The Walrus’s Handbook, Understanding ourselves – a continuum from the biological to the emotional, social and spiritual aspects

By Hazel Skelsey Guest

Remedy for a New Era

Review by Gunnel Minett

The year 2016 marked the beginning of a new era – the Post-Truth Era. And only a couple of days into 2017 we have learnt about ‘alternative facts’. This is describes a new trend, where people are becoming indifferent as to whether the information they are given and/or pass on is true or false. This applies in particular to social media and propaganda spread by ruthless politicians and people willing to do anything to take advantage of people’s ignorance for their own benefit. The need for independent data with confirmed validity has all of a sudden become less important. This new trend is completely opposite to a tradition that is as old as human history, to turn to elders for their wisdom, accumulated over a life-time of learning, research and fact-testing.

This is why this book feels so reassuringly different and old-fashioned in the best possible senses. In it the author is sharing her knowledge of human behaviour and psyche, which she has acquired over a lifetime as a teacher and psychotherapist. To illustrate both psychological, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of human life she relates them to two theoretical frameworks; firstly, Maslow’s very well-known Hierarchy of Needs, that illustrates which of our inner forces impel us to act in a certain way, and secondly, to the Scale of Responses and Sequential Analysis from the lesser known Jungian psychotherapist, Dr Ian N Marshall, to highlight our reactions, i.e. how and why we respond in a certain way in a specific situation.

The first part of the book focuses on Maslow’s theories, particularly his later, revised hierarchy of needs which includes intrinsic values. By illustrating the theory with anecdotes from her own practice, as well as current world events, this account becomes very accessible and entertaining, even for those with no previous knowledge of this field. Drawing on this clear and well tested theory of the human psyche helps clarifying behaviour that otherwise can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. In particular in these times of turmoil and friction between people from different backgrounds who are trying to live together in a shrinking world, it can be a great help to see how much we really have in common rather than being alienated by our differences.

We have things in common, not just with other human beings, but also with other animals. The author points to animal research which has established many similarities between us and other species. There is, of course, an ongoing, intense and important debate on animal welfare and environmental issues. So it’s particularly helpful, given that ‘environmental deniers’ have recently been elected to powerful positions in the world, to see how much we can learn from studying other species. (The arguments presented in the book has received recent backing from TV programmes showing animals in the wild, displaying emotions such as grief and loneliness which were previously thought to be unique to human beings. It also shows how much animals learn their behaviour from each other.)

The second part of the book focuses on Dr Ian Marshall’s Scale of Response and Sequential Analysis. This too illustrates how human behaviour is influenced by the environment: basic reactions can be positive or negative depending on outer circumstances – something to remember before we judge behaviour in others which might seem to come directly from some sort of inner evil rather than desperation and despair in a hopeless situation.

The title of the book comes from Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass: ‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things’. It refers to the fact that the author decided to present the wisdom acquired over a lifetime of experience and research, at the age of 87. In this new era of Post Truth, to be willing to take time to collect thoughts and experiences, and share it with the rest of the world, is something to be appreciated and treasured by all. Something we all should be doing when we feel we are approaching a more mature age, as a gift to future generations.

On the positive side, our new information age has made it much easier to share our knowledge with others. Publishing a book no longer requires the mediation of a publisher. It can easily be achieved in the form of electronic books which are accessible online in all parts of the world. In fact I think elders sharing their wisdom is so important that organisations such as SMN, which represents a different, more thoughtful and serious approach to research and fact-based knowledge, should lead this initiative and encourage its member to follow the example of Hazel Skelsey Guest by writing down the wisdom they have accumulated over a lifetime. Furthermore, it is certainly high time to try to counter the Post-Truth era, which seems to be taking over our world. Otherwise future generations may struggle to find their way back to a more balanced outlook on life.

2016, Archive Publishing, Dorset, England, ISBN 978-1-906289-29-4, Paperback, illustrated, 229 pages’s+Handbook