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What Does Whole Consciousness Problem Solving Look Like?

Climbing rocks, risking danger to ascend toward . . . something at the top. What is found when that top is reached? A bigger and better view for sure, but what else? The experience of rising up to overcome a challenge that requires great strength, stamina, and perseverance brings a value of its own.

A problem solving machine, the human psyche sometimes ascends to the top to find long term solutions that work well, and sometimes it slips and falls, crashing into more conflict. Given that problems have been created by attempts to solve a different problem, there appears to be more crashes than ascents.

Rock climbers train hard, building strength and stamina needed to make a big climb. A uniform approach to problem solving requires skills that most have never been trained for, or taught. Why? In America, problem solving has been approached much like a new climber trying to scale a thousand meter cliff without being tied into a safety line.

The human psyche works in two major modes, each with sub-functions within them. The two modes are instinct and whole consciousness. Instinct survives at the bottom of the cliff with a limited worldview and feelings of angst, fear, or anxiety, while whole consciousness thrives at the top of the cliff with an expansive view that holds feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment, and peace.

Whole consciousness and instinct oppose each other in function.

Imprinted upon the psyche at birth, instinct provides a default worldview that helps preserve physical existence. Looking through its dark tinted glasses, instinct only sees a line with two opposing ends–binary thinking limited to two opposing ideas such as, us-them, win-lose, gain-loss, etc. With only two options within view, instinct allows for simplified and immediate decision making such as, fight or flight, I win–you lose, etc. Instinct is absolutely necessary for physical survival, but to always see the world in this way is to always perceive a threat, to feel anxious, and to seek solutions in a very limited way. To unconsciously follow instinct perceptions is to always stand at the bottom of the cliff, feeling trapped and seeing no way to climb up.

Instinct’s us-them perspective generates competition for resources and jealousy of what others have–an attribute meant for seeking food and shelter. The imprinted competitive nature unconsciously extends into competing for attention, competing for trophies, competing for wealth, etc.

Whole consciousness exists within every single person on the planet.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs claims that people cannot reach self-actualization until the lower needs on his pyramid model are met. The base needs are physiological such as, air, water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. When these base needs are met, theoretically, competition for them should go away allowing people to move up the hierarchy pyramid toward self-actualization where all is safe, secure, and comfy.

In America, people feel the competition for resources, which is built into its economic system, consequently, the instinct perception prevails and real problems do not get solved, rather the desired solution is competed for. Elite members of American society retain power and can climb the steep cliff easily. They are the ones trapping everyone else at the bottom by limiting their access to resources.

In recorded history, there were only a million or so people on the planet when the psyche’s heroic journey in consciousness began with these base needs as primary goals. Two-dimensional choices, such as fight or flight, were good options when conflict arose because there was plenty of room to flee, and combat was hand-to-hand. Instincts served us well then, and they will serve us well in the future, if we can learn to use them with full awareness and intent. With a global population of seven billion and rising, there is nowhere to flee and warring technology brings catastrophic results from which no healing can take place. The simplistic binary decision making process is not only no longer feasible, but it can be deadly for everyone.

Whole consciousness stands at the cliff top with a big expansive view. It is able to perceive solutions that instinct is not. Whole consciousness opposes instinct in every way, including instinct’s default position. Whole consciousness, perceiving through multi-dimensionality, must be chosen. Where instinct is a straight line with two opposing ends, whole consciousness is a circle of unlimited potential within it.

Whole consciousness in action shares equal distribution of resources, advancing the values of cooperation and compassion, social equity, political governance based on service rather than power, and so on. It is leadership that owns responsibility for its position. It is ethical and moral. It is fair to everyone. It lowers ropes to those at the bottom of the cliff and helps them climb up, pulling with all its might.

Instinct is focused on what it gets from the world, while whole consciousness is heart-centered and focused on what it gives to the world. Whole consciousness is a force of love, empowerment, patience, tolerance, and detachment from judging others as bad people. It is these forces that are unifying and it is whole consciousness that we can, and need to, embrace for all problem solving, now and in the future.

Whole consciousness does not mean tolerating bad behavior. It means that problem solving can be done through a different lens than has been historically used. We still need ropes and carabiners to make the climb. It is not a free-for-all, but a way of approaching problem solving that avoids creating oppositional tensions, and secures everyone’s ability to move up the hierarchy of needs pyramid toward self-actualization.

Problems exist in every area of political, social, and economic systems. There are problems on every level of personal and collective, in families, groups, organizations, states, nations, and global. All historically handled through two-dimensional thinking creating more conflict and more problems.

For all people, binary thinking and a fear based decision making process leads to competition, aggression, and conflict, as well as suffering. It also leads to great inequalities in health outcomes, opportunities, incomes, social interactions and - shall we say happiness?

In January 2020, the World Economic Forum released its social mobility index report, which is defined as the upward or downward change in an individual’s socioeconomic status compared to that of his or her parents. It measures whether a child is likely to experience a better life than their parents.

The report found that most countries fail to provide favorable conditions leading to success. As a result, life outcomes are tied in large measure to the conditions of one's birth.

Finland has been named the happiest country on the planet for five years running. What are they doing that is so different? The answer is that they set out to create those conditions favorable for thriving.

At the end of World War II, the Finnish economy began to shift from an agricultural society to an increasingly industrial and technical model. This economic change precipitated major social and institutional changes, one of which was massive school reform. As the population became more and more urbanized, the value of a comprehensive education grew. Increasingly, those in the agricultural sector began to demand high quality education for their children too. Education reform, beginning in the 50’s and continuing into the 21st century, was focused on equality, full access and full participation by students. A broad base of stakeholders was involved in a decades-long ongoing collaboration that capitalized on the existing value of cooperation between the government and organized labor, which involved all of the teachers in reform efforts. Before these reform efforts there were a few elite schools that provided a much higher level of education, and then less comprehensive schools for others. The reform effort began with those in the agricultural sector voicing a need for improvement in education for all children. They saw the need and value for education to bridge the demands of a new industrial economy. The tension created by this demand resulted in setting the value of equalizing education so that for the first nine years of schooling, every student would receive the same education, and that would meet high standards.

Before these reforms, and in the agricultural model, participation in education was 45% or less. Today, attendance is compulsory until the age of 16, and Finnish students score at the top of international measures of accomplishment. Here is an example of establishing a boundary by making attendance compulsory, while also providing what was needed to support that attendance. Through the decades, autonomy and authority has continued to move to the local level while a common curriculum can be traced throughout the country. Finland’s goal of uncoupling the accident of birth from eventual outcomes seems to be a success resulting in a well educated workforce and an informed, discerning and participatory voter. Most significant, is the high esteem, level of trust, and confidence that schools and teachers enjoy. This confidence and trust extends to other major institutions, the government and social and health services.

In order for these reforms to work, the two dimensional view of competition for resources had to be overcome. Education reform can’t be evaluated without looking at other social safety net initiatives that serve to alleviate basic insecurities, and allow collaboration and cooperation for the greater good of the collective. It is also significant that Finns are highly supportive of a tax structure that makes all of this possible. Two things should be noted here. First, these safety net costs are distributed with fairness and integrity and do work to allay survival fears. Second, income inequality has been aggressively addressed. The public feels that the costs for their security are equitably shared within the economy.

Finland’s leaders made a choice to govern from a base value of sharing resources equally for all citizens so that all people feel supported and secure. In other words, the base levels of the hierarchy of needs model are met allowing the collective psyche to move upward on that model toward self-actualization, but on a collective level. A note to consider here is that the Finnish citizens participated by making their voices heard and that is what prompted these changes.

The Finnish government accepted the challenge of creating the most equitable distribution of resources as is possible. By many measures, they have succeeded. Income inequality is the lowest of developed nations. Health care is free and available to all. Education through technical or college levels is free. Policies to make parenting compatible with working run throughout the system. Women are represented equally at all levels of decision making. Minorities, both ethnic and gender, are respected, empowered, and included within the social safety net. This is all based on the loving assumption that COMPETING for these basic needs is oppositional to happiness, and therefore contrary to their way of life. In their decision making, they come from a place of love and inclusion, and together, problem solve to address those hurdles that get in the way of a happy life. And for that, more than 95% of the taxpaying population support their taxation, while voter turnout and participation is high. A Finnish citizen has the feeling and experience of agency over their lives, knowing they are free to make choices that are supported in reaching their goals.

Working cooperatively to solve problems so that all can thrive, whole consciousness is based in love and looks to nurture each and every living being. It is participatory, compassionate, forward thinking and kind. Whole consciousness has always been within us, waiting patiently for us to return home, both as individuals and as a collective. Finland has largely accomplished whole consciousness problem solving on a collective level.

Lastly, a concept significant to Finland and happiness is the idea of “Sisu”. Sisu is an attitude of determination, fortitude and resilience. Born of the harsh winter environment, which is cold and dark for 58 straight days, Sisu says, I will go out and conquer this anyway. I will create joy even in this. Whole consciousness looks beyond discomfort and difficulty to create joy in living.

As with Sisu, whole consciousness accepts challenges and difficulties. It creates joy and fulfillment, finding them inherent in any challenge.


What the world’s happiest country can teach Americans. NBC News

Finland: The Happiest Country in the World

Education Reform in Finland and the Comprehensive School System


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