Chief (Dr.) Kenneth U. Idiodi, FRC
In today’s world, in the quest for peace, personal security holds a position of central importance.
The need for security is borne out of the instinct of self preservation of life itself! A threat to security is therefore unconsciously taken as a threat to life and induces a state of fear, anxiety or restlessness. Of course, peace cannot be said to abide in a society where most people are living in a constant state of alertness and cannot sleep at night with both eyes shut, figuratively speaking!
Man has come a long way from prehistoric times when he had to contend with the dangers of wild animals and the vagaries of nature which were largely incomprehensible to him. With the development of general and scientific knowledge, the threats posed by wild animals and the weather have been satisfactorily overcome in almost every community. Man however remains the greatest threat to himself.
The history of mankind is replete with accounts of bloodshed between men from violence ranging from clashes between individuals to large scale warfare involving several Nations. The knowledge that man has acquired of his own nature has up till now been insufficient to shield him from danger from himself. This is evident from the extent of violence man is subjected to by his fellow man in the world today. It is clear that man has much to learn about himself and until he dedicates more time to this and applies the knowledge gained, peace will continue to elude him.
The study of Man must naturally begin with the study of self. To quote Thomas Hobbes, who used the phrase “read thyself” in his famous work, The Leviathan; “ whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc., and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions”. In other words, if we can successfully place ourselves in our imagination in another persons place we will be able to better understand them and their actions. This is technically called role playing which is defined as the effort to assume the attitudes, actions, and discourse of (another), especially in a make-believe situation in an effort to understand a differing point of view or social interaction. Role-playing has also been defined as a psychotherapeutic technique, designed to reduce the conflict inherent in various social situations, in which participants act out particular behavioural roles in order to expand their awareness of differing points of view.
Role-playing is natural to human beings who use this as a means of learning right from the beginning of their lives as babies. It is a common phenomenon to see children playing games in which they act out dramas of things they have experienced in real life with each child assigned a role. As they grow older, this trend continues into teenage years with friends in school sometimes engaging themselves in sessions where they mimic their teachers for amusement. Even workers in offices are known to mimic the boss to amuse themselves. However, role-playing also occurs unconsciously. In fact, unconscious role-playing occurs in this manner in that it is quite pervasive. It is an easily observed fact that people will unconsciously adopt patterns of behaviour displayed by persons they admire. Sometimes this can be done to such a remarkable degree that the person being imitated appears to be momentarily present.
Taken from another angle, we often find ourselves sharing in the experiences of persons we have identified with. We may not know such persons personally but perhaps have gotten to know them by watching them on television. As we unconsciously merge with them and begin to internally play the same role with them, we become affected by the conditions surrounding them and react accordingly. In a similar manner, while watching a soccer match, we may find ourselves kicking out a foot to score the goal for a striker we have identified with when he is approaching the goal post. Again, if our favourite contestant wins a contest we are watching, the joy we feel is not just for the contestant but also for ourselves, having unconsciously taken up the role of the contestant we developed an interest in.
All these examples point towards the unity of Man. The soul of man is actually one soul, the Human Soul and is expressed as individual soul personalities in different persons. Our earthly personality is always in a state of evolution as a result of multiple factors and influences. Individuals in spite of being different still generally share many characteristics of behaviour in common such that there is no perfect separation from one personality to another. This explains why we are dependent on one another and find ourselves living each other’s lives vicariously.
In the unity of man lies the potential for man to know himself and apply this knowledge towards establishing peace. The technique of internal role-playing, which is based on the unity of man, has its application in many fields of human endeavour. In marketing, you must be able to enter the customer’s mind and know what he is thinking in order to be effective. In event planning you have to be able to put yourself in the place of participants to the event and understand their likely tendencies in order to cater for them in the event. A good office worker puts himself in the position of his boss and realises what he requires and delivers accordingly. In warfare, it is the work of the Generals who develop the strategy to anticipate every possible move of the enemy. This can only be successful when you can internally play the role of the enemy. A harmonious marriage relationship is borne out of this principle of realising the real needs and thought patterns of your partner.
In the case of personal security, it is important to acknowledge that you are surrounded by people who are living under varying circumstances. You should be able to take note of this by careful observation. Having acquired this information, the next step would be to put oneself in their place mentally and take note of the feelings and thoughts that would arise from this. You may then even view yourself through their eyes and take note of the impressions that arise. If this is successfully done, you will become armed with a lot of information that will guide you in your interactions with them. You will also be in a better position to work out measures that could be taken to enhance your security.
The mistake a lot of people make is to think that persons who pose a threat to them are incapable of rational thought or are somehow subhuman. It is worth noting that it is probably true that what one person has done will be repeated by any other person if identical or very similar conditions can be created. Fortunately it is practically impossible to perfectly recreate a condition on both the material and immaterial planes but getting close to it is sufficient for most people. It is a humbling thought to realise that there is after all nothing really special about any particular individual including ourselves. However, Mankind as a whole is very special and of this alone we can indeed be proud and thankful for. The challenge is in taking the right steps to tap from the vast potentials of Man.
Almost anywhere in our Nigeria, Africa and worldwide environment, the problems and challenges facing us are generally identified as bad politics, failed economic policies, endemic corruption, over-dependence on oil and the looting of resources by corrupt persons in power. It is noteworthy that persons who complain about bad leadership more or less are found to be guilty of the same accusation when by appointment or election, they find themselves in the corridors of power. This vicious cycle will cease to be so in a short time when, by the techniques of internal role-playing, we all place ourselves in one another’s shoes and begin to experience the drama of our impact upon the environment or the environmental impact upon us.
Beyond the individual, at the level of the society or the world community, it is the responsibility of those who are in governing positions to establish and enforce regulations based on an intimate understanding of the various conditions of the citizens. Having put themselves in the place of the citizens consciously using the natural methods role-playing offers, they will then be in a good position to bring about a society in which the needs of all will be taken into account. World Peace is attainable and the pathway to this must be worked out by the world leaders. We must of course lend our support to the efforts of our world leaders by always sending them our most positive thoughts for strength and wisdom to perform their duties. Reciprocally and in all sincerity, we should place ourselves in the positions of the world leaders, bearing in mind the fact that each of us as a follower in one aspect of life is also a leader in another aspect of life. Rather than join the populace in praying to God to protect us from looters, armed robbers, demons and evil-spirits, let us invoke the principle of internal role-playing. An ideal prayer for each of us daily should be: God save me from myself.
We live in a world of dynamic change. Advancing a new world order requires a mental re-orientation on the part of each and all of us!
If we must aspire towards the attainment of global harmony and world peace, we must begin with ourselves. Just so, safety and security at the global level must begin with an understanding of individual safety and security at the personal level.