GROWING UP

Do you think the same way now as you did when you were 16 years old? When you were 16, did you know that there was any other way of thinking? Well of course the answer is no to both. The 25 year knows what it is like to be 16, but the 16 year old does not know what it is like to be 25. And, the 50 year old knows what it is like to be 35, but the 35 year old does not know what it is like to be 50. So we do change in many ways during our adult lives. We change in terms of how we see ourselves and how we see the world and others.

When I read Seasons of a Man’s Life by Levison in my mid-forties, I felt like the guy had been following me around all my life. He described what was going for me in my late thirties and forties to a tee; lots of questioning and turmoil. It is only when I look back at that time that I see that I had transitioned to a new level of development.

It was not until my early sixties that I learned about levels of adult development from Integral Psychology by Wilber. He talked about Robert Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development.

  • Stage 1 — Impulsive mind (early childhood)
  • Stage 2 — Imperial mind (adolescence, 6% of adult population)
  • Stage 3 — Socialized mind (58% of the adult population) In Stage 3, the most important things are the ideas, norms and beliefs of other people and systems around us (i.e. family, society, ideology, culture, etc.).
  • Stage 4 — Self-Authoring mind (35% of the adult population). In Stage 4, we can define who we are, and not be defined by other people, our relationships or the environment.
  • Stage 5 — Self-Transforming mind (1% of the adult population). In Stage 5, one’s sense of self is not tied to particular identities or roles, but is constantly created through the exploration of one’s identities and roles and further honed through interactions with others.

If you want to explore in more detail about this mental model of Adult Development, go to Wikipedia article.

The key idea here is that you grow an adult. And, that becoming “self-authoring” means not being imprisoned by the cultural and parental messages about who you are or who you should be. It means transcending the misery caused by not owning your own authority. It means thinking deeply for yourself and being independent of others.  I see myself somewhere at stage 4, moving to stage 5.

So how do you become more self-authoring?  I have found the best way to learn about myself and to uncover the unconscious patterns and programing that drive me is through personality assessment.  One can also do this through journaling and psychotherapy. It means becoming more aware of that hidden part of yourself. See the Johari Window from the previous blog.

It is useful to look at your value system and see how it’s changed over the years.

Some people have no interest in this self exploration and I fully respect that. But if you are willing to go on a journey of self discovery in order to grow as an adult, stick with me and let me share with you my learning around personality dynamics and vale systems.

In the next blog we’re going to begin exploring three mental models of personality.

Can you see how you have changed over the years and think differently now than then?

As you look at the stages of development, where might you be?

MENTAL MODELS

In thinking about how I think, I am aware that I operate on lots of mental models; maps of the world.

A mental model is an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences.

A good example is a road map.. The map is not the territory, but it represents the territory in a way that makes it useful.

I am going to share one example of a mental model I use in my coaching practice and then in the next several blogs share others that have been useful to me in my life.

The Johari window model is a simple and useful tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness, and mutual understanding between individuals.It helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others.

FOUR QUADRANTS

Open, or Arena

This the part of you that is known to you and known to others. It behavior and motivations that are public.

Hidden, or Façade

This is the part you that you know about yourself but that others don’t know. This can include thoughts, feelings, motivations, secrets, or personal history.

Blind Spot

This is the part of you that others know but of which you are unaware. They see behavior that you are not conscious about and perhaps might deny it and be defensive. Just ask your spouse or a colleague to give you some honest feedback and you will get a sense of this. 

Unknown

This the unconscious part of you that others don’t know and neither do you.

Just knowing this model has been useful to me. I have found it beneficial to be more open.  Exposing the hidden parts myself have allowed me to be more authentic and disclosive with others. And, this has led to greater intimacy and trust with others.

Does knowing my blind spots help me in personal and work relationships? Of course. Anytime I can learn more about myself, it can be positive and lead to meaningful change. When we recognize our unconscious patterns we can grow.

I  have also found that there are ways to surface the unknown about myself through reading about personality dynamics and unconscious patterns that might be present.  A therapist can help with this as well. See my blog about Shadow.

So, with this example, I hope you can see that value of metal models. I will share more in future blogs.

Can you see that many of your attitudes, beliefs, judgements and assessments are based on your mental models.

In what way can you create greater intimacy by disclosing more of yourself to love ones?

 

COMPASSION

See that man. If you could see what that one person has walked through from their earliest time from all their growing up time; through everything they wanted to believe in that did not believe in them; through everything that didn’t last; through every heartbreak that got them here today, you would fall down on your knees in awe and there would never be another stranger. Stephen Jenkinson

In an earlier blog, I said that I did not believe in Christian dogma, but was a Christian in that Christ taught love, compassion and tolerance. And, I could identify deeply with those values. So let’s explore compassion by first talking about empathy.

It wasn’t until I was 54 that I had a deep personal understanding of the experience of empathy.  In the past, I had been masterful in distancing myself from others’ emotionality.

I was observing men on a New Warrior Adventure Weekend who were deeply in touch with the pain in their lives and I found myself moved to tears vicariously feeling their pain. I now felt the emotion of empathy. It is the capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering; to vicariously experience another’s emotions.

Compassion is empathy coupled with the imperative that “someone, perhaps me, should do something about that”. There is an intention to act because of others are suffering and to recognize that I am not separate from this suffering. Compassion comes from our oneness.

In 2010, I found myself with 50 executive volunteers in a prison with 100 inmates enrolled in The Prison Entrepreneur Program. I was deeply touched by the participants’ appreciation for my being there and their desire for redemption. My feeling of compassion caused me to continue to volunteer and become a member of their Houston Advisory Board for a number of years.

While I have decided not to give money to street beggars, I donate to the Star of Hope Mission as an act of compassion for the homeless.

The Buddhist’s have the concept of loving kindness where you focus on others’ suffering while meditating. When you type “compassion” into YouTube, you get a lot of Buddhist teachers and almost no Christian teachers. What’s that about? Most compassionate Christian ministries have the hook of conversion attached to them. Buddhists don’t seem to have that, although I think the Christians seem to have more ministries that help those in need.

I don’t think one has to be religious to express compassion. There is something about our humanity that evokes these feelings and desire to act. In 2017 Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Houston and the mayor called for volunteers. Thousands of people rose to the occasion, even putting themselves in danger to help others.

How about you?

Can you truly empathize with others? Put yourself in their shoes?

In what ways do you practice compassion by performing acts of loving kindness?

GRIEF

My 81 year old sister Gail died in her sleep on October 10th. She felt well and was happy. She was not afraid of death and if she could remember her death, she would not be surprised; just pissed off because she did not have a chance to vote.

She left two children and three grandchildren who are deeply grieving her loss as am I.

Grief is one of our greatest teachers. It cracks us open—that’s how the light gets in. It demands that we look at our relationship with life and our fear of death. It reveals the great healing power of love. Ram Dass

Gail and I had a great relationship and due to recent conversations with her, I have a sense of completion. I miss her and find it so strange that she is gone. We were the witness to each other’s life. I expected to die before she did. I can hear her saying “Hah, you thought I was going to grieve you; so there”

I am now the last of my generation except for a very distant cousin. My twin brother died when we were 35, the same year as my mother. It is a strange feeling being the last one. It is lonely. There are only a couple of people, lifelong friends who knew my father or brother.

I think about my family’s previous generation who of course have all gone. I remember seeing a picture of a stadium with 20,000 baseball fans in 1890 and it struck me, “My God, they’re all dead”. 20,000 ordinary people, not unlike you and me, who no longer cast a shadow with no real artifacts to speak of that reveal they ever existed. This certainly gives one perspective on the human condition and how we are all on death row. And yet I do believe that we are living in our ancestors wake as we create our own wake for the future, whether it be good or bad.

Even with this perspective, we grieve. And, it is hard. Having lost a 19 year old son who would have been 48 this year, I know.  The wound of loss can be searingly deep and yet it will heal just as the body heals a physical wound. Grief is not an event; it is a natural process that takes time and it is unique for each person.

So, I grieve for Gail and yet I have a quiet peacefulness. She led a good life and was loved.

I’m the last leaf on the tree.

The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me. . . .

I’ll be here through eternity

If you want to know how long

If they cut down this tree, I’ll show up in a song.

THOMAS ALAN WAITS

SHADOW

According to Carl Jung, your shadow is that part of you that you hide and deny to yourself and others. I learn first about shadow at the New Warrior weekend training in 1996 and have been trying to identify my shadows ever since. I was particular struck by Jung’s observation that those who claimed to have no shadow were superficial. They lived well, meant well, brought no overt harm to others, but they failed to see the nuances of their behaviors, the unintended consequences of their choices, or the pallid lives they conducted. Oops. Is that me? I hope not. So let me explore my shadows.

When you identify and “own” your shadow, you become a full person, acknowledging the dark side as well as the bright side, the positive attributes. In my blog on Sin and Evil, I touched on this. Each of us have in us all the attributes of being human. So when you are rooting for the hero to take revenge on the bad guy by killing him, you are expressing the part of yourself that is the killer. And when you admire a charismatic leader you are projecting qualities on them that you are denying in yourself.

I recall being upset with a retailer overcharging  and thought they were stingy. When I asked myself, “in what way am I stingy?”, I realized that there is a very clear stingy part of me, making sure that I get full value and being mad if I don’t. So I can see how I project my shadows onto others.

Shadows can come from early life. In my case the message from my parents to be strong and independent caused me to not show vulnerability and be so focused on self sufficiency that it became a detriment. Owning that shadow allowed me to show more of my heart and to seek help when I needed it. In other words, to express more of myself as a human being.  

Some of us live our life by reacting to having felt abandoned, in which case we overcompensate by seeking attention by performing and being visible. That’s me. This blog is an example of “look at me”.

Others may feel overwhelmed and seek to become invisible and to hide out in life.  They play small rather than large. They are protected.

Another example of a shadow  for me is my unconscious and sometime intentional desire to manipulate things to get my way, devaluing other’s needs.

So, with some reflection I have identified some  my shadows; with more to surface.

How about you? What are your shadows?

Can you identify and own all parts of you; both the good and the bad?

BELOVED CIRCLES

We all have a need for love and connection. I certainly do. In the last 15 years, one thing that has added richness to my life is my being in informal circles of likeminded friends. When we move beyond raising families and the strive thrive part of our lives, relationships becoming even more important to us. In years past people had extended family nearby. Now, not so much.

I became part of the informal community of the Mankind Project after having gone through a weekend training in 1996. I now belong to three circles of men who are part of this community, and one coed circle.

A group of professional coaches have met monthly for 15 years to share our experience with our respective coaching practices. These men are at top of their game as executive coaches.

Five men have met monthly for 15 years to  discuss our spiritual development and to witness each other’s lives. Ages 65-90.

A recent group of 5 senior men who meet at my house twice a month for discussions. We don’t talk about sports or politics and we are too old to talk about woman. We do talk about meaningful subjects and share our life experiences.

The oldest group of 4 men and 4 women meet twice monthly to witness each other’s lives.  There are two couples, one who met in the group. Others are in relationships. We have met for 16 years and have shared many life experiences such as health issues, marriages, and deaths of loved ones, including someone in the group. We are all in our 70’s now and are living our lives fully.

All of these groups have one thing in common: love. We come together because we love each other and want to share our lives, wisdom and support with the others. They are my spiritual community. In fact, we have two clergy in the coed group and we are not part of their congregation, so they can be 100% forthright.

I also attend and manage the website for The Saturday Morning Men’s Cafe which has met each month for two hours with 10-20 men for the last three years. Many of the men have known each other for years while some are new. Each meeting someone volunteers to lecture on a personal growth topic of his choosing and then lead a discussion.

This can be an isolating and divisive world. Having the consistency of a beloved community is immeasurably enriching and meaningful to me.

As you look at your life, do you have a sufficient amount of love and connection?

Do you have beloved circles in your life?

What might you do to create one?

PREDICTIONS FROM 2016 ELECTION

I was upset when Trump was elected and the next morning I made some predictions. You can judge how accurate they were.

It is amazing how many nights I have had disturbed sleep over the past two years. I envy those who voted for him and don’t seem disturbed.

Predictions written on November 9, 2016 for January 1, 2018. It may take until January 2019. Numbers are current links to support the accuracy of the prediction.

  • Inflation will be higher
  • Unemployment will be higher
  • The deficit will accelerate. [1]
  • Email controversy that the FBI highlighted a week before the campaign will have gone away. It would’ve been a non-issue. Hillary will not be indicted nor will there be a special prosecutor [2]
  • International trade agreements will be destabilized [3]
  • The press will be repressed and intimidated, this includes any organizations that criticizes Trump. [4]
  • Real access will only be with people who agree with him and make him look good. [5]
  • He will select B players for the administration.  If you want to scare yourself, read Michael Lewis’s Fifth Risk
  • Inauguration will be mostly white. There will be almost no minorities on the mall [7]
  • Trump will be manipulated by those to know how the system works [7.5] and international leaders.[8]
  • Climate change accords will disintegrate in the midst of increasing global temperatures [9]
  • NATO and those others countries with treaties with United States will lose faith in this country. [10]
  • Americans will be embarrassed to travel abroad. [11]
  • There will be a pervasive fear throughout society particularly among minorities. There will be riots if there’s oppression of blacks and minorities and Hispanics
  • There will be no wall [12]
  • Defense spending will increase [13] and infrastructure [14] will become worse
  • Russia and China become bolder in their expansionism
  • That could be another dramatic arms race [15]
  • America will be much worse off than it is today.
  • Frontline will do an expose on the Trump presidency. [16]
  • Trump will get even with all those who did not support him during the campaign by ignoring them or seeking to destroy them.[17]
  • 401K account of all those who voted for Trump and everyone else will be significantly less in value either through inflation or loss.
  • Trump presidency will be bad for the country, for its leadership in the world, and for the world in general. It will be a fucking disaster and within two years most those who voted for him will regret it, or they will be mindlessly following a dictator. [18]
  • There is a good chance that he will be impeached. Democrats and Republicans may team up to stop him.[19}
  • If there is a movement to have a constitutional convention, all bets are off. [20}

Bruce Anderson
bruce@thinkingpartners.com
7 AM Wednesday 11/9/2016