Tag Archives: intersubjectivity

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

The Emerging Church

Lucy3

Another post because I think the topic/link is significant. I do not strictly regard myself as a Christian, although I am deeply spiritual — I do believe that there is an underlying meaning to the universe, and that this meaning is friendly. I also recognize that the Christian Church is the dominant religious force in our Western World, and acknowledge that its history of intolerance and bigotry, sadly, is extensive. Yet it has the possibility of greatness, and thus the concept of the emerging church, the evolving church, is important to me, and I believe, to the world.

Lucy2I suggest that all of us search for meaning, including those of us who regard ourselves as a-theistic. As part of that search, we search for authentic relationship and community. And if we are to do so, we much give up our dualistic criticisms of each other, recognizing that we all search. Unfortunately, some of us, perhaps most of us, have been so damaged by the system that we do not know how to bridge these differences.

For me, the work of Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation does much in this bridging. I routinely receive his daily meditations, and value them deeply. Sometimes the language is a little too churchy, but the basic message is deeply inclusive, asking us to move to acknowledgement of the fundamental mystery of our universe, and especially the profundity of love (for me, best described as the will to extend oneself for spiritual growth).

This past week, Richard’s writings have centered on the profound changes that are taking place in the entire field of spirituality and religion, specifically but not exclusively to the Christian faith. I therefore offer this link (and its embedded links) as a source of exploration. If you wish to follow Richard’s Daily Meditations, you can subscribe at: https://cac.org/sign-up/.

The Emerging Church: Weekly Summary (20171126-20171201)

 

What values would be important in our future? (Part 3 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.

This is the third posting on what I believe a mature culture would value. In the previous one I commented on

  1. the primary need to value children,
  2. the need for a cultural story, a mythic narrative, that honors wisdom,
  3. an educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth, and
  4. practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
Further thoughts

I’ve been re-reading a book that had a important impact on me as to how I view culture: Rupert Ross’s Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality. Reading it in the 1990s, I was deeply impressed with Ross’s suggestions of the profound maturity of Aboriginal culture (much of which was destroyed by European domination), a culture that was non-technological and subject to the risks of living in wilderness.

At that time, I created a workshop I called Reality, and how we live it. In it, I contrasted what I called The People of the Ladder (European-based) with The People of the Wheel (Aboriginal-based). I suggested that both had value (technological civilization versus emotional maturity) and both had deficits (the costs of domination versus the risks of starvation). If we are to survive, we now need integration of the positives of each of these, and reduction of the risks of each.

To continue — the next value I suggest is:

Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”

Overall, our current governance, at least in democratic countries, is based on political systems. The term comes from polis, meaning “affairs of the cities,” thus organizing groups of people to achieve desired ends. Its origin was part of the development of democracy, a system of governance meant to access the wisdom of the people. Beginning in 1952, MacIver[1] suggested that “modern specialization of functions and interests, and the consequent growth of great interest groups, and of vast and powerful organizations devoted exclusively to their advancement, has destroyed the very basis of social life” (p. 77). Utterly true for me. And given the lobbying of commercial interests, modern political systems certainly do not plan for the long-term future.

I make a huge distinction between statespersons and politicians; to quote James Freeman Clarke[2], “A politician thinks about the next elections — the statesman thinks about the next generations.” A mature culture must focus on the needs of our entire planet, over many generations; in general, as a people, we are not skilled in the management of such diversity and potential conflict. The issues are incredibly complex, but there are modern models available to deal with complexity; a blog is not the place to go into details, and I recommend the interested reader to explore Gaian Democracies, holacracy, and community development processes. There is also much of value in Ross’s book; he was a practicing lawyer when he wrote the book, very aware of how European governance had destroyed Aboriginal culture.

To quote from my book Acedia, The Darkness Within:

A mature culture would actually be a no-party democracy, with individuals elected on the basis of perceived wisdom, and with interlocking regional governments, up to a world government. Individuals would be elected on the basis of perceived wisdom by appropriate regional groups to form a regional level of government, that government deciding within itself who would be the proposers of legislation and who would be the devil’s advocates. Essentially, the government would function to be a sophisticated cooperative body, attuned to the needs of the populace it served, yet focused on what the populace needed long-term, not as based on election requirements. Sophisticated electronic communication, including frequent high-level polling of needs and ongoing values, would allow the government to stay in touch with the populace. (p. 202)

A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

As indicated about, I am re-reading Dancing With A Ghost. Somewhere in his book (I have not yet found the specific reference), Ross tells the story of a discussion between a white judge and a native elder, in which the elder says to the judge: “We know you have a legal system; we are just not sure it is a justice system.” Our European-based legal systems in general are adversarial; they do not support community.

And we need community; if well-developed, it is the basis of cooperation. The best example I have seen has been the use of justice circles — attempts to restore all parties to be in community at peace with each other, and such that the contraversial actions which led to disputes are not intentionally repeated. I also believe that such attempts to create justice is not perfect, and that there will be occasions where individuals repeatedly:

act contrary to the needs and desires of the group. I suggest that, here, more senior groups (groups to which earlier decisions might be appealed) would have the power … [to ostracize such individuals] from the group, perhaps [for the individuals] to live in enclaves not subject to the standards of the general culture. These alternate cultures would be free to develop their own standards, but would not be permitted to impose their standards on the main culture. If desired, individuals in these substitute cultures could transfer back to the main culture, but a requirement would be they demonstrate they have sufficient intention and maturity to live within the main culture. (MacQuarrie, Acedia, p. 203)

A question: Would these six values that I have proposed be adequate to ensure a balance between the needs of individuals and the needs of the culture? Almost certainly not; I would call them necessary, but not sufficient. What is really needed is ongoing attention to the character of the culture. This would be the prime intention of the ongoing pursuit of wisdom: good judgment of the needs of the evolving present moment.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Next postings — I was going to explore how governance would function. Instead, I will explore what community would be like.

[1] MacIver, R. M. (1952). The ramparts we guard. New York, NY: Macmillan.

[2] Wikipedia. (2009, December 11). Statesman. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statesman

What values would be important in our future? (Part 2 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.

This is the second posting on what I believe a mature culture would value. In the previous one I commented on a) the primary need to value children, and b) the need for a cultural story, a mythic narrative, that honors wisdom.

As I reflect on why I am writing this blog today, I came across an interesting quotation: “Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life… ~ Martha Postlewaite.” At some level, I am attempting to do both, to save the whole world, and to create a clearing in my own life. My mythic narrative is such that I want to leave a better world for my grand-children, and my own life has been about emotional growth in honor of spirit; I believe we all want this, to support our children and to grow in spirit. So these values speak about what I want as well as what I believe we need to bring to conscious awareness for our survival as a species.

To continue — the next value I suggest is:

An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.

We must recognize that every human being has the right to education, not just a few years of schooling, but a life-long pursuit — because education never ends. Such a system is the basis of the pursuit of wisdom. It must start with the recognition that the education of women is a major key to our survival as a species — women are the life-givers, and in general, are far more capable in the pursuit of cooperation then are men.

In such a system, people would meet in small groups, at least weekly (with children present), to discuss life issues of importance, learning from themselves and from skilled mediators, learning how to resolve difficulties and cooperate with each other. It cannot be a top-down model of what people should do; it is not an effective means of learning. People would mentor each other, challenging both themselves and the systems within which they live. Easy, no; essential, yes.

Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.

What do you do when you are in conflict with someone else? The vast majority of people do not like to engage in conflict; I certainly don’t. but I at least have learned that conflict is normal — it is the essential fabric whereby we come to like and value each other (if we were all the same, it would be really boring!). But it is not easy.

In the best of circumstances, we have billions of people on this planet. Each one of us is different, and entitled to living space (food, shelter, education, health, etc.). And each one of us is emotional; when emotion-laden differences arise, we call it conflict. Frequently I have said to people: We are emotional; we can have clarity — it’s optional. And it requires ongoing effort to be able to think clearly about issues when emotions run high. Despite the dictates of modern psychology, I am a strong advocate of Blowing Out®, the system[1] I developed as a method for moving through emotional issues so as to have clarity in conflictual situations.

So often I hear people say that we should not be in conflict, that we should be able to resolve issues peacefully, and other admonitions as to how we should behave. I have very little use for shoulds, other than they being an indicator of conflict (see my earlier blogs on this subject). Every human being has thoughts and feelings about the struggles of life, and in general each person has their own experience, some having had more difficulty in life than others. Some have more power. Cooperation in diversity and conflict means that we work to provide justice for all, not just those who are in power. It means that all have a voice in providing such justice. Given our current maturity as a species, this takes incredible time and effort for resolution; perhaps as we growth in authenticity, it will take less time.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

[1] described in my book Blowing Out the Darkness

What values would be important in our future? (Part 1 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.

Big words, of major impact

Where are we going to in our culture? Are we able to move towards a healthy civilization? Presently our society is based on a system called scientific materialism, and especially influenced by neoliberalism. These are big word, worth understanding, but essentially they mean that:

  • only science can provide answers, and
  • the basis of society is to be a consumer of goods.

For me, these ideas are not a reflection of wisdom, especially because I value (at the emotional level, not the commercial level) art, theatre, philosophy, and many other aspects of life that are not within these spheres. Both ideas are also major contributors to our current dilemmas of global warming and environmental degradation.

So, if we are to survive, and especially thrive, as a species, we must live a different value system. What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. Previously, I listed six characteristics, and I will now comment on each in turn, here and over the coming two posts.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.
Children would be our highest priority.

We would develop social structures so that children would be included in all aspects of our lives. Why? Because children are our future, and they need to be exposed to all that we value, and what we do — remember the adage about actions speaking louder than words. I watched the movie Malala a few nights ago; it is the story of the Afghan teenage girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls be allowed education; she survived serious injuries, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her continuing efforts. An important component of her life had been that her father was a teacher in Afghanistan, and allowed his daughter in his classroom from infancy onwards. This was part of her cultural modeling.

I do not mean that children need dominate our lives; as adults, parents and elders, we must provide authentic models for them. Richard Rohr identifies the issue best for me in one of his recent blogs (Daily Meditations, 20160621):

I don’t think we’re doing our children any favors by raising them without boundaries or rules, and largely letting them decide for themselves what is right for them. . . . Eric Fromm, in his classic book The Art of Loving, states that the healthiest people he has known are those who received from their two parents and early authority figures a combination of unconditional love and conditional love.

But we need to provide them with models that sustain our world, rather than examples of how we dominate and destroy.

A cultural story that honors the pursuit and living of wisdom

Who do you know whom you regard as wise? What is it about them that you value? I suggest that somehow they are authentically themselves: what you see is what you get, and what you get is good judgment. How have they gotten to this place in their life? I suggest that in some fashion they have rebelled against the social norms, not in big ways necessarily, but in significant ways.

Our culture does not value wisdom! Nor does it value the other factors I identified in my PhD dissertation on acedia (see my book Acedia, The Darkness Within), factors that allow movement forward in the pursuit of wisdom:

  • hope (evidence in the present for what I want in the future),
  • discipline (discipline is valued as part of physical exercise, but not emotional discipline to do the hard work of resolving those issues that are part of our personal lives), and
  • playfulness (joyous spontaneity and surprise).

From your perspective as reader, what is the story that guides our civilization? Human beings are story-makers; mythic narratives have guided our lives for millennia (the movie Avatar is a great example of a culture moved by story). But our cultural story for the most part is that of meaninglessness (in a cosmos of great beauty), and the domination of nature by man.

If we are to have a story, it must honor the pursuit of wisdom as a live-long study, a story that encourages our resilience as a species. For me personally, it must encourage every human being to pursue awareness of who they are (therapy, by any other name) in balance with the needs of others. It must also ask us to move towards something greater than who we are, God (spirit, creator, higher power) by any other name. Being of service is somehow of immense importance to who we are as human beings.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

 

Towards a mature culture?

We need to learn cooperation.
We need to learn cooperation.

I indicated in my last post that, for the present, I will focus on what I believe we need to move towards so as to have an effective world culture of maturity. To repeat what I wrote last time: “I believe that the single greatest need we currently have as a species is to become a culture predominantly of cooperation. Competition will still be a part of who we are, but not the major part. How we are to get there is not clear.”

What is a vision?

In the next few posts, I will be writing what I envision might happen, but they are only my musings, not something I am locked into. The way I think of a vision is that it is the scenery on the road as I move forward with my life. There is the immediate scenery of what is actually happening around me, and there is the distant scenery of where I am hopefully heading. But, depending on many factors (especially both what I want and what others want), the distant scenery will change ¾ it is only the direction, the journey, not a fixed end-point.

As I develop this theme, I invite you the reader to consider your thoughts about how we function as a society, and what would be a more effective society. I do not mean utopia, and I do not mean a society that gives lip service to maturing — but what would it really mean? How would such a society function?

What would be a mature society?

I’m going to break it down into six sections, with subsections:

  • What would such a society value?
  • How would governance function?
  • What would be the interactions between communities?
  • How would any given community function?
  • What would daily living conditions be like?
  • What are the major obstacles to such a culture?

So, to begin.

What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. I’ll comment on each of these in the next post.

  • The care of children would be the highest priority.
  • A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
  • An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
  • Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
  • Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
  • A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

Thoughts?

To be continued.

Are you spiritual? What is spirituality? (Part 2 of 2)

Spirituality1

In the first part of this post, I discussed religion; I suggest here that spirituality refers to something broader than religion, but includes religion. If we think of religion as expressed as one dimension (belief systems), spirituality has three dimensions: that of

  • belief systems,
  • value systems (faith development over time), and
  • transformative experience (mystical experience).

An individual’s religion varies from belief in God to a belief that God is a figment of imagination; his/her spirituality can vary anywhere within this three dimensional structure.

Cultural maturity: a framework for spirituality
Cultural maturity: a framework for spirituality

John Fowler, in Stages of Faith, suggested that human beings undergo a hierarchical staging of faith development, expressed largely as an evolving locus of authority and a value system. A locus of authority identifies to what aspect of life I give authority, outward to the rules of others (the Bible, the Koran, etc.), or inwards to my own searching for wisdom. Values are very different from beliefs; values express what I (or others) consider important (and are often hidden within beliefs).

Fowler suggested that, during their lives, people move from relative rigidity and a focus on external authority (fundamentalism), through conventionality and questioning, to an deep acceptance and compassion, eventually living their own truths with profound authenticity. At these latter stages, people live the rules, not just follow them. It is important to note here that the rules they live are the principles that would generally be considered wise and compassionate, and they often live them fiercely, and passionately. Examples for me include Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, and others; on the surface, many of these individuals are religious, but fundamentally I suggest they are deeply spiritual. The process is age-dependent, and only a small number of people proceed through all stages.

I am also reminded here of an adage: “Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment;” the development of faith often requires much work. Part of this work is the work that occurs in therapy. A number of sources I know have noted that individuals in therapy often become less religious and more spiritual, less focused on beliefs and more focused on value systems.

The third aspect of spirituality is that some individuals have profound experiences that transform their lives. Examples range from the awe of sunrises to those of near-death experiences and other occurrences. I myself have had a number of experiences that have dramatically transformed my life.

For some individuals, the experiences have been so profound that the impact is strongly felt by those around them. The stories of Jesus, Mohamed, and Buddha express this clearly, and are the basic foundation of these religions. I would also suggest that these individuals are at the high end of Fowler’s scale of faith development, having had profound experiences, subsequently radically living their own authenticity.

Thus I consider spirituality as having three inter-related dimensions, all of which can be transformative, and give meaning and purpose to life:

  • belief systems (faith tradition or religion)
  • value systems of authenticity (faith development of values and locus of authority)
  • direct experience (mystery)

Personally, I have been deeply affected by each of these.

Furthermore I suggest that every human being has a spiritual life, some more enriching than others; every human being exists somewhere within these three dimension of beliefs, authenticity, and direct experience.

My questions ultimately to everyone are:

  • What gives meaning to your life?, and
  • Is the universe friendly?

Are you spiritual? What is spirituality? (Part 1 of 2)

Spirituality1

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;                     a spirituality that does not include science is delusional.

I indicated in my last few posts that I would clarify what I mean by spiritual. When I was a therapist, many of my clients struggled with finding a sense of meaning or purpose in life; for some, it is a profound dilemma. In seeking resolution, I would often ask these clients if they were religious, or if they were spiritual. Most of the time the answer I would receive would be “I’m spiritual; I’m not religious.” If I then asked “What do you mean by spiritual,” the answer I received was somewhat vague. I want here to clarify what I personally mean, as I believe the distinctions are vital to understanding and contributing to a maturing world.

Before you read on, I invite you to consider a number of questions:

  • What do you believe regarding the nature of the universe and its relationship, if any, to a creative principle called God, Creator, or some other name?
  • What are the important principles that guide how you live your life? How do you decide if something is right or wrong?
  • When, if ever, have you had experiences of profound indescribable awe?

First, what is religion? My best understanding is that a religion is a faith tradition, i.e., a set of beliefs (often including values) that attempt to explain how we should function during our lives. At some time in the past, a compassionate and/or wise individual so impressed his or her group that an extended community developed around this individual, a community that endured long after the death of the original individual (this certainly happened with Jesus, Mohamed, and Buddha). Usually the originating individual had had some kind of mystical experience that was deeply transformative for this individual. The set of beliefs and traditions about the individual and/or his/her actions became part of the community, and over centuries as the community expanded, the process came to be known as a religion.

In religion, the beliefs generally range from God, at one end of a spectrum, to no God, at the other end. On the God end, there are many traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, etc.), whereas at the other end, the traditions are limited — there is agnostic (not knowing, still seeking) and atheist (no God). (Contrary to what most people think, I consider atheism to be a religion, albeit one in which the principle belief is that of no God.) Depending on tradition (and literal interpretation of tradition), the God character ranges from a being of central authority to that of a less well-defined searching by the individual. In Buddhism for the most part, there is no God, and the Buddhist path is principally a seeking of what does it mean to be human in a spiritual dimension.

Generally religions also present some kind of ethics, a set of beliefs about how one should act in the difficulties of living. Often the ethics are very appropriate, but they are usually tied to (perhaps lost within) the proscribed beliefs of the religion.

Religions have propagated over hundreds or thousands of years, and seem to be a fundamental need for human beings. I suggest that the mechanism by which they have propagated is that we humans:

  • search for meaning, and
  • do not like “not knowing;” we want certainty so as to be safe within our communities — if we know the rules, and follow them, our lives will be peaceful.

Religions, thus, are faith traditions, the beliefs and values that have arisen over time in association with significant past experience. Essentially, religions allow us to follow the rules and keep safe. One of the Indian saints, Vivekananda is noted as saying: “It is wonderful to have been born in a church; it is terrible to die there.” I believe he was referring to the distinction between religion and spirituality.

I do not wish to disparage religions, but I do note a number of problems. In particular, there have been two problems of the 20th and 21st centuries, likely as a response to the meaningless projected by scientific materialism and its associated consumerism:

  • many people have given up on religious systems, shifting either to some form of atheism or some form of non-religious spirituality (sometimes remaining within a church system, attempting to transform the system from within).
  • other people have become more rigid in defense of their belief systems, and thus we have seen a major rise in religious fundamentalism, both within Christianity and within Islam. Both groups have contributed in major ways to the turmoil of modern life.

Most important to me is that the emotional maturity — the spirituality— of people who claim to be religious can vary tremendously, from those who are convinced that they have the absolute truth about life (and often insist that others do not) to those who have deep compassion for the whole of humanity. Unfortunately most religious individuals become branded with the tar of the least mature. Such individuals sometimes use the title of religion as an excuse for reprehensible acts. In North America, most Muslims have been inappropriately labeled with this tar; in so doing, those who do the tarring demonstrate their own immaturity.

To be continued.

What is Personal Growth?

PersonalGrowth1

I was going to talk about spirituality but I thought it would be useful first to identify personal growth; I imagine you the reader have heard the term personal growth. What does it mean? For that matter, what do the terms therapy and counseling mean? What is their relation to spirituality?

What follows are my reflections. (I am not an advocate of definitions — they are too static; I have been too influenced by an Aramaic concept wherein the speaker and listener are both aware of the many connotations of words, and thus a much richer possibility of dialogue.)

Growth, in the context of this blog, refers to: Development from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form; evolution. Personal Growth refers to the complex act by which human beings challenge themselves to become more mature, usually both more wise and more playful; it can take many forms but often involves some form of counselling or therapy with a wiser mentor.

PersonalGrowth2Consider the following. A baby (you, for example) comes into the world as a relative blank slate (with much background programming, but a vast amount to learn). The baby is then subject to a huge amount of living, some very caring and some painful (life happens; responses occur). The child copes and adapts: responding, copying, manipulating — developing deeply embedded responses of how to cope with a complex world (these are called the Adaptive Skills[1], patterns of who we are, not just what we know). Many of these responses of the baby are too painful to be kept conscious, so they are hidden behind a wall — these responses are the skills of adaptation.

Individuals who have successfully developed these skills are generally:

  • aware of themselves and their impact on others,
  • easy to talk with (both by those in authority and by those over whom they have authority),
  • emotionally available (able to both express and describe their emotional life),
  • cognitively available (able to give and receive feedback cleanly),
  • able to delay gratification, and
  • flexible to conflict

An impressive list — some individuals have been fortunate to grow up in families where these skills are easily learned. Most of us are not so lucky — but the skills can be learned at a later stage of life.

PersonalGrowth3That is the role of personal growth and therapy. The two overlap, but they are different for me. Personal growth usually involves expansion of what I already know of myself, deepening who I am in many ways; it can be approached alone, without aid of another, but often involves good mentoring. Therapy acts on what is behind the wall — ideally it punches holes in the wall, allowing the individual to become wiser and more mature in who they are, and especially, therapy allows the development of the adaptive skill set. (The term counseling, for me, is a nebulous term that is supposed to act like therapy, but generally does not have the power of therapy.)

From my perspective, good therapy is experiential and inductive. Action, not just talking about, is required, and neither therapist nor client really knows the outcome, only that it is high risk (perhaps for both client and therapist), and fraught with pain — the wall is there for a purpose.

Finally, a number of my mentors have suggested the characteristics of a good therapist:

  • least important, they have a theoretical framework, a way of thinking and talking that allows them to discuss what has happened after they and the client have been in action.
  • they have practical experience of working with clients, and a support system that allows them to discuss what mis-takes have occurred.
  • they focus on their own personal growth, they themselves being the primary resource they bring to therapy (because therapy is a relationship, not a power trip).

This is a list I agree with — so if I am going to work with a therapist myself, I want to know they have done their own growth work. I want someone who helps me to be myself; I don’t want someone who tells me who I should be — I can read that in a book.

As for spirituality, the opening of the individual to all of who they are is the foundation of spirituality. A truism of therapy is that when an religious individual enters therapy , they usually leave less religious but more spiritual, and if they enter without religious status, they often leave more religious (and still more spiritual). Therapy promotes expansion of spirituality.

[1] Scherer, J. J. (1980). Job-related adaptive skills. Towards personal growth. In J. W. Pfeiffer & J. E. Jones (Eds.), The 1980 annual handbook for group facilitators. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. I am thankful for John’s assistance in my PhD research.

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!