With the progressively swelling incoming tide of refugees over the past few years, we’ve experienced a divide in opinion among and within European countries. Some at a governmental level are open to welcoming them and leading the way in terms of accepting those in plight, while others have erected physical or metaphorical fences, concerned about the impact of a large influx of refugees. At the same time we’re seeing splits forming within nations, with more far right supporters coming out of the woodwork to support restrictions on immigration.
Now I don’t intend this to be a political bit of comment, rather an analysis of what’s driving all this, and where the solution lies. It’s actually very simple. But let's not confuse simplicity with profundity.
All the push back about refugees is actually caused by just one thing: chronic (insecure) bad feelings. And guess what causes these feelings? Thoughts like:
…and so on.
Notice that all these things are examples of thinking about a future that hasn't yet happened. Some may argue that they're based on things which HAVE happened in the past, and that may be so, though again, when we reflect back on the past we are experiencing it through our thinking NOW.
Lots of these fears are shared by others, and before you know it they seem very real. People feel justified in their stance.
But the thing they’re missing is that the only thing that’s making these fears seem real is their thinking. They are all examples of insecure thoughts, which give rise to a feeling of insecurity / anger / feeling outraged. You see we now know for certain that the way we feel is 100% due to the thinking we are having in the moment, not due to our external circumstances. I know it looks like it’s external events that impact directly on how we feel - for example someone else got the job I applied for and now I feel aggrieved because I thought I should get it - but that’s just a trick of the mind. We take in information, we have thinking about it which is then projected onto our consciousness, making it look ‘real’, instantaneously impacting on the way we feel. Combine this with the fact that we all seem to have PhDs in justifying our views, values and opinions, and the result is we become strongly attached to the 'mirage'. It seems 100% real to us.
However we only have to call to mind 2 different people responding completely differently to the same external events for us to know instinctively that it can't be our external circumstances that create our experience. For example, 2 people stuck in traffic: one is tearing his/her hair out at the prospect of being late while the other, also due to be late, is enjoying the chance to listen to some great music, almost delighted to have the chance to be delayed. The same circumstance, entirely different thinking about it, resulting in near polar opposite experiences.
So back to the refugee crisis. What I’d like to suggest is the key to solving all the angst in Europe (and indeed elsewhere) is to point people to the source of their experience. When countries and individuals realise that their anti-refugee stance is not caused by things that happen on the outside that they may feel a victim of, but by what’s going on in their thinking, then there’s hope. Actually huge hope. It’s the ultimate accountability model. This may precipitate a degree of backlash as people don’t always feel that positive about being held accountable for what they feel is justifiable, but at the same time it’s the ultimate possibility model too, because changing our thinking can happen in an instant. One small but profound insight later and we can never see things the same again. No need for 101 tools or policies or reforms. Just a change in thinking.
Of course by this I don't mean that there aren't plenty of big challenges in receiving and integrating large numbers of refugees into a society. We've been working with the International Organisation for Migration long enough to know that that's rarely the case. But the thinking we have about these challenges makes an enormous difference, for better or for worse, and for the good of humanity, we're suggesting that it's worth exploring this simple yet profound enabler.
By the way, gaining a deeper understanding of how the mind works is transforming how we work with clients, resulting in quicker, deeper, longer-lasting results. If you'd like to know more, please do get in touch.