Can psychoanalysis heal depression?

It may not at first and it may worsen it for some time and eventually it will get better, much better. I write about it, because I never knew I had depression and I want to write about it, because many people don’t write or speak about it. That is confusing because according to the World Health Organization almost 238 million people suffer from depression. I will not write about what it is, in fact you can look it up. I recommend looking up different resources too, because different resources will provide different explanations. In a similiar way depression is felt differently and is presented as such too. For example, I never thought I had it, because I was quite smily in public and one of my skill-sets was to cheer people up and to be super fun.

I no longer am that fun and cheer-full and at the same time, I start to no longer feel depressed. Some people may argue that comes at a loss of my joy and increased negativity and I start to counter-argue that it comes with gains; joy and realness. That is the joy, that when I feel joy feels real and not the joy I wish to feel “wish-full thinking” or an image I create to distract myself from the pain or void I actually feel, to keep a distance between what I call my true self and the part of it that would like to be protected, defended, or is not even visible because of how insigificant it or the parts of it can feel.

I decide to write about it and as I write about it, I hope to give you a glimpse and already have of what psychoanalysis can feel like and why it does help me, when it does. In fact, I write about it, which could come at the dismiss of some people such as relatives and lets say at a time in which I am open for employment. One could say writing about it reduces my hiring chance and it adds a negative image onto me. I argue the opposite. I don’t want to work somewhere, where mental health is stigmatized and secondly, I don’t want to hide behind a mask, which is that it has put me into depression primary. In addition, it does not limit me, does not define me. It does the opposite.

What is depression? I don’t know, but what I have learned in psychoanalysis is that one can understand or at least feel it, if what we call our self-defenses are being removed. That is to say to remove what we think we think to keep and maintain the life we have; relationships, things and forms of knowledge we have acquired that can come with other committments in life too; friends and family. Generally, you would not want to change or give up on them, even be critique of them, because they feel as much as “safe” and “certain”. That is where you belong and where over time you have acquired a certain life or status, of which you don’t want to break free off, even if you suffer. You don’t know that you suffer to begin with.

Unconciously, you likely suffer, because “it” might not be something that you really want. You are used to it and you think it is what you want. If you learned to be denied to write from a young age, or not to do the thing you want to, you will do another thing you want less likely and you will also seek out to people who will make you or find ways to make you do the thing you don’t want to too. These may even be the things they want to or deem as right for them for you, whilst that might be a projection of what they want and wished for themselves. Most of us have not studied psychology, or the tricks our mind does, so we wouldn’t even think of something like that keeping us locked in the rabbit hole of unconcious misery; a form of denial of ourselves and who we want(ed) to be. We do it because it is “familiar”, it feels “save and yet it is what makes you feel tired, drained at a job or in a relationship for example. It makes you feel “depressed”.

How do we get out the rabbit hole? In psychoanalysis we are being made aware of it and that is painful. It is as much painful as it begins to free, which is that through awarness of what we might have gotten a bit twisted that we no longer want to stay in the rabbit hole but leave it. For example through dream analysis, we may realize that the dream in which we played soccer with a position in the back left, is not a representation of how we wanted to play socccer, but how we were in fact “left behind”. That we had desires that weren’t heard, because they were perceive(d) as less important, or even wrong, or punishable. Through a slip in a toung we find we don’t like something that we thought we like, which is what we are not aware about (the unconcious speaking to us). In analysis we give it room to surface, what is unspoken, could not be addressed at home or because of other socio-cultural reasons. A bit like saying “I hate my husbands/wife favorite dish, but I eat it to make him/her happy”. Well, what about you? What makes you happy?

Why depression though? We repeat what we claim as safe and what feels familiar. But because it is, it does not mean to be true to us, or who we are. For example, happinness tends to be a reward function, but we tend to wanting to feel it all the time, which is exhausting. Or we may want to try out something different, but in your familiar environment you find phrases like “that’s gonna be difficult, you are probably too old, you shouldn’t do this, this is not what family or work expects form you… “. While these are likely meant well, to keep you from pain, they may lock you in pain, because of how something might be denied that is for you to experience; life and the challenges unique to you. It “pushes you down”, it depresses.

Can Psychoanalysis heal depression? First of all, it is for you to try, I am doing a Freudian psychoanalysis and it made me aware of what I was not aware of, which provided me with the awarness of what makes me feel uncomfortable of which I did not know it does or did. And through the awareness one could say to not “heal” from depression, but to change the narrative so that it may no longer be felt as much or in other words keeps you down, drains you of your energy, whatever it is. [Latin: press down. My interpertation: the thing(s) that keep(s) us down]. And you’re not alone in that.

Cover Image Source: https://www.planstreetinc.com/keep-an-eye-on-your-mental-health-for-a-healthier-life/

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Thank you to my readers, and what is next

Thank you for everyone who has been subscribing to my blogs and of who I have received comments and e-mails. This blog has initially started very unsuccessfully with transportation in Cambodia, followed by how I travelled with my first cat and evolved as I began developing an interest for bamboo. The interest developed after interning at INBAR in China and then later on into more critical writing, when I realized that the moment we are supportive or advocating for one thing, we tend to disregard another, leaving a blind stop to ourselves and presenting others with such too. I am thanking my MSc thesis course on innovation because it was through “Social Practice Theory” and my comperative analysis of bamboo and timber that I realized bamboo isn’t the thing for everyone, but for specific markets and consumers. Apparently, many people want the wood, because it simply feels romantic, and that is so okay.

Now, why do I write this? My job as research associate in Sustainability Sciences has ended on December 2022. To date, I have dedicated many hours in my profession, education and free time towards “it”. It is sustainability and I came to realize that just like with bamboo, if you become too advocating for “it” you develop a blind spot for what it is not. I now came to like Hegels theory in which a thesis co-exists with an antithesis to form a new synthesis (mainly a new theory). Today it made me think of “if something is sustainable, something is not and if something is not sustainable, something is.” If mathemathics is not sustainable, the antithesis is that it is, so the question is what is sustainable mathematics? You may find it is sustainable depending on its use case and maybe not if it is taught with such irrelevance that it comes little to use. After all it is what we use to programm, even the wordpress I am using to write and publish my blogs with.

What does this mean for me and for you? I will no longer write about one thing or the other, one field or the other , be supportive or not supportive of one thing or the other, but instead I want to rather dive into its depth. “What does this actually mean that we talk and fair about? Does this make sense?”. In other means, I have no clue what I will be writing about in particular,but certainly what comes to mind and I hope you can continue to be part of it, or also not if that is what you want.

All the best and I thank you very much,

Ann-Cathrin

P.S. If public policy can be supportive of one thing, it can also mean it can be not. If more sustainable housing lead to displacement of people who can no longer afford it, then it also is not more sustainable housing. So what is sustainable housing? [I guess what comes next will be much like this] 😉

Cover Image Source: https://www.furche.at/images/content/3566046-1280x658c-Hegel.jpg

[If you use cover image sources, always! cite them, thanks to my neighbour, because you can get fines if you don’t and following Hegel’s theory, also not. The guy on the cover image is Hegel. Heres a link towards his philosophy . ]

What about you? Feet, health and 2ndhand shoes – An interview with Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Sesselmann.

To promote a business case as well as more sustainable consumption and production patterns, there is an increase in the resale and consumption of secondhand (shoes). While the business case is growing with an expected networth of 1.27 billion USD by 2027, the resale value in terms of “health promotion” might decrease. That is because of the potential effects of shoe resale on consumer health. For example, the materials of most shoes such as for the inner and outer soles have the tendency not to be adjustable to a new consumer footprint. Because we all have a unique footprint, wearing someone else’s shoes means that our footprint does not fit and that can be problematic. Because I am not an expert in the field, I set up an interview with Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Sesselmann who specializes in orthopaedics. Through the interview I learned that buying secondhand shoes can indeed be disadvantagous because of our different footprints and to my suprise it might be better to buy new shoes instead of secondhand shoes. At the same time, it made me think that buying secondhand shoes could be health promoting too, if they had an integrated design in which the outer and inner sole of a shoe could be exchanged before, during and after resale.

Of course there is much more to it and I am happy to share the full interview with you;

Ann: When I contacted you, I mentioned that I experiment with second hand boots and I got worried about the health of my feet and the feet of my customers. I am not an expert and understand, how little I know about feet and feet health in general. How would you describe a healthy foot?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: If you start to define health in general, you find that it cannot be defined that simple. For example, according to the World Health Organization, health is a state of perfect physical, mental and social well-being. And if you think about a foot, you could have a first physical look and find that it doesn’t show any signs of ill-health. To elaborate, you then might consider the skeleton of the foot, how it is positioned, its arche structure, and also the foots’ joints. Then there are also ligaments, tendons and so that all has to work well together, including the foot muscles. They, I would even argue are extremely important. At the same time, purely visually a healthy looking foot can also cause pain that cannot be objectified. And as in the case of spinal complaints, the psychological component can also play a role by perceiving that pain is a result of ill-physiology, when it is caused by a psychological phenomenon instead. For example, back pain has been linked to stress too as oppose to an inconvenient sitting posture only. There are no studies on the foot, but one could transfer this principle in similar ways to the foot.

“Social Sustainability” is often associated to lets say human rights and worker safety. That is important, but it very much also about us individuals and the relation we share with products and our bodies too.

Ann: I was not aware about the potential role of the psyche in relation to perceived (ill)-health of our feet. It makes me think about how little I am connected to my feet and their physiological components. There seem many factors that influence a healthy foot, if it can even be described like that. Would you say there is a shoe that is most suitable for our feet?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann:  Very general, I would say that shoes can be poison for our feet. The best thing one could be doing is to walk barefoot on a soft floor. To give you an example, when an arm is broken, a cast is placed around it, with the intend to heal it. While it is supportive, it also relieves the muscles. Taking off the cast, one can notice that muscles have become correspondingly thinner, simply because these muscles were not used for a while. A similar principle can be applied to our feet in relation to shoes. Most shoes, unlike the barefoot shoe, relieve most muscles not extremely like a cast, but worn over a longer time it does. Accordingly, shoes can turn our muscles lazy and they degrade. Here many foot problems can be found; Because of a weakened muscle structure, that is no longer competent to support the foot itself.

Ann: Oh, you know, last week I purposely bought a pair of sport sneakers, because I thought it would be the best for my feet. They seem(ed) to be very supportive, kind of tight and light to wear. Is such sneaker bad to wear then?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: You cannot conclude something like that. For example, insoles are good for the short term, to relive acute pain, but not in the long-term. There are, for example, sensorimotor insoles, which are deliberately designed to provide stimuli and these stimuli are intended to activate muscles. They actively stabilize the foot. If I take a shoe like that for a run and don’t wear it all day, that’s okay. But again, at home, walking barefoot is definitely better. Across the wide range of shoes, you cannot say they are bad. For example, barefoot shoes activate most foot muscles. But you have to get used to it. And if I notice that my foot does not have the optimal pose, I should train it actively to begin with. Such training can also help to balance out mal positions in the skeleton through an improved muscle structure.

Ann: What exactly are mal positions and why do they occur? To ask a bit biased, do they originate from wearing the wrong shoes?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: It means that I may not have the most optimal foot skeleton posture due to certain malalignments. These can be inherent. In addition to that, I may have been wearing shoes for many years that on top of such malalignments relieve my muscles too much. Then I may need specific shoes again to provide that supporting function.  

Ann: I understood that malalignment can be inherent. But again, can it be caused from wearing the wrong shoes too? For example, I had a shoemaker repair the shoe soles of two boots that were worn off. So, I thought if I resell them without a small refurb, the next customer might get problems with their posture and possible backpain.

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: If my foot is bent, the arch flattens out and my leg axis shifts slightly so that my knees tend to bend inwards. As a result, it feels like my knees have to carry a unilateral overload in the lateral portion of the knee. In many cases it can create asymmetry. While such asymmetry is often natural, it creates a functional difference in my leg length but also a slight pelvic obliquity. This may affect the spine and can cause back pain. An asymmetrical shoe could reinforce that. That’s why you should change shoes more often. Buying a new shoe, I can assume it to be completely symmetrical and in a sense health promoting. This might differ with a secondhand shoe, which may do the opposite depending on how long it has been worn by a different pre-owner.

Ann: Can you elaborate that?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: For shoes it is typical that they are rather worn off from the inside or outside. It depends on the foot properties of the person who did wear these shoes before. For example, if my foot properties differ and I wear shoes of a different pre-owner, this can cause problems. However, while a worn off outer sole of a shoe is easily visible, more attention should be paid on the shoes’ inside, because there most footprints are (pre)-fixated. Because we all have a unique footprint, wearing someone else’s shoes, means that our footprint does not fit. For shoes this is problematic too, because most are made of materials that are difficult or not possible to adjust to a new foot. This differs to new shoes, that we tend to break in first.

Ann: That makes me think of that most shoes I resell have been worn for around a season and that means I resell a seasonal footprint with multiple wears a day. Could I conclude that this is even harmful, because of how pre-owned shoes counteract our unique physiology?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: Perhaps not directly harmful, but not favorable. It is not beneficial to health. If you want to pay more attention to health than ecological sustainability, it could be recommendable to buy a new shoe or a secondhand shoe with a small previous shoe life. Because unlike textiles, the effects of a secondhand sweater on my body are rather small. But the foot, you could say is the foundation of our body. It influences the statics; when we walk, stand, run. Its a different relationship, one could say.

Leather is often known for being a durable product and I also wrote about its use case for re-use. I think its still the case, but not for all product parts. Some need replacing more often. How to design for that?

I think that overall, buying secondhand shoes is not bad, especially if the pre-owned shoe was worn only around 2-3 times. But if the shoe has been worn rather often, it could be rather disadvantageous. So if I would buy such shoe, I would look at it too with a critical lense. How is this shoe made? Does it suit my footprint. And when I think about environmental sustainability specifically, I could also think of whether a recycled shoe, but a new shoe is even more sustainable in terms of my health and the environment as well.

Ann: That makes me think about design for circularity and business models too. For example, there are approaches in which products should be designed to last a life-time. This should incentivize consumers to pay a higher price and products could be produced better. But you are kind of encouraged to wear only a limited pair of shoes, because they last a “life-time”. This goes a bit into the direction of resale, but also to wear the same over and over. What are your views on that? Should we wear less, but better?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: There are studies specifically for runners that show that runners are encouraged to change shoes more often. And there are strong effects between two pairs and even a third pair has shown a positive effect. One could consider whether this is also valid for everyday shoes. I suppose that such a change could be beneficial for feet, because of such new stimuli. Different shoes have different structures and because of that stimulate different muscles. Of course the shoe owner has to get used to it. Still, it likely is not as good as to run barefoot on repeatedly uneven ground, but likely better than to always wear the same shoe.

Ann:  So even if I would find the perfect and most “sustainable” shoe that I am eager to invest lets say a couple of hundred Euros in to last a life-time. It wouldn’t be good over time, because it activates only a particular set of muscles. While the environment benefits, I might not. This makes me  question whether a most sustainable shoe can even exist or designed. What do you think?

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: We humans are very individual and our feet are just as individual. There is no one size or style that fits all. In addition to that, different shoes might be worn in different seasons and for different activities. Some people may even have 30-40 pairs of shoes. The perfect shoe, when specifically looked at from a health perspective is less about design, but it relieves our foot muscles; intrinsic foot muscles (in the foot itself) and extrinsic foot muscles (on the leg itself).  The ideal shoe affects these muscles at least, or even irritates, so that they remain in training. One could even wear a high-heeled or plateau shoe, but the dose makes the poison, as with drugs. If I can wear it once to go out for a few hours it is perfectly okay, it even positively stimulates feet, because different muscles are activated.

I told some of my friends about the interview outcome, which was used to justify shoe shopping. Arrrgh no, it’s all about balance! We don’t need that many new shoes that often, but a change once in a while seems reccommendable.

Ann: I may even call this ambivalent. From an environmental perspective we should overall consume less and I also hear that more consumption in terms of shoe is advantages when it comes to our physical health. Makes me think of new approaches for shoe designs and value sold too; whether health could become a more integrated part in product design for circularity. I liked your mentioning on sensory inlays. Or I might also like a barefoot shoe, if it looked a bit more casual.

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: Yes, the barefoot shoe is great, but yes, the design is very particular.

Ann: In a small research I did on consumer purchasing interests in relation to their shoes, the aspect of design was mentioned more often, indeed. But yes, I would say that’s a topic for a different interview. Thank you for your time!

Prof Dr. Stefan Sesselmann: You are welcome.

[I hope you enjoyed the interview. Feel free to reach out to me, comment and contact Prof. Dr. Stefan Sesselmann on his LinkedIn for further discussions on the topic]

References

Moorhouse, D., & Moorhouse, D. (2017). Sustainable design: circular economy in fashion and textiles. The Design Journal20(sup1), S1948-S1959.

I don’t want to bake more cookies- Rethinking life towards and after retirement

Some of my acquintances retire and I hear them talking about the things they will do or not after their jobs end, or already do or don’t. Some are happy and some seem dissatsified. “How is your retirement? ” I ask someone and he’d reply that well the notion is most elderlies go on hikes, I did too once, but now I want to go on about my day and life. I actually miss working because it gave me a sort of purpose. Not that I liked it, but hm oh well. I’ll find something to do.”

This and further conversations, made me think about what life I want to live, if when I set a seemingly “psychic end” to work life already, or center my thoughts on life after retirement, for which I don’t know how it will be like anyways, if the life I live is pursued because of generiousity to myself, or because of my imagined after-worklife retirement. If for the latter, does this result in me working too much, a job I possibly dislike or follow because of its financial incentives? I write so, because so often I hear” I can’t wait for retirement, finally to do the things I enjoy.” I feel it should be “I am looking forward to life itself “.

Retiremenet often seems to be perceived as the end of life phase. A start of a new life, which in retrospect is a continuity of life as whole. If someone has experiernced furstration before, they will continue to experience it after.

Yet in the retirement phase, I feel that increasing levels of loneliness or dissatisfactions suddenly originate too. In one way not doing anymore what one possibly did not like, let’s say the factory work and therefore prone to experience an increasing emptiness “How to fill such lack of work now with what type of meaning?” And in other ways not being able to continue to do what one has previously liked “industrial design,” for example because one is now the retired.

It made me think about notions to the end of life; whether a career or profession could be sustained that creates a particular meaning in the “retirmenet phase”, a form of continuity. And at the same time what form of activities could possibly be pursued so that one who experiences such a huge loss of work, even if it didn’t pleasure, can fill their time with a different form of meaning and pleasure that not necessarily relates to hiking and playing Bingo only.

Why does this worry me?

I began thinking about the retirment phases of my grandmother(s), and other elderlies in elderly homes or different forms of care; some that still lived through WW2 or the aftermaths. Some that simply lived. Some who complained at me that they didn’t want to be read out children stories or bake cookies all the time, but how much they still want to feel alive in other notions too; to design, to engineer, to teach. I guess they could, but yet they aren’t often offered the opportunity, even to fall in love again at 80 or to start a new business, if they wanted to.

Why can’t we be more engaging with the elderlies? someone could ask and the reply would be “dementia” or other symptoms of aging. But I’d say that between those moments of amnesia, there is some depth of joy that can be experienced, even if forgotten after. Though parts of it, the joy felt, the emotions, stored in the lower brain regions, they likely won’t be forgotten that easy.

Why does this matter, why does this relate to sustainability?

Just like babies, our brains still want to be stimulated. And possibly similiar to babies and brain growth; if such stimulation little exist, then brain is more likely to experience detoriation. And when we talk about detoriation of the brain, we can also talk about increases in somatic and other forms of illnesses. Furthermore, loneliness and lack of engagment turn into a major public health concern. In fact, it already is.

What can be done about it?

While these problems are known about, expenses for health care are quit high, leaving elderly care often at a minimum of care. To circumvent that the Netherlands has piloted a project in the city of Deventer in which students rooms are rented out for a discount in an elderly home in exchange for one hour volunteer work. Often students end up doing more hours for the community, then they actually have to. In another example, UK primary school merges generations by inviting elderly to work with them, a concept that originated in Japan.

And then of course there is you, us; how can we live as society, but also as individuals that the life lived is worth to be pursued as a whole and less as to be seperated stages?

What is Systemsthinking for Sustainability?

System-thinking for Sustainable Development

One of the greatest challenges of sustainable development are the various interpretations of the term and hence, versatile problems and solutions perceived and suggested by a mix of individuals, groups, entities and even regions. A question asked frequently is “how can I become more sustainable, if I don’t actually know what it is?”. This uncertainty and the need to act, often results in us finding and developing quick solutions, without being fully aware whether these solutions can be adopted and how efficient they are in the short and even long-term. We may also believe that our solution is most suitable for various sustainability problems, but it could fail as we are unaware about its acceptance and adaptation by a wider business and customer circle, regions and even family and friends.  

Hence, what could help us to find answers to those bizarre sustainability problems and how do we know whether those solutions could be a success in the future? What are we forgetting when thinking about sustainable solutions? In many cases, that is the systems-perspective.

A system

Just as with sustainability, there are various interpretations of a system. It is defined as “a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole; a group of body organs that together perform one or more vital functions; a group of devices or artificial objects or an organization forming a network especially for distributing something or serving a common purpose”.[1]

Based on these definitions, we could say that it is something that is close to us, like our home or business environment, and something that is based on different interactions that are in our control, time and space bound. That also means that we are unable to control what we are not directly engaged with – outside our system – such as us being unable to change the climate as an individual right now. But we can contribute to the latter such as by biking to work and not taking the car or washing our clothes at 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees – simply expressed.

A lacking systems-perspective   

Now imagine you are the owner of a company, which you would like to become more sustainable. For you that implies to decrease your carbon footprint (environmental sustainability) from employee commute and to support your employee’s mental health (social sustainability) by promoting physical activity. You are generous and provide each employee with a voucher of 50 Euros to buy a bicycle instead of using their car to drive to work. Quickly you realize that everyone still drives their car. You lost money and your carbon footprint remains the same.

We need to define the system before developing solutions

When we look at innovations or ideas for sustainability, it is difficult to look for a quick fix, hereby to mitigate a company’s climate footprint and increasing the physical activity of its employees by cycling to work. Asking employees, why they would not want to bike to work, although you generously provided a voucher, you may hear different answers like “The road to work is hilly and exhausting, but for 50 Euros, I cannot buy an E-bike, which I definitely need because I never exercise”, or “in summer its too hot and we don’t even have a shower at work”, “it takes me far too long because I live in the country side” and “did you know that the roads in the country side are terrible and I’d likely be covered in dirt if it rains and I arrive at work?“ oops.. many and more aspects we forgot.

Thinking in multi-level perspective

So how can we make ourselves more aware about ideas and their success for sustainable development? One way is to think in multi-level perspective – a unique way to understand systems.

It helps to understand how an idea or innovation can contribute to a transition of a system to a more sustainable state through the interaction of specific processes in three different levels: the micro-level: niches, meso-level: regimes and macro-level: landscapes. The micro level consists of multiple innovations or new processes or ideas which are protected from the regime in niches. The regime consists of the configuration of actors, institutions, infrastructures and practices that maintain and stabilize the current system. Unlike niches, regimes are rather constant and do not change radically but incrementally, like most people use the car to go to work and not a bicycle, although the car itself might develop. The landscape-level includes long-term developments like demographics, politics or the climate and the existing infrastructure, and other aspects that are difficult to influence (Geels, 2005).

Merging multi-level perspective with system thinking

The multi-level perspective can help to understand and analyze the system in which our innovation, solution or idea can develop and turn into a success. Looking at our company as a system which we want to become more sustainable, we could try to find out what infrastructure is there to support my employees to bike to work (macro-level); how do the roads look like, are they paved and flat and if not, how likely is it that our employees will go to work? Will there be bicycle roads in the future?

Another question that could be asked is how the “regime looks like” (meso-level)? What practices do my employees follow and why do they use the car or public transportation? And then I can ask myself what support they would need to use the bicycle: Would they use an e-bike more often? What do they need for that e-bike? Could they charge it at the office? And, if all of those factors come into play, how could the “bicycle” (micro-level) replace the “established” driving by car to work behavior?

Broad scope of sustainable development and system thinking

By identifying the system that we can have an influence on, we are able to develop and up-scale ideas efficiently. There are of course always landscape developments, that may change certain aspects like Covid-19 encouraged digital communications and remote work. Thereby promoting a huge decrease in emissions related to work travels, but these remain difficult to predict. However, we can be aware of such trends and what people and the economy need and hence, develop an idea most suitable to the development.

And you?

How about you? Have you made experiences with system-thinking or can you think of a system that you would like to share with us? I would be happy to hear from you.


Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

When students enter the end of high-school, the question who they want to become for the rest of their lives becomes fundamentally present. “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Many don’t know, some know, and some know, but they can’t. So they deviate their choice of interest or begin with any interest, that eventually as adults might leave them locked-in or question, whether what they do is actually something they thrive in. “If I could go back in time, I would have done that.” “Why haven’t you?” I would ask back, and receive a range of different answers or the sheer expression of not knowing.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

I remember the end of my high-school and I wanted to study psychology. I had no understanding of psychology and at the same time, I could not study it, because my high school grade (NC) was too low to enrol into a German university to study psychology. I could not become who I wanted to. I looked over the border of Germany and I realized many universities do not have a NC. Instead they have intake tests and some (like mine) had intake interviews to validate student motivation for a certain study program. Mine integrated business and public health. I quickly specialized in mental health. I thrived, my grades thrived. I could become who I wanted to still a bit; just differently.

Yet I am not a psychologist working in clinical practice. Can I become one still? No, unless I invest around 5-10 years of formal and practical education. However, I can enroll in further education (which I do) and integrate aspects of clinical knowledge in my work and private environment. I also do not have to become a psychologist “by titel”, but I can offer counceling services that also help improve the lives of people differently. So yes and no, I can and I can’t.

Could I (still) become a diplomat?

If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to answer it. But I remember having looked up political studies specializing in politics and conflicts, so that one could work for a foreign ministry. This never interested me, but for some time in my studies, or at the end I had developed a huge passion for ecosystem services in relation to livelihood. Eventually I decided to intern at an intergovernmental organization in China. I wanted to do so, because they specialized in bamboo. Ironically I did not know they were a diplomatic organization, but was quickly involved in that. Now I had diplomatic experience written on my CV and I could have continued that path. After all, diplomacy is about understanding differences and navigating jointly towards a common goal; Why does country a benefit from improved ecosystems and how can country b support such collaboration? ->Diplomacy. You can become a diplomat by specializing, being the expert in a field of your interest. Interest thrives!

Can I (still) work at the NASA?

If someone asked me that randomly, like a neighbour, I would quickly find out, that they might have expertise in a different field, let’s say pharmacy, being a cashier, kindergardener. I would say that the chance is quite low unless they changed their entire lives. Yet, I might just be so wrong. One of the alumnis from my Bachelor, developed a huge passion for waste and somehow she, her student team and professor came to think about waste in space and the effects it has on satelite crashes, whereby functioning satelites are essential for the many services we use today (mobile phones, health and more). She became so passion, that she founded the “Sustainable Development Goal 18“, is invited to give guest lectures on space and waste. As I last heard her talking, she got into the last round of job interviews at the European Space Agency for a job. She has to say 0 formal background in space, but much informal. Passion thrives and other people see that too. And passion/interest can be developed at any age.

Can I (still) become a teacher?

A teacher is someone who delivers information, ideally engaging, so that students learn, can feel empowered. I never intended to be one, but now I happen to be one ” a lecture at a University of Applied Sciences”. I don’t have the formal education for teaching, but I lived almost 7 years abroad, and I enjoy putting some of that knowledge together in a course and teach it to students. I will though. There is a demand for that, because education often looks for practical examples. So at any age, even without the formal education, you can become a teacher. Unsure? Put a free training course together and teach it (online). That also lands you skill-sets.

Can I work in counterterrorism/ intelligence analysis?

Often we look at profession as if they were a narrowed path, but less likely the skill sets needed for a certain profession; i.e. the ability to read people, to remove bias from information, to be fast, to communicate clear, to be a critical thinker, a single and team player. Instead we look at: To do this, I would have needed to study this in particular. Therefore, I never qualified and I still don’t qualify. In fact, often that is not true. For instance, in intelligence analysis the skill-sets listed above are important, but they can be found and developed in different professions. Of course, skill-sets very likely need further development, but the lack of a certain education that has let there, no longer should be an excuse not do it. Most of all; if you thrive, they thrive.

How do I know this is what I actually want?

I find this is the most difficult questions, because even if you remember, what you wanted to do or now think you want to do, there is a lack of certainty in that this is something you really enjoy. For instance, one could start studying medicine and realize, that one can’t see blood, so the “ideal” or the imaginary one holds of a job or profession may not hold true. That is years of time and money lost. To avoid that, it is helpful to go and interview people in the field “What do you like and what do you dislike?” I would even interview more since different people have different experiences and perceptions towards a profession (that’s what I like about science).

You may also want to do an internship, or see where certain skill sets demanded in a job, are skill sets you have but that show otherwise. In the case of the job of the intelligence analyst, I would see where else I am good at analyzing data. Maybe you end up finding out a skill-set unique to you that matches a profession you haven’t thought about i.e. being resilient or great at dealing with conflicts, possibly make you a good lawyer.

How does this relate to sustainability?

In one way its about thrivability. It means thriving in something, therefore feeling more content with oneself and experiencing a lower need to substitute something that is missing (negative feeling, or dissatsifaction such as with the job one choses) with something else that gives a positive feeling (pleasure) such as in shopping, drinking etc.. Often that type of pleasure does not sustain, because it aims at “compensation” or in other words “the coating” of the cake, while the cake foundation needs fixing. So it lacks.

Now by choosing a job, that sustains, that one thrives in, desire for compensation (up to addictions or levels of dissatsifaction) often decreases. One is more willing to “invest financialy” (cash flow;) ) into a career, because of the certainty of it. The return of investment (financially, but most of all emotionally is likely far higher). However, as one comes to think about, one also comes to think about being too old, too young? or too locked-in to implement changes. In addition, there seems as much as fear to change to something that makes one thrive possibly more.

However, that isn’t the case and in any age and stage, there are opportunities to at least integrate parts of another discipline that one might have miss(ed) out. One might even look for new directions, not thought of yet.

What about you? Please feel free to comment, write about your situation, job choices and I am gladly responding. You can also book a free consultation with me.

Is there hope in the lack of it?

Someone asked me to reply to the following;

“Many people say we are driving towards extinction and horrible living conditions, basically the future will be really dark. Others say that everything will be fine. I don’t know if I can relax and enjoy the present moment with thinking that the future will be ok or if I need to fight more because the future will apparently be really bad.”

And here is my answer;

In sustainability we deal nearly every day with the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them. In doing so we tend to begin with the end in mind and often that is the worst; “the end of the world as a result of climate change”. This trickles down to the interconnections and reason for that to happen such as inqualities, growing gaps between the rich an poor, corruption, unsustainable production and consumption processes, homophobia, abuse of power, addictions, health disparities, greed, species destinction, terrorism, further illness and alike. A recipe for anxiety.

It is now not only climate change that is a threat to our own survival, but it is also the interconnections that, when we focus in extremes on them, become the reality of how this world is, or more specifically how we perceive it to be. Let me point out; it is not like that, it is not neither nor in extreme, it is in proportion. Yet, (please continue reading, the good part is comming soon), many of these challenges seem extremely difficult to solve though, because of how complex they are so that the proportion might feel overwhelming. Such an example is the current war going on between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no “stop” botton. And there also seems no stop bottom for corporations to pollute and exploit because they get to benefit from the perks of limited liability (see why that happens in the video below). It nearly feels like working towards a vacuum, a sort of helplessness in the messiness we fight in that field.

Now in sustainability we still work with the end in mind (the worst case scenario) and in some methods we imagine the best case scenario, in which we have saved the world and all problems this world is facing (see the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals). Yet even if we use the best case scenario in which we imagine the perfect world, we still break down the vision into things that don’t work out now and then how we need to change them get to the imagined perfect world. We may see again that all is quite wicked. It makes it seemingly perceive that we will likely run into a shitstorm; extinction. More anxiety.

Is there any hope globally?

In all the scenarios that we run through, in all the madness that indeed is real in proportion, there is yet also hope. That is in fact seeing that such things as the Sustainable Development Goals exist or that one or two typos become increasingly accepted (more biases being removed that against how things should be but no longer hold to true i.e. in innovation, being open for change and working with differences). Going back; although the SDGs may not be ideal, they give some sort of direction and thanks to the SDGs we see not only companies moving towards more sustainability in many different ways, but we also see more people being aware of it as a result of creative forms of education, being that funny TikTok movies to reach a broader mass, other forms of Entertainment Education, or simply because people care. We now also see that sustainability becomes a profitable business case, so that capitalism (one of course can critiques it) becomes also an opportunity for change.

There is also much efforts done by individuals as there is done by NGOs and even governments through the implementation of new laws and policy. One can now even see countries nearly competing in terms of which country or region is becoming more green or more sustainable. Why would they do that? Well it attracts investments. The more stable an economy, the more secure investments, or in some cases tourism and further employment opportunities (money is not too bad). In addition, the world is becoming more globalized, our perception is changing rapidly, so that we no longer live in our own thought bubbles, but also in ways in which things can change more rapidly, not our perception only, but opportunities of cooperation and in the fight for lets say climate justice (think about Greta Thunberg); She does a great job in bringing the issue at stake.

Is there more hope?

Many people don’t throw their trash on the floor, there are companies and individuals I know who are not driver for sustainability of the entire organizations, but their hearts are inside; While Twitter might not be known for promoting gender equality and feminism I know at least one employee who drives that type of thinking in her heart there and internal in the organization, so that in all that critqiues about Twitter there is also hope. And knowing her, I am sure she’s moving a lot.

K-Pop at the UN. That’s called fan loyality and awarness raising at high level.

And for the other topics; as much as there is war, there is also the lack of it (think about how many countries are not at war now) and while there is a lack of biodiversity there is also not a lack of it thanks to growing regulations on forest protection and because people like it (also thanks to instagram almost instagram nature tourism and romantic tags in forest/nature scenarios that are worth protecting nature for too.). Seemingly, there are many tech companies that invest into IT Tools for social innovation (I know at least one) and sustainability also becomes this cool thing to do, even in education it becomes increasingly implemented. In ways its nice, because it moves automatically (literally giving us a rest also thanks to different time zones and many people working in this field around the clock and thanks to social media running 24/7 in repetition). It also is becomming more fun and accessible i.e. being more able to shape our cities through tools or different ways in which the public can participate in legal decision making. This is kind of the way to go.

Will the future be okay or bad?

Coming back to the original comment; There is no certainty, because in certainty we know, and sustainabiltiy or the end goal of it seems quiet uncertain. There is direction and when we look at direction there is much hope too, and balance in how we look at things also.

References

Glick, R. A. (2003). Idealization and psychoanalytic learning. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly72(2), 377-401.

Swart, R. J., Raskin, P., & Robinson, J. (2004). The problem of the future: sustainability science and scenario analysis. Global environmental change14(2), 137-146.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2014). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. The International Journal of Press/Politics19(3), 360-379.

Cover Picture: Local Artist Studio.

Why does underrepresentation prevent success in the circular economy?

Representation means that different people, different groups, different ways of being are being represented. Representation should move away from ideals. Ideals are for instance ideals on behavior, ideals on what people may like and dislike. How people are and aren’t, should and shouldn’t be. They are dangerous because they illustrate lifestyles that do not hold true, but they are perceived as such. That’s a barrier for innovation and success in innovation for circularity.

Where can we find underrepresentation?

We can find it in movies. We can find it very well on google. If you look up a picture on “single dads” and you will found mostly happy, caucasian dads playing with their happy child. It is difficult finding a picture of a non caucasian dad, who’d sit there alone in frustration, thinking how to take care for his child, thinking how to make enough money, being sad or frustrated, but also being happy with the role as father.

Why does this matter?

The circular economy is in a way “voluntarily”. Often nobody has to engage in it, because there are also linear business models. Yet, for many application such as fashion, furnitures and other products, the active participation of people is required. Now there are many business models, but they don’t take into account diversity, a lack of ideals. They offer rental services, they offer subscription services, they offer take back services, but they may not succeed. They may not succeed because of the lack of diversity in their business model thinking. The fact that someone with a low income might rather want to buy a cheap shoe as oppose to renting one over years because its sustainable. Not because they don’t want to, but because the reality “being stressed, having a small income” maybe does not want to make them to.

Curious for more? Contact me

Skillsets for teaching in sustainability

Sustainability increasingly centers around CO2 including ESG reporting and the use of technology to fix “sustainability.” However, sustainability and the quest to it is often interconnected, which means that different skill sets are needed teach but also to consult for it. So what is needed? Below I listed a few things I have learned about, at times teach and include into my work.

  1. Encourage thinking globally.

So many environmental topics these days are interconnected. One pair of shoes bought in country x buys one person happinnes. It also promotes a lack of happinness, if the person who has produced these shoes inhales hazardous chemicals or if a leakage of chemicals results in environmental destruction. However, if we think, act or teach too “local” we don’t think global. We don’t learn global. We learn that sustainability is limited locally and can be as quickly solved as when we “green the street”, when streets no longer are limited to a certain region (symbolically-spoken).

2. Challange perception

We are born and raised in a certain environment (nature vs. nurture). The environment turns into our reality, but the reality may not be someone elses’ reality who was born and raised in a different environment. Conclusively, there is no “one reality” but realities might overlap, some are individual realities and some realities are worth challenging. There are also realities that are frustrating because they clash with our own views on reality. Yet we might disown them because we perceive that our “reality” is right. Why would it matter? Science for instance, can teach how to regrow trees and what reforestration structures could work well with what type of trees, but it does not replace indigenous knowledge on how to manage different forests in what type of community structures, for that structues and how people organize and disorganize, differ globally and are subject to different realities, inlcuding experiences on what works and what does not.

3. Encourage emotions

In nature, animals can be obseved that are angry, they are wild, they fight, they express and after they may be calm, lay down, breath, rest. Yet, we so often feel that being angry or other emotions find little place, because they are perceived as “bad” or “angry” reactions may be perceived “as the problem of another.” Yet, reactions tend to affect another, so they are valid and important. If we don’t highlight that we are angry, frustrated, there is little room to be. And where there is little room to be, we might miss out on uniqueness and opportunities “Hey I am angry, that I have to comply to your funding requirements because they require formal education, however I am illiterate and I have 30 years of life experiences in that field.”

4. Encourage ideas

As I wrote, there are so many realities, that there are so little ways in which “to do something best”. We don’t know, because the systems we live in become so complex that being or doing something best, may be so subject to the individiual. Because of that, we shouldn’t redirect someone from piloting an idea or pitching it, because it is different. Instead, we should encourage that, because it is different, because its’ worth exploring and if it isn’t, how can we shape ideas so that they are worth to be explored more, worth to be shaped?

5. Be supportive of failure

Trying, experimenting can likely come with failure. Failing sucks, especially if energy , time, money and hopes were put into it. Yet failure is so important to encourage, because only then we learn and only then we dare. However, by banishing or making someone feel bad for their failure “pointing out whats’ been wrong” they may not want to try again or are less likely do so. Like that we won’t find out what their second, thirdt, fourth idea might have brought in terms of innovation and their (individual) success.

6. Navigate through biases in perception

There are so many things we do and think, because of certain symbols or ideas we give to someone else “the older knows it all, the youngster doesn’t. A CEO might not want to take time for someone, because of their role. A mother probably won’t have a business idea. The professor knows it the best. “Yet these perception and their biases may be wrong. An older may know many things not and a youngster may do. A CEO is a person, and persons have time. A mother runs a baby business unpaid and knows the many flaws and opportunities that she deals with every day. The professor who is likely an expert in one discipline does not know it best, because there are a range of disciplines and ways of thinking, for that they are all right in their own ways, including your own knoweldge, perception, background. How often did you project something on someone? What bias did it hold and what resulted based on that?

7. Encourage subjectivity

Yesterday I gave a guest lecture on circular business models and their barriers. In one exercise I had my students turn to their neighbours and tell me subjectively, why they would and wouldn’t wear or use their neighbours clothes (from shirts to underwear). Reasons not to were; hygiene, lack of trust in the case of a phone, different individuality, tastes, sizes. And that is all okay! However, often we tend (particular for sustainability innovation) disregard the diversity of people and their subjectivity so that one solution tends to not fit into the diversity of people, their lifestyles.

8. Remove subjectivity

As much as I enjoy subjectivity (of my own and others) as much do I try to remove subjectivity. That is to see things as they are without a political or policy notion to it. Why would that matter? This is important to remove ideals and opinions related to behavior or innovation and even policy or law. By being subjective one could fall risk to be too supportive of an idea or ideal “a certain policy” and may fall risk to disregard the falws in it. After all, thats where science and solid scientific research comes in. Not into research? Ask different people with different expertise about one topic. You’ll get different answers that in conclusion are likely less biased or politically driven.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

On short-commings and opportunities in the social part of sustainability in a firms’ value delivery

As many definitions seem to circle around the term sustainability, as many interpretations exist and as many misconception towards the terminology exists as well. As a consequence, most attention is paid towards the “ecological” dimension of sustainability and lesser attention is paid towards the “social” dimension of it, or it is perceivingly narrowed;

Social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people. The quality of a company’s relationships and engagement with its stakeholders is critical.” (UNGlobalcompact)

What is social sustainability not?

A business model that is based on growth, whereby consumers are unconciously influenced into thinking that they need a certain product, is not social sustainable. In fact it is the opposite, if the consumer realizes upon purchase that the product does not contribute to consumer well-being over time, but the opposite. If advertisment or the business model logic is purposely based on that, it is not sustainable.

How can the purchase of a product result in dissatisfaction?

A psychoanalyist explained me that sales work by selling an ideal. That is an ideal lifestyle, thinking one needs to have a certain good or product to match the ideal in advertisment. In reality, this can not be the case, because each person is different by biology and by nature the ideal they have for themselves. When an ideal is sold on the other hand, it distracts from the consumers ideal-self and on the other hand presents an ideal the consumer likely cannot meet.

A consequence is that after purchase the consumer likely will not be satisfied for a while, since the consumer cannot reach the ideal. As a result the level of dissatisfaction with the product rises and the level of dissatisfaction with the consumer self-rises “Not good enough for product xy”. Consequently more products are purchased to meet the ideal.

What if products were satisfying?

The higher the discrepancy between oneself with the idealized product or lifestyle, the more likely new ones will be purchased or the more likely other lifestyles might be persued that appear ideal to one-self. However, often these ideals cannot be reached and that is frustrating;

“Even if I like celebrity x, I will never be celebrity x if I buy their clothing. Even if I buy article y, I will currently not likely have the life-sytle the model(s) is marketing. Even if I buy the bra that has been modelled with larger breast size, wearing the same bra model will look much different on me. Even if I buy the phone that is used and advertized by a successfull manager, I will not need it for this purpose, because I do not manage. Even if I buy the sport article, that I do not like, because I like actaully another sport, I will not like the sport more that has been advertized so joyfull. Therefore, I wonder, what is wrong with me when I buy these articles. Ideally I should realize that nothing, because I determine what I like for myself and how products should support my individuality without marketing it.”

Can business models run without idealization and how could it look like?

Marketing often illustrates “ideal families” often a mother, a father and two children. But families these days are more, there are single mothers, single fathers, divorced families. There are people of different skin colours, different interests in different circumstances. People have different budgets, sometimes people get dirty, sometimes a life-style (within the messy, wondering, beautiful, bizarr and odd world we life in) is far more than ideal. And I think the closer advertisment can meet up to these ideals and illustrate how products, can add value to these weird and strangling lifestyles, the more satsified consumers are with these products and the ideals or life-styles most true to them.

To deliver sustainable value, businesses may think about the following;

  • How can the diversity of culture be delivered in business models?
  • How does the business model deviate from selling an identity or lifestyle but instead helps the consumer to promote their own identity or lifestyle?
  • How is satisfaction sold during and at the end of the production life?
  • How can the ecological value be combined with social value to the consumer and producers of the products?
  • How is being ensure that the products contributes to mental well-being?
  • Can you account for mental-health in ESG?

Resources

Abdallat, M. M. (2012). Actual self-image, ideal self-image and the relation between satisfaction and destination loyalty. Journal of Tourism and Hospitality1(4).

Annas, G. J. (1985). Fashion and freedom: when artificial feeding should be withdrawn. American Journal of Public Health75(6), 685-688.

Landon Jr, E. L. (1974). Self concept, ideal self concept, and consumer purchase intentions. Journal of consumer research1(2), 44-51.

Malär, L., Krohmer, H., Hoyer, W. D., & Nyffenegger, B. (2011). Emotional brand attachment and brand personality: The relative importance of the actual and the ideal self. Journal of marketing75(4), 35-52.

Morrison, A. P. (2009). On ideals and idealization. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1159(1), 75-85.