I am happy to be here today because I see a lively part of Greek youth, which at this moment is not very animated in an energetic and active way.
I returned to Greece because I thought I could offer a few things in my field. Unfortunately, my generation disappointed my country a bit, so we expect from you, the new generation to do something for a worthy nation because it has offered a lot, but still has dormant powers.
The country is in a state of crisis, as you know, but I will not get into the economic and other matters. It is also a deep crisis, social and psychological.
The social one is that the country is essentially destroyed as a society. As a collective human condition. Everyone is pursuing their own self-interest.
The politicians are doing the same. We want our own, so we elect them. There is a situation that you all know, we are all thieves to a small extent. Few people try to contribute something for the common good.
Maybe this gathering and TEDx are very hopeful examples. And every attributes people had in the past in this country, have been partially disappeared.
There is a lawlessness, as you know. There is a hyper-consumerism, which everyone showed us that it’s the purpose of life. There is no team spirit.
And we know from psychology and psychoanalysis that man is happy only inside a network of relations and when he offers things. In a very substantial language, we call this love. It is not only romantic love and so forth, but the possibility to coexist with people, in this short trip we make through life, and through them to give and receive.
This is not a moralistic lesson, it is psychological. Namely a human who never gives anything to others in the society he lives in, cannot be happy, content.
We see this every time with people that are a little empty in that aspect. They might have money, success, anything, but they do not feel good. They come to us, to the psychoanalysts and say: “I feel a void, I cannot find meaning in life.” And they are usually looking for it through more consumerism, more sex, drugs and so forth.
And unfortunately, this concerns a big part of the Greek youth today, who is overly engaged with drugs, and sex, in a weird manner and I do not have time to talk about that.
I will give you an example. I see… I see many people and young kids in my office and fourteen year old girls come over, often with suicidal tendencies. Or drinking drugs, or that sort of thing and you cannot understand why. They are from a so-called good family.
And when I ask them sometimes: “Well, can’t you wait, you say I want to kill myself. It’s beautiful in the sun, soon you are going to meet a young boy when you grow older.” Which they do not understand.
After this conversation she replies: “What, a hookup?”
I say “Yes”. That’s not how I learned to call things back then.
She said: “I’ve been with nearly fifty and I am not interested.” Fact.
Well, this is not love, but some sort of cheap hyper sexuality which after a while, without love without sentiment, without romance, there is no chance to give to the other person, it’s just an organ exchange, which after a while even though pleasant, leaves a void.
Humans must connect. It is the only thing that can make them happy. And to give. Those were my thoughts when I decided to come to Greece.
And what I tried to do, because here we talk about what someone does, not only what he says, is that as a psychoanalyst, I used to see very few people who possessed a lot of wealth so I decided — because I had been trained in England also in group and family therapy — to establish a company here which to this day has trained around 4000 people.
And these people now work in hospitals, mental health centers, schools, with families and even when these facilities are private the price is much cheaper.
So, what do they learn there? Apart from all the problems they have, they learn to live with other people. That’s where all the difficulties that we have, come out, the aggressiveness that defines us in Greece. They learn to cohabit, to share, to tolerate each other and to stop projecting their problems to other people all the time.
This is a common thing in Greece where we are a little problematic and believe that everybody else is responsible for everything. The other political party, the other this, the other that.
What can Greece do now? I will not talk from a financial perspective. I believe that things will get better. The whole world is going through a crisis and I believe that Greece will be fine.
And how can it be fine, it’s the fact that we are going through a crisis. And psychologically we know, there is a theory called: “Crisis theory and intervention” where things either turn for the worse or the crisis softens us. It’s like iron. When it is cold you cannot forge it. When you put it on fire, it can be forged.
So the crisis can create a stirring inside us, and make us see things a bit differently. To see that we are members of a country and not just individuals. Because this is what we are missing, we lack of team spirit in Greece. To consider the other person. We take someone else’s job just because we have connections.
We drive in a very aggressive manner. Romantic relationships, marriage, are not as qualitative as we think. The Greek family is a difficult family. I have worked with families from many different nations in London. The Greek is one of the coldest. Even though we are under the impression that it is a good one, that we are tightly bonded. Many times we are so tightly bonded that we cannot unbind.
As you know, there are children, not just now for financial reasons, that live with their family until their 40s. There are children that sleep with their mother through her encouragement until they become 32, 35 years old. We observe these. Though these are more pathological cases.
But this crisis can make us think, change a bit faster because the Memorandums and all that which in many cases they have positive elements that promote change. I am not talking about the budget cuts and so on but about the reforms they propose. Some of them should have been done years ago.
We cannot do them because change is not easy. But with the crisis it is possible to change. And as you see we have many strong reactions. Maybe it needs more time.
But if, in the medium term, the country starts changing, Greeks are smart and capable and given a chance they can become giving persons.
But society does not give us such examples. Maybe organizations like TEDx and others, will slowly lead us to become better to each other.
Now, what more can I suggest, since TEDx wants so called: “Innovative Ideas”. I did my small part as everybody does his job. This is what I could do, this is what I did and I keep on doing.
Lately, even though I always avoided it, I appear on television and other places. Again, to offer something to the Greek families, to make people think through a few things.
But what I propose and is the most important thing and I had proposed in the past is to have life lessons in schools. A person has two types of conscious life.
The conscious, the one where I talk and you understand, and the unconscious which was studied by psychoanalysis which on a large scale is formed in childhood but after that, it remains unconscious. That’s where we have all the problems, and as you know all the problems in the adult life, marriage, sex, our relationships, to the choice of our partner, choice of job and all the rest, they are formed by these experiences during the childhood years.
And we see that in every person we analyze. Since those are the basic elements, humans are not prepared when they get out in life, to form correct relationships. The more mature ones succeed.
But 80% of marriages are bad. 50% get a divorce, 30% do not get a divorce because they cannot. Only 10% of marriages are considered to be good. These derive from the childhood experiences, this subconscious is coming out in close relationships. marriage and the way we raise our children.
In Greece this is a very bad way in most cases. This is why the new generation is a bit lost right now. So if all these things exist, what could happen? The lesson that could take place in schools starting from kindergarten until someone finishes high school would be a so-called life lesson.
To have a team with some teachers, that are trained in this collective experience, the one we use at the company I founded who could teach children how to live, empirically, the human relationships. This can happen through certain ways.
I have described and done in London such life lessons to difficult children as well, in schools for maladaptive children, and it had very good results.
This will change every year depending on the child’s development so someone can learn how to coexist with other people with authority, with love, how to develop his creativity, how to cope with difficulties, how to make substantial connections with people.
This is something we do not learn and we come to life totally unprepared for that. Somebody is getting married, has children, a mother’s job is the most difficult job anyone can have.
In order to learn a few things, since I am also a child psychiatrist, I studied for 40-50 years, and I still do not know very well. At the same time, a mother has a child, and she has no idea. The only thing she has is a tape recording in her brain from her own mother.
So the same mistakes are repeated in every generation. If this thing could happen in schools, there would be a chance for the next generation to become much better, more social, more collective, with some elements, if not of idealization, but of life interest.
We come and go, but we need to leave a trace. And we should use this time to live with others, substantially, inside us. Without aggressiveness, jealousy and envy, with all these things that define our lives.
Of course, this does not apply only to Greece. But for the rest of the world. Although Greece has a very difficult social life right now, since the Greek state was founded and it could have been due to the Turkish occupation, or other things.
In any case, we have not learned how to live with each other. That is why we always have dictatorships, trouble, one political party opposing the other and so forth.
Therefore, if those lessons are made, and I am sure that they will at some point, but when? You should also fight for this in order to achieve it tomorrow or the day after.
These are the things I wanted to say and I thank you.
Resources for Further Reading:
- Revealing The Lost Codex of Archimedes: William Noel (Transcript)
- The Power of Civil Momentum: Annamalai Kuppusamy (Transcript)
- What Does It Mean To Be Yourself? – Carly Sotas (Transcript)
- Help For Kids The Education System Ignores: Victor Rios (Transcript)
- How Acts of Kindness Sparked a Global Movement: Asha Curran (Transcript)