Words of Clarity


My Use Of Language

In the career as therapist, I became deeply aware of the immense need for clarity of language; my PhD research reinforced this. I therefore offer this page as assistance to the reader.

The following are the characteristics associated with significant concepts as I use them; the intention is to provide descriptions, not definitions. In addition, certain concepts are too elusive to characterize succinctly, and are designated by *** (a brief attempt to describe is included); we often think we know what they mean, but fundamentally these concepts are mysterious and ineffable.

Abuse (cf. Violation): The intentional restriction of freedom beyond public safety; intentional violation.

Acceptance (cf. Discipline): An active process of coming to terms with what life offers, essentially living the Serenity Prayer.

Accountability: The need to accomplish a task, either by oneself or delegated to another. Delegation does not circumvent accountability.

Acedia *** (cognates: acedie, accyde, accidie): The emotional-cognitive processes by which humans beings avoid their capabilities for correcting the challenges of living; absence of care; one of the eight bad thoughts; an objection to the effort required to live a relationship of love.

Anomie: One of the major cognates of acedia; perhaps the underlying mechanism of acedia; a sociological (psychological) term for a breakdown in the cultural (personality) structure, occurring particularly when there is an acute disjunction between the cultural norms and goals and the socially structured capacities of members of the group to act in accord with them.

Apatheia: A Stoic term for the freedom from disturbing passions, obtained through rational control over one’s senses, desires, feelings, and memory.

Apathy: One of the cognates of acedia; modern apathy is perhaps the outcome of the trauma resulting from a complex web of cultural barriers that reinforces disengagement.

Authentic feel-good experience (AFG): An experience that authentically fits wholeness; I propose that this is the essential felt state that leads to effective change.

Authority: Permission to accomplish a task, by self or delegated to other. Like accountability, delegation does not circumvent authority.

Awareness: Attention to one’s ongoing spontaneous perceptions; one of the basic principles of Gestalt Therapy.

Beliefs: “Likely stories;” meaning as generalized linkages between experiences.

Boredom: A major cognate of acedia; the response to overloads of information, specifically redundancy and noise.

Burnout: A mismatch between power and desired outcome ; the outcome of excessive investment in the third limb of any emotional triangle, when attempting to gain power where one is inherently powerless.

Choice (cf. Free will): The capacity to create “first cause,” to move oneself internally.

Clarity: The ability to consider and make effective choices in emotionally intense experiences.

Concrescence: Alfred North Whitehead’s term for the process of prehending the past through causal efficacy; attending to the present through presentational immediacy; and satisfying aims/values through “ingression” of possibilities.

Confluence (cf. Introjection, Projection and Retroflection): One of the four primary disturbances of personal boundaries in Gestalt Therapy. Those who use confluence fuzz the boundaries and thus are either silly, or somehow unreal, to themselves and others.

Consciousness: *** A core phenomenon of the universe illustrated by sentience, subjectivity, and self-agency, distinguished by both philosophical and psychological characteristics.

Contact: The meeting of the environment by consciousness; one of the core components of Gestalt Therapy.

Craziness: A neologism to indicate the suffering we create, for ourselves and others, when we attempt to circumvent life’s pain.

Demon (cf. Entity): A malevolent spiritual entity, part of the theological traditions of the ancients; acedia was considered the noon-day demon in the writings of Evagrius Pontus.

Difficulty (cf. Problem): An undesirable state of affairs, either easily resolvable or undesirable life situations for which there are no known solutions.

Discipline: One of the basic tools for resolving life’s difficulties; “doing what I want to do, even when I don’t want to do it.”

Emotion (cf. Feeling Judgment and Feelings): Energy to which I give meaning and direction.

Energy: *** The capacity for doing work and initiating action in the physical domain.

Ennui: One of the major cognates of acedia, especially prominent in literature after the French Revolution.

Entity (cf. Demon): Foreign, non-human, foci of consciousness, capable of non-material existence.

Evil: *** The active antagonism of what life offers.

Existential: The philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence.

Expert: One who is not anxious about what he or she does not know.

Fear (cf. Fearfulness): The authentic emotional response to danger.

Fearfulness (cf. Fear): A passive avoidance of life’s issues, usually manifest as anxiety and lack of trust of what life offers.

Feeling Judgment (cf. Emotions and Feelings): A complex emo-cognition wherein I give meaning to my emotional state; in essence, my thoughts about my emotions.

Feelings (cf. Emotions and Feeling Judgment): A complex emotional state, with many definitions, ranging from the awareness of touch sensations (I feel the smoothness of the table surface) to the emotional relationship (I feel hostile towards you). The meaning depends on the context.

Free will (cf. Choice): The creative state associated with the self-agency of consciousness.

Freedom: The ability to influence myself.

Holacracy: A modern development in organizational development concepts, based upon intense participative processes and local group authority.

Hope: The evidence in the present for what I want in the future.

Intersubjectivity: The relational experience between subjects, ranging from exchange of language to the deep mystery of mutual co-creation.

Introjection (cf. Confluence, Projection and Retroflection): One of the four primary disturbances of personal boundaries in Gestalt Therapy. Introjectors (those for whom introjection is the primary defence) live trapped by the rules of others.

Killer Instinct: A deportment of precision and maturity, with the intention to cleanly remove that which is unhealthy to the functioning of a group.

Language: Any verbal or nonverbal method of expression or communication. Verbal communication uses arbitrary symbols such as words to express meaning.

Laws of experience: The fundamental characteristics of our experiences. 1) We want positive experiences; 2) it is easier to get negative experiences; and 3) negative experiences are preferred to emotional flatness.

Laws of relationship: The fundamental characteristics of our relationships. 1) I can only change that to which I am directly connected; 2) if I change, others must change; and 3) change requires I stay connected.

Laziness: The active avoidance of what life offers, usually manifest by anger and/or purposelessness.

Maturity: The ability to access transpersonal intersubjectivity and/or the ability to choose wisdom as a path. (Perhaps these are the same process.)

NLP (NeuroLingustic Programming): A methodology which I have found to be the most profound, and the most playful, of systems that allow change of human experience.

Non-conscious (cf. Unconscious): The absence of consciousness, a philosophical state.

Pain: The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience denoting the possibility of bodily harm. Anxiety, or emotional pain, can be considered as the conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience denoting the possibility of personality harm.

Personal Growth: Growth refers to the 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 (hopefully) both more wise and more playful; it can take many forms, and often involves some form of counselling or therapy with a wiser mentor.

Phronesis (cf. Sophia): Practical wisdom or practical judgment, considered in this dissertation as the basis for the transformation of acedia.

Power: The ability to influence others.

Problem (cf. Difficulty): Issues created and maintained by the mishandling of difficulties.

Projection (cf. Confluence, Introjection and Retroflection): One of the four primary disturbances of personal boundaries in Gestalt Therapy. Projection displaces the shoulds (the rules of how one should behave); projectors shift their own internal conflicts onto others, and thus projectors are trapped unaware of their own internal conflicts.

Resilience: The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure.

Resolution (cf. Solution): One is at peace with the problem—the problem may have been solved, or it may still exist, but one is at peace with the difficulty that the problem represents.

Response-ability (Responsibility): The ability to respond—having skill to deal with issues.

Retroflection (cf. Confluence, Introjection and Projection): One of the four primary disturbances of personal boundaries in Gestalt Therapy. Retroflectors turn the rules against themselves, and divert the conflicts into themselves, usually as headaches, gut pain, muscle tension, etc.

Sabotage: The predictable resistance whereby a system resists change.

Sacred (cf. Spiritual): A sense of awe and connection to the fundamental mystery of the universe, both in its initiation and its ongoing presence.

Safety (cf. Security): Freedom from danger.

Scientism: The belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry.

Security (cf. Safety): An emotional state of perceived safety, even if an inaccurate perception.

Self-agency: The capacity to orient and/or move oneself externally.

Self-care: Attention to one’s own needs.

Self-righteousness: The active avoidance of what life offers—by being “right” while insisting that others are “wrong.”

Sin (cf. Vice): An estrangement from God or a transgression of God’s will; a recognition of our viciousness and our destructiveness as individuals, and as a species. Capital sins are those that subsume other sins; deadly sins are those that cut one off entirely form God.

Sloth: A major cognate of acedia, originally confused with acedia by John Cassian (c 360 – c 435 CE).

Solution (cf. Resolution): The problem is no longer present.

Sophia (cf. phronesis): One of the primary Greek words for wisdom, sophia denotes the principles of wisdom.

Spiritual (cf. Sacred): The possibility that life, nature, and consciousness have much broader meaning than that associated with the materialistic ontology developed with the rise of science since the 17th century.

Star Maker: Olaf Stapledon’s term for the Creator in the novel Star Maker (1934).

Strength: The ability to resist others.

Stuckness: A neologism for the resistance of systems to the processes of change.

Suffering: Pain is one of the difficulties associated with life; when we attempt to circumvent this pain, we create additional suffering as a result.

Super-wicked difficulty (cf. Wicked difficulty): A wicked difficulty with the additional characteristics of a limited time for resolution, no central authority for decision-making, and the problem being caused by the very people seeking the resolution.

Therapy: A complex, diverse relational field in which one individual explores with another regarding the skills of maturity.

Trauma: Hurt (pain) that overwhelms.

Tristitia: Sadness, one of the original eight bad thoughts, merged with acedia by Gregory the Great, thereby adding further confusion to the concept of acedia.

Truth-testing: A testing of one’s own sense of the internal truthfulness of experiences, not a validation of external reality but a profound corroboration of internal authenticity.

Unconscious (cf. Non-conscious): Lack of (or degrees of dim) awareness, a psychological state.

Values: Any concept that considered important.

Vice (cf. Sin): A habit inclining one to sin; it is the product of repeated sinful acts of a given kind, and when formed is in some sense also their cause.

Violation (cf. Abuse): Restriction of freedom without permission, beyond public safety.

Wicked difficulty (cf. Super-wicked difficulty): Complex poorly-defined difficulties for which there is no obvious resolution.

Willfulness: A stance of attempting to control the third limb of any triangle within which one is involved.

Willingness: The ability to accept what is present in the moment.

Wisdom: Flexibility with craziness, my own and others; the experience of authentic truth-testing; playfulness with the unconscious mind.

A Study of the Needs and Limitations of Our World

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