For centuries, perhaps the entire history of the human race, “not enough” has been a perceptual anchor. Perceptions about enough and not enough form the basis of much prejudice as well as social and economic inequity. Lack is a frame of reference that informs most of human culture and also our judgment of each other.
The Impact Of Lack Thinking
Lack has been a problem in human life. Certainly for early humans who had few skills and resources, life was harsh and limited much of the time. As a result, anything that made life harsher would have received a negative reaction. This is understandable and we can have compassion for the individuals who had to survive under extremely difficult conditions. These experiences of harsh living and the impacts they have on our thinking are with us today in the fault-finding lack-noticing way humans direct their attention. It is pretty unconscious but definitely a pattern that informs a lot of human interaction and decision making.
As individuals many of us experience this lack oriented thinking in others. Being different means we will receive lack messaging even if it is not true. When you have lack thinking it may be hard to notice changing circumstances as contributing to current challenges because when we think in terms of deficits we also have a perception about the lack of lack or what is considered adequate or contributing to adequacy.
This type of thinking shows up in conversations about what is considered normal which is often a word used to mean adequate. If you do not fit in the normal box, then you are considered deficient not different. Animals are noticeably smarter than humans about this. A giraffe does not go up to a mosquito and say, “Where is your neck?” and the mosquito doesn’t then say, “What is wrong with me, I need therapy!”
There are pitfalls with lack thinking because it often means that individuals who approach people and individuals in this way, assign deficiency in ways that can be close minded and rigid because they do not see diversity and changing circumstances as factors in what is going on around us. The limitations of their perspective support blind spots which can add to the problems going on around them.
What is often absent from lack thinking is an ecological perspective that takes the full complexity of the world into account. Historic and cultural assumptions made about competence and strength are often limited and can be very hurtful to those whose capabilities are not recognized.
The Role Of Ideals
One of the reasons we have difficulty overcoming lack thinking is because one of the ways we have coped is to set ideals as a way to direct our energies, develop ourselves, and therefore overcome the deficits in our lives. That may have seemed like good idea in the past but ideals around order and materialism are actually now causing a lot of conflict and making necessary change harder.
We have harnessed our imaginations to envision better lives but imagining this way also exacerbates the feeling of disappointment in our world and creates a vicious cycle of hurt feelings. It also reinforces patterns of comparison that add to the hurt in the human world.
We are going to have to change our ideals or change how we think about them in order to change the pain and destructiveness in the human race. That might sounds easy but the reality is that each cultural system has its own ideals that shape behaviors and what is considered acceptable behavior.
Rather than try to change this pattern, it may be easier to learn how to define, accept, and embrace the idea of enough. If we can embrace the idea that our forbears got the job done of creating enough in the world, then we can let go of the past with some goodwill and gratitude and move into a more gentle way of living with each other and nature.
A Job For Sensitive People?
I personally think that sensitive people can play a role in making a more gentle way of life possible for more people. It requires that we understand cultural structures and their mindsets as well as our place in the world. We can get the perspective we need about cultural structures through the Emerging Sensitive Program. Check it out.