The second half of the programme begins with Liz Bonnin telling us “the more challenges animals face, the more intelligent they become”.
Studies of mountain chickadees from Nevada show that they’re more creative and better problem solvers than their counterparts from elsewhere in the US where the climate is better and food is less scarce, proving that “the harsher the environment, the better it is for their brains.” What’s amazing is the size of the small bird’s brains and their ability to solve problems creatively.
Already I’m thinking along the human lines again – repeating the phrase and letting it sink in… the harsher the environment the better it is for their brains. If this is true of us, we must surely be the most creative species on earth!
I’m thinking about the modern ways we’ve created to survive the harshness of our environments; whether that’s in the home caused by domestic violence, or in the head – caused by self-abuse. On a grander scale, entire countries are at risk from the greed and corruption of those in power and others around them.
Everywhich-where there’s a solution; however kind or unkind it works out to be to our (collective) problem –
For many, there seems no option but violence – violating another for personal gain. As humans surely we should’ve evolved enough, be intelligent enough to realise this does nothing to improve that harsh environment; that it’s only being perpetuated.
From what I observe, most corporations (and many people) are willing to exploit others in order to ‘survive’ – but at what cost are we abusing our creativity and personal power?
Have we not important issues like ending wars, famine and poverty to deal with?
She asks the question “What hidden abilities could we uncover if we educated animals?”
I changed it slightly to ask the same of humans.
We teach children how to read, write and count. Later we teach adolescents chemistry and history, but when do we teach them life-coping skills, the tools to deal with life?
How many of us were encouraged to believe we have massive worth and we’re of tremendous value to our society? How many have been told that we have innate personal power?
Very few I’ll guess! Loads of us are to be found stumbling around trying to deal with conflict – some in our world
It also seems there are many of us in such a hurry to reach our (sometimes unknown) destination, that we overlook the need to take time away from everyday toils and troubles; without knowing that it’s in this space which we find for ourselves, perhaps by walking in nature; it’s here, in the present moment, that we re-connect with the self and dis-connect from our problems.
If the mind can believe it, the body can achieve it.
We are not usually raised to think in this way. We still have very little idea of what the human potential actually is; we’ve seen technology advance at a heck of a speed yet, we are still to educate our offspring in ways of sustainability and accountability for their actions.
We, individually and collectively, are in need of opening our minds (and our hearts) to work with others in a positive way; to create win, win, win and win again situations. We need re-affirming experiences to instill that sense of value.
Imagine what we could achieve if we really set our minds to it?
We are capable of much more than we know – many achievements include such things deemed to be super-human or just plain crazy, like walking on fire or glass.
But don’t be fooled; becoming focused on an outcome is not enough – for the wellbeing of body and mind the process must not involve any form of exploitation of another. We are therefore required to build compassion and understanding into our lives.
Investing in teaching our children the value of developing themselves will in turn be providing emotional intelligence, which can only improve people’s lives; our own and those who surround us.
In many areas of modern living these elements have been given low priority as world economy focuses on exponential growth at any cost to indigenous people or the environment.
If we focused on personal growth over the last century wed have more people of conscience; I’m in no doubt we would’ve also had fewer wars to deal with too.
Do we really give people the space to grow; do we provide those creative learning arenas?
Small pockets of the population are lucky enough to have community arts projects and empowerment programmes which help many disenfranchised people pick up the pieces of their life, while providing skills to improve confidence and competence.
But again, there aren’t nearly enough of them; little value is placed on the skills of those providing training as personal development slips down the ranking as a necessity for survival, when in fact, the opposite is true.
A country who values the opinions and contributions of its people must surely be a world leader – but there aren’t many of them around. Western ‘civilisation’ still has an empirical outlook – pillage and plunder other, weaker countries to feed their own greed and need for supremacy.
I’m certain that it’s this view which needs to shift and the only way I can see that happening is if we provide those spaces and places to grow; to develop ideas, where compassion is the order of the day – forums where people are welcomed, where achievements are recognised and praised.
Is there enough attention paid to developing a person?
In answer to this I can refer to a previous post which talks about transforming negative self beliefs like doubt and guilt into positive reference points. Most people are self-taught, guided by past experiences or have learned particular ways from another but there are few who are well equipped, unless they teach themselves.
These are the people who take risks, growing and developing by making life a ‘playground’ and by learning from their mistakes . They play with problems and use their creativity to resolve problems. They’ll most likely be the relaxed among us…
I’m of the opinion that life-coping and empowerment skills should be introduced at an early age; where children are becoming adolescents and need boundaries to guide them. If you’re lucky you’ll get to that age and the struggles are only just beginning; hormonal changes, sexuality and personal identity are important – but who teaches balance?
How are people encouraged to make and learn from mistakes?
For some people life has been full of mistakes; they’ve been humiliated by them and hold only negative recollections, informing the next scenario of how to behave. As unacceptable behaviours are ‘normalised’ the individual finds it even harder to change, holding the notion that there is no alternative.
These patterns require more powerful experiences to subdue the compulsion to react and to reduce their effects on confidence levels or self-belief.
In certain environments trainers like myself, will design particular exercises to elicit particular responses. These may be known or unknown beforehand as the response will come from individuals with exclusive experiences from which to form ideas or opinions. Communication in groups is usually facilitated to enable sharing and to debrief participants.
How do we prepare our young for their lives ahead?
From birth parents are teaching their children everything they say and do.
We sometimes forget that children, however small are like sponges; absorbing the whole world as they see/ feel/ sense it – often only at times to be rudely awakened by the sudden use of something prohibited, like a swear word or repeating abusive habits which they’ve picked up.
There are also cases where children will learn the opposite of what they’ve been taught/brought up with. Some for instance, will never drink alcohol if they’ve been raised in a family where that was an issue – others may remain single, missing out on the experience of love because of one previous major trauma.
In some cultures children of a certain age will undertake a traditional ‘rite of passage‘ – a feat of stamina, endurance or courage, to shift their mindset from childhood to adulthood. With this brings a sense of achievement and a healthy dose of responsibility.
This is severely lacking in modern societies where we mollycoddle our children as much as possible; mistakenly believing we are protecting them from harm. We are then prone to dis-empowering them; smothering them with our own beliefs, leading them to believe they have neither the skills nor ability to solve their own problems.
As parents we are just as unable, as generations before us were unable, to teach things which are not known to us. We must realise that we cannot continue to waste energy by blaming those who’ve generated or passed on the belief.
Perhaps it’s time for us to up-skill ourselves to enable us to open our children’s minds to possibility.
Dr Pepperberg uses child-like enthusiasm to encourage her parrots to learn with great results. I’m all for it but at the risk of upsetting Griffin, I’d have to say that human’s surely have a greater ability to learn and use their intelligence, than a bird brain.
Part 3 will contain a Toolbag to use to help smooth out the struggles…