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Why Wisdom Matters

Rich Simon

By Rich Simon When I mentioned Today’s Wisdom, our upcoming webcast series to various colleagues, they all seemed intrigued by the star-power of the participants—Irv Yalom, Mary Pipher, Eugene Gendlin, Tara Brach, Ron Siegel and Daniel Kahneman–but by the subject of therapy and wisdom?  Not so much.

So why are we doing a series on wisdom? Because Wisdom offers us the very thing that is too often lacking in a culture driven by an obsessive focus on short-term gain and unthinking, mindless entertainment. It is an antidote to the self-deluding aggrandizement of the individual self at the expense of the community and to the worship of success in an almost insanely materialistic society.

But what is wisdom anyway?  And why do we think it is such an important factor in psychotherapy—at least as important, if not more so, than psychological theory, technique or methodology?

What wisdom—particularly therapeutic wisdom—offers us is from another world entirely. It’s the ability to observe human nature with accuracy and compassion, to make decisions amidst ambiguity and uncertainty, to balance individual expression with the need for relationship, to grasp the sheer complexity of human interactions, to welcome, learn, and grow from experience.  Clearly, nobody will ever embody all of these qualities and talents—but just as clearly, these qualities are what make the masters of the therapeutic craft so effective in their work and so inspiring to all of us.

Can we possibly learn this thing called wisdom? Or is it something like eye color or left-handedness—you either have it or you don’t?  The truth is that one of the best ways to acquire wisdom is by hanging out with wise people—if you can find them.  Listen to them, think about what they say, examine their thoughts in the context of our own lives and professional practice, absorb their outlook through a kind of brain to brain transmission.

You’d be hard pressed to find a collection of human beings as remarkable as the guests we’ve assembled for our upcoming webcast on Today’s Wisdom. They are generous, disarmingly honest and very clear about what works well. Wisdom has led them to places of clarity and I think you’ll be rewarded by how much practical, straightforward, compassionate and effective guidance their wisdom contains.

Beyond that, you’ll be learning from some of psychotherapy’s greatest thinkers and teachers. They’ll be talking about their journeys on the road to wisdom and you’ll experience their unique take on psychotherapy and life. It’s a great opportunity to enrich your practice and your own capacity for achieving wisdom.

I hope you will join us. Find out how.

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8 Responses to Why Wisdom Matters

  1. The subject of wisdom is so important. Wisdom, by definition, is the solution to life’s problems.

    And it CAN be taught. I have developed a psychotherapeutic approach that heavily relies on role playing to teach the practical application of the golden rule, the all-encompassing rule of morality and formula for creating harmony. The ideas I teach are not new; they have been taught by philosophers and religious leaders for thousands of years, and are also understood by many schools of psychotherapy. What is new is my method for teaching this basic wisdom. For the past decade I have been giving full day seminars to mental health professionals throughout the country under the auspices of Cross Country Education and it has greatly enhanced the ability of therapists to help their clients. I will be presenting my approach at this week’s annual US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in San Diego. I would really love to give a presentation at the next Networker convention.

    For the past four years I have been writing a Psychology Today blog on bullying. The solution to bullying is simple–it is basic wisdom. However, the anti-bullying movement has been failing dismally, with bullying now being called an epidemic, because the popular orthodox approach is foolish. It is spreading hatred and intolerance of anyone who treats us in a way we don’t like. And the research shows that the most popular anti-bullying programs have dismal results. They rarely produce more than a minor reduction in bullying and often lead to an increase. It is because they are teaching children that others are to blame for their negative feelings and that they are not capable of dealing with bullying on their own. You can read about how this development occurred in my article, “Wisdom, The Free Eternal Solution to Bullying”:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychological-solution-bullying/201210/wisdom-the-free-eternal-solution-bullying

    My website, which I created shortly after the Columbine shooting made bullying a major concern for society, has free manuals that teach the solution to bullying. The material has saved the lives of kids who had been contemplating suicide:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-bully-witch-hunt/200907/free-website-manual-saves-life-bullying-victim

    The manuals can be accessed on the following page:
    https://bullies2buddies.com/Free-Manuals/enjoy-our-free-resources.html

  2. dongoin11@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for accepting comments on wisdom. What a wonderful series you have organized. I cannot afford now but will definitely buy the CD’s.
    I think wisdom is honoring “The Other” in the therapeutic session, the same Other that makes a rose an experience, the Other that turns narrative and dialogue into literature, the Other that makes sacred the union of the two, whether husband and wife or therapist and client. Most assuredly, each participant in your wisdom series not only feels this Other, though each may name it differently, but honors it as well. It is the oil with which h/she anoints the therapy.
    Wisdom, the honoring of The Other is the key, a key I find lacking as I study different modalities. In their clients’ psyches, each proponent recognizes implants, whether family, religious, spiritual or societal, and each proposes a map to uncover these implants. Yet, each maps reads like a recipe. A thousand cooks can read a recipe, but only one, the true chef, honors The Other, the soul that transforms ingredients into great meals, time after time.
    Again, thank you for taking comment. I can’t wait to hear the series on CD!
    Don Goin, MD. Ph. D (Candidate)
    International Psychological Services.
    Roatan, Honduras.

  3. I believe wisdom is the capacity to see clearly with an open heart. Obstacles to wisdom include stress, tension, ego, certainty,narrow mindedness, and resisting pain and uncomfortable emotion. Wisdom can be uncovered by maintaining balance so that tension does not build up in body, mind, and/or emotions and through regular(daily)practice of meditation, which develops compassion, clarity and the ability to choose the direction of one’s thinking.

  4. Doug Jones says:

    I know and appreciate the work of Dr Mary Pipher and deeply appreciate the practical wisdom she brings to our work. I find, and learn from “wisdom teachers” in many fields of study, as a way to prepare myself to be present in the personal process of each person I work with. My personal goal is to gain understanding that contributes to each person’s ability to achieve their goals. I am a facilitator of this process and my job is often to get out of the way. The path of wisdom, that is secular, yet spiritual, may be the necessary ingredient for healing and active recovery.

  5. Michael Saggese says:

    Wisdom like truth is not something that I believe can be taught rather it can be pointed at/towards.

    Much of what passes as wisdom today is couched in intellectual concepts which I find useless.

    Wisdom like truth transcends intellectual understanding.

  6. Wisdom is a capacity, not a concept. Therefore it cannot be taught. It is a natural state of mind achieved by removing obstacles to clear thinking and an open heart. We can never “attain” wisdom because we lose it as soon as we think we have it. (When we think we are wise, ego and concepts from the past dominate our frame and limit perception, awareness and compassion.) Wisdom requires that one be profoundly “in the moment.” It perceives through a large, receptive, flexible frame which includes, but is not dominated by an awareness of the past and what is likely to work in the future.

  7. Pamela Woll says:

    I have very much appreciated the thoughts on wisdom.

    I think about how hard it was to grab hold of wisdom when I was younger. It had so many handles that it seemed I had to grasp all at once or it would leave me behind (and boy, did it!). Now it goes more slowly, and the handles seem closer together and much less important. If I’m very still and don’t spook it, it simply hangs out with me for a while.

    Having made the same mistakes so many times, I wonder how much of wisdom is simply humility. Having lived with myself a long time, I wonder how much is simply perspective. Having lived through fear so many times, I wonder how much is just faith — or a better sense of gallows humor.

    In serving others, the heart of wisdom seems to be the ability to let their joy and pain flow through me unobstructed, and offering them, not only my love, but also my wordless joy, which is inseparable from my compassion. Of course, this only works if I stay far away from the equation.

    Here’s to letting wisdom have its way.

  8. Perhaps wisdom, like consciousness itself, is not a thing but a clearing where insights can show up. Wisdom matters because knowledge doesn’t seem to be sufficient in making sense of the information overload that is besieging modern society.

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