One of the things I like about complexity theory, is that it admits what we can observe, namely that the world seems largely and beautifully ordered, yet it also seems chaotic and random: that life is painful and joyful. We of course cannot prove the world is random, because there could always be an order that is hidden, but we cannot just argue that because there should be an order that is hidden, there is no randomness. I’ve previously suggested that we don’t know whether the sense of multiple possibilities and unpredictability is in the nature of reality or in the nature of the tools we use to make sense of reality. The main point is that there is a lot we cannot fully understand, we may just have to live with it as best we can, and this can be hard.

If God exists, then God likes and wants variety, disruption and surprise for us. The best we can do is to make islands of order, by working with the unpredictability, or the nature of the world, rather than against it. That is we recognise limits to our control.

Emotional Pain

One of the problems complexity points to, as does depth psychology, is that if you suppress pain, disturbance or chaos, the relief will only be temporary. The chaos will surface somewhere else, perhaps in another form, and very likely will be more disruptive. We do not solve a long term problem by hitting it or ignoring it. This seems particularly true of emotional pain.

Chaos and emotional pain need a different approach, they appear to need Dadirri. Pain needs to be listened to. Not magnified, not feared, but attended to. Sat with in the context in which it is found. If it is pain at work, then sit with work, listen to work, and so on. Do not ignore the pain.

It may be the case that long term emotional pain comes when we are suppressing something essential for us. Keeping this something in check may be necessary, or it may be purely artificial and social (a matter of suppressing to fit in with our groups), but in either case, suppressing awareness of pain is bound to lead to chaos of some sort. We may be driven to do what distresses us, and what makes no sense to us. The pain may shield us from the pain of being suppressed by others, and perhaps makes us complicit in suppressing others.

Gently listening to the pain without criticism and retreat, can lead to what we have made unconscious. The pain can be shielding us from our deep wisdom, which would cause us to change our life, or change our approach to life.

Emotional pain can feel like ours alone, but it can also be collective, and shareable. When it is consciously shared it can become a public movement. The problem here is when that collective pain is used by a leader to control their followers, and to scapegoat others who have little to do with it, not to follow it to its source.

Social Pain

Black Lives Matter was a protest which grew out of shared pain. Pain that people were being shot by police apparently because their skin colour meant they did not matter. Pain that black lives in general did not seem to matter. Pain after long series of recurrent abuse. Sometimes this abuse may seem trivial, but the point is that it was repetitive, and it seems black people are generally not respected by the dominant groups. And of course, the response of many white people, was that this was all trivial or exaggerated: “All lives matter” implying “we suffer as much as you.” Indeed this may even be true, but it still implied there was no need to listen to black people, to sit with them and share their pain; their specific histories and experiences were being made socially irrelevant.

President Trump could have lead the way. He could have said there is a problem which we need to solve. He could have said to his followers, “let us listen to these protesters, as we are all Americans. We need to take what they tell us seriously, we must make sure we are with them on this”. People could have sat together, and shared presence. That might not be perfect, it might not have worked, but at least it would have been a recognition, and a start.

Of course Trump did not do this. He did not listen. He did not even offer rapport. He blamed Democrats and protestors for disorder. He portrayed their pain as a threat to the USA, and tried to shove what he saw as disorder down. He offered himself as the only person who could restore order, and that the way forward was repression. He appears to have decided that his power depended on being seen as strong and suppressing disorder. This probably worked to an extent and gained him respect in white supremacy movements, but ignored the problem. He did not solve the problem, and tensions between black and white Americans have probably intensified.

This is not just a Trump issue. This is how Western culture has worked for a long time. This is how we react to what we fear.

President Biden appears to face a similar problem with Trump supporters. They are clearly showing emotional pain. Now you may say an important difference is that the explanation for the pain of BLM protestors was based on real events, while the pain of Trump supporters seems based on fictional events. They think an election was stolen, when it seems more likely that Trump tried to steal it himself and lie about the results.

Nevertheless the pain of loss is genuine, and expresses other pains. The chaos should not just be suppressed, or hidden and left to flourish were it can be used by those who are unscrupulous, which is what has happened before. Yes listening is a risk, and it may not work, especially if the listening does not seem genuine, or seems like an attempt to denigrate them.

Those who support Trump, support him because they saw him as one of them, and as someone who listened to their concerns. Someone who recognised the pain they felt. The pain of declining, or stagnant, incomes and status. The pain of medical debts and bankruptcies. The pain of being ignored or mocked by elites. The pain of feeling their country was no longer theirs, that it no longer made sense. The pain of life being unpredictable, but usually without return. The pain of feeling victimised. The pain of knowing their children will probably have it harder than they do. The pain of complete frustration. The pain of wanting revenge.

These are all real pains, and they are pains shared by many Americans. And sure Trump is never going to do anything about the causes. He continued the pattern of increasing the wealth of the wealthy, and poisoning the Earth and its peoples. He also tried to shut down dissent. But it appeared they could vote and act, and something precious, and lost, might return.

Biden would be wrong to follow Trump’s lead, even though desire for justice is probably strong. America needs a path of reconciliation. This means listening to people and sitting with them. Finding the causes of pain, and facing the pain, and helping people reconnect with their wisdom, and helping people to find a way to act and deal with their pain and problems. This will be difficult because some media and politicians find more power in stirring up that pain and forcing it to be unresolved, than they do in healing it; this is perhaps the visible part of the neoliberal conspiracy to boost corporate power, and it will be active. Dadirri will be difficult, but that does not mean it is not necessary.

The emotional. perhaps spiritual, pain of normal Americans has been ignored.

Furthermore, the results will be unpredictable but, we can more or less guarantee that, if we do not listen then the situation will get even worse, and much of what makes the US valuable will collapse, as the pain returns, less able to be pushed down..

The same is true of climate change. That is an emotional pain for those who see the world being destroyed, and its an emotional pain for those who deny the world is being destroyed, but fear their way of life is being destroyed for political gain. We need to listen rather than to shout, and we may need to listen to the world as a whole.

Dadirri means we take others seriously and we listen. It is more important to listen than to speak, until the insight comes.