At the conclusion of “dead idea week”, here at Classroom to Capitol, I’m thinking about how we break the hold that dead ideas have over our consciousness and, maybe more importantly, over our public policies.
We know that dead ideas persist because they have so ingrained themselves into our ways of seeing and thinking that we cannot imagine another reality.
We can only handle tinkering around the edges, slightly modifying ideas that need to be entirely discarded. We distort our approaches to social problems because we try to bend reality to meet the confines of these dysfunctional ways of looking at the world.
In short, we need some therapy.
Because what can help people break out of the constraints of harmful thinking, to envision a future that is still unfathomable…like some really good clinical social work?
Isn’t that what our clinical training as social workers prepares us for? To build transformative relationships with our clients, so that, together, we can reach new levels of healthy functioning that they previously could not imagine? To do the seemingly impossible—build a life free of violence, for example, or break from an addiction, or find employment for the first time, or confront their greatest fear, or coexist with their mental illness?
All of that requires helping people to change not just their behavior but their thinking, and their seeing.
Because when we only see what we already believe, when our thinking only affirms what we think we already know…
we are trapped.
Armed with hammers, every problem becomes a nail.
We think that health care access always has to mean health insurance, that economic security can only come through jobs, that school funding should always be localized, that more free trade is always better.
And we wonder, if we ever stop to question, why the problems don’t get any better.
To me, all of this is more evidence to the need for social workers in the macro arena, so that we can bring the full force of our clinical skills to bear on the hard work of helping people to break free from their own mental prisons.
We know that we need new ideas, which requires cleaning out the old ones.
And we know that social workers’ clinical expertise–building professional relationships powerful enough to convince people to leap into the unknown–will be just as invaluable in that arena as it is every day, one-on-one, in the important work of changing lives.
Triumph we can.
Triumph we must.