Category Archives: Who Is Dave?

What has influenced my life? And yours? (Part 2 of 2)

Playfulness is the key to life.
Playfulness is the key to life.

I was asked: Who influenced you the most, in your own inner work, and how? I invite you you the reader to consider also what influenced you the most? This is part 2 of my answer.

Important Books

There have been many books (I read a lot), but a few stand out as truly adding to who I am as more than intellectual content (citations are listed in the Media page of my blog, and I will only briefly comment here). These books represent much more than intellectual content for me; they have modified my worldview, how I function in the world.

  • (~1960) Stapledon, Starmaker: the basis of my spirituality.
  • (~1975) Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness: affirmation of profound mystery.
  • (~1985) Fowler, Stages of faith: a focus to my spirituality.
  • (~1985) Peck, The road less traveled: the nature of love.
  • (~1986) Bennis & Nanus, Leaders: clarity on leadership.
  • (~1987) Smuts, Holism: the nature of systems.
  • (~1987) Vaihinger, Philosophy of as-if: the nature of beliefs.
  • (~1987) Watzlawick, Change: learning playfulness.
  • (~1988) Crosby, Living with Purpose When …: a value system.
  • (~1988) Doherty, Poustinia: I am a poustinik.
  • (~1990) Ross, Dancing with a ghost: the nature of paradigms.
  • (~1992) Carse, Finite & Infinite Games: Wow! Such richness.
  • (~2009) de Quincey, Radical knowing: panpsychism, now my ontology.
  • (~2016) Herman, Future primal: the nature of democracy.
  • (~2016) Schmookler, Parable of the tribes: the nature of power.

Mentors

There have been six individuals who influenced me deeply, each one because of their authenticity (their own personal growth) and their skill in working with people, all of whom I came to regard as friends (except one, who died shortly after I knew him.) From each, I learned much more than knowledge. In order of occurrence in my life:

Clark Reed (Transactional Analysis): with whom I first began therapy, wherein I had my first introduction to subpersonalities, which later became my metaphor Sailors On A Ship.

Jorge Rosner (Gestalt Therapy): a man of great authenticity and compassion, with whom I first trained and who taught me much.

Gerry Jud (Shalom Mountain): who challenged me and with whom I did most of my depth work of changing my sad story.

Arthur Kilmurray (Yoga): from whom (together with another body worker Tom Myers) I learned much about body awareness.

Ed Friedman (Family Systems): a man of vast emotional intelligence, wherein I learned of emotional triangles and the nature of play.

Christian de Quincey (Consciousness Studies): my research advisor for my PhD, teaching me much of the nature of consciousness and the inconsistencies of modern scientific materialism.

Who am I?

Overall (like everyone else) I am a complex creature:

  • a polymath (many gifts),
  • a poustinik (a hermit who is available when asked),
  • a Gestaltist (in action with life),
  • a server ( I have been exploring service for the past few years, initially taking a year of study in Hospitality)
  • I am still learning about relationship and about how to interact with complex systems, amongst many other areas.

I seek to live that playfulness is the highest skill of human beings. Here I follow two adages:

  • The most successful person is the one who is having the most fun.
  • There is much evidence that life is painful; there is no evidence that it is serious.

Enjoy!

What has influenced my life? And yours? (Part 1 of 2)

Playfulness is the key to life.
Playfulness is the key to life.

I was asked: Who influenced you the most, in your own inner work, and how?

I’m choosing to answer this question in a more general way: What were the major influences on my life? I suggest this because I have been influenced by many sources; in parallel with this, I invite you the reader to think about your own life, and what influenced you.

  • childhood issues;
  • educational (university) experiences, with many minor mentors;
  • personal experiences of profound mystery, challenging me to change my outlook in many ways;
  • many workshops on personal growth;
  • many important books (where I gained metaphors and concepts); and
  • a few mentors who were very important to me, most of whom have subsequently become friends.

Childhood and Life Experience

My childhood was extremely painful to me, including much alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse, and other issues. Until approximately age 40, I shut down totally at the emotional level, and in my 40s, I literally had to teach myself how to feel. This subsequently gave me great skill in understanding the nature of emotionality, although it was initially extremely painful (dealing with these issues was a major part of my mid-life crisis).

I have learned a lot about relationships, both the one where I have been unsuccessful, and those where I have been more successful. I regard my wife, Janet, as my life-partner, and one of the most gifted practitioners of NLP (see below) whom I know.

Educational (University) Experiences

To compensate for emotional pain, I used my intellect to succeed— and I had a deep love of learning, perhaps an innate part of who I am. Most of the time it served me well, but it often isolated me from others. During these times there were a number of minor mentors, but I did not have the emotional skills to relate well to them; they were more distant models of who I could be, rather than direct guides to assist me.

My studies also gave me a broad exposure to vast knowledge, ranging from physics to biology to medicine to psychology. I initially planned to be a theoretical astrophysicist, studying the Cosmos; little did I realize that I would end up studying the inner cosmos of being human — and I doubt that anyone would have predicted it!

Personal Experiences of Profound Mystery

In early childhood, I had a brief mystical experience while watching dragonflies. In early university, for a brief few minutes while studying the Bohr atom, I lost consciousness, and I became an electron circling a hydrogen nucleus —with a profound sense of joy. In my early thirties, without any apparent precipitating factors, I entered a state called Cosmic Consciousness (CC) and remained in this state continuously for three years, six months at its peak, fading over the next few years. It changed my life (and still does). But after it faded, I had five years of despair, not knowing what to do with the experience. Resolving this was the beginning of my mid-life crisis.

Workshops on Personal Growth

I had some brief exposure to personal growth workshops through a process called Marriage Enrichment, but it was my first Shalom Retreat that was transformative, lifting my despair although it did not restore CC. It did however open me to the incredible power of good therapy (experiential and inductive), and has served me as a model in my own ways of working with people. Over the next ten years, I blazed through several hundred workshops, ranging from hours to weeks of duration, as well as being in personal therapy. I was thirsty, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, as a physician, I had the money for these. Most important of all, I learned that I could transform my own pain, and eventually I combined these learnings with more formal training as a therapist so as to be able to work with people on their issues.

Being a therapist has been fascinating: I was being paid to do my own growth, learning much while being a resource. In particular, I am a Gestaltist — my basic philosophy is that of Gestalt Therapy (seeking awareness, contact, and personal responsibility). Much of my practical skill is based in NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP: which I regard as the most powerful and most playful of therapies) and Bowenian Family Systems. On an informal basis, I teach Iyengar Yoga and Vipassana Meditation.

To be continued.

What Limits Me? (Part 3 of 3: What do others want?)

PersonalGrowth1

The third major issue I have is that I do not know what other people want. I was a therapist for 25 years, specialized in anger management. Over my career, I worked with more than 4000 people; many people told me that their lives changed as a result of working with me, sometimes in as little time as a single weekend.

It was clear to me that, in our modern world, therapy was the only field that offered people skills for how to live well. Most fields, including much of psychology and religion, basically tell people what they should do, but give almost no instruction in how to do so. For example, consider the number of times you have been told that you should forgive. Now consider whether people have taught you how to forgive, i.e., an actual skill that effectively allows you to do so. I am willing to guess that the first answer is many times, and the second answer is likely never. As therapist, I taught people actual skills! And as therapist, I had the incredible opportunity of doing my own emotional growth, of using these skills myself.

This was, of course, very gratifying. Subsequently, much of what I did, and the philosophy of how I worked with people, became the basis of my first book Blowing Out the Darkness: The Management of Emotional Life Issues, Especially Anger and Rage (AuthorHouse 2008).

Yet, I was also aware that most people, when they first entered therapy, did not want to be in therapy; they did not want to do the necessary work to change their lives for the better. Essentially this was because therapy requires that people explore the painful issues of their lives, and our fundamental tendency as human beings is to avoid pain. Without intending to be pejorative, I found that people were either lazy (they resisted the work) or fearful (they were afraid of the consequences of doing the work). I also recognized that I had no skill at insisting that people do the work.

Most people would come to me simply to get out of pain. And eventually, slowly, most would do the work; some (perhaps 15%) would stay to make huge changes in their lives, and get to a place where they were deeply satisfied. But most, no!

This became so obvious that eventually I decided that laziness and fearfulness (later I added self-righteousness) were spiritual issues; they required that the individual make a voluntary choice to overcome them. In time, I decided to research these issues, and they become the basis of my PhD. Early on, I subsumed these three characteristics (laziness, fearfulness, self-righteousness) into an ancient Greek term: acedia. This became the basis of my second book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change (AuthorHouse, 2012).

I do know that every human being wants to live well, to live at peace, able to provide enough for family and life needs, perhaps to have a few luxuries. However, I don’t know if they are willing to do the work of living well.

Because it requires work. The maturity of our species has been compared to that of teenagers, often very nice kids, but frequently wanting to do their own thing and often not having the maturity to make wise choices.

Yet, if we are to survive as a species, we must learn to function with maturity. We must do the work. The negative forces at work in our culture as such that the only other choices are the loss of our civilization or our extinction as a species.

I don’t like these alternatives. I am willing to work otherwise.

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160607.

What Limits Me? (Part 2 of 3: What can one person do?)

So much to do!
So much to do!

The second limitation that I struggle with (see my previous post for the first) is the question of: What can one (more) person (me) do? We live in a very complex world that, in the space of my lifetime, has become a global village. As I look around, I am aware that large numbers of people are attempting to make a difference, attempting to find resolutions to the incredibly complex issues that our civilization now faces. Many, if not most, of these people probably have better networks than I; they likely also have better resources for touching others, and perhaps better knowledge of how to impact systems.

In Blessed Unrest (2007) Paul Hawken notes a global democratic mass movement of independent, non-governmental non-profits. This movement arose from three converging root issues: environmentalism, social justice, and the struggle of indigenous peoples for cultural survival in the global consumer economy. The movement has been ignored (by the media) because it is intrinsically decentralized. I believe this movement represents the Cultural Creatives (Ray and Anderson, 2005), people orientated to green and environmentally sustainable values, and who now make up approximately 50% of the world population.

Yet Herman in Future Primal (2013) notes:

The big questions . . . remain: . . . What comes after the dictator is overthrown? . . . We can no longer escape the challenge of creating a politics with the truth quest at its center, capable of generating an inspiring vision of a way forward.

From my perspective, the many movements have not yet coalesced into a way forward. Much of what I see and hear is either denial, or an attempt to get away from something (to stop global warming, to stop ocean acidification, to stop the duplicity of our culture). I see little in the way of visioning of a more mature culture.

From my perspective, change requires three things:

  1. a vision of where I wish to go,
  2. an augmentation of the forces that assist me in moving forward towards this vision, and
  3. a diminution of the forces that block me from this vision.

Simply stated, yet change also is a deeply mysterious process. Perhaps the many movements represent complexity seeking coalescence.

My skill as therapist was that of assisting change, principally that of reducing the negative forces, and I was very successful at this over the 25 years of my career. And, I also have skill at visioning and augmentation of the positives. On the personal level, I was very effective; I long to make a difference at the cultural level. I want to feel used up in service — as gift back to a world I love, perhaps to a God who waits, wondering this humanity will do.

So I often wonder if I can do anything. Will I make a difference? I don’t know, but I am reminded of a basketball saying: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not attempt.”

To be continued.

This was originally posted to my Facebook of 20160606.

What Limits Me (Part 1 of 3)

Lots to digest! One bite at a time.
Lots to digest! One bite at a time.

Hi to all.

A question to you, the reader. What limits you in your ability to make changes in your life, or your world?

I want to take the next few postings to explore what I am attempting to do here, with these postings. I strongly believe that we need a more mature culture (an ongoing shifting matrix of living what we value), and that the key to this is the maturing of individual human beings. I intend to invest the rest of my life in helping this evolve. But there are limitations for me, possibly just limitations at my own personal level, but I suspect these limitations are more general. So I am going to explore these limitations in the next few postings, and I welcome commentary as to whether you resonate with them or not.

The first limitation for me is that I have access to too much information. The web has transformed our civilization, and one of the major ways that this has happened is that, for any give topic, I can gather a huge amount of information in milliseconds. However, seldom can I say that I have gathered a huge amount of valuable knowledge thereby (in this context, I consider knowledge as being the meaning I give to information), and I certainly cannot say that I have gained wisdom thereby (wisdom here being the ability to make effective judgments).

Most people, including myself, use a TIC process to handle new information: they translate new information into a language they understand (T), interpret this into their own meaning of the information (I), and corroborate this meaning with a group they trust (C). Generally, it is a useful strategy, but it frequently fails when the corroborating group has their own agenda (witness the issues of the Republican Party in the United States, both in how they respond to Climate Change, and what they are doing in response to Donald Trump).

My specific difficulty here is that I do not know who to trust. Certainly, I cannot trust the media (although I find movies often give me a good sense of the zeitgeist, currently that of violations [often inaccurately called violence], duplicity of power dynamics [The Hunger Games and Divergent series], and catastrophe [end of the world scenarios). I also have difficulty with people what are too one-sided in how they present themselves: too negative, too positive, or too focused on just one aspect of what seems to me to be a complex issue (all of which are my own personal biases).

What I am attempting to do at present in response to this difficulty is re-build my network of trusted sources. I have a few, but if I am to influence on a broader scale, I need to find more resources and find a way to contribute. As a off-the-scale introvert, I find this difficult. Up to this point in my life, I have called myself a poustinik, a Russian term for a hermit who is available when asked (and I have needed to be asked). But this stance no longer serves me. I want to be able tell my grand-children that I wanted to make a difference in their lives; I want to leave them a world that is healthier.

More later.

This was originally posted to my Facebook on 20160605.

Sometimes I hate technology

Technology5

I awoke in the middle of last night with the thought that I hate technology, and to a certain extent that is true. In my recent attempts to take my work to a broader domain, I recognize how much I am hidden behind layers and layers of equipment that I do not easily understand. Not only am I lost in the equipment, but also the intersubjectivity of relationship is also lost to me. I don’t like it, but my options are limited.

Years ago, when I was an anesthetist, I made a commitment to myself that I would not use machinery that I could not take apart, and fix myself when necessary. I can no longer keep that commitment (not for years now; I could in the early days of computers — almost anyway).

For a long time, I have been saying to myself: “Technology is wonderful — when it works. And when it doesn’t, it is dehumanizing.” It is a tyrant that demands attention, principally because I want a particular outcome, and the “only (?)” way I can get that outcome is to engage with the technology. This is not completely true, but enough so that it irks me when there are problems. Perhaps it is my age (I have been told that younger people multi-task the issues much more easily) — but I think it is more that that.

The major difficulty I encounter is that technology forces me into a particular mode of response. This is especially so with computer software — for example, this blog software gives me only limited ways to format text, and repeatedly indicates that my style is sometimes abysmal. (Of course, this is according to the experts, whomever they are. One of my definitions of expert is x-spurt, an unknown quantity of a drip under high pressure.)

In addition, there is the learning curve of using the software. At some level, software updates attempt to forestall this difficulty; Microsoft Word, for example, has vastly improved over the years, but then there is the learning curve of keeping up with the updates. At some point, I simply give up, and “accept” the limitations.

But there is a bigger picture that I want to address.

I am aware from my PhD research of the warnings against technology by major philosophers of the 20th century (e.g., Berdyaev, Lewis, Ellul). Berdyaev, writing in 1934, noted “We are confronted by a fundamental paradox: without technique [technology] culture is impossible . . . yet a final victory of technique . . . brings the destruction of culture.” He also noted “we are living in an age when technique predominates over wisdom, in the ancient noble sense of that word.”

This engagement with technology really began with the Scientific Revolution, and the birth of the modern era, in the 16th century. Largely initiated by Copernicus and Descartes, solidified by Bacon, science took on a new role. Tarnas (1991) notes that “Bacon equated knowledge with power . . . [A potent visionary, he] persuaded future generations to fulfill his revolutionary program: the scientific conquest of nature for man’s welfare and God’s glory.” In my book Acedia, I suggested that “with the decline of religion, God’s glory got lost, and man’s conquest has led ultimately . . . to the dark side of humanity, and the problems of climate change.”

I am not suggesting here that technology is intrinsically bad, but that technology has allowed us as a species to express our hubris and our greed. Our technology is incredible — in my lifetime alone, we have had the first atomic bombs; we have placed individuals on the moon; we have computers; we have gene-splicing and GMOs; the list goes on. But we also have massive destruction of the environment, the still-present risk of nuclear destruction, global warming, et cetera — this list also goes on. And we have the duplicity of our culture, expressed by such as the political controversies of the past 50 years, usually as the desire to accumulate wealth as a result of our technology.

It is not technology that is the issue; it is our hubris and our greed. We must mature beyond this; the risks to our species are now too great. Somehow we must find ways of moving forward, keeping many of the benefits of technology, yet cautious of how invasive it can be.

References:

Berdyeav, N. (1972). Man and machine. In C. Mitcham, & R. Mackey (Eds.), Philosophy and technology: Readings in the philosophical problems of technology (C. O. Bennigsen, Trans., pp. 203-213). New York, NY: The Free Press. (Quoted text is from pages 204 – 207).

MacQuarrie, D. (2012). Acedia: The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change. Bloomington, IN, USA: AuthorHouse. (Quoted text is from page 71).

Tarnas, R. (1991). The passion of the Western mind: Understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. (Quoted text is from pages 273 – 275).