One day in class my teacher raised the question: What does the word environment mean to you?
It was interesting to hear what everyone came up with and their answers also gave subtle details about them and where their interests lie most.
In the required video, Dr. Mate discussed what environment means to him and when trying to address root problems, it is most important to focus on the psychosocial environment of a person and/or society. This means understanding the importance of social relationships, emotional, and psychological interactions with others. Not only are physical aspects important, but he believes that we need to broaden our view on the environment to include the social, cultural, relational, economic, and interactive aspects as well.
Dr. Mate says that our materialistic culture is very harmful and threatening a healthy psychosocial environment. He calls these causes ‘The Four Alienations in this Culture.’
The more obvious and first one is that we are alienated from nature.
Our society lacks trust, intimacy, and contact with others causing less sense of relationships, alienating us from each other.
Many people are going into careers for all the wrong reasons and not going for jobs that they find meaning in, so this alienates us from our work and releasing our fullest creative potentials.
Lastly, we are alienated from ourselves. We are taught to suppress our true selves and by doing this we lose our vital connection to our gut feelings. All these combined causes us to feel meaningless, anxiety, depression, not being good enough, no connection with others, and uncertainty. To fill these voids we turn to false substitutes, which causes us to get hung up on how we look, what we can possess, how people feel about us, what we can obtain, and/or what successes we can achieve.
I strongly believe that there is a connection between how you treat others/your environment and how you treat yourself. If the love and appreciation for yourself doesn’t exist first, then it’s difficult to love others or the planet.
These four alienations mentioned by Dr. Mate also pose a threat to our subconscious. Our subconscious can be shaped to make choices and perceive the world around us based on powerful association from things in our environment and our experiences.
In the required reading by Malcom Gladwell, he talks about thin slicing and how our choices made in our lives are based on deeply rooted thoughts that our subconscious uses to maintain our survival. These quick and high-level decisions are believed by Gladwell to be very susceptible to outside influences.
Going back to Dr. Mate’s fourth alienation, the alienation of ourselves, there is a connection between gut instinct and our subconscious. I believe that they are both connected because the gut sensation that we get is our subconscious telling us what we truly need in maintaining a mental, social, physical, and even spiritual balance.
But when we are living a life full of distractions and lack of meaning, this connection gets overridden and people begin making choices that are degenerative and selfish whether it be towards their internal or external environment.
Thin-slicing could be a good or a bad thing, just depending on how it’s used. Gladwell gave an example called the ‘Warren Harding Error.’ When Warren Harding was elected president, voters chose him based on his looks and jumped to the conclusion that these features he had were tied to integrity and intelligence. However, these impressions were all wrong and he ended up being one of the worst presidents in the United States.
Gladwell demonstrated this error being done in car dealerships as well. He found in his studies that many of the salesman were super picky with the customers they chose to help out. This is because despite our conscious attitudes we have that are based on our stated values, we have a deeper consciousness that can express prejudice and discrimination.
There was a salesman that used thin-slicing in a positive way. He would view each customer as equal and knew how to read his clients so that he could provide a great experience that was unique to the customer’s needs. From doing this, he became very successful in his career.
While it may seem that we are totally out of control of our subconscious and it is something that cannot be re-wired, It is possible to tap into the unconscious and control these impulses; so that sustainable decisions can be made. Gladwell says that even though these thoughts are outside of awareness, that does not mean that we have no control over them. Because these first impressions are molded by our environment and our experiences, we have the ability to change our experiences, which can change how we thin-slice.