Can we learn to let go and move on?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

When I was a boy you had to talk to an operator to place a call.  Then we had rotary dial telephones.  Then we had push button dialing, then we had cordless phones, and now we have phones we carry in out shirt pocket that do many things, even make phone calls.  Most of us would call this progress.

What enabled us to progress from rotary dial phones to the modern smartphone was the ability to let go of the technology of the past in order to embrace the emerging technology of the future.  Imagine the progress we would have made had we all insisted on clinging to our rotary dial phones, condemning any innovation or progress in communications technology.

Kind of a silly notion, isn’t it?

graphIn his book “Choice Theory” Dr. Glasser introduced a graph illustrating the steep curve of progress of technology in our world.  He compared this graph of progress with the flat line graph showing no significant social progress among us.

I wonder if one reason for our inability to make social progress is our unwillingness to let things go.

Here is one dramatic example of what I mean.  Look at our penitentiary system.  It is a model of the conviction that bad behavior must be punished and that punishment will somehow change the person so he/she will no longer behave in destructive ways.  Isn’t that the philosophy that mandates sentencing guidelines and that is causing states to spend huge sums just to house the people that are being punished for their crimes?  When we ask “is this system working?” I think we have to acknowledge that it is not.  Is this approach actually rehabilitating criminals?  Or is it teaching young offenders to be better at their ill-chosen lifestyle?

My point here is that in order to move forward into a better approach to this problem we need to be willing to let go of our past conviction that punishment changes people.

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Finally, in our ongoing quest for mental health and happiness, I believe it would be good for all of us who sometimes struggle with mental health to look at beliefs and behaviors from our past that are not working for us today.  Apply what we have learned from our progress in technology, that in order to move into a better future, we need to let go of what is no longer working from our past.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘why?’.  I dream things that never were and ask, ‘why not?’”

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