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Ad Hoc Therapy, Solomon's Paradox & A Difficult Question
The story of a routinely frustrated friend, King Solomon's wisdom and the learnings of Igor Grossman's experiment.
The theme of the week seems to be shades of rebellion. China holds it second set of military combat drills near Taiwanese airspace while Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, faces the wreckage of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters’ failed attempt to overthrow the week-old government.
A Story For You
A close friend of mine has had spontaneous annual outbursts for as long as I can remember. He usually reaches this tipping point at the end of the year and although I don’t have the forecasting power of The Simpsons’ writers, I’m not taken by surprise when a normal conversation turns into an impromptu monologue of pent up frustration.
The Simpson’s predictions are not to be toyed with. Here’s a comprehensive list.
The topic of discussion last year was his incessant need to prioritize his relationships over his mental health. The inability to communicate this to the people around him made him feel trapped and that took a toll on him. The oasis of having a healthy work-life-mind balance, turned out to be a mirage after all.
It goes without saying that when you’re mentally drained, you involuntarily neglect other aspects of your life that truly matter. You’re unable to think freely, unable to enjoy the things you normally do, overthinking becomes an unwanted partner and you eventually give in to the notion that life is a drag.
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My friend and I eventually came to the conclusion that he was too close to the picture. Not to take away from my deductive skills but I think he murmured, ‘I’ve got to look at he bigger picture’ during his rant; even though he knew what was wrong, he couldn’t see a solution in sight but for some reason, I could.
Grabbing a pen and notepad, I listed down everything that was disturbing the equilibrium he was trying to maintain. It wasn’t that complicated—he just had to establish boundaries, communicate his feelings and slide in some ‘me’ time in his schedule. He was wary of not picking up 2 AM calls just because his friends would feel abandoned but I emphasized that if they were truly his friends, they would appreciate the efforts he was taking to improve his lifestyle.
The situation wasn’t as complicated as he was making it out to be and the analysis and solution had been simple, even in the years that preceded the last one. It was always the same process—he was vexed with one specific problem every year and one venting session with me used to lead him to answers. And I’m far from expert in such matters. It could have been anyone in my place and that person would’ve still been able to find an apt solution to his issue.
That’s when I started to reflect on my life. I’ve been an ardent advocate of waking up early and I’m the first to tell you that it comes with its fair share of sacrifices—having a cut-off time of 10 PM, cancelling plans with friends, not being able to wish them on their birthdays, hurting them in the process while they’re unable to understand why I do what I do. When I first took the decision of being an early-riser, I wasn’t strong enough to confront my friends about it.
I hurt several of them because I was unable to explain my side to them. But, in my defense (as weak as it is), I was too close to the picture and couldn’t see a solution in sight at the time.
Why was I was wise in my friend’s story and a fool in my own?
And thus we introduce Solomon’s Paradox.
King Solomon, the third leader of the Jewish Kingdom, is considered the paragon of wisdom and sage judgment. It’s said that during his long reign, people traveled great distances to seek his counsel. Yet it’s also true—and much less well known—that his personal life was a shambles of bad decisions and uncontrolled passions. He kept hundreds of pagan wives and concubines, and also loved money and boasted of his riches. He neglected to instruct his only son, who grew up to be an incompetent tyrant. All these sins and misjudgments contributed to the eventual demise of the kingdom.
(Credits: Association For Psychological Science)
Solomon’s Paradox, in the simplest of terms, is the ability to reason sensibly with other people’s problems but not being able to use the same sensibility when the issue is yours. A psychological scientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, Igor Grossman conducted a series of experiments to prove or disprove Solomon’s Paradox and in an ode to the King himself, this experiment looked at the concept of infidelity among test subjects.
To test people’s wisdom, he ran an experiment with a cohort of people in long-term romantic relationships. He split participants up into two groups. The first group imagined that it found out that their partner had cheated on them. The second group imagined that their best friend’s partner had cheated on their best friend. Then everybody answered a series of questions about the future of the relationship that measured these key components of wisdom: the ability to take others’ perspectives, recognize the limits of one’s knowledge, and search for compromise.
And what did they find?
Sure enough, the group that imagined their best friend being cheated on scored much higher on these measurements of wisdom than the group who imagined themselves being cheated on. They had a clearer sense of self-awareness and a better ability to empathize; they could step back from the situation and think about it from a wider perspective. They were, in several key ways, more emotionally intelligent as it related to the situation.
The next time your friend gives you an apt solution while you stare dumbfounded at their inability to utilize the same wisdom in their lives, the phrase ‘coaches don’t play’ will start to make a whole lot of sense.
A Story From You
How about this for a conversation starter:
Is there a way to bypass Solomon’s Paradox, wherein you start looking at your problems from a third perspective?
Let us know,
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