Six System Problems

I'd like to introduce the concept of system problems.

In life, there are both individual and system problems:

  • Individual problem - single event, such as a car crash on a motorway;
  • System problem - series of connected events, such as 50 car crashes on the same small section of motorway - and none anywhere else.

System problems are notoriously difficult to discover, and even when discovered, just as difficult to resolve. You see, systems, like people, don't like criticism, and don't like to admit problems (unless they have a learning and appreciation culture). Systems would sometimes rather 'shoot fifty messengers' than sort out the problem.

  • Yet in the motorway example above, it was only when it was analysed that they found the road surface to be poor, the road markings to be absent, and the central barriers to be non-existent
  • No wonder the individual car drivers had accidents

So are there any system problems in the way we look at life? Lots! - they say that there are no prison walls so powerful as those within our own minds! But we'll just look at Six main ones. What are they?

  1. Not Invented Here (Give Up Your Thinking)
  2. Insecure Ego (Give Up Your Power)
  3. Mind-Body Split
  4. Intuition Squashed
  5. All Things are Connected (or not?)
  6. From Where do We Look at Life?

Let's just look at these in more detail. The example we'll use is applied to Health Care - as a fellow doctor, it's an area I'm familiar with:

1. 'Not Invented Here'

"We didn't learn that at medical school, so it can't be true." For instance, (my ego says) homeopathy, acupuncture and nutrition cannot be true (despite being used by millions worldwide). There are no prison walls so powerful as those inside our minds. "Give up your thinking".

2. "Insecure Ego"

Our ego is insecure and always seeks validity from other people - it wants to be made to feel important - and will happily trade its power for this (money, time, etc). So we often Give up our Power! To our peers, our parents, our politicians and our bosses - in fact to anyone who will take it!

3. Mind-Body Split

In Eastern thinking, in India and China, mind body and spirit are seen as interconnected, with man standing as a bridge between heaven and earth. This view is not held in Western civilization. As scientists became interested in the body, they asked the establishment, the Medieval Catholic Church, for permission to dissect the body. Permission was given - on condition they did not touch the soul. So for several centuries medical science has investigated the hardware of the body right down to molecular and electron microscope level - but not looked at the hardware. Psychology is a comparatively young science, and much of it is concerned with the mechanics of mind. Applied energy psychology such as Emotional Freedom Therapy has been developed by therapists outside current university research.

So the whole of Western Biomedicine is based on ignoring the wholeness of the mind-body-spirit philosophy of older wisdoms. As healing is restoring harmony to the whole, Western medical philosophy is tragically doomed to fail some of the needs of our patients, due a system problem, despite the best efforts of healing practitioners.

4. Intuition Squashed

Life is lived forwards, but evaluated in retrospect. As we move forwards in life, we make a series of choices. As Professor Dumbledore said to Harry Potter, "Harry, it's not our achievements that make us great, but the choices we make". Our choices are influenced by our experience and wisdom - and are made through the brain. Our brain has a left side, the seta of logic and analysis, and a right - from where intuition and creativity work. So it might be useful to learn how to make wise choices. Yet at school, we learn many facts, but little about how to make good choices.

As a Professor of Medical Ethics said recently, "Andrew, logic can only inform - it is intuition that must always guide us. Logic unguided can lead us most elegantly up a blind alley."

But from childhood onward, our intuition (our In-Tune Station) is squashed by those who love us, those who teach us, and others who all wish us to think as they wish us to... So we learn to ignore it - at our peril!

There may be a very good reason for this culturally - a society that uses the written word to a large extent develops left brain skills of analysis and precision at the expense of narrative, image and creativity (see the Alphabet versus the Goddess by neurosurgeon Leonard Shlain).

5. The Interconnectedness of All Things

Quantum Physics tells us that at a vibrational level, all is connected. Yet we act as if this is not true, as if we are all separate. Furthermore, it is said that the beat of a butterfly's wing in Chicago can cause a hurricane in distant Honolulu. (Personally, I can't really believe this - it must be a spelling mistake - it should read the 'break of a butterfly's wind' - that's rather less incredible!)

So we treat each other and everything else as separate - and it's very easy to dislike or hurt someone you see as separate - more difficult to choose to hurt a part of yourself.

Are we A-lone or are we All-One?

6. What's our Point of View in Life?

Are we all individuals living life? - or is Life living through us? Are we all in fact actors on a stage, in a drama perhaps of our own making, living life and seeing it from different points of view? So that Life itself, that lives through all of us, can see the overall balanced view and thus gain wisdom?

"It was clear to me that this body functions like a portal through which the energy that I am can be beamed into a three-dimensional space". Jill Bolte Taylor, Neuroanatomist whose stroke at age 37 affecting her left-brain function gave her unique insights into the left brain right brain split and the purpose of the brain.

And if life is living through us, then perhaps our bodies are vehicles for an individuated part of a greater consciousness?


These six system problems are rooted deeply in our thinking, not just in biomedicine, but throughout society's thinking. If you come up against any one of them, people will argue most passionately, thinking they are arguing with reason. However, they are, not, they are arguing from fear, the fear that we all feel when a tightly held, highly cherished emotional belief is challenged!

After all, Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

Fear stops us thinking laterally, fear acts to hold us within prison walls, including those of our own making. And what is the antidote? Love is the antidote to fear, love brings security and reassurance, love puts us in a place where we can learn.

A novel I read years ago was called Fear is the Key - but actually, in Life:

Fear is the Lock
Love is the Key

So the challenge for us all is to get beyond the Sick System Problems - and education is the key, education, education and education. The Latin word educare means to lead out (from ignorance).

How many of the system problems apply to each of us today?

And how about a quick guide to getting past them?

  1. Think for Yourself
  2. Release feelings of Fear and Lack
  3. Acknowledge that Mind, Body and Spirit are one
  4. Listen to Your Intuition, be Guided by it
  5. Know that All is connected, everything is one
  6. See the Whole Picture

Good luck!

As they say, not a problem, just a project!