that Douglas calls new mode of thinking.
The society today is riddled with plenty of environmental, social, political, and spiritual crises, and the technology has failed in bringing sanity and balance. Douglas (2016) noted that any real solution these crises can only be obtained through a different mode of thinking. The academics comprises the society’s chosen thinkers who are obliged to address the crises in the society. Douglas candidly steps up to transform the way people relate to the world around them through setting up a philosophical counseling practice. She argues that the best way to address the crises is to start from the current situation, taking up with what is readily available to answer the call of duty. Academics should always be guided by outside influences as well as some sense of duty to act beyond the professional contracts and oaths of allegiance. Douglas (2016) asserts that changing the mode of thinking can only work if people learn to understand humanness differently and act in accordance with that understanding to find the solution. To address the global crises, people should take up tasks in their way, using their experiences and potential. People need to own up the role of thinking the unthinkable in the positions they hold and in the roles in which they have been cast. She believes that this is the time to experiment a lot of things to find the solution to the increasing crises in environmental, political, spiritual, social aspects.
According to Douglas (2016), philosophical practice is one of the contemporary means of transformation as it trains people to live and to view the world in a completely new way. Douglas believes that people go through unnecessary suffering due to dogmatic beliefs as well as unwarranted desires and fears. Philosophical practice thrives on keen awareness to morality, companionship, attentiveness, contemplation, and learning to live and to dialogue. During the twentieth century, the psychotherapists used existentialism to address therapeutic problems, but since 1980’s the philosophers started developing and experimenting non-dogmatic practices to help people in discovering new ways of living. Today, there are plenty of philosophical practices ranging from philosophical consulting and counseling. The majority of the philosophers develop their practices based on their experiences and interests. In her philosophical practice that began operations in 2002 in South Africa, Douglas has realized that explanations do not necessarily result in understanding. Moreover, she has realized from the philosophical practice that you do not necessarily need to know everything so as to teach. Philosophical practice breaks down the walls between political, personal, and psychological aspects of engagement.
Douglas (2016) noted that majority of the people who visit her philosophical practice are self-selected originating from diverse demographic. Some have psychiatry experience while others have psychotherapy experience, but they all hope that philosophical counseling will provide the solution to their problems. Their ultimate goal is to make real discoveries in their lives. Philosophical counseling is guided by more freedom, life, reality, and usefulness, so the work of counselors is to discover what pains the clients, their weaknesses, commitments, dreams and what pleases them. Douglas (2016) observed that the real discovery is not easy to find and that it requires luck and time. Sometimes the client may never get there as disconnection may occur in the process of looking for the real discovery. During practice, Douglas (2016) also noted that although people have different capacity for goodness, sanity, and intelligence, no one can be liberated against their will. She emphasizes the need to accept this equality so as to create an environment that cultivates the will, the desire and wit for liberty. This way, people can reasonably achieve their goals.
Douglas (2016) observed that one thing that remains unaddressed in the problem explorations is making the world aware of its consciousness. Awakening the world from slumber land and making it derive meaning from its actions. To address this, Douglas believes that it will take some daring people. She believes that it takes the effort to subject everything to criticism and to set everything apart. To liberate the world, it requires a leap of faith as the liberators face a lot of terror and disorientation in the process of awakening. The economic, social, political, spiritual, and environmental struggles make people to fundamentally seek relational, workable and reasonable life. Douglas concludes that nature and goodness were one thing in the beginning and they still are. The world today acts as if they are separate, therefore living under the delusion, and this could be the source of the global crises. To restore order, people need to get things into proper perspective. Douglas suggests that philosophical counseling is ideal for disclosing the interdependence and interrelatedness. It aims at restoring confidence, integrity as well as rendering people more useful in life. Philosophical counselors fundamentally guide the world to live harmoniously. It teaches that loving and knowing re interdependent and interrelated and that a new way of thinking is possible. Ultimately, some form of consciousness is a crucial supplement to activism as none, but people themselves can liberate themselves. In brief, Douglas suggests supplementing science and technology with philosophical counseling in discovering new ways of addressing global challenges.
Douglas, H. (2016). To change our thinking: Philosophical Practice for difficult times. South African Journal of Philosophy, 35(2), 123-131, DOI:10.1080/02580136.2016.1162395
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