FUTURE SKILLS: LEARNING TO DANCE WITH CHAOS
Dancing could be the metaphor for managing change in the future. Managing chaos is like dancing on a slippery floor. It is unsettling; and you are tempted to just stand still. But in the future, there will be no security in standing still. Standing still may be more risky than dancing and probably turn out to be unsafe. It has been suggested that living in "permanent white water" is like dancing with a gorilla. You don't stop dancing when you feel like it, you stop dancing when the gorilla does. Counselors and clients will need to learn to be as capable of change as their environment. Compassion, of course, involves a sensitivity to self, others, and the environment. This compassionate sensitivity to the changes going on inside and outside of us will lead to a new kind of strategy for dancing with the future. I have called this strategy Positive Uncertainty. It suggests the acceptance of chaos (uncertainty and instability) and recommends a positive attitude about the uncertainty. Its four paradoxical principles imply a set of possible skills and attitudes that might be practical counseling tools in the future (Gelatt, 1991). These principles are:
1. Be focused and flexible in what you want.
2. Be aware and wary about what you know.
3. Be "objective" and optimistic in what you believe.
4. Be practical and magical in what you do.
A paradoxical balance of rational and intuitive strategy is required because chaos theory has not made the rational, logical, scientific methods suddenly obsolete, but they are now clearly insufficient.
What is needed now is a new counseling approach that uses both rational and intuitive methods. This will lead to promoting creative skills in our clients to combat certain "new neuroses" brought on by constant chaotic change. These new neuroses, such as "future phobia" (fear of the future), "paradigm paralysis" (inability to shift one's point of view), "info-mania" (idolizing of information), and "reverse paranoia" (the belief that you are following someone), are disabilities in that they inhibit creative, chaotic-confronting thinking and behaving. But there are remedies for these disabilities in some "future sensing" skills. For example, we can help our clients develop "flexpertize"--a tolerance for ambiguity, an open-mindedness, a capacity to change one's mind, and even one's paradigm (Gelatt, 1993).
This approach means that both learning and unlearning will be essential to human development in the future. Learning today has come to mean "taking in information." Processing information and acquiring knowledge will still be important in the future, but it will not be sufficient. When knowing is the only bottom line, then knowing becomes the antithesis of learning (Land & Jarman, 1992, p. 116). "Flexperts" will be comfortable with uncertainty, capable of change, and both sensitive and creative (Gelatt, 1993).
Another future sensing skill resulting from the application of chaos theory would be "imagineering" (LeBoeuf, 1982). This skill involves imagining the kind of future you want, and then engineering it into reality; it involves the paradoxical belief that although you are not in control of your future, you should behave as if you are creating your future (Gelatt, 1993). Imaging and engineering builds on the notion that certain "positive illusions" about self and the future turn out to be related to good mental health.