In the first episode of this series, I talk with psychotherapist and author, Dr Aaron Balick, about how technology is impacting our sense of self, society and the quality of our relationships, and what it means to be caught in the battle between validation and recognition.
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Aaron is an author, clinical psychotherapist, and the director of Stillpoint Spaces UK, the London based hub of an international organisation devoted to sharing ideas from depth psychology with the wider public.
As a psychological consultant for the media, he speaks about the impact of social media and technology on the individual and society, and has been the resident agony uncle for BBC Radio 1 and CBBC for several years.
Recently featured on Radio 4 on The Digital Human, Aaron has also been involved in a variety of projects that aim to bring quality mental health content to programming for young people and adults.
What’s Your Greatest Concern For The Future?
My greatest concern for the future is that are so over-loaded with information that I think we’re not getting our priorities straight. So money flows to places where the most viral campaign is happening at the moment, not necessarily where something needs to happen.
And I would feel much better if there was some grand sifting process that kind of said, “This: plastics in the ocean”, for example. And who am I to say that’s a priority, but it seems to me since it’s going throughout the entire food chain it probably is, but that we’re so distracted that we are losing a sense of A) priority, and B) what our responsibility is to those priories, and C) what is the best way we can club together to resolve some of the major issues that are affecting the planet today.
What’s your greatest hope?
I can have quite an optimistic hope in humanity. I’m currently reading Stephen Pinker’s Enlightenment Now book and he also wrote Angels of A Better Nature where he goes on through a series of a lot of evidence to show how human beings actually have been getting better and better over time, killing each other less, fewer wars, hardly any famines anymore. That actually the trajectory might look pretty good. There is a lot of criticism of his work in this area, nobody denies that there are a lot of problems, but the examples I gave you before about small pox and the ozone hole may give me a sense that sometimes the will towards health on a global scale can win out.
What single action can we take right now?
So probably something I said a little bit earlier about insight and being honest with oneself. It’s kind of interesting that I answered your two previous questions on a kind of global scale when actually my main job is to work one on one with individuals.
They kind of surprised me there but I think when people are quiet with themselves, insightful about what their needs are, what their vulnerabilities are, their relationships with those closest to them, and honest with themselves about the answers that they get about the questions they ask themselves about that, people make better choices. I would kind of say stop fooling yourself – we all do a lot of the time but take some time out to stop fooling yourself. Find out what your needs are, find out honestly what the real needs and desires of those are that are close to you, have a honest conversation and take it from there.
Find out more
Websites aaronbalick.com / london.stillpointspaces.com
The Little Book of Calm
The Psychodynamics of Social Networking
Keep Your Cool: How to Deal with Life’s Worries and Stress (for 11-15 year olds)
Written, recorded & produced by Nathalie Nahai © 2018.
NATHALIE: Today’s guest is Dr. Aaron Balick. Clinical psychotherapist and author of several fantastic books and the director of Stillpoint Spaces UK, the London-based hub of an international organization devoted to sharing ideas from depth psychology with the wider public.
As a psychological consultant for the media Aaron has been the resident agony anchor for BBC Radio 1 and CBBC for several years. He recently featured on Radio 4 on The Digital Human and he’s been involved in a variety of projects that aim to bring quality mental health content to programming to young people and adults.
He’s spoken at various events on the impacts of social media and technology on the individual and on society and he’s written a fascinating book on the subject titled “The Pschyodynamics of Social Networking”.
So Aaron thank you so much for joining us today. I would love to dive in with a broad question, which is exploring the topic of how technology is influencing us. Perhaps let’s start with the individual. So do you find that there has been a shift in the way that people present with problems or really this technology maybe for your practice in recent years?
DR. BALICK: The interesting thing is people aren’t generally presenting technology as something separate from themselves when they are engaging in therapy. So if there is an issue with self-image I will hear about self-image in relation to the self and as deployed across technology. If I hear an issue with relationships the issue is relationships as experienced by the south and as mediated through technology so you tend not to get it as a separate item.
There is probably one exception though where it does seem to rise as a separate item and that would be dating, I think, and the use of Tinder or other dating apps that I find people are getting stuck in a kind of Tinder dating app shallow whirlpool that produces some results and not others. And thinking about it now that seems to be the outlier.
NATHALIE: So maybe let’s start with the outlier then because I think that makes for interesting listening as well as interesting conversation for us. What is the main impact that sites such as Tinder are having on the ways in which we relate to other people in dating?
DR. BALICK: I’m going to be 45 years old next month and what I’ve noticed from a generational perspective is when I was younger and we were dating the difficulty was finding a date, going on the first date and after that it was much easier. Like you finally got through the front door or you finally got yourself a date and then you could have a girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever it is. Today it is completely the opposite.
It’s really easy to get a date if you want to call it that. But it’s really hard to get the follow up, and I think the main issue is that people are either not entirely sure what they are looking for when they go on dating apps or they are secretly looking for something that they pretend they are not looking for. And I am talking about the people who end up unhappy on those apps.
So if you go unto an app like Tinder or any of its brothers and sisters and you are looking to meet people and you are looking for it to be casual and you are probably looking for a casual or sexual encounter as well, and you are looking for perhaps not to develop into anything serious then you are in the right place. All that stuff is really easy. If you are looking to build a relationship I think you – well, I think it does happen across these networks. I think you are kind of in the wrong place for two reasons.
First of all there are too many options so there are too many people on the network. There is too much choice. It’s the over stimulation of choice. So you could be on a date with someone that’s pretty much good enough but who is to say that the next person you see isn’t going to be even better.
The second reason I think is an implicit culture across these networks, which is you don’t want to take it too seriously so you have the wrong cam results where you have two individuals who would actually like to take it further but they are pretending to each other and themselves like they don’t, and then that ends up in disappointment.
NATHALIE: One of the things that’s really interesting about these sorts of networks is that for them to be popular enough to get people to use them they have to be used by enough people for the network effect to take off for other people to be attracted and by that point you’ve got a problem with scale, which is you have too many options then we’re much less likely to make choices that actually serve us, that are aligned with our values etcetera. Or we just get paralyzed. Are there any hacks that you found that can help deal with these things or do you think actually if the platform is designed on the scale of it that makes it very difficult to hack?
DR. BALICK: As a psychotherapist my work or life hack is insight and honesty with yourself. Know what you are in it for and know what you are doing. So if you are engaging in the same behavior over that network in a place that lands you feeling empty and unhappy and needing more then have some insight about that and say okay, either the network isn’t working, the app isn’t working or the way I am using that app isn’t working then think again.
I have nothing against sex as a recreational activity, serial dating as a social activity but if you’re engaging in that behavior but you’re actually looking for something more you’re going to get more of what you’re going to get, if you see what I mean.
DR. BALICK: So in a sense it’s like decide if that’s working for you. If it’s not working for you can you use the app in a different way or do you need to be doing something completely different that’s going to put you in the boring part for the kind of relationship that you are looking for.
NATHALIE: So that’s kind of Tinder. We’ve explored that very briefly. What are some of the other ways in which technology shapes the way that we perceive ourselves and we present ourselves to others.
DR. BALICK: So I think that the biggest single issue is the distinction that I make between validation and recognition. Very briefly, validation is a pat on the back. “Well, done. You look nice today” kind of a thing whereas recognition is “I really like who are and there’s some stuff that I don’t really like about you but I am still relating to you. You are a different human being from myself.
We encounter conflict in difference. I see how you are different from me and I still respect you.” So it’s a little bit nuanced. It’s a little bit more complex and it’s actually functionally what human beings need emotionally and psychologically. So you imagine parenting, which is a really good example. Parents don’t always like their kids. Kids don’t always like their parents. Partners don’t always like their partners but you have a relationship with the whole person ideally.
When we go online we appeal to validation more than recognition because that’s what online gives us. It gives us lights. It gives us retweets and it gives us followers. All of these things are kind of low-nuance, low-complexity strokes of the ego in a sense.
It feels really good but they are not recognition and when people get lots of validation and not enough recognition there are consequences and I think what we are seeing on an individual and cultural scale all over the place is a culture that’s been built upon validation at the expense of recognition.
NATHALIE: So I wonder if this ties into some of the more recent pieces of research that looked at for instance levels of self-reported loneliness in the states or the reports of people feeling a lot more depressed or anxious or lonely having spent greater amounts of time on social platforms such as Facebook for instance. Do you think that ties into this? These are still kind of – it being too much validation and not enough recognition.
DR. BALICK: I think it does. In psychoanalysis we understand this concept and it’s kind of been a – I don’t really like the name of it but it’s called the false self. Basically with the false self it’s how we manage our parents when are infants and children. The example I will like to give is if you were a baby and you are crying a lot and that brings your mother’s attention then you learn that crying brings your mother’s attention. But if you find that crying makes your mother anxious you will learn instinctively to cry less because you don’t want to make your mother anxious.
So even though your authentic, true feeling is to express. You know that your distress makes her distress, so you kind of learn not to express your distress. And that’s the development of the false self. I am not going to be distressed because that will make them distressed.
Now psychoanalysts are very much in agreement that we all need a false self that helps us adapt to reality. It helps us adapt to other people. It helps us avoid conflict. It encourages social cohesion. Because everybody is not just doing their own thing all the time. Where you run into trouble is when you kind of believe your false self to be your whole self. So your adapted position becomes all of who you are rather than just an aspect of yourself.
Social media through the most part, not all of it and not all of the time enhances aspects of the false because it’s a virtual performance of yourself in a public environment, and because of mobile technology aiding and abetting false self, because we can do it on the bus, do it at the bus stop, looking at our smart phone between every single pause. Looking for the likes and the retweets and the followers we become attached.
That false self, manifests itself bigger and bigger and bigger. So even – and this is it. This is the real kicker I think. Because it’s happened long before technology but even a successful false self, getting all of the validation and applause it needs results in a lonely person behind it because that is validation, not recognition and the aspects of the self that need to be seen and loved are invisible. And that loneliness.
NATHALIE: It sounds to me like this plays in a bit to or connects with narcissism, from a clinical perspective. The idea that we become so enamoured with this shell-self to kind of almost compensate for this void or this lack existential recognition that you are enough as you are just for being. That kind of unconditional side of things. Do you think – I don’t know – you are the psychotherapist? You tell me.
DR. BALICK: The problem with the word narcissism is how it’s publicly understood, which is a usually a little bit incorrectly. People think it’s about how much people love themselves and that’s why they are promoting themselves. Narcissism emerges from what’s called the narcissistic wound.
And the narcissistic wound comes from parenting in which the parent sees the child, how they wish the child to be rather than how the child actually is. And just like with the development of the false self the two things are intertwined. The child begins to learn well, if I am like this is where the stroke come.
This is where the prices are and it feels like the spontaneous, authentic aspects of the self aren’t worthy, aren’t wanted, so you’re constantly compensating for that loss. So the more narcissistic you are in a sense and certain world leaders come to mind, the deeper the wound is of the lack of recognition from the earliest time.
NATHALIE: Wow. So is there something to be said for the idea that if we don’t experience that sense of recognition early on then we don’t know how to seek it because all we’ve had access to is validation and that’s the thing that then people with this wounding will perpetually hunt out?
DR. BALICK: Pretty much. Yeah. Because all of us have false selves we all have narcissistic wounding and it’s a matter of how wounded we are and how much recognized we were as children and how our innate character responds and deals with that.
But on the opposite side of the coin it’s a challenge to the idea that social media or Instagram or whatever it is makes us narcissistic because the fact of the matter is our narcissistic disposition is online long before we come onto social media.
Whether it exacerbates it or not I think is a fair question, and I think yes, it does – and I think we do live in an exhibitionistic, self-referential, narcissistic culture, which is why we’ve created the social media that we have. So it really does overlap but I think the good news is if you are coming from a good enough parenting background and your narcissistic wounds aren’t so huge, you can make smarter decisions about the temptations towards narcissism online.
If the wounds are quite large, living in a social media environment isn’t going to do any favors. What you really, really need is the hard graft of complex interpersonal relationships where they are seeing your complexity rather than your false self.
NATHALIE: So how might one be able to tell if this applies? So for everyone listening – if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking “Hang on, well, how do I know if maybe I should spend less time on social media? How do I know how wounded I might be?” Is there a way of perhaps sensing that out?
DR. BALICK: Yeah. I think it’s what I call listening-in. What often happens in relation to social media is we fill a void with it anyway. So we are bored or we are anxious and then the phone comes out of the pocket and then the scrolling begins. And the scrolling begins and it continues and it continues and then you start to have a kind of a feeling like an empty feeling or a bored feeling and sometimes we ignore that.
We ignore that when we are eating food we really like and it starts to feel to make us feel sick and we eat it anyway. We ignore it when we watch something on Netflix and we watch the second thing and then we watch the third thing then it’s like maybe I don’t want to be doing this. All of these things aren’t about narcissism but if you are heart to what’s going on inside you, you become aware that your activities are not making you any happier.
They are making you feel worse and I would say even before you get to the activity I think it’s a good idea to stop before you even pick up the phone when you are feeling A. bored or B. anxious and maybe wonder what feeling might emerge of you don’t distract yourself immediately with social media. And if that feeling is loneliness what would it be like to make another choice for a high complexity relationship with a real person in your real social network instead of logging on.
NATHALIE: So reaching out to a friend, going and having a cup of coffee or whatever it might be.
DR. BALICK: I think so. That’s what I call like a nourishing relational encounter and when you need a nourishing relational encounter don’t go find it on Facebook. When you need a nourishing complex relationship with another human being – you might find that on Tinder but it’s not the most likely outcome.
So you want to make some choices. If you want a cheese burger everyone would somehow get a cheese burger and you could get a cheese burger through Facebook and you can get a cheese burger through Tinder. But if you want a nice nourishing meal that’s going to make you feel really good think carefully about where you are going to find that.
NATHALIE: All these funny things because I never – we all have some understanding I think and thanks to the way the public discourse is changing around this as to how social media can sometimes harm our sense of well-being but it’s something which we still are very reticent to give up. And I give talks on this about how these interfaces are designed to be persuasive or addictive.
What constitutes ethical versus non-ethical use, where the great line is and we can make our own decisions about where that might be and it’s all great in theory and yet – even though my Twitter use has gone down – I am no longer on Facebook. I haven’t been there for five or six years I still check my phone and while I’m doing it I still think yeah, but I could be doing something else or and it’s the sense of wanting some kind of reward or arousal. By arousal I just mean something like excitement as opposed to a sexual arousal although I am sure you can find on your phone as well.
But it’s that. It’s this kind of conditioning that if you want some sort of pick-me-up that’s where we’re going to find it. And it’s quite hard to break that condition-pattern.
DR. BALICK: Nice choice of words – condition-pattern. It is a condition-pattern. We condition ourselves and the products are built in a way that enables us to do that. I have learnt to have relatively okay diet. I like the diet metaphor because it just works for me. But if there is a tube of cringles in my hand then they would go.
If they are not there I am not going to eat them and in some ways we have to get ahead of ourselves because it’s like with our smartphones, because they do everything, it’s like having a cabinet full of all the lovely snacks you like, all the time. So your better self in the sense has to get out in front.
Now I am not against Facebook. I on there too. I am Twitter. I am on lots of them but you want to think about – and you can get some apps that do this. My phone will be on airplane mode for example for most of the day. If I am really desperate I can take it off out of airplane mode and check my apps. But at least that’s like I put a little barrier in front of it.
It’s like not filling the house with a bad habit food. And I think our better selves sometimes have to get in front and say well I need to actually reduce my capacity to access this thing because I don’t trust myself not to access it if it’s there.
NATHALIE: Yeah. I have the same thing with all teases. So okay, we’ve talked a little bit about social media and dating. An area that I am keen to explore with you is related to surveillance and the idea that if we feel like we are constantly on either sharing stuff consciously through social platforms or being listened in on or I guess having all our digital behavior tracked by whatever programs are tracking us, whether it’s cookies or ads or whatever it might be. How does our sense of being tracked and watched shape the way in which we grow and develop as people?
DR. BALICK: Really, really good question and it’s making me think of two different tracks, one of which I hadn’t thought about before. Save that for second. But the first one – the first one is about what we do – how we justify certain things in our own heads and in psychoanalysis this term is called disavowal, which is like – I like to call it denial lite.
So it’s not we are acting as if it never happened but we are acting as if we don’t really know it’s happening. So we all know but we kind of do it anyway. We know that our internet service provider can find out everywhere we’ve been, that our mobile phones track us. All of it. And we do a little trick in our minds that says I don’t really care or it doesn’t really matter.
And I think there is some evidence to say in the present sense even those ones that would change that it probably doesn’t matter. It might be that if somebody can have access to all the pornography you are watching and they know exactly what search trends you are looking at, and they know how long you’ve been watching it it’s a pretty terrifying thought. But at the same time most people don’t care what kind of pornography you are watching unless you are paying them for it, and most people don’t care what kind of books you are buying.
The will is that it’s a profit-driven world so in a sense unless – and I think it’s a real fear unless the safety infrastructure of our nation-state changes and we move back to an East Germany kind of a thing, and I think it’s probably some fear or worries that, that could happen at any time where our governments will use that stuff against us. That’s where the fear is but in this very moment I think we justify ourselves out of that situation.
I think people are under the impression that there is no real danger in kind of corporate bodies knowing everything about us. No real danger. We are uncomfortable with it. We don’t like it but there is not a sense of impending doom. That could change of course. Governments could change and then suddenly the stuff could be used against us. And I don’t think it’s an accident that Germany has some of the most rigid privacy policies because of their experience of East Germany. So that’s one level but this our level. Yeah, we know but we’re trying not to care about too much. We are trying not to think about it too much because it’s inconvenient to do so.
The second issue which I hadn’t really considered deeply until you ask the question is how imagined audiences operate within surveillance culture, which occurs to me in this moment it’s pretty – can I say pretty fucking pernicious.
NATHALIE: Yeah, you can say that.
DR. BALICK: Yeah. It’s pretty fucking pernicious actually because, because we are so embedded in our social media world, in which we kind of carry our imagined audience around all the time. So it’s like you see something and you think I could Instagram that shirt or I’m going to Tweet that. It’s like there is part of your mind, I think for most of us anyway who are on social media, where you are thinking about how something might come across social media.
NATHALIE: Yeah. I hate having that presence in my mind.
DR. BALICK: Yeah. It’s terrible because then you are really in false self. Aren’t you? You are really like a being for other people to see, which is not a great position to be in all the time.
NATHALIE: And also you are almost experiencing yourself through the view of the other. So you’re not even properly embodied at that point. You just kind of see your experiences or performance so it’s not even fully lived I think.
DR. BALICK: Yeah, you become the object of your own public narrative, which might be fun at times but you want don’t want at this permanent position. But the question then arises if we had got so used to carrying around an imagined audience then maybe the way in which we are surveilled becomes much more palatable.
NATHALIE: And that’s such a horrible thought. This idea – this is one thing that I’ve explored a little bit with one or two other people in the series but the Orwell versus Huxley view of the future in Orwellian future there is this kind of dystopian view of boot stamping on the human face very forever, whereas in Huxley it’s a lot more kind of based on entertainment and our sense of just well, fuck it. It is fine. That’s just walks straight into this and isn’t everything fun, which is kind of where all other society is I think on the spectrum. I am not completely there yet but there is certainly more in that direction as far as I can tell.
DR. BALICK: I read a blog post about this a couple of years ago looking at Huxley and Orwell, and really coming to very similar conclusions that we have gone the Huxley route and not just in relation to technology but in relation to technology but in relation to medication and distraction and sex, and science is kind of moving away to genetic editing and that sort of thing. And then of course when genetic editing increases and it’s going to be very expensive then we kind of have our alpha beta situation developing as well.
NATHALIE: It’s terrifying. I know that in this particular series we are dealing more with the present situation. We’re not even getting on to the grandeur dystopian visions of what can happen when we start really interfering with the building blocks of humanity. This is basically – whatever we are doing now is going to set the foundations for the future that we are going to build.
DR. BALICK: Absolutely. The snowball is rolling down the hill. I heard just this morning that they think we’re 10 or maybe 15 years away from being able to use DNA to store digital information.
NATHALIE: Yeah. I read that. That’s insane.
DR. BALICK: It’s insane and fascinating because it kind of makes you think about now – we are DNA information machines already. We completely just don’t know how to use DNA to hold other information but that’s basically what we are as human beings – DNA information machines. It does not make sense.
We are data stores of our experience. We are data stores of our memory. I got into quite a heated argument with another psychotherapist the other day when I suggested that we are basically very complex algorithms and they said that’s a very dark nihilistic thing and I said well, look at what psychotherapy is.
It’s a conversation in which you hope one person’s dialogue will alter the other person’s internal world in positive way. And you can see that there is two different algorithms in conversation with each other and changing the structure of the algorithm through interaction. So it doesn’t have to be nihilistic to reconsider how information-processing works on what we understand as the human scale or the binary scale. It’s communication of information across bodies.
NATHALIE: So beautifully put. Actually that connects also to the idea of being able to use increasingly our physical selves to act as passcodes with all the biometric stuff that’s possible. So palmar prints, heartbeats, irises, all of that.
DR. BALICK: Yeah, and also how that fits into big data. So I think then we run into basically a profound issue of trust. So because we live in a capitalist society we know that the motivation for big data and how it’s used ends up being profit.
I think that scans pretty closely to humans over time; whatever system you want to look at. It’s kind of how desire operates. So the fear is you are going to use big data to maximize profit no matter what the consequences are. The tobacco model let’s say, yeah? I am going to sell you cigarettes even though they kill you because it’s going to make me lots of money.
DR. BALICK: But imagine a situation in which the NHS and Costco and Tesco and your local mini market are sharing all of this information and then suddenly work out – let’s use both of our sins – Pringles plus Malteasers plus a certain fabric softener plus travel to a certain area and a certain cotton polyester combination has been producing liver cancer in a number of people. So suddenly you are using information from a whole variety of different data points that no human being would ever independently consider. And then it’s like okay there is something about this combination that’s resulting in this consequence. And that’s like a brilliant use of big data because we will never find that on our own.
NATHALIE: So then it really does hinge on transparency and trust and then who owns one’s data and the willingness we have to share our data where the exchange is something that we are comfortable with. But I think that’s the crucial question. It’s how do we get to a position where that’s what we are dealing with, where we actually have a say in the way that our data is harvested, made sense of, correlated across other data sets etcetera?
DR. BALICK: There are lots of models for this and it’s definitely not my area of expertise but it seems to be that’s going to be on a sort of policy level. That somehow you can find some basic principles that – I guess it’s also like the opt-in and opt-out of organ transplant. You want the base-level opt-in to be productive for the whole of humanity. That should be the ideal goal and it’s just unfortunate that that profit and human beings that are good aren’t always aligned.
They are often or frequently not aligned and when they are aligned you get some pretty amazing things. You also get some pretty amazing things happening kind of their own. We as a species eradicated small pox in the 1970s through identifying a vaccine and then identifying a way to get it in the places where it was needed most and now nobody gets small pox anymore.
We stopped using chloro-carbons to seal up the ozone pole. So I do think there is enough optimistic evidence out there to think that we could utilize this kind of information and this kind of technology for some amazing good very quickly because it’s moving so fast.
NATHALIE: Of course. There are two things that come to mind for me. With the British government, one, they make it get in the way is asset ineptitude, leaving things on trains like USB keys that then enable people to access all the data. And two, the extraordinary lack of comprehension around encryption and how important it is specifically full sensitive data. Never mind all the other stuff. So I think unless those two problems get somehow solved it’s going to be pretty tricky to move forward in a way that’s going to be healthy to the most number of people.
DR. BALICK: I think that’s right and I think that’s part of the trust issue. And I then I think it’s kind of a funny because basically if you know how to code and you are in Apple rather than in government that’s who you’ve got to trust at the moment. You got to trust people who know what the hell they are doing. And it just so happens that we live in a time where governments actually have the least amount of trust and while there are some suspicions around companies like Apple I imagine people will probably trust Apple more than they Trump administration in this thing.
DR. BALICK: Perhaps people trust GCHQ more than they trust the government itself. I don’t know for sure but it’s the knowledge holders that have the power and I think that we have to really hope that the people who have that knowledge also have a robust ethical system and how they want to deploy that. Of course there are no guarantees that’s going to be the case.
NATHALIE: Yeah. And if the present situation and recent past is anything to go by in the way that Silicon Valley has kind of now I suppose lying in the bed it’s made. I am not sure about my optimism around that. I am also conscious of the time. And so I’d like to wrap this up by asking you three questions, the first of which is: what is your greatest concern for the future?
DR. BALICK: Oh.
NATHALIE: Sorry. So that’s too many to count.
DR. BALICK: Okay. My greatest concern for the future is that are so over-loaded with information that I think we’re not getting our priorities straight. So money flows to places where the most viral campaign is happening at the moment, not necessarily where something needs to happen. And I would feel much better if there was some grand sifting process that kind of said, “This: plastics in the ocean”, for example. And who am I to say that’s a priority, but it seems to me since it’s going throughout the entire food chain it probably is, but that we’re so distracted that we are losing a sense of A) priority, and B) what our responsibility is to those priories, and C) what is the best way we can club together to resolve some of the major issues that are affecting the planet today.
NATHALIE: Okay. What is your greatest hope for the future?
DR. BALICK: I can have quite an optimistic hope in humanity. I’m currently reading Stephen Pinker’s Enlightenment Now book and he also wrote Angels of A Better Nature where he goes on through a series of a lot of evidence to show how human beings actually have been getting better and better over time, killing each other less, fewer wars, hardly any famines anymore. That actually the trajectory might look pretty good. There is a lot of criticism of his work in this area, nobody denies that there are a lot of problems, but the examples I gave you before about small pox and the ozone hole may give me a sense that sometimes the will towards health on a global scale can win out.
NATHALIE: I like to think so it’s interesting that your concerns and your hopes are around our place on this planet and what we can do to help make sure that it thrives. And of course technology I think can play a role in that. If you could give people one action that they can take today to fight for this future what would it be?
DR. BALICK: So probably something I said a little bit earlier about insight and being honest with oneself. It’s kind of interesting that I answered your two previous questions on a kind of global scale when actually my main job is to work one on one with individuals.
DR. BALICK: They kind of surprised me there but I think when people are quiet with themselves, insightful about what their needs are, what their vulnerabilities are, their relationships with those closest to them, and honest with themselves about the answers that they get about the questions they ask themselves about that, people make better choices.
I would kind of say stop fooling yourself – we all do a lot of the time but take some time out to stop fooling yourself. Find out what your needs are, find out honestly what the real needs and desires of those are that are close to you, have a honest conversation and take it from there.
NATHALIE: That’s very profound work.
DR. BALICK: It’s hard work I think.
NATHALIE: Yeah. And this is why I think therapy is one of the many ways in which we can help ourselves because it’s pretty difficult to do it alone sometimes. Well, thank you. That was just brilliant.
DR. BALICK: No, thank you.