Tag Archives: self-centeredness

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 4)

Adults learn best in cooperation.
Adults learn best in cooperation.

Daily life in a mature culture — more musings. In the last post, I suggested that “therapy groups” would be the norm for personal development. What would this be like?

These would be gatherings in small group for honest dialogue, likely weekly or twice a week. Adults learn best by having significant emotional experiences, and then reflecting on them in the presence of trusted adults. This would be a place of honesty, emotional expression, and compassionate reflection — one of the best examples I have of something like this is the aboriginal justice circles (Rupert Ross, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths), where there is no sense of guilt or shame evoked. Another example would be the work of Roy Madron on Gaian Democracies — an excellent example of cultural maturity, ranging from individual group process to world governance.

In-depth personal work requires a facilitator — as human beings, we are past masters at avoiding our own issues, and a good facilitator can point out to us that we are avoiding an issue, or alternatively, can point out to us something that we are missing, even if it seems obvious. Such facilitators will be part of the ongoing village community, and in many circumstances can arise spontaneously through recognition of their maturity by others within the community.

One of my mentors suggested that a good facilitator-therapist has three characteristics, in reverse order of importance:

  1. they have a theoretical framework within which they work. This framework is seldom of use in the moment, but provides a way to talk about what was done, after the fact.
  2. they have practical experience working with people, usually with ongoing supervision by other therapists, either their peers or more mature therapists.
  3. they do their own personal work; they have struggled with their own demons, and know the value of compassion. This is the most important characteristic.

There are a number of fundamental skills that a therapist requires, independent of the theoretical framework, skills that are only learned by one’s own personal work. For me, most important amongst these skills are:

  • the value of powerlessness.
    • The most succinct way I have of describing this is the statement of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it is possible, Oh Lord, let this cup be taken from me. If not, Thy Will be done!” It is the process of acceptance of what is, or what must be based on one’s values.
  • the willingness to risk.
    • Personal growth is high risk. The individual will certainly risk feeling powerless, and potentially fall into pain as he or she confronts issues wherein he or she is not acting according to values that are important to this individual. (Such values may not be important to the group, or may actually be opposed by the group; this may actually be important for the growth of the group.)
    • There are many times where a good therapist must risk just as much as the client; it is frequently the place where the therapist grows, both personally and professionally.
  • the willingness to meet the client in their own world (the process of rapport).
    • Sometimes this means reflection with the client in their pain; sometimes it means getting in their face so as to demonstrate the impact of something such as self-righteousness. Again, it may entail risk.
  • the use of silence.
    • Silence is a very powerful tool, and used well, can be very therapeutic. It may be part of rapport; it may be part of risk.

We are not born knowing all we need to know; that is what the human journey is — the opportunity to grow in maturity. And our current culture is abysmal in this process. I have said many times that, as individuals we are capable of incredible greatness, but as a species we are psychotic — we tolerate numerous inequalities, of people, of education, of food availability, of basic necessities.

If we actually resolved these inequalities, we would still need living in small village-like environments, exposed to the processes I am exploring at the moment. But it would be so much easier to achieve and maintain maturity!

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 3)

What sustains your life?
What sustains your life?

Daily life in a mature culture — my musings continue (I will continue with acedia in a few weeks when I finish with my thoughts regarding a mature culture). In the last posts, I suggested at least two three-hour sessions a week for in-depth personal work. What would this be like?

For most of my career as a physician, I was a psychotherapist. I hate the term (therapy, that is) — it is so misunderstood in our culture, and still today, people who go to therapists are regarded as less than competent. For me, therapy is the only place in modern life where the skills of being a mature human being are explored. And hence, for me, “therapy” will be the norm in a mature culture. It will just be called growth.

Also, for most of my career, I did group psychotherapy, as opposed to individual psychotherapy. I did this for two reasons:

  • I was a physician, and hence almost all of my work was covered by the provincial health plan. On the occasions when I moved from one town to another, I would have a waiting list within three weeks — and within six months, the waiting list would be two years long. When I was doing group work, I had no waiting list; I simply added clients to existing groups, or I added another group to the week. It was simply more efficient to practice group psychotherapy.
    • On occasion, I would still see clients for the occasional individual sessions, especially when there was the need to explore issues of privacy or trust before bringing the difficulties back into a group setting. Eventually, when people learn to trust each other, such individual sessions were no longer needed.
  • I considered group therapy to be more effective. Clients learned that other people had similar problems, and they also learned from each other. My goal was to take the client to a level where they could do their own therapy — they learned this faster when they saw other clients struggling with their own issues.

I had three basic rules when working with people, rules I told clients when the need arose:

  1. I was willing to do up to 50% of the work; on occasion more, but not routinely. Even the best of people avoid issues, and it was not my job as therapist to make them work.
  2. If at all possible, we (the client and myself) would have fun! People learn more effectively when they are having fun.
  3. If anyone was going to be frustrated (in the therapy session), it was not going to be me. Now guess who will be!

I assume these three rules would still be necessary in a mature culture, but less so.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

UK politics not compatible with maturity

Self-righteousness and cooperation are not compatible.
Self-righteousness and cooperation are not compatible.

Today’s digression: What would it really take to move us towards a mature culture — the impact of our acedia.

I am finding that one of the aspects of writing a blog is to find a balance between:

  • responding to current issues (because I feel some excitement about the issue), and
  • maintaining a theme (such as daily life in a mature culture) over a few days.

Thus, in making choices as to what to write each day, I create digressions from the themes I am developing. I usually consider these digressions valuable to the content of the themes, and also recognize that writing a blog is not that of writing an academic article (which I have been doing a fair amount in the past few years). As always, comments would be welcome on the choices I am making.

So, today’s digression: in writing about daily life, I have been pondering as to what would need to happen in our current culture to make us move towards a more mature culture. Ultimately we need to become:

  • individually committed to our personal growth as human beings, and
  • fully cooperative with each other, not just lip service to cooperation, but a deep commitment to do the hard work required.

Both of these requirements generally entail extensive and very painful work. They also require that we recognize, both individually and culturally, we are the problem. As said years ago by Pogo[1]: “We have found the enemy, and he is us.”

In a previous post, I indicated that the nature of change requires hurting in safety, a vision that fits, tools for the transformation, and the overcoming of our acedia. I’m going to introduce acedia here, and come back to it (and the other aspects) in later posts.

So, what is acedia? The description I like best is that “acedia objects to the effort required in living into a relationship of love” (equally, instead of love,  I could use the terms charity or cooperation). In my PhD, I defined acedia as any combination of laziness, fearfulness and self-righteousness that blocks this effort.

What has prompted my current digression is the announcement of the appointment of Boris Johnson as UK foreign secretary, and the reaction this appointment has stirred. I do not know much about Mr. Johnson other that what I read in the occasional newspaper, and I have no interest in criticizing any human being, but the reactions expressed in this BBC article suggest to me a man of emotional immaturity, someone at high risk of self-righteousness, and therefore highly unlikely to be committed to cooperation, let alone his own personal growth.

I could be wrong, in two ways at least. I could be wrong in my assessment of his character; if so, I apologize. But I could also be wrong in that his appointment could lead our culture into deeper pain, something which, unfortunately, we may require before we are willing to move into greater maturity. Sometimes change occurs in the most unpredictable of ways.

We live in such interesting times!

[1] Kelly, W. (2011, May 2). We have met the enemy and he is us. Retrieved July 24, 2011, from I go pogo: http://www.igopogo.com/final_authority.htm

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 2)

LivingWell

To continue my musings concerning daily life in a mature culture — I am suggesting that human beings would essentially live within small village-like environments, nested within larger communities which would provide more sophisticated resources.

If we were to do away with most of the consumerism of our current society and live such that much of what was needed was provided in modular fashion, I imagine that work life would be greatly simplified with fewer daily hours of toil, and much greater opportunity for creative endeavors. I am going to assume that the work week would be five days of five hours each, with shift work as necessary for some tasks (perhaps many tasks). With good technology, many tasks could be accomplished electronically, and many meetings attended electronically. So I will assume that the average person leaves the local village environment three days a week, and remains in the local environment for the other two (see future posts for some exceptions).

I also assume that if I lived in a culture that truly honored personal development and the effective resolution of conflict, much of my work time would actually be pleasurable. If education was not a limitation, most people would devote their time to the creative aspects, leaving the drudgery to robotics, for example. Thus I would not be exhausted at the end of work, whatever the type of work. One of the aspects of being a therapist that I really enjoyed was that essentially I was paid to do my own emotional growth work, exploring with others as they struggled with their own issues, but at the same time providing creative opportunity for me — thus it was seldom that I came away feeling exhausted (almost exclusively this occurred when I was caught in my own issues with the client, wanting them to change so as to fix my own pain).

Effectively living a 25-hour work week, without the hassles imposed by consumerism, leaves a huge amount of time! How might I spend it?

My first question: how many hours do you the reader spend on your own personal development? How many hours would be needed, especially if you were truly committed to the Truth Quest as described by Herman?

I mentioned before that I believe the basis of personal development is that of meditation and journal writing. To this I would also add some form of physical activity, of which my preference is hatha yoga. All three are primary ways in which I access my other-than-conscious mind. For me, personal development depends on an integration of conscious and other-than-conscious mind, my conscious mind providing direction, my other-than-conscious providing life energy.

In the early days of my mid-life transition when I was in my 40s, I was dealing with much of my own personal pain. I found I needed three hours a day for my own personal work — an hour of meditation, journal-writing, and yoga. On top of that I also needed to spend at least another 8-10 hours a week engaged in my own therapy. At a later stage of my life, when I was creatively engaged in my work as therapist, I needed about an hour and a half: half an hour of each discipline. Now, towards the end of my eldership transition, I need about two hours a day. In both of these latter aspects, the creativity replaces the need for therapy.

So, on average, my answer as to how much time is needed for personal development is:

  • about two hours a day, plus
  • two three-hour sessions for in-depth work.

That may seem like a lot of time — but given that human beings are pain avoiders (and hence often avoid both personal development and the seeking of conflict resolution — both of which are often painful), it will be necessary time. As a species, we must do the work of overcoming our propensity to viciousness and self-righteousness; giving lip service to life change, and all the suggestions of what we should do, will not provide the outcomes we need.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

A Mature Culture: Daily Living? (Part 1)

LivingWell

Daily living: I have mentioned in my last few posts that Louis Herman, in Future Primal, lists four characteristics that satisfy human activity, what he calls the Truth Quest: the seeking of wisdom (individuation), face-to-face discussion of important issues (intersubjectivity), shared decision making in trusted groups (direct democracy) and a narrative of meaning (mythic narrative). All components are in a continual dance with each other, in a never-ending journey of discovery — they are the basis of daily living.

MandalaFP

So –– what would cities or communities be like in these circumstances, where the total population of the world, the global village, is one to two billion people, all of whom were guaranteed adequate attention to education, health, and resources for living? Obviously very different from present-day modern life, which ranges from the affluent West to the poorest countries of the world. There would undoubtedly be much diversity, but the themes suggested by Herman remain important.

I remind the reader that what follows are my musings, based on ideas I have encountered in my personal readings. Given that I have grown up with the individuality of Western civilization in a somewhat affluent fashion, I cannot say that I like all that I am going to suggest, but I do believe that my musings are essential features of sustainable and resilient culture.

I consider the following would be essential features of daily life. Especially, I and every other human being on the planet would be living in similar fashion. I strongly value cultural diversity, but we simply cannot afford (both physically and emotionally) the vast consumerism of our planet — most of what we do would need to done in modular fashion, using shared resources.

A question: If our highest priority was the seeking of wisdom, the seeking of personal growth, would we need private property, other than in token fashion? If everyone had adequate education, health and living conditions, would we need money? If everyone was convinced of the need for sustainability, would we be willing to live effectively into community, sharing childcare, and sustaining each other in many ways to which at present we only give lip service? Utopian perhaps, but how else can we adapt to the massive changes that are needed in our current world?

I suggest that each individual would be committed to living in a village-like environment (up to about 300 people), seeking always to find a balance between personal needs and the improvement of local culture, not growth per se, but sustainable satisfaction.

  • Given advanced communication technology, this village-like environment could provide both work and personal-family milieu, offering excellent resources for cultural enhancement (library resources, theatre, et cetera).
    • Community child care of high quality would be an essential feature, such that children would be welcome to attend all community functions.
  • There would be many community interactions, on a daily and weekly basis, ranging from community sharing of food preparation and eating to local governance, with a commitment to:
    • personal development, especially emotional development (call it therapy by any other name),
    • resolution of conflict (the settling of inter-personal differences), and
    • local governance (the management of community to achieve local desires).
  • There would be some opportunity for travel, both business and personal, but for the most part, travel would be in a virtual domain, not a physical domain.

These village-like environments would be embedded within larger communities, where more sophisticated resources (medical and educational, for example) would be available. There would be strong linkages between governance at this level and that of the village-like level (see later posts for details).

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 1)

DailyLife1

So, how would people actually live in a mature culture? As an aside, one of the disadvantages of digressions (my last few posts) is that I forget where I was. My current blog contributions are also complicated by a lot of traveling during the summer. So some will be short, others longer. In addition, in the next few posts, I will always end with “Your thoughts?” as a way to encourage your own ideas as to how we could live.

In my work with anger management, I have always maintained that there are two important considerations:

  • we are emotional beings, and
  • we can have clarity — it’s optional.

We are pain avoiders — that is almost the definition of biology (all of life moves towards pleasure, and away from pain). In this, we are driven by our emotional needs and our other-than-conscious needs, and we have great difficulty overcoming these needs so as to have clarity of options. We are thus frequently in internal conflict with ourselves; we are frequently in external conflict with others, especially in regards to the needs of the individual versus the needs of the group; and we have great difficulty with conflict (for most people, it is filled with pain).

And for literally millions of years, we have been hunter-gatherers, and it is only in the past few thousands of years that we have shifted to civilization, gathering in large groups so as to take advantage collective action. It is only in the past few hundred years that we have become technological. Who we are as human beings is determined by the millions of years, not the superficial gloss of the recent past. And if we are to be at peace with our world, we must live into who we are, not who we think we should be.

I’m currently re-reading Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon was described as the greatest mythologist in science fiction, deeply influential in that genre; Last and First Men is a three-billion-year history of mankind (in 300 pages!). Stapledon notes in the fiction that it took more than two billion years for man to give up the processes of misunderstanding, self-centeredness and ill-will — definitely a long journey — hopefully we can actually mature faster than this, we need to do so.

So, who are we? In addressing this question, I have been deeply influenced in particular by three books (each one is a fascinating exploration, and I recommend each highly):

  • Rupert Ross, Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality
    • Ross explores the underlying basic whereby Aboriginal culture of Canada remained largely as hunter-gatherers, and did not become a culture of domination, but rather emphasized non-interference.
  • Louis Herman, Future Primal: How Our Wilderness Origins Show Us The Way Forward
    • Herman explores the nature of the society of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, our closest living relatives to the original hunter-gatherers. He suggests that they are also the longest surviving direct democracy in the world.
  • Andrew Schmookler, The Parable Of The Tribes: The Problem Of Power In Social Evolution
    • Schmookler explores how the impact of power dynamics has been the single most important determinant in the development of civilization, eventually leading to the dominator culture of modernity.

Herman, in particular, points out that the original Socratic intention of politics was the search for the good life, attempting to answer (and balance) two primordial questions:

  • How shall I live? and
  • How shall we all live together?

(This is certainly not how I think of politics today!)

Herman also names four components that bring satisfaction to human activity:

  • the pursuit of self-knowledge and personal growth;
  • honest, face-to-face discussion that enlarges and qualifies personal understandings;
  • communication within small democratic communities of trusted equals; and
  • a collective, cooperative weaving together of a big story — a narrative of meaning — that helped the individual find his or her particular place in the ever-expanding shared big picture.

The underlying purpose of my blog is to challenge the human issues that support accelerated climate disruption. I maintain that these issues are the same factors that have created the risks of nuclear holocaust, overpopulation, and other major environmental disasters. So my remarks on a future mature culture are applicable to all this.

Your thoughts?

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.