#2: Sharing is Caring. All Problems are Relationship Problems & Can You Predict the Future?
All Problems are Relationship Problems
In the book, The Courage to be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi uses an aphorism from Adlerian psychology: “All problems are relationship problems.”
Our experience with Covid has transformed our relationships; our relationship to ourself, to others, to our activities, and even to objects in our physical space. The result is more problems, but since all problems are relationship problems, we can solve our problems by examining our relationships.
Ask yourself, what type of relationship am I in? Is it a relationship with myself, with someone else, with an activity, or with an object?
If the problem is with how you relate to yourself, this is totally normal! It might just be time for you to take a break, to do some self-care, and to fill your own cup before you can fill others’ cups.
If the problem is a relationship with others, it may be time to do the risky, scary thing and have a conversation with that person. Before having this conversation, you may want to write down your fears: what are you afraid may happen if you have this conversation? Next, come up with a mitigation plan: what do you do if the conversation doesn’t go as you planned? Finally, create a failure plan. What if you don’t have this conversation at all. Maybe now is just not the right time. How do you cope with that?
If the problem is a relationship with an activity, you can create the same fears list from above. Ask yourself, what are you afraid will happen if you stop doing this activity? For example, if you have identified television as a problem activity, maybe you are scared of not having a hobby to fill the time? Next, sketch your mitigation plan. If you’re afraid of not having a hobby, it may be time to watch that one small Youtube tutorial that you hear is great for learning underwater basket weaving. And, finally, create a failure plan. If your attempt at underwater basket weaving fails, what will you do? Well, maybe, you give yourself permission to watch one television show and then you watch an even smaller portion of the Youtube tutorial.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fears list, I highly recommend watching Tim Ferris’ very short (13 min) Ted Talk on it. I’ve linked to it in the References.
Finally, if you find yourself in a problem with your physical space, consider taking a staycation and going on an imaginative walk through your bedroom. As Xavier de Maistre says,
I have just completed a forty-two-day voyage around my room. The fascinating observations I made and the endless pleasures I experienced along the way made me wish to share my travels with the public, and the certainty of having something useful to offer convinced me to do so.
If this sounds intriguing, check out the full article which I have linked to in References.
Take good care, you are doing just fine, and keep reading for a little fun piece about predicting the future.
Can You Predict the Future?
People throughout history have claimed to be able to predict the future; everyone from 16th century sages like Nostradamus, to 20th century philosophers like Oswald Spengler, to 21st century living historians like Peter Turchin, and even financial investors like Ray Dalio. All of these people have shared their speculative imaginations with us.
This got me curious. Do these individuals really have knowledge that us, common folk, don’t?
I don't think so! But, all of these people have at least one trait in common, and that is their knowledge of history and the patterns of human behavior.
Ray Dalio says,
I have come to believe that while the lessons and warnings of history are clear if one looks for them, most people don’t look for them because most people learn from their experiences and a single lifetime is too short to give them those lessons and warnings that they need.
Now  is an especially important time to know and watch the markers in order to understand the full range of possibilities for the period ahead.
People who claim to be able to predict the future are simply people who have studied history. So, if we just take the time to understand what happened in the past, we can understand what may happen in the future, and become sages too.
How can you study history?
There are a few ways. The best and most surefire way, is to just read. Read history books, read historical journalism, read essays of famous historians, and read works from read modern-day historians like Yuval Harrari.
If you are math savvy, you can dig into Cliodynamics, a field which builds math models to analyze history; and if you are data inclined, check out data-driven history, a field where people mine historical texts and analyze words to tell a story of what happened in the past. I’ve linked to sources with more information on both of these fields in the References section.
What are some traps to avoid?
Many people who claim to predict the future believe in the social cycle theory, the idea that history operates in cycles. Ray Dalio believes in this theory, which is apparent from the title of his latest piece, “the archetypal cycle of internal order and disorder.” Other people have written about boom and busts cycles.
However, historians seem to be skeptical of this theory, arguing that human activity is too diverse to follow a cause and effect pattern.
I don't know if the social cycle theory is true or not, and in fact, it sounds like Ray is not sure either. He writes:
to be clear, I am not saying that the United States or other countries are inevitably headed that way; however, I am saying that now is an especially important time to know and watch the markers in order to understand the full range of possibilities for the period ahead.
Since predicting the future is nuanced, I think the best thing we can do is to just study history to be informed, to understand what humans are capable of, and most importantly, to create new and positive stories about the future.
In the worlds of my favorite modern-day historian, Yuval Harari:
This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom – we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.