Below is a position paper I wrote during my graduate program on conscious belonging. I add it here because I did a short summary of it for a commentary piece on KAXE FM radio in Grand Rapids, MN. The paper is long and very academic, but I’ll also add the piece I did for the radio after this post. You can choose if you want to spend some time considering the ideas below or read the quick version. Peace.
From Blind Belonging to Conscious Belonging
Creating Social Responsibility
by Patricia Jamie Lee
This paper is an examination of the social and ethical responsibility we have, individually and collectively, to become conscious of our “belonging” and the ways in which we select membership in our chosen groups. With this perspective, we will examine both the historical and the current tendency of proponents from the behavioral and scientific families to form, maintain, and defend their own “camps” and the effect this has on the greater transfer and exchange of knowledge. As a causal factor in this tendency, we will explore the writer’s position that the loss of an elder-based culture and unresolved bonding and belonging within the family of origin contributes to reactive/responsive patterns that inhibit conscious belonging in later group formation.
Table of Contents
From Blind Belonging to Conscious Belonging: Creating Social 4
Responsibility: Position Paper 8
Position Statement 9
The Power of Belongingness 9
Bonding, Belonging and Separating 10
Nature versus Nurture: How Serious Inquiry Becomes a War of Ideas 20
When Nurture Becomes Free of Conscious Responsibility 32
Toward Conscious Belonging 33
Calling For Soul 34
Reconnecting to Our Tribe 35
The Role of Conscience in Conscious Belonging 38
Why Human Beings Like War 41
Systems and Structures 43
Knowable Mystery 49
An Ethic of Social Responsibility toward Tomorrow 51
From Blind Belonging to Conscious Belonging:
Creating Social Responsibility
Initially, I decided to take the position that the nature versus nurture argument within the field of human development is a limited one because it doesn’t adequately account for the intricacies of structures and systems. As a way of clarifying this for myself, I took small squares of colored foam acquired in a structural consulting program and used them to concisely picture my graduate program to date. I was surprised at what those squares revealed. We will explore each camp more thoroughly throughout this paper but to begin, I show only the path of my thinking.
Beginning with a small blue square, I placed it on a tabletop to represent the nature argument. The thinking of this camp states that human behavior stems from biological and neurological processes determined primarily by our genetic make-up (nature). The second square, a pale pink, I lay down to represent the nurture camp, which says human behavior is a result of primarily environmental influences. Next I placed a deep, green, foam square for systems thinking. In this camp I included the systemic phenomenological work of Bert Hellinger (1998) as well as the systems theories of Peter Senge (2000), Kurt Lewin (2000), and others. Even as I lay down the systems square I considered my unanswered questions about the differences between systems and structures and so I lay down a separate tan square to represent the structural thinking of Robert Fritz (1991).
Now there were four squares representing the different arguments or camps: nature, nurture, systems, and structures. This representation still felt incomplete and I thought about the “greater force” of which Bert Hellinger (2000) spoke. To this I added such phenomena as synchronicity, second sight, past lives, precognition, and other data from both the new thought movement and the ancient texts and practices of shamanism, yoga, philosophy, and religious mysticism. I placed a pale yellow square to represent this body of knowledge, which could be termed knowable mystery. And then, like a good structural consultant, I immediately saw the negative space of knowable mystery and placed a white foam square for what I think of as unknowable mystery–that which we cannot discern or measure that is the human inquiry into faith, spirit, and God.
I now had six colored foam squares in front of me, each one an extensive body of knowledge, research, empirical data, and philosophy. Like a bird flying above, my eyes and mind drifted from one to another, stopping a moment to carefully consider each camp and its many smaller satellite camps and wondered, where do I belong? What is my position here? From this overview—this third-person position, I could see the unique qualities and boundaries of each specific camp even while unable to decide where I belong.
Each camp has its own language, body of research, gods and priests, its own worldviews and concepts and, most significantly, its own set of rules for belonging or not belonging. Additionally, when one stands on the edge of such a camp, one brings one’s own worldviews, personal history, concepts, level of development and, lastly, emotional need. In this meta-view of camp formation, we see that while some camps are more heavily defended than others (with research and data) still, each represents an individual school of thought. Very often the formation of individual camps can be traced to the strength and vision of one individual such as Newton, Galileo, Einstein, Jung, Erickson, Freud and many others.
It appeared, from this high vantage point, that a person could choose one over the other and agree to belong or not, depending upon our willingness to accept the rules and boundaries inherent within each camp. In fact, the qualitative differences of each camp seemed less important than the question of the individual standing on the edge asking, “Where do I belong?” That the camps exist is clear. That there exist certain choice points for belonging—or not—is also clear. Do I walk in, don the uniform and bylaws, the worldviews and concepts of one camp, or walk away? As I looked over these camps, I acknowledged the existence of a rebel camp including such thoughtful souls as Michael Ventura, James Hillman, Alan Watts, Carl Jung, David Bohm and others connected by their outright refusal to join any existing camp. These individuals, perhaps, deserve their own colored foam square.
What a fascinating picture these colored squares presented. Not a picture of who is right and who is wrong, who has the best research and the firmest ground on which to stand, but a picture of belonging, or not belonging; of inclusion or exclusion arising from something fundamental and basic in human beings. There, on the table in front of me, was evidence of a powerful knitting force of glue, web, and string that pulls us to decide where we belong. Even the task of writing a position paper pushes me to answer the universal question of where, in my thinking, beliefs, actions, and values, do I belong? In considering this, I decided that my “position” is that we should not be so quick to defend a position.
What does it mean—to belong? What fuels this dynamic force in human behavior? One must ask the basic question that with all the posturing and positioning of the camps, what do they measure? Do they measure reality—or do they measure the boundaries of their own camp in order to defend them more readily?
Robert Fritz (1989), with his unusual career combination of composer, artist, and structural business consultant, has created a body of knowledge and techniques that he simply describes as becoming fluent in current reality. According to his observations over time, we cannot create something new unless we are intimately in the know about current reality. Likewise, we cannot create something new if we are caught in reactive/responsive patterns based on circumstances alone—and not the desired outcome or vision. If we attempt to create an end result based on belief, concepts, and worldviews only, without a clear view of current reality, we go astray.
To what extent does camp formation lead to skewed thinking about current reality based on the beliefs and concepts of the group to which we belong? And in tying personal identity to such a camp, how much must we set aside our own deeper core values and aspirations for the price of membership to that group?
In order to explore this topic fully, we must be free to move between camps at will, looking first at the state of belonging in this camp and then the next. Naturally, we cannot scan all of the knowledge body but must pick and choose, sampling as we go. Before moving to any specific camp, however, we need to define more accurately the term belonging and its flanking energies of bonding and separating. Additionally, we consider the state of aloneness.
Belongingness is a greater force in human behavior than we may realize. It exists at the level of instinct, organizing our behaviors and our choices in powerful ways. It exists at the level of physiology, determining our neurological development, health, and strength . . . or lack of. It exists and influences all social bodies from the smallest playground clique to a war between two nations.
This paper examines our social and ethical responsibility, both individually and collectively, to become conscious of our belonging and the ways in which we select membership in our chosen groups. Using this perspective, we will examine two things. First, the historical and the current tendency of proponents of behavioral and scientific families to form, maintain, and defend their own camps.
Second, the effect this has on the greater transfer and exchange of knowledge necessary to build a world that works together to find creative solutions to humanity’s most serious issues. Throughout, we will also explore the position that each of us has but one tribe to which we truly belong (the family of origin); the way in which unresolved bonding and belonging within the family of origin is a causal factor in creating reactive, responsive patterns that lead to a blind rather than conscious belonging in later group formation.
Our lives are a changing kaleidoscope of membership in first one group, and then another, and another. Most often, we belong to multiple groups simultaneously, each for its own purposes. What is the nature of this animated and changeling beast of human belonging and its relationship to behavior? Why must we belong? What purpose does it serve?
We begin by looking at the energy of belonging with its twin energies of bonding and separating on either side along with the energy of alone. These interacting, dynamic forces determine the formation and dissolution of our membership in relational groups throughout life, beginning with mother and extending outward toward first family, community and then larger, more diverse, groups. We examine the deeper constructive and destructive forces inherent in our choices to belong or not belong, the power of inclusion and exclusion, and the need for conscious choices of belonging.
The Power of Belongingness
The need to belong is the sometimes invisible force that drives human development, that determines guilt and innocence, that causes civilizations to rise—and then fall again, that fuels a world war, that causes cultures to form and cultures to crash, that creates boundaries and gateways allowing or refusing entry. When we consider this powerful force, we must consider it both by its instinctive nature and its resulting outcomes if we are to become consciously aware of our own willingness to belong, and the price we pay for that belonging.
It is with the lens of belonging that we examine first the force behind belongingness, and then how it relates to camp formation (as outlined by my colored squares) in order to gain greater understanding of this hidden glue of human nature. We will also consider the social responsibility we have to lift ourselves above this infant, instinctual need into a conscious choosing based on core values, awareness, and the needs of our planet. If our societies are to thrive and survive, this movement toward conscious belonging is essential.
Consider Hitler, Hussein, and Osama Bin Ladin. Consider the boys of Columbine who took shotguns to school, or Jim Jones who led nine hundred followers to their death. Or consider the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Consider what combination of belief and behavior would allow us to put five million school children on Ritalin because they don’t fit the norm (Breggins, 2000).
Now consider for a moment King, Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, and other great souls. These people have dared to consciously alter and expand the boundaries of their chosen groups.
The power of inclusion and exclusion, of belonging and not belonging, is truly a powerful force in the world. As the old cliché goes, it’s hard to drain the swamp when we are up to our necks in the middle of it. Sometimes, we are blind to our own belonging.
Bonding, Belonging and Separating
We cannot look at the dynamic of belonging without including its adjoining forces, those of bonding, separating, and aloneness. In nature, we see that these single forces join together in looping, changing, cyclical movements ranging from the four seasons, to the sperm that joins the egg, to the seed that must surround itself with soil in order to sprout, to the thundercloud that gathers moisture only to release it again. For our purposes here, we will examine each activating force within the human arena.
Bonding. Following the birth of an infant, mothers across the globe take the newborn infant and place him in their arms to their left breast in a movement as natural and instinctive as birth itself. The infant nurses at the breast while mother murmurs, and strokes the infant. Often seen as the necessary and “nice” time for mother and infant, Pearce (1986) stated that this time of bonding serves a much greater purpose than simply emotional attachment. In fact, these first hours are essential in setting the physical and neurological mechanisms for learning and behavior, training the skin, organs, brain, and senses to operate fully in the world (cited in Pearce, 1992, p. 111).
The importance of infant bonding to the mother first made itself known in the early research of John Bowlby, John Kennell and Marshal Klaus (and was later expanded to include the attachment experience, whether or not it was possible to have those first moments between mother and baby). Pearce (1992) stated it most simply. “Home base at left-breast takes care of everything” (p. 112). The body of research supporting this important moment is vast, indicating that at birth, many physiological processes must be “turned on.” Pearce (1992) wrote:
First, recall the reticular formation, that congregating point of body-senses where a rough gestalt of environmental messages is sent to the rest of the brain for weaving a worldview and responding to it. This reticular system can’t be completed in utero because most of the senses that comprise it aren’t developed until after birth. (p. 111)
The picture we gather from these data is that the birth is not complete until all these systems have been turned on. The child has entered the world but has not yet connected to it. Recalling our earlier discussion on camp formation, we are unable to name this event either nature or nurture because both must be in place for the birth to complete itself and the child to be launched into life. The neurological processes need this jump-start and the child needs the warmth and security of mother. Pearce (1992) predicted: “Should these nerve endings not be activated in the infant after birth, the reticular formation will not be fully operative, leading to impaired muscular movements, curtailed sensory intake, and a variety of emotional disturbances and learning deficits”. (p. 113).
In the animal kingdom, numerous studies have been conducted on the function of physical contact such as licking and rubbing. One such study, in which a kitten’s belly was taped over preventing the mother cat from licking the underbelly, indicated that the kitten’s sensory motor systems were seriously impaired. The kittens were unable to survive (Pearce 1992, p. 114).
The mother-infant bond at birth is only the first significant connection that humans must form in order to find their place in the world. Pearce (1986) stated that from that first, early matrix (Latin for womb) we are then thrust into ever enlarging matrices from which to complete our development. Pearce wrote: “The womb offers three things to a newly forming life: a source of possibility, a source of energy to explore that possibility, and a safe place within which that exploration can take place (p. 18).” A matrix is that which surrounds and protects the child while he or she grows and matures and its content is subject to shifts as development occurs in what Pearce called a “cycle of competence” (p. 19). The movement is from gaining knowledge from the matrix, bonding with it, and then gaining knowledge of the next matrix prior to shifting in what Pearce (1986) called a “bridge between matrices so that the unknown of the new matrix will have sufficient points of similarity with the known of the old matrix” (p. 19).
As belonging in one matrix becomes complete, the movement to the next has begun, allowing the child to separate from one and become a part of the next thus expanding life’s boundaries to include more. Genetic and neurological potential within must be met and matched by requisite models from without in order for the maturation process to be complete.
Key to this conceptual frame of development and to the topic of this paper is the idea that a failure to bond at any inner matrix results in impairment in later matrices. Pearce (1986) explained:
The mother is the infant’s first matrix and the source of his possibility. She is the place of power on which the child builds muscular-mindedness and develops autonomy and the self-sufficient strength to separate from her and become independent. (p. 36)
From this view of human development, we see that appropriate bonding in our early groups (family) is not only a social necessity but also a physical necessity leading to further brain development. Although the child is no longer contained within the placenta, nourished from within the womb, we can see that each successive group he or she belongs to acts like a cocoon within which further growth occurs. In the center of the nested matrices, are mother, father, and family, which play a critical role in the developing brain of the child. This circle, in other words, is the child’s first and true tribe.
Each subsequent group, particularly in early developmental years, serves the role of mother for a set of essential learning tasks, acting as outer model to the inner blueprint of genetic coding. Again, belongingness, from this perspective, is a physical necessity. Isolated and alone, the child would fail to develop further. If we accept this as a logical paradigm, then we conclude that the group with which the child has bonded helps to determine the level of that development. Likewise, separation is also a physical necessity because to be fixed or caught within an early matrix halts further development.
MacLean (cited in Pearce, 1992) first defined the human brain as a triune structure consisting of the oldest formation, the reptilian brain, which was followed by development of the paleomammalian brain (includes limbic system) and the more recently developed frontal lobes or neomammalian brain. The reptilian brain, which sits at the base of the skull, controls our most instinctual nature. The limbic brain controls relationships, emotions and our sense of relatedness, and the neomammalian or new brain is the seat of higher, abstract thinking.
If we consider the function of each of these neural structures, we see almost an overlay or mirrored reflection of the topic of bond, belong, and separate: the instinctual need to belong, the limbic function of relatedness or belonging, and the higher new brain need to separate and individuate.
Belonging. Belonging follows the entry into and successful bonding with a group. Except for the family of origin, all other groups are optional, either chosen or situational. In the early history of tribal humans, most groups were sets or subsets of the tribe itself. Tribes were broken into carefully maintained clans or bands for purposes of strengthening the tribe through trading and marriage with other clans. In many parts of the world, such clan systems still function effectively. Even the current Great Sioux Nation is actually made up of seven bands of native people. For the most part, clans and bands have been replaced in our scattered, modern society with groups.
The study of group behavior comprises a vast body of research and knowledge. It includes beginnings of the systemic transgenerational effects of families, and moves on to adolescent peer groups, to organizational development, and to the behavior of religious bodies and nations.
Kurt Lewin (1997), one of the most controversial social scientists of the early 20th century, wrote: “A group is best defined as a dynamic whole based on interdependence rather than similarity” (p. 131). In other words, a group forms not simply because its members are similar but because they have need of one another to fulfill a purpose. They are interdependent. For our purposes here, we acknowledge the constantly shifting membership in groups and multiple group membership but focus our inquiry into the nature of that belonging itself.
Lewin (1997) observed that there are many forces operating on the group from both within and without that influence the behavior and quality of a group. Internal factors include the space of free movement within the group, the permeability of boundaries, and the nature and level of interdependency and similarity. External factors include the surrounding environment—that includes other groups, the accessibility of other groups, and the social context in which the groups exist. Lewin (1997) stated:
The character of the group is furthermore determined by the strength of the boundary, which separates this group from other groups, and by the character of this boundary. Furthermore the degree of similarity or dissimilarity of both groups is important. (p. 109)
Lewin (1997) used the example of a Jewish ghetto in Germany during Hitler’s regime to illustrate these factors. Space of free movement within the ghetto was limited, the group was highly interdependent, and the barriers imposed both from within the Jewish culture itself, and externally by way of impenetrable boundaries enforced by Hitler’s army. Access to the larger group (Non-Jewish German citizenry) was denied.
Of particular interest is Lewin’s (1997) observation of what happened when the Jewish ghetto was dissolved and the individual now had increased space of free movement. He wrote:
We can say that the individual, in so far as his Jewishness is concerned, becomes to a higher degree “a separated whole” than he was in the time of the Ghetto. At that time he felt the pressure to be essentially applied to the Jewish group as a whole. Now as a result of the disintegration of the group, he is much more exposed to pressure as an individual. (p. 111)
In the interplay between bonding and belonging, we cannot discount the times of passage between one matrix—or group—to another. In these times of separating and finding ourselves alone, we are most vulnerable and uncertain, “exposed to pressure as an individual” (Lewin, 1997, p. 111). It is also in these times of transition that we have the greatest need and responsibility, particularly as adults, to gain consciousness about the passage we are making. Lewin (1997) noted:
It is characteristic of individuals crossing the margin between social groups that they are not only uncertain about their belonging to the group they are ready to enter, but also about their belonging to the group they are leaving. (p. 109)
As fascinating as the study of group formation and evolution is, our goal here is to keep the birds-eye view and to wonder about the nature of belongingness itself. If we pull the earlier thread from Pearce’s (1986) work and weave it in here, we must ask what function does the group serve developmentally? We can see that school groups, business groups, church groups, political groups, and so forth, are individuals knitted together by their common need to belong and to gain knowledge and further development before going on to the next developmental cocoon. We can see that within this bonded group with its perimeters and boundaries, there is a safe space for development and learning. Logically, when it ceases to perform this function, separation is necessary, and a separation movement required toward bonding with a new group just as an outer matrix replaces the inner matrix in Pearce’s developmental picture.
Separating. Dabrowski (1964), a Polish psychiatrist, called these significant life passages periods of positive disintegration and noted that these moves are often made amidst chaos, emotional pain, and fear. According to Dabrowski (1972), the dark times signaled the potential for greater light. He wrote, “Psychoneuroses, especially those of a higher level, provide an opportunity to take one’s life in one’s own hands. They are expressive of a drive for psychic autonomy, especially moral autonomy, through transformation of a more or less primitively integrated structure” (1972, p. 4 ). In Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration higher levels of development follow intense levels of psychoneuroses. Progressively higher levels lead the individual to his or her unique and autonomous self, but he or she must experience the breakdown to obtain the breakthrough.
Once allegiance to the old group is compromised, and the belongingness to the new group is still uncertain, here is our greatest vulnerability. Consider the developing adolescent who begins to clear the boundaries of family and is moving toward a new group, unsure and uncertain he or she will gain acceptance into that desired group. The constraints of the family have loosened and the youth is in the greatest uncertainty about belonging.
Contrary to what the beautiful magazine and television ads would have us believe, feeling alone may be leading to a greater, wider connectedness than we have previously experienced, but we must make the crossing from one context of belonging to the next. We often describe this passage with such language as feeling isolated, alone, alienated, excluded, the void, the black hole, and so forth. However, we have become programmed to think discomfort should not be a part of the picture. Using birth as a metaphor, we are between the womb and the left breast during these powerful passages in life. Lewin (2000) wrote:
Like psychology, sociology will have to distinguish two kinds of forces acting on the individual: those resulting from the individual’s own wishes and hopes, and those socially “induced” or applied to the individual from without by some other agent. (p. 113)
The pressure to stay or to go, operating both within the individual and with the groups that he or she is transitioning to or from makes a potent cocktail of the forces of bond, belong, and separate.
As we deepen our examination of belongingness, we note that separation from one group and passage to another is an important developmental movement, both neurologically as well as emotionally, if we are to gain access to the higher level functioning of the new brain. In essence, our goal is not to simply find a new group but to find a higher functioning group that is both challenging and coherent with how we perceive ourselves to be and the current stage of development.
Autonomy, individuation, self-actualization, realization—there have been many terms to describe the experience of standing alone in who we are and where we find our place in the world. Although not so well publicized and advertised, the stand-alone individual who has completed many passages through the groups of his or her life has attained the fruit of his or her efforts. This person is free to choose to belong, or not, based on a different set of criteria than those still entangled or incomplete in the earlier matrix development. Hellinger (2001) wrote:
Development in families of origin and in present relationships tends toward individuation. This means that we become less and less bound by our relationships. Individuation leads to detachment on a lower level and, paradoxically, to attachment on a higher level. In this broader context, we are both close and detached at the same time. (p. 28)
A great deal of research has been conducted on the forces of bonding, belonging, and separating within our social sciences. When we study infants and young children, we measure their level of connection to their family and social groups. When we measure adolescent development, we study their ability to separate from their family of origin successfully and to form and gather into meaningful groups beyond the family. When we study the psychology of adults, we are studying their movements from one group to another–their ability to bond, belong, and separate in order to move to a new group. When we study organizational development, we are most concerned with how one group interacts with another. When we study culture, both ancient and current, we seek to discover the mystery of how people arrange themselves into groups, and why. Even in politics and world government, the tracing of events is, in one form or another, about belonging whether we are talking about world peace or globalization. It would seem, from this wide view of our existing culture, that this is a topic of vital interest to human life.
Having sparsely covered this vast ground, the territory of bonding, belonging, and separating, we return again to my array of small colored squares, each one representing a separate camp of belonging. The question is not what is the subject of research and study, but whether the group’s members do so with consciousness of their belongingness, and of the rules and orders of their established camps? Are they willing to break the boundaries when the evidence is such that they have no other choice but to risk their membership in their group to embrace a higher-order belonging? For purposes of illustration, we examine both the development and positive disintegration of the camp dedicated to the care of the human psyche.
Nature versus Nurture: How Serious Inquiry Becomes a War of Ideas
The body of knowledge that is medical science is a group gathered together to further the knowledge and understanding of how the human body works with the express purpose of caring for the body and soul. Once fraught with superstitious behavior and untried medical practice, keepers of this body of knowledge now pride themselves on their strict adherence to the scientific method, to proving its hypothesis with known fact and statistical evidence. The reason for seeking verifiable information was to avoid the traps of superstition and religiosity of their predecessors. Having turned their collective eye away from all that could not be verified, they began to form camps and groups that could share information and research, thus expanding their own body of knowledge.
Who knows at what point the rules of belonging changed. Fuller (1969), in a large sweep of human history in his book, Spaceship Earth, called these keepers of knowledge “the great pirates” (p. 22) and warned that specialization is the death of culture. When the goal of the group shifts from the greater welfare of the greater whole and toward building boundaries and perimeters around its own private, specialized body of knowledge, the purpose of the group shifts. Knowledge is power and the purpose of the group shifts away from care and toward power or profit.
Combs and Holland (1996), in an exploration of synchronicity from the perspective of science and of mythology, stated that the 17th century scientists, bound by what they felt were “the straitjacket” (p. xxiv) of religious dogmas, began to formulate mechanistic theories around how the universe is constructed. The authors explained:
The result was the mechanistic mythos of the Newtonian cosmos. This mythos presents itself in awesome and austere beauty, but at the same time robs us of a sense of wonder about the small events of everyday life. Improbable coincidences are diminished to the trivial. (p. xxiv)
The universe is a machine. The world is a machine. The human being is a machine. Tick tock, like a clock, the physical world moves in predictable, measurable ways and these ways can be uncovered. This shift of thinking signaled the birth of the age of science. The body of inquiry into the boundaries of knowable or unknowable mysteries could not be measured by the scientific method.
Though this mechanistic view of the world dominated the early centuries of scientific development, Combs and Holland (1996) suggested that the view is again shifting with the introduction of relativity and quantum physics. “The cosmos is of-a-piece, not empty, but filled with itself, much as a painting is filled with itself. There are foreground and background regions, but the canvas is continuous” (p. xxxi).
While fully acknowledging the vast advances of science and medicine over the past century, we must likewise acknowledge that the formation of specialized camps with boundaries and territories has created quite a different creature than we may have intended. We race in competition to land on the moon before another country gets there first. We want the first new technology, the first new bomb, the first new drug to treat arthritis—all so that we can secure the place of our group in the larger arena of groups. Do we advance the original purpose, to understand and to build a better world, or do we instead advance the race for power and profit, for blind belonging instead of conscious, carefully chosen belonging?
Senge (2000) observed an interesting phenomenon that he termed the “Tragedy of the Commons” (p. 507). This results from many different groups vying for the same pool of resources in order to continue their own existence. While many groups may have formed for a common purpose–such as the welfare of the child, limited resources drive them into competition with one another for those resources. From this point on the group becomes independent rather than interdependent. No longer involved in knowledge and resource sharing, they must now compete for the common resources of their own society, each protecting its boundaries and acting as gatekeeper to those seeking to cross the line.
What picture is this when a serious-minded researcher looking into the genetic potential of the human brain must guard his results with paranoia and protection so that his results can emerge as first and his livelihood as a researcher secured? What picture is this when that serious-minded researcher finds his results distorted and culled until they mean what the company store wants them to mean and not what they mean about current reality? We are all racing to the moon, and the moon is uninhabitable. It cannot support human life.
As a way of integrating the earlier discussion on bond, belong and separate, we narrow our focus here to the sciences of psychology and psychiatry, the new kids on the block of medical science. In their quest to be taken seriously by the more serious sciences, they lobbied for legitimacy and measurability and the mysterious human soul, the psyche, began to ride sidecar to the harder sciences.
The question of nurture versus nature began as a serious inquiry. Only later, as groups formed and split, formed and split, did they become separate camps. Today, to trace the family tree of the current modalities for treating human alienation and mental illness would be an almost impossible task. Beginning with these 17th century philosophers, we would quickly spin into the early views of psychology of structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt, behaviorism, psychoanalysis to later views of humanistic, cognitive, neurobiological, learning/behavioral, psychodynamic, sociocultural and from there into a veritable marketplace containing hundreds of therapies available in the current culture. Many of these we could trace to single brilliant individual with a serious inquiry into human development and behavior. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Behind every institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
Considering this, we can see that often a camp forms around a single individual who makes an innovative leap based on deep knowledge and understanding which, paradoxically, happens when he or she strays, with conscious choice, from the known parameters of the current group. The individual willing to stand alone with her discovery later finds herself swarmed with followers and institutionalized due to our human tendency to form, maintain, and defend groups. Consider what is evoked by the following names: Freud, Jung, Adler, Rogers, Erickson, Skinner, and on and on. Too soon, it seems the vision and purpose of the group–to assist humanity and to further the member’s personal development–is clouded in its dire need to maintain its own existence as a group.
Many of the camps forming in the fields of neuroscience, psychiatry, medicine, psychology, and even anthropology would like us to believe that they have the answer to human experience. Are these answers really answers or simply the reactive need to belong to a tribe? For our purposes here, we separate out the gathering of data and the building of ever better and newer models of human behavior, to the underlying functional need we have to form groups and to belong
Like cancer cells gone wild, the splitting and joining of members from one group to another is rampant, and the results often border on ridiculous. Leviton (1995) said:
We are learning that emotions are the result of multiple brain and body systems that are distributed over the whole person. We cannot separate emotion from cognition or cognition from the body. It has always been our need as humans to divide and conquer, to separate out two kingdoms as heaven and hell, but separating the body and the brain is rapidly coming to be seen as ridiculous. (p. 223)
As a way of illustrating the so-called ridiculous separation of the body and the brain, and the body/brain from its environment, and the end result of such separation, we look specifically at the current trend to treat all mental deviations and disorders as a chemical imbalance. Here, and in other areas of medicine, we have nearly returned to the superstitious, that somehow our chemical imbalances are out to get us the way the demons of the 16th century were thought to bring about insanity. We no longer lock people with mental-health disorders in chains against the wall, but in what Szazs (2000) referred to as chemical straitjackets. More ridiculous is the excitement generated about these new advancements in drug treatments for mental illness.
Andreasen’s 1984 book, The Broken Brain, illustrates this most succinctly. Intended as a resource to guide the layperson through the maze of current mental health trends, it begins with quite an interesting summary of evolution of treatment of people with mental illness through the past 200 years. Andreasen strongly supported the shift away from looking at mental health as a spiritual or moral issue into the current trend of looking it as a disease. Oddly, from there the book seems to become an ad in support of pharmaceutical solutions to questions of the broken brain and justification for the sharp turn away from talking therapies and in support of writing prescriptions. She observed:
Much of the time, fifteen minutes is long enough for doctor and patient to talk to one another about the patient’s symptoms and how they are affecting his personal life. A decrease in the quantity of time spent does not necessarily mean a decrease in the quality of the care provided. (p. 256)
In a later paragraph, Andreason admitted that “most illnesses are managed rather than cured” (p. 257). Contradictions such as these appear frequently in discussions of the ailing human soul or spirit in relationship to the disease model.
Dr. Joseph Glenmullen (2000) a psychiatrist, detailed his journey in Prozac Backlash, from being a doctor who followed the rules, diagnosed according to the DSM IV, and dispensed medication for mental illness. As his career progressed, he began to question the tenets and rules of his profession and took a deeper look into the cause and cure of mental illness. He discovered that not all of his clients benefited from his care or the care of his colleagues. Some, in fact, became decidedly worse when medicated with the prescribed drug for their diagnosis.
An article in The Boston Globe (May 2000) addressed major concerns about the antidepressant Prozac and its possible contribution to a rising number of suicides. Suggesting that The Eli Lilly Corporation, makers of Prozac, attempted to cover this information as it attempted to get approval for a new patent, it detailed how corporate executives altered records to change mention of suicide attempts to depression. The article reported that in Germany, prior to FDA approval for Prozac in the US, the German BGA refused to approve Prozac based on Lily’s own studies that indicated previously non-suicidal patients who take Prozac show a fivefold increase in the rate of suicide and suicide attempts. Further, the article presented the startling compilation of information from a doctor at the University of Wales estimating that perhaps 50,000 people have committed suicide on Prozac since its launch.
This is particularly troubling as we notice the growing ad campaigns for Prozac Weekly, another new Prozac patent. Could a company lose the vision of care and be so profit-oriented that they would ignore or suppress significant data? Subsequently, the article also mentioned Glenmullen’s 2000 book, Prozac Backlash, and Lilly’s attempts to suppress and discredit this book.
Perhaps the greatest voice against the use of psychotropic drugs is Dr. Peter Breggins (1990) whose careful research of FDA trials on Prozac and other psychotropic drugs is shocking. The data, according to Breggins, are flawed, culled, and cut to fit the company’s goals. Further, he pointed out the drug companies’ campaigns to influence common social thinking about depression and other illnesses and their causes, even to the point of creating designer disorders to enlarge their customer base. The scenario is one of a sci-fi book where all the inhabitants of earth are simply drugged to keep human experience within a very narrow range. Breggins declared:
Without a doubt, Prozac and other antidepressants are causing tens of thousands of psychotic reactions that can ruin the lives not only of the afflicted individuals but also of their family members. With the increasing prescription of such drugs to children, we expect the devastation to increase. (p. 35)
Of great concern in this rapidly rising trend toward pharmacological solutions to spiritual and emotional discomfort is that these drugs add a powerful and toxic chemical component to the individual who is feeling already disturbed, masking important signals and symptoms, until we no know longer know whether we see the individual or the drug. Breggins (1990) reminded us that the initial clinical trials of these drugs are done on animals with perfectly healthy and naturally balanced brains. In other words, the drugs do not cure chemical imbalances—they cause chemical imbalance.
Juxtapose the position of Breggins with the following words of Bruce Cohen (2001, p. 2). He stated unequivocally “Psychiatric disorders are medical illness,” and then admits almost in the next sentence that, “Genes that predispose to psychiatric disorders have not yet been identified…”
Carter (1998, p. 6), in an examination of the new scanning equipment for brain mapping, spoke of the human brain as though it were simply a pet needing proper training. “The knowledge that brain mapping is not only enlightening, it is of immense practical and social importance because it paves the way for us to recreate ourselves mentally in a way that has previously been described only in science fiction.” And later, “When our brain maps are complete, however, it will be possible to target psychoactive treatments so finely that an individual’s state of mind (and thus behavior) will be almost entirely malleable” (p. 6). This arrogant and frightening tone is prevalent in the camp of drug solutions to human behavior and emotions.
Churchland (2002) presented three general lines of argument; mental processes are brain processes; a co-evolution of neuroscience and psychology is bound to be superior to folk psychology; and to understand the brain/mind we need to know about the structure and organization of nervous systems. Folk psychology Churchland defined as psychology based on visible behavior rather than on structural knowledge about the brain and nervous systems in operation.
Here, in classic form, are the boundaries that limit space of free movement within a group as suggested by Lewin (2000). Churchland dismissed a thousand years or more of deep philosophical inquiry, scientific and behavioral research, and the gathering and sharing of knowledge by serious researchers. She dismissed it in one quick phrase: folk psychology. This myopic shrinking of what it is possible to study and what matters is dangerous. Simultaneously, the study of the brain, sometimes called “the last frontier,” has the possibility to bring a significant contribution to our understanding of human behavior.
Just as the seventeenth century scientist found the religious dogma too constraining, and responded with the mechanistic model, so a growing segment of our scientists now react to the mechanistic, reductionistic thinking of specialization and knowledge as a commodity in a profit driven world. Our present day finds us satiated with hard science and hungry for ritual and soul, as evidenced by crossover researchers like Rupert Sheldrake (1995), David Bohm (1980), Larry Dossey (1999), Joseph Chilton Pearce (1992) and many others.
The danger of what has been coined the shifting paradigm is that we again gather our data and theories and close camp against dissenters. In this day, the New Age desires to point a finger at science and say, “Look what you have done,” thus again running the risk of splitting, separating, and simply forming additional camps. In similar fashion, serious environmentalists become “green freaks”, and socially minded politicians become “do-gooders” in the constant splitting, pairing, and polarization of camps of thought. So strongly do these new camps form that they cannot see their own ancestral trail–how we have benefited greatly from those who came before us. We have health, longevity, comfort, technology, ease of living, and the potential to do great things in a troubled world. As we have seen, we cannot achieve conscious belonging by turning our backs on the ancestral trail and forming a new camp.
We are an evolving species, in continuous flux and change. Larry Dossey (1999) mapped his view of the larger trends of medicine from what he called Era I (mechanistic) to Era II (mind/body) and finally to what he calls Era III (nonlocal). Dossey attempted to cross over the boundaries and barriers placed between science and spirit by using the tools his forefathers gave, solid research. Dossey gathered his weapons of research on alternative, nonlocal methods being employed to understand, treat, and heal human illness, while acting from the belief that the western medical model is not wrong but incomplete and evolving rapidly.
Dossey’s work is indicative of a new wave of thought, that crossover and synthesis is an antidote to over-specialization. These crossover pioneers are perhaps the opposite of the great pirates that Fuller wrote of in Spaceship Earth (1969). He warned:
Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking. This means that the potentially-integratable-techno-economic advantages accruing to society from the myriad specializations are not comprehended integratively and therefore are not realized, or they are realized only in negative ways, in new weaponry or the industrial support of warfaring. (p.13)
In other words, the great gains of knowledge and inquiry are not comprehended integratively which is what we see occurring when the formation and maintenance of camps takes precedence over the pursuit of knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge between different disciplines of study.
Also a crossover pioneer is John Ratey (2001). He took his message from the primary source—the brain itself—writing:
From the beginning of its being built, the brain is a social brain, the neurons making connections with their neighbors or dying for lack of contact. Little colonies begin developing on their own, and then reach out to other migratory communities. (p. 23)
Ratey (2001) impressively moved in and out of the many sciences and the vast body of research connected to the brain in an easy and informative manner, developing a “user-friendly” approach to understanding the brain. With a model that he called “the four theaters of the brain” he wrote:
The four theaters lie along a neurophysiological river of the mind, with each theater further downstream from the immediate experience than the one before it. Sensory information enters the first theater, perception, and flows through attention, consciousness, and cognition (second theater); the information then flows through the brain functions, such as language or social ability, and into the fourth theater; who the perceiver has become.
Ratey’s almost poetic ability to synthesize many fields of study is necessary for creating a world where knowledge is shared and belonging is conscious. Though not avidly anti-drug when treating mental disorders, Ratey logically pointed out the uselessness of treating symptoms without considering true cause.
When Nurture Becomes Free of Conscious Responsibility
We have telescoped only the smallest portion of research on behavior and the human brain without similarly looking at the nurture camp. We could trace a similar trail through these camps but will limit our exploration to the examination of one potentially reactive/responsive pattern arising from the war between the nature versus nurture camps.
The strong emphasis on environmental influences and parenting over the several decades has contributed to creating a generation of guilty parents who feel they have done wrong by their children. The emphasis on good parenting, dysfunctional families, family systems theory, and behavioral modeling combined with lower economic standards, divorce, single parenting, and other social conditions create an overly rich soil in which the terms chemical imbalance and genetic tendency bring a sense of deep relief to beleaguered parents. Our young parents have become paranoid about parenting, fearful of outer influences such as day care, school and social settings and, concurrently, often disconnected from the larger circle of their tribe and the assistance of parents, grandparents and the elders.
A medical diagnosis lets parents off the hook. It isn’t “my fault” if the child is chemically imbalanced. Likewise, a medical diagnosis gives a teacher with a classroom full of students with bored and unruly behavior a sense of relief to know that little Johnny is not bored but has ADD or ADHD based on some mysterious chemical imbalance. Breggins (2000) wrote:
By diagnosing and drugging our children, we shift blame for the problem from our social institutions and ourselves as adults to the relatively powerless children in our care. We harm our children by failing to identify and meet their real educational need.
What other explanation could there be for the fact that 5 million children are now taking Ritalin? We are in danger of using a pharmaceutical-chemical solution to social ills as well as disorders of the brain. Breggins (2000) continued by saying:
Finally, when we diagnose and drug our children, we disempower ourselves as adults. While we may gain momentary relief from guilt by imagining that the fault lies within the brains of our children, ultimately we undermine our ability to make the necessary adult interventions that our children need. We literally become bystanders in the lives of our children.
Recall that the sometimes-perilous passages between matrices, or what Dabrowski (1964) called positive disintegration are times often attended by chaos, confusion, fear, and a sense of painful aloneness. If we zoomed our lens out far enough, we could take the symptoms of society itself as an indicator that we are moving toward the development of a higher level functioning in the world as evidenced by the escalating symptoms of our culture. The need for conscious belonging grows stronger and stronger.
Toward Conscious Belonging
The previous pages have traced the path of the helping professions in and out of the maze of camp formation and splitting with a shifting away from purpose and toward power and profit. While not discounting the expanding knowledge base of these fields of psychiatry and neuroscience, we must also ask the questions, “What creature is this that we have created?” When the camp boundary becomes more important than communication and the sharing of knowledge, we are in a state of decline. One could speculate that the helping professions are more in danger of this than others because those of us attracted to these professions perhaps have a more incomplete matrix formation or unresolved system of origin issues.
In this section we will explore the potential our society is exhibiting for a movement toward conscious belonging with identification of key movements that may contain part of the solution. Included in this discussion will be specific discussions of several of the crossover pioneers that are contributing to this formative movement. Included will be the work of Bert Hellinger, the systems and structural work of Senge and Fritz as well as the work of Lawrence LeShan.
Calling For Soul
David Bohm (1980), Larry Dossey (1999), Joseph Chilton Pearce (1992), Gregory Bateson (1979), Malidoma Some’ (1993), Rupert Sheldrake (1995), Thom Hartman (1997), James Hillman (1975), and many others are not names that we will necessarily find in peer-review periodicals. However, they bring a hopeful message to the current society by suggesting that soul, spirit, inquiry, connectedness, ritual, and myth are all a part of our past—as well as our future. These writers and doctors and scientists speak to and for the human soul, eschewing the strictly mechanistic and biological view of the brain in favor of a more integrated knowledge that extends beyond known parameters. Like children turned loose with a set of finger paints, they blur and swirl the boundaries between camps.
We have spent considerable time here inquiring into the word belonging and its flanking energies of bond, separate, and alone. Now, we turn our attention to the word conscious in our small couplet of Conscious Belonging. For our purposes here the word conscious means simply awake or self-aware of the need that we have to belong and the ways in which we satisfy that need. With the emphasis of our examination now on the word conscious instead of belonging, we inquire into the way in which we can achieve a more conscious belonging. In line with Pearce’s (1986) thinking of matrix development, we begin with the family of origin and work our way out.
Reconnecting to Our Tribe
Perhaps most perplexing in the question of creating conscious belonging is the question of how, if early matrix development has been interrupted or flawed, may we re-engage that development? It is clear, in Pearce’s (1992) assessment of the state of human beings on planet earth, that damage has been done to the most inner matrices of human development. Medical births, social rejection of breastfeeding, television, daycare, single parent families—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that our society is in trouble. However, unwilling to accept this as a prognosis, what do we do?
Knowing that the brain is regenerative (Ratey, 2001) and learning is lifelong, is it possible to reconnect to one’s tribe in order to solidify the basis of our initial belonging and bonding with the family of origin? Janoff (1991) did his pioneering and controversial work in what he termed primal therapy, which was intended to cure neurosis at its root, or the primal pain. He wrote:
It seems as though we are all missing something and scrambling to get what we think we’ve missed. What we seem to want is simply “more”. So many of us are searching for a way out and are lost and bewildered by the world. It seems that emotional deprivation has become a legacy transmitted from one generation to the next. (p. 14)
Are we missing something fundamental and basic to our survival as human beings? Is it possible, as adults to regain what has been lost?
One of the social dilemmas the perspective of primal pain or incomplete matrix development presents to the larger question of how to “consciously belong” is the question of completing an incomplete development within the family of origin.
One of the most innovative and pioneering approaches to rediscovering our unbreakable connection to our tribe is the family constellation work of Bert Hellinger (1998). The constellation is a group process in which an individual sets up or constellates the family system using strangers as representatives for specific family members. The desired end result is that the individual be able to see his or her connection to the larger whole of the family, to see the entanglements of the parents or other members and to release them.
Through this process we are able to move from a state of “blind love” to what Hellinger calls “enlightened love” (2001, p. 316) where the child sees the parents “as they are” and accepts them as the source of life itself. When these transgenerational tribal issues are completed, the adult child is at last free to go forward and choose further groups based not on unresolved separation issues but on freedom of choice and conscious belonging. Hellinger (1998) observed that love is the connective tissue within families and that there are natural “orders of love” (p. 150) hidden within the deeper structure of the family. When a member of the system violates one of the natural orders, an imbalance or disorder occurs and one or more members may become “entangled” (161) in the system of origin. When invisibly entangled in this way, they are not free and development stops. The constellation is a tool for releasing that entanglement and allowing love to flow once again and order to be restored.
While not every soul on the planet is going to find and do a family constellation on their system of origin, there are certain lessons we could take from Hellinger’s (2001) empirical observations. These lessons, most interestingly, are consistent with cultures still operating with what we might call an elder culture. In an elder culture, each member of the family recognizes that life comes in a downward flow from the ancestors to the parents and then to the child. When this natural order is recognized and acknowledged, the younger members of the family thrive. Respect for the elders, hearing their stories, honoring the dead, taking guidance from parents and grandparents, accepting responsibility for our actions are all part and parcel of this cultural construct. When the generational orders are honored, the younger generations are taught, guided and assisted into creating the next generation to follow. For example, Lakota elders teach that we must consider our actions based on how they will affect those to follow for seven generations.
In simple terms, what Hellinger’s (2001) work suggests is that we can reconnect energetically to our ancestral line, to the love and life flowing there. In effect, we can plug ourselves back in and get linked to the source of our lives once again thus assisting us in furthering our development. While not a panacea or a cure-all for what has occurred, it can be helpful. Perhaps more importantly in the work of Hellinger is the reconfirmation that our tribe is our tribe and that when we turn our backs on that, we injure our own soul’s connection to life itself.
In relating this tribal linkage back to our question of how to consciously belong, we find reinforcement to the idea of strengthening the existence of an elder-based culture. From the strength of our lineage, we can look out at the offerings of the world and select the groups to which we choose to belong.
The Role of Conscience in Conscious Belonging
Conscious belonging requires a paradoxical movement. We separate in order to belong to something larger. Like blind love, blind belonging, belonging without conscious choice and awareness, is a dangerous force in our world. When we blindly belong, fearful of the alternate choice of separating and experiencing our aloneness, we are vulnerable to risking our humanity, choosing to do things to belong that violate inner values, moral laws, and just plain common sense. For example, consider the fact that our government will budget for war, and budget for law enforcement and bigger jails–and leave the young mother working two jobs.
Blind belonging is dangerous, leading to what LeShan (1992, p. 63) called a “mythical reality” where right and wrong are based on a mythic belonging and not a sensory based reality. Within this mythic sphere, right and wrong are at the prerogative of the group and even killing women and children is condoned as the right thing to do. Bert Hellinger (1998) said:
If we carefully observe what people do in order to have a clear or a guilty conscience, we see that conscience is not what we are led to believe. We see that:
A clear or guilty conscience has little to do with good and evil; the worst atrocities and injustices are committed with a clear conscience, and we feel quite guilty doing good when it deviates from what others expect of us. We call the conscience that we feel as guilt or innocence a personal conscience.
Our personal conscience has many different standards, one for each of our different relationships: one standard for our relationship to our father, another for that with our mother, one for the church, another for the workplace, that is, one for each group to which we belong.
In addition to personal conscience, we are also subject to a systemic conscience. We nether feel nor hear this conscience, but we experience its effects when harm is passed from one generation to the next.
Further, in addition to personal conscience, which we feel, and to systemic conscience, which works through us although we do not feel it, there is a third conscience that guides us toward the greater whole.
Following this third conscience requires great effort, perhaps even spiritual effort, because it tears us away from the obedience to the dictates of our family, religion, culture, personal identity. It demands of us, if we love it, that we leave behind what we have known and follow the conscience of the Greater Whole. (pp. 3-4)
In this astute summary of conscience, which I include in full here, Hellinger (1998) stated clearly the heart of this paper, particularly in the final point, the separation of self from all other forms of conscience to address and embrace the Greater Whole. No longer a camp follower, we step out to risk the courage and strength of our own knowledge, belief and connection to the greater whole or conscious belonging. Conscious belonging requires a willingness to disagree, knowledge sharing, the courage to stand alone and not belong, the ability to see the greater whole (systems thinking), personal inquiry and self-examination of core values, the strength to challenge existing group boundaries, and the ability to breach the barriers when necessary.
Recall the earlier discussion on bonding and the nested matrices that Pearce (1986) spoke about. We are not simply talking about making a choice or thinking it would be a good idea to choose conscious belonging. We are actually talking about activating the genetic potential of the human neurological structures so that conscious belonging is in the field of possibility. Here nature, nurture, structures, and systems create a dance within the neural network that makes conscious belonging possible in the individual being. The potential is there, asleep in the frontal lobes of the brain, but the nested sets of bond, belong and separate must be completed first.
In reading Pearce’s books (1986, 1992), one is left with almost a sigh of despair, feeling that the human race may be compromised beyond redemption, that between television and day care, we have no hope. Ratey’s (2001) scan and translation of current brain research, however, leaves us hopeful. We are trainable even into old age. The brain, contrary to early thought, is a generative organ that continues to bloom and prune throughout life. While given a set amount of genetic potential, what we do with that potential is up to us.
Why Human Beings Like War
So far we have looked at the link with the family of origin and the linking up of neural connections in the brain as two factors in acquiring conscious belonging individually and collectively as a society. In an unusual and provoking examination of the psychology of war, LeShan (1992) brought an interesting question to the table of why human beings make war, what we could call the antithesis of conscious belonging. Why, asked LeShan, do people like war? What, in human nature, responds favorably to the act of war? While this may seem like a ludicrous question, how could human beings like war, LeShan provided an insightful and honest examination of this topic. In summary, he stated that there is a universal tension in human beings between being individual and separate, and being a part of a larger whole. LeShan noted that there are two ways to resolve this tension; one is to seek a higher spiritual connectedness and belonging, and the other, perhaps easier route, is to make war. In his exploration, LeShan surmised that humans seek war because they seek consciousness, the fully alive, fully awake, fully connected state of being that we may call consciousness. In this view of reality, war is one form of conscious belonging. Unfortunately, as LeShan pointed out, we can only achieve this form of conscious belonging by shifting our perspective from that of a sensory-based realty to what LeShan called mythic reality where there are good guys and bad guys and a noble cause. About war, LeShan wrote:
Historically there is a second means of resolving this tension between our need for singularity and our need for group identification. This means also appears in nearly every culture and it too promises to fulfill both of these needs simultaneously, without contradiction, it promises to enhance our individuality, heighten our existence, and, at the same time, increase our sense of being part of a group, to lessen our separateness at the same time it increases our individuality. Further, it promises to do so with full social approval… (p. 27)
This form of conscious belonging aligns with Hellinger’s (1998) ideas of conscience. In mythic reality, we can belong, do atrocious acts, and still feel innocent but in order to do so, we must suspend sensory reality in order to demonize or dehumanize an entire population.
What is interesting to our topic here is not that we do this, and have done this historically, but that we somehow need to do this. Paradoxically, one could say that the need for consciousness is so great that we would suspend our humanity in order to achieve it. This simple sentence contains both the seed of our own destruction—and the root of possibility for growing a population that can learn to consciously belong in other ways.
In a wide loop, we return again to “evolution’s end” (Pearce, 1992) and what he called postbiological potential resting in the frontal lobes of the neocortex. Here is the potential for abstract thinking, imagination, creativity, synthesis, spiritual longing and belonging, and the ability to disconnect in order to connect to something higher. One could say that this is our goal as human beings and also nature’s plan for us, wired and coded into the mysterious neurological networks of the brain. Our longing for consciousness is our longing to develop and discover this mysterious realm. The universal tension between separate and together that LeShan (1992) spoke of is the force driving and the fuel that will take us to the end goal. Without this tension system, our desires would flatten and lose all energy.
The tension system is also the focus of the work of Robert Fritz (1989) in learning to use the creative process to produced desired end result. Likewise, it is the tension between what is and what ought that forms the basis of the theory of positive distintegration that Dabrowski (1964) determined would take us to higher levels of being. Our task as human beings is to achieve consciousness. We can only do so by belonging first to one matrix and then another. Conscious belonging, then, is about gaining consciousness about managing these tension systems.
Systems and Structures
It was surprising to find a greater potential for solution and change within the above framework in the study of structures and systems generally applied to the field of business and organizational development than in the psychosocial models specifically dedicated to the management of human experience. If we consider this from the perspective of brain development, we can see that attempting to see movements in terms of the whole rather than its parts stirs the neural pathways to stretch out and make new connections. In this sense, we fall willy nilly into the higher functioning parts of the brain and birth a new level of development.
In Fritz’s (1991) structural thinking model, the study of the creative process and tensions systems, he said there are two primary orientations toward life. The most common is that of a problem-solving reactive/responsive approach to circumstances and situations. The less common is a generative, creative approach to what we want to create. His is one of many models that are known as generative or solution-oriented rather than problem oriented. In his study of deep, fundamental structures, Fritz (1989) recognized that two opposing tensions systems set up what is known as “structural conflict” (p. 78). For instance, the desire to lose weight is incompatible with the desire for the piece of chocolate cake in front of you. A company’s desire for greater profits may be incompatible with increased research and development. According to Fritz, a structure with two or more tensions systems in conflict cannot be resolved and begins to oscillate in a back and forth movement. A new structure must be built that allows the individual to build a tension system between a strong vision and the current reality.
Recognition of the underlying fundamental structures is essential to creating conscious belonging because the way out of reactive/responsive patterns and into generative, creating patterns is by making a fundamental choice based on assessment of what is truly desired. When structural conflict is in charge, the structures become more powerful than the individual’s true desires, as evidenced by LeShan’s (1992) powerful statement on why people like war. A structural change brings the potential for a change in behavior and experience based on conscious choice rather than reaction or response to circumstance only.
Relating directly to our topic here is the suggestion that creating can bring about a deeper engagement in the self, (experienced as both alone and connected), as well as a higher use of brain functioning. Fritz wrote:
There is a deep longing to create that resides within the soul of humanity. Beyond our natural instinct for survival, which includes fulfilling such basic needs as food, warmth, water, and air, we also have a natural instinct for building, organizing, forming, and creating. This instinct is independent of our survival instinct. (p. 3)
Fully engaged creating provides the individual both a pathway to the frontal lobes and a release of the basic tension between alone and connected. Conscious creating, if we can shift our term here for a moment, could lead us to choose groups based on what we need to learn to further our creations–and not simply out of a blind need to belong. For instance, an individual who desires to become a writer or artist will choose the company of other writers and artists whose skill and ability are greater than his or hers. In this way, they have chosen their next cocoon based on the need for knowledge as well as the need for connection.
System is a slippery word used to mean and manage all sorts of concepts; systems theory, systems dynamics, systems thinking, and so forth. Essentially, systems thinking is a way of considering individual and separate parts as they relate to the whole. While entering through the doorway of the systemic phenomenological work of Bert Hellinger (2000), it quickly became apparent that there are many astute minds working with systems theory in the field of organizational development.
We will step quickly through a few of these camps that Fuller (1969) would perhaps consider “potentially-integrateable-techno-economic advantages based on accrued specializations comprehended integratively” (p. 13). In other words, systems thinking may represent a breakout response to camp formation leading to the integration of knowledge between camps and supporting conscious belonging.
Within the organizational development field, a new breed of philosophers is looking at education, business, government, global enterprise, and, at the core, human behavior, both alone and in groups. Consider Block (2001) who suggested we move now from the linear thinking of Lewin to a nonlinear thinking. “Moreover, the diversity of cultures, disciplines and organizations is likely to ensure that a single paradigm such as that of Lewin will never again dominate the theory or practice of organizational change” (Block, Online, Historical context, para. 15). Block characterized organizational change by quoting Ackerman in distinguishing three types of organizational change: developmental, transitional, and transformational. These three simple words could be applied to the formation and maintenance of camps. Whether in development, transition, or transformation, the creature looks differently.
Consider Drucker (1995) who wrote at length about the differences in this New Age as opposed to the early industrial age when the work of many employees was dependent upon their place in front of a piece of equipment or a place on a line. Today, Drucker says that a growing number of employees are “knowledge workers” (p. 88), in that they bring their important knowledge to the workplace independent of the company or line itself. This big difference also has to do with the fact that they are more mobile and willing to take their knowledge elsewhere. Drucker suggested that the assumptions held by today’s business or organizational leaders may be no longer correct and the 21st century will bring rapid change and uncertainty. Drucker’s description of knowledge workers suggested a dramatic shift in who holds and guards the knowledge.
Again, knowledge sharing presents an antidote to the tighter boundaries of groups and the limited space of free movement within and outside of those groups. Top down management, the patriarchal tradition, presents one picture, and the empowering image of knowledge held and shared at the lower levels–and conscious creating and belonging presents another.
Drucker’s (1999) final chapter discussed such topics as evaluating our own strengths, values, perfomance and sense of where we belong. He asked each of us to consider what should be our personal contribution and addressed the need to be involved in these major changes in a way that is self-defining. Separate and alone, and yet a member of a larger group.
Consider Koestembaum (1991), a professor of philosophy who brings this rich background into his consideration of how we do business. Koestenbaum urged the need to find the values and visions inherent in the doing of business. In his leadership diamond model, he said:
Since visioning means to think globally, always consider the realtationship between your own problems and actions and the events in the rest of the world. In you inner mind, see the hustle and bustle of neighboring communitieis, competeing businesses, other nations. (p. 111)
Koestembaum says we need to move from flyspeck management to macromanagement. The “diamond” includes four integral points: vision, reality, ethics and courage. All points act in counterpoint to the others to seek congruence and full scope.
Finally, we consider Senge (2000), whose work on how to create learning organizations takes the best of all and compiles them into one model. According to Senge, there are five disciplines necessary to become a learning organization. They are
personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, team building, and systems thinking. Though stated so simply, the “Fifth Discipline” model is a comprehensive map to seeing both organizations and individuals as a whole contained within a greater whole, within a greater whole.
To be fair, the organizational development field is certainly not innocent of camp formation. Here is an example of one in formation.
Nicolay (1999) wrote of the difference between traditional organizational development theory and what he professed to be a new, emerging profession of change management. It would seem the primary difference they lay out is in the terms development and change. The change-management consulting firms, according to the author, have a larger scope, more integrative and holistic.
It has never been the goal of this paper, however, to suggest that human beings cease forming camps—only that we become conscious of why we form them, how we form them, and to what end. As we have seen in Pearce’s (1986) discussion of the movement between an inner matrix toward successively wider matrices, camp formation is part of the maturation process toward conscious belonging, not against it. Likewise, the evolution of one generation of thought to another, as evidenced in the constantly changing camps, is not an evil to be gotten rid of. If we had not had Freud, we could not have had Jung. One generation grows naturally out of the former and is meant to separate, just as the young adult is meant to separate from the family of origin. He does not, however, leave behind the source of his own being but takes it with him to fashion the new out of the old. As in Hellinger’s (1998, p. 150) observations of “the hidden orders of love,” such transitions go more smoothly when the former is acknowledged as the parent of those who come after.
We do not fully understand that we can go on and be the next generation. We are free to do that. In fact, it is our job. The systemic work of Bert Hellinger (1998, 2001) looks into this transgenerational movement in a way that lends deep understanding to our need to form and maintain camps. Separating is painful. Just as cutting the umbilical chord requires a physical act of cutting, so does the act of separating from our current group require such a cut, both emotionally and spiritually. The conflict of love and loyalty in opposition to the desire and need to form that next generation plays out in often painful, alienating ways, creating deep fundamental structures in conflict as Fritz (1991) demonstrated with his structural thinking model.
The systems models mentioned above work with visible, known systems operating within families, organizations, and other groups. By treating separate functioning parts as a whole, we are able to find the relationships operating within the system and work with them. It is likely that this birth of systems theories arises out of the generation before, of specialization and mechanistic thinking. It is also likely that the brain continues to evolve into its own ever more elegant systems within the frontal lobes allowing us to become even more conscious as human beings.
Another vast field of systems study is concerned not just what is visible and measurable but what may be there that can’t be measured. In these fields of study, science intersects with mystery. In medicine, this growing body of inquiry is sometimes called energy medicine because it works with the human energy as well as the physical body. Included in these studies are ancient Chinese and Japanese arts, Shamanic healing, faith healing, traditional indigenous medicine and healers working with intuition and clairvoyance to see within the inner working of the human body. In these fields of inquiry into the knowable mystery scientists and scholars gather from many specialized fields to combine their knowledge and attempt to understand the hidden layers of energy flowing within human lives.
Hellinger, and others such as Sheldrake, Dossey, Combs and Holland, and Pearce join others in this camp to study not just visible links and connections between individuals but energetic fields of connection. Morphic field theory, synchronicity, energy medicine, new physics, postbiological development are a sampling of the language of these new scientists.
Sheldrake (1995) directly challenged science to be more accountable and to examine issues of nature that have in the past been taboo. He suggested that there might be larger forces at play that need to be measured and brought into the bigger picture of scientific study. One of his terms, morphic fields, theorizes that there is an influential field within our universe that may be something other than magnetic, electric, or paranormal. He emphasized that science comes from the study of nature. As Sheldrake wrote:
As in its most creative periods, science can once again be nourished from the grass roots up. Research can grow from a personal interest in the nature of nature—an interest that originally impels many people into scientific careers but is often smothered by the demands of institutional life. Fortunately, an interest in nature burns as strong, if not stronger, in many people who are not professional scientists. (p. xv)
Nature, suggested Sheldrake, will answer all of our questions if we only ask.
For example, the empirical, phenomenological work of Bert Hellinger (1998m 2001) suggests energetic connections that move between generations within a family that extend even to relationships between the living and the deceased. Working with that which cannot be measured, these hidden dynamics operate with a different set of criteria. Unfortunately, this deep river of energetic connection within the larger family system cannot be measured except through empirical observation and experience. It is a knowable mystery. As Sheldrake (1995) so aptly proposed, science is the study of nature and we are required to study even that which can’t be measured. Sheldrake, Bohm and others bring the circle around again from the separation of spirit and myth from mechanistic science to the study, once again, of nature herself.
About the unknowable mystery we can, of course, say very little because it is unknowable. We can only have faith in a force greater than we are.
Conscious Belonging: An Ethic of Social Responsibility for Tomorrow
As we can see from the many twists and turns we have taken in these pages, conscious belonging is not simple A, B,C formula, and yet our current culture and the health of our planet depends upon more of its inhabitants attaining it. This was demonstrated in the most dramatic way possible when the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed after two terrorist planes flew into them with deadly intention. We have a duty to seek conscious belonging both individually and collectively. Our groups have scattered tribes, broken hearts, and deadly weapons. They take drastic measures. We cannot continue to blindly belong at the peril of our basic ability to exist on the planet.
In concluding such an exploration of conscious belonging, I think again of my colored squares laid out on a tabletop and the requirement to take and defend a position. In distilling out what these pages contain, I pick up all the other squares and lay down only two; a pale pink one and a deeply purple one.
The pale pink square represents the strengthening of the elder culture and the development of a way of seeing and believing that both acknowledges our roots and sees a way clear to the future. Standing in this camp asks a great deal of us in order to belong.
We must take over the strong guidance and teaching that our children need in order to find and develop those marvelous frontal lobes and nature’s goal for us.
We must put our resources in the youth, but not simply to make the way softer and easier for them. Quite the contrary. We need to challenge and push, to guide and stretch so that small neural fingers are always seeking, seeking their highest form of belonging.
We must place our elders, the teachers, grandparents and wise men back into a place of honor and respect.
We must, as my German teacher once told me, “honor the presence of the parent in the child” which means resolving our differences as parents and couples so that our children do not have to split their soul to remain loyal to both.
The purple square now remaining I simply label creating. As Fritz (1991) pointed out, the dynamic urge is present in us all. We, as human beings, must create. However, by understanding the fundamental structures behind creation, the powerful tension systems that form and dissolve, sometimes to our detriment, as LeShan (1992) has so aptly shown us, we can learn to create consciously. Without conscious construction of our tension systems linked between a clear vision and a clear picture of present reality, as Fritz outlined, we are compelled to create all kinds of strange and horrible things.
Why have I placed no colored square, then, for conscious belonging? Is that not the subject of this paper and the position of seeking consciousness in belonging? There is no separate square because conscious belonging cannot be chosen. It can only arise naturally from our engagement with others and with our own creative selves. Like many other of the highest human aspirations, they are the by-products of who we are—our doing, not our being. Love, peace, spirituality, faith, care of the earth, care of each other, respect—all of these rise up naturally when we are aligned in the natural orders with both our ancestral line and our own higher potential. When we act in these ways, creating and doing with conscious awareness, we have no need of camps, only cocoons which contain the nourishment, the safety, and nature’s plan for us so that we can go forward into creating a new world.
We have a social responsibility, as common citizens on the planet to dream, envision and create change and resolution. We cannot do so without gaining greater knowledge of the power of belonging and a greater understanding of both consciousness and belonging. In truth, we cannot solve all of the problems without becoming a creating body–a knowledge sharing, communicating common body where the left hand clearly sees what the right hand is doing. We must commit ourselves to the generative goal of developing learning organizations, one group at a time, one individual at a time.
The alternative is unthinkable.
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