Overcoming Opportunity and Relationship Traps

 

The Need of Intervention in Societal Traps

Serious societal traps or problems require external intervention to free people from serious problems. Powerful individual or groups can liberate the poor and the helpless to end up their cycles of abuse, dependence, and poverty. Three young children in one rural community in the Philippines became orphans after their parents died in an accident. There were no relatives who adopted them. They continued to live in their makeshift home. The eldest was around 11 years old while the youngest was still 4 years old. In order to survive, the eldest sibling stopped attending school and worked as an errand in a local hardware, carrying heavy loads just to earn one dollar per day in order to buy food. In this case, if no external intervention is forthcoming to save the kids from this trap, their suffering and societal trap would continue.

No Person is Totally Powerless

A societal trap can still be overcome by the individual through the creative use of strategies and tactics given the limited resources at hand. People are resilient. One of the best insights we can probably learn from contemporary theorists of power, particularly from the French philosopher and theorist Michelle Foucault, is the idea that power is not possessed through social class or status but exercised through effective strategies and creative use of manipulation and that no person can be considered totally powerless and helpless. Each one can somehow use his or her limited resources creatively to overcome a problem or desperate situation and overcome a societal trap.

The story of David and Goliath in the Bible reminds us that there is no invincible enemy or insurmountable problem as long as people are creative in their use of of their limited resources and inspired by a spirituality or strong belief in something supernatural. The giant Goliath is obviously physically superior compared to the boy David in the Biblical story. But the latter won over the former through effective use of strategy and skill. David used his intelligence and creativity, represented by the use of a sling, to defeat Goliath who obviously relied only on his size and physical power. Moreover, David tapped another powerful arsenal to maximize his courage and determination against Goliath—his strong faith in God and  strong belief that winning against Goliath is “doing God’s will.”

The Importance of Spirituality

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To overcome societal traps requires, first of all, a spirituality to provide people with courage and determination to face their adversary. This probably implies a “conversion” to a religious belief, ideology, or anything superior than the self. People who agree to become suicide bomber, for instance, require a socialization to extremist religious beliefs and practices which embolden them to commit suicide for the sake of religion or ideology. So, if persons are aiming to overcome societal traps, they have to prepare ourselves for a societal ‘fight” by harnessing their life of prayer and spirituality. Life is a battlefield that requires personal strength and disposition to face the challenges and conflicts. Merely following psychological prescriptions would not be effective if the interior self is not prepared spiritually to fight societal traps.

After people have developed a strong sense of spirituality, they can probably be ready to think creatively or strategize to overcome own societal traps,   given their limited resources and political power in life.

On Opportunity Traps

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People live in a society that is highly structured in favor to those with more power and influence, whether in one’s group, organization, institution, or society. Opportunities are usually structured in favor to those who have superior talent, resource, ability, or strong political connections with the powerful. In a highly “unjust” societies or dysfunctional organizations, opportunities are not based on merit and qualifications but often based on personal and political connections, on “who one knows” and not on “what one knows.” In this case, the option is either they transfer to another system or organization to escape a the “toxic” corporate system or become innovative in the organization.

One employee is trapped in one company with toxic culture. His salary has not been increased for a couple of years. He was not promoted either because of favoritism prevailing in the company. He has no personal  connections with those in the top management. He cannot also leave the firm because his children are dependent on his educational benefits.  To escape this opportunity trap and raise his family income, he engaged in an online retail business during his spare time. After his business became big, he resigned from his job and gained financial freedom and liberate himself from the opportunity trap. There are lots of success stories of people who were able to rescue themselves from opportunity traps by simply being innovative and creative in addressing their difficult situation, silently creating opportunities to free themselves from the opportunity trap.

On Relationship Trap

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Every relationship, especially involving romance or marital love, has its own functions and dysfunctions, costs and benefits, no matter how sour or abusive is the relationship. It is not easy to separate from a relationship that has somehow fulfill some material or emotional needs of one of the romantic partners. Every failed romantic relationship usually begins with an intense feeling of attraction, intimacy, and mutual care between partners and end up in separation and animosity. Human beings are historical. Romantic partners can change as societal environment changes. Thus, a relationship which begins with an intense feeling of love can end up with a strong feeling of abuse and animosity between partners. One form of relationship trap is staying in an abusive relationship. This can happen in a romantic relationship or in marriage. Abuse can either be verbal or physical.  One study showed that women stayed in an abusive relationship because of the following reasons which can be delusional:

  1. They believe that they can change or save their partners’ abusive behavior., that they are called by supernatural powers to become “saviors” of their abusive husbands.
  2. They appeal to loyalty: They do not want to leave their husbands because they are loyal to tradition or promises to their parents or relatives.
  3. They need their abusive partners’ companionship and support. No felt alone if they leave the relationship. Abusive husbands also have their moments of care after each abuse.

These reasons are not sufficient to allow or tolerate the husband’s abuse. Thus, the state must create more meaningful programs and support systems to liberate women from this type of relationship trap.