- Innovation: Foolish Wisdom
The older I get (now 83) the more I realise that academic attainment and professional success are not the ultimates I’d thought they were. Relationships with people are more significant to me now. I met my wife Sue in church in 1995. She has encouraged me to share my story of “growing up” in middle-age with others who may find it helpful. It’s never too late!
I had my PhD in psychology before psychology became popular. My CV shows teaching and research appointments at American universities and consulting jobs with governments and corporations. But the CV doesn’t show what kind of person I was – immature! I became an academic prodigy before learning normal social skills. My personal life was disorderly. I was isolated and alienated, abusing drugs and alcohol. Someone said I should take time to join the human race. I finally began to mature socially in Australia at age fifty. My main problem was ego. Training was not the solution. The solution was normal fellowship with folks in church.
What wisdom I have to share stems somewhat from early experience as a psychologist in the USA but more from recent experience as a church-goer in Australia. This is where I saw more mentally-ill people recovering, human conflicts resolving, drug-addicts reforming, immature people growing up – lives improving. I’ve seen more people healed in the last twenty years as an amateur in church than in the previous thirty years as an employed professional. I’m not just a “recovered drug addict”, I’m a “reformed psychologist.”
So my adult biography has two phases, former professional and current amateur. Let me be clear, although it’s not a “fiduciary relationship”, I’m non-professional not unprofessional. I do free speech and assembly, conversation, not “psychotherapy” or “treatment”. I don’t charge. (I shout coffee.) Research (some of it by me in the old days) indicates that the non-professional has advantages for healing and recovery.
One advantage is that, unlike professional doctor-patient counselling where the patient gets no opportunity to help others, my conversation these days is even-Steven. We both improve as we help each other.
And we learn. I now know that you and I need each other in person more than we need psychological treatment – even more than we need “networking”. I try to explain it to my grandchildren like this:
“There’s this new form of communication, kids, a new apps, where two people sit across from each other and look each other in the face. One person waits until the other person is quiet and then talks. The person who isn’t talking listens carefully to what the talking person says. The talking person has always heard what the listening person has said when the listening person was talking. No, there’s no texting or voice-mailing, no earphones, microphones, no electronics. It’s not sex, it’s called conversation. Give it a go. It’s cool.”