Striving for Perfection Based in Shame

In John Bradshaw’s powerful book “Healing the Shame that Binds You” he talks about the many manifestations of “toxic shame” (as opposed to healthy shame), how they are generated and how to heal them. One important way in which toxic shame is generated is through cultural systems that require or encourage a striving towards perfection in thoughts, emotions and actions.

Perfectionism denies healthy shame. It does so by assuming we can be perfect. Such an assumption denies our human finitude because it denies the fact that we are essentially limited. (1)

Healthy shame, according to Bradshaw, is a feeling that informs a person of his limits. For example, when a person makes a mistake or engages in a shameful behavior the feeling of shame kicks in and informs the person to go no further. By contrast, toxic shame becomes internalized. Instead of a person being made aware that he has made a mistake and perhaps vowing to to better next time, the toxically-shamed person will feel that he, himself is a mistake and intrinsically flawed. This is an excruciating feeling to experience and one that cannot be easily remedied.

Unfortunately, according to Bradshaw, the modern incarnations of religion have played a role in this dynamic.

Religion has been a major source of shaming through perfectionism. Moral shoulds, outghts and musts have been sanctioned by subjective interpretation of religious revelation. The Bible has been used to justify all sorts of blaming judgment. Religious perfectionism teaches a kind of behavioral righteousness. There is a religious script that contains the standards of holiness and righteous behavior. These standards dictate how to talk (there is a proper God voice), how to dress, walk and behave in almost every situation. Departure from this standard is deemed sinful.

[Moreover, what] a perfectionistic system creates is a “how to get it right” behavioral script. In such a script one is taught how to act loving and righteous. [According to this system it is] actually more important to act loving and righteous than to be loving and righteous. The feeling of righteousness and acting sanctimoniously are wonderful ways to mood-alter toxic shame. They are often ways to … transfer one’s shame to others. (2)

Shame begets more shame because it is an uncomfortable feeling. This often inspires the person feeling the shame to engage in a mood-altering behavior. Consuming alcohol is a prime example of mood-altering behavior but it is not the only one. Interestingly, shaming another person (i.e., causing them to feel shame) has mood altering effects as well.  For this reason, many toxically shamed people will feel compelled to shame other people in order to temporarily relieve their own feelings of shame. This has the effect, however, of begetting more shame in both parties.

In this way, when a person claims to “strive for perfection” ostensibly based on religious grounds he is very likely motivated by shame. When this claim is also associated with behavior or rhetoric designed to shame others, this motivation is only confirmed. This is not to say that people should not strive to be the best people they can be, however, this striving is called into question when it involves internalized shame and the shaming of others for mood-altering purposes. It is called into question because at its heart it is really an attempt to obscure the truth disguised as an attempt to improve the self morally or in some other positive way.


(1) Bradshaw, Michael. Healing the Shame that Binds You. Health Communications, Inc. 2005. p. 88.

(2) Ibid. p. 94.

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Auto-Suggestion: Chapter Four of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

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This post is a continuation of a series of posts analyzing Napoleon Hill’s curious book entitled “Think and Grow Rich.” The other posts can be found here, here and here.

MENTAL FRAMEWORK AND PROCESS

In Napoleon Hill’s conception of the human mental process, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind are two distinct entities capable of communicating with one another. More specifically, the conscious mind sends the communication and the subconscious mind receives the communication. It is unclear whether the subconscious mind is capable of communicating back with the conscious mind but it can communicate with “Infinite Intelligence” which seems to be a divine, external entity that is capable of transmitting ideas back to the conscious mind in the form of inspiration.

It seems that (according to Hill) the conscious mind is continuously communicating with the subconscious mind and the subconscious mind then works with Infinite Intelligence to manifest the substance of this communication. Most of the time this communication is not directed or is “unconscious” in nature. Often these communications are negative which explains why unfortunate events seem to happen to negative people. However, the conscious mind can hack this process by purposefully communicating with the subconscious mind through “auto-suggestion.” This is the intentional repetition of an idea either verbally or mentally. This action, especially when combined with positive emotion and actual belief in the outcome will (according to Hill) work to inspire an idea or plan to achieve the tangible result.

USING AUTO-SUGGESTION TO CREATE WEALTH

Of course Hill is particularly concerned with growing rich through the power of thought. As such, when one employs the power of auto-suggestion to create wealth, that person must intentionally repeat an affirmation or mantra related to obtaining wealth.

[C]onsider the possibility of playing a perfectly legitimate “trick” on your subconscious mind, by making it believe, because you believe it, that you must have the amount of money you are visualizing, that this money is already awaiting your claim, that the subconscious mind MUST hand over to you practical plans for acquiring the money which is yours.

In the preceding quote, Hill suggests the practitioner of auto-suggestion employ a kind of double-think. That is, he or she must “believe” that the desired outcome behind the auto-suggestion will occur and that it is the belief itself that makes it occur. If one accepts the truth of this process then one is actually believing in something that is presently untrue in order to make it true in the future, which in turn justifies the belief.

The subconscious mind or “imagination” (as Hill refers to it in the following quote) acts behind the scenes to accomplish the “how” of the desired result. Because this process takes place below consciousness, the conscious mind remains unaware as to how this is accomplished.

Hand over the thought … to your IMAGINATION, and see what your imagination can, or will do, to create practical plans for the accumulation of money through transmutation of your desire.

Knowing the “how” is not necessary according to Hill. The only requirement is that the message is conveyed with emotion and belief that it will work. Of course, mustering authentic belief is not an easy or even possible task for many people. But this is perhaps where the double-think comes in handy. If one can “act as if” he believes this might be sufficient to on some level convince the conscious mind to believe or experience the feeling of belief. As mentioned in a previous post, some of these concepts introduced by Hill will break down or become circular and confusing if examined too closely. As such it is probably efficacious to suspend your disbelief when employing these techniques.

When visualizing the money you intend to accumulate, (with closed eyes), see yourself rendering the service, or delivering the merchandise you intend to give in return for this money. This is important!

Moreover, as the preceding quote suggests, it does not hurt to embellish this process with imagination in order to make it more real and thus more believable.

EXPERIMENTAL APPLICATION

After reading “Think and Grow Rich” I became naturally curious to implement these ideas. One of the inspirations I came up with was to create a website designed to match authors with other authors for the purpose of getting their work reviewed in a non reciprocal manner. So Adam will review Bill and Bill will review Carl and Carl will review Adam. This ensures that no person is motivated to create a false positive or negative review. I have since paid web designers to create this web site. It is now live and called www.binderreview.com.

This is all new to me. At this point, my plan is to build up a critical mass of users before making it a paid service. So, if any author (self-published or traditional) is interested in both reviewing another person’s book and receiving a review I encourage you to check it out. Again the website is completely free. I just ask that you provide me with feedback regarding your experience and how the website can be made better.

At this point, I have not exactly grown rich with this idea but it is still early. Moreover, not every idea is a winner. Persistence is the key.

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How to Get a Self-Published Book Reviewed

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When I self-published my first two books I had a hard time getting them read and reviewed. I found that I was not alone in this predicament. In fact, there are millions of self-published authors who are writing and self-publishing millions of books each year (literally). Obviously, these books vary in quality. Some frankly, do not deserve to be read and reviewed. But many of them do. I suspect there are many self-published authors like myself, who put a lot of time, effort and some amount of money into getting their books into final form and available for public consumption.

The general wisdom holds that a written review on Amazon or some other platform will make it more likely a book will sell. I am not sure how valid this wisdom is. But even if the dream of making a little money from a book is dead, a written review from another person who has read the book can provide the author with a small degree of validation for the work he or she put into it. That is something.

Of course, it is no small task for someone to read and review a book. Doing so requires hours of reading and some amount of time thinking about what they have read and additional time actually writing a review. On the other hand, there is a population of millions of self-published authors who want their books read and reviewed. In other words, they are motivated to get their books reviewed.

My question is, why not get this population of self-published authors to read and review each other’s books? The obvious problem is that when two people read and review each other’s books there will be pressure to provide a falsely positive review. However, what if there were a way for this population to get together to read and review each other’s books in a non-binary way?

This is why I created the 100% Free website www.binderreview.com

Basically, what Binderreview is designed to do is match authors together in a non-reciprocal manner. Author A will review Author B and Author B will review Author C, etc. This way there is no undue pressure to write a review that is not 100% honest.

To be honest, I am not sure that this service can work. I hired a web developer to create this website for me. I am not sure they fully understood my concept and I am not 100% satisfied with the job they did. It is live now but I have not yet been able to get many people to use it. This is why it is free. I would like to have people use it and give me feedback on their experience and how it can be made better. I also want to build up a critical mass of users necessary for it to function the way it was designed. Maybe I will keep it free forever. I’m not sure – this is all new to me.

So please, any self-published author who is looking to get his or her book reviewed (and is willing to read and review someone else’s book) please try www.binderreview.com. It is completely free and you have nothing to loose monetarily speaking. I only ask that you give me feedback on your experience.

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An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part III, Chapter Three – Faith

FAITH AND WEALTH

In this chapter Hill asserts that Faith (or belief) can be used to manifest wealth. When a person has faith or belief that he will be wealthy then he is convinced of the truth of this reality. If a person lacks the faith in the outcome of wealth then the outcome will not manifest itself. Therefore, having the faith that one will be wealthy is (according to Hill) an essential hurdle to overcome in order for one to be wealthy.

Hill describes the mechanics as to how this plays out. He explains that a person’s conscious mind is the entity that must have faith or hold the belief that the person will be wealthy. This faith is what communicates to the subconscious mind to take action in order to bring this about. The subconscious mind seems to be responsible for generating ideas which it then feeds back to the conscious mind in the form of plans for achieving this wealth. The subconscious mind also communicates with Infinite Intelligence in order to create the plan to achieve the desired wealth.

When FAITH is blended with the vibration of thought, the subconscious mind instantly picks up the vibration, translates it into its spiritual equivalent, and transmits it to Infinite Intelligence…

The term “Infinite Intelligence” seems to be Hill’s conception of God. Hill does not get very specific as to what this God’s nature is and whether it is consistent with the Christian conception of God. However, Hill does speak positively about Christianity in “Think and Grow Rich.” For example, in this chapter he states:

Christianity is the greatest single force which influences the minds of men. The basis of Christianity is FAITH, no matter how many people may have perverted, or misinterpreted the meaning of this great force, and no matter how many dogmas and creed have been created in its name, which do not reflect its tenets.

For this reason, it seems likely that Hill’s idea of Infinite Intelligence, although perhaps broader conceptually than a personal god, is not ultimately in conflict with the Christian notion of a personal god.

CREATING FAITH

If a person does not initially possess the faith necessary to achieve his goal of attaining wealth he must create this faith. Hill suggests the technique called auto-suggestion for this purpose. Essentially, auto-suggestion is the conscious mind making the decision and causing the body to act on this decision to repeat a phrase (or mantra) stating that the faith exists over and over until the mind (both conscious and subconscious) comes to believe the truth of this phrase.

FAITH is a state of mind which may be induced, or created, by affirmation or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind, through the principle of auto-suggestion.

Hill seems to have great confidence in the power of mantra to instill an actual belief in a person’s mind. From personal experience I have not found mantra repetition to instill actual belief. Often when repeating a mantra or affirmation I observe a secondary thought process which works to undermine the belief being affirmed. Perhaps I simply have not repeated any specific mantra enough times in order to create the belief. My mental jury is still out as to this assertion.

[Y]ou may CONVINCE the subconscious mind that you believe you will receive that for which you ask, and it will act upon that belief, which your subconscious mind passes back to you in the form of “FAITH,” followed by definite plans for procuring that which you desire.

In a sense what Hill is describing is the conscious mind attempting to fool the subconscious mind in order to cause the subconscious mind to communicate with Infinite Intelligence for the purposes of achieving a desired result. The implication is that the belief does not originally exist but rather is created through a misdirection. The question that comes to mind is whether this is an ethical process. Convincing the subconscious mind to act on a belief that does not exist seems to be an act of self-deception. I presume the person who commits this act of self-deception must be ethically on board with this act in order for it to be effective. Hill does not address this issue, however.

MIXING EMOTION WITH THOUGHT

Hill also asserts that thoughts which are mixed with emotion are made more powerful by these emotions for the purpose of manifesting desired outcomes. Moreover, the three most powerful emotions for this purpose are faith, love and sex.

ALL THOUGHTS WHICH HAVE BEEN EMOTIONALIZED, (given feeling) AND MIXED WITH FAITH begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent… The emotions of Faith, Love and Sex, when mixed with any thought impulse give it greater action than any of these emotions can do singly.

ALIGNING BELIEF WITH GOALS AND ACTIONS

It seems to me that Hill’s conception of faith in the process of manifesting wealth is overly complicated. Let us put aside the obvious questions as to how Hill could possibly state with authority the process whereby the conscious mind communicates with the subconscious mind, and how the subconscious mind in turn communicates with Infinite Intelligence. Perhaps Hill thought the act of conceptualizing the process would make it easier to believe in  the function of belief.

In my opinion what is important here is that when a person is trying to obtain wealth his beliefs must be in alignment with his goals and actions. When the mind is working at cross purposes it will naturally undermine its own efficacy. Put another way, if a person holds two inconsistent beliefs (e.g., he believes he desires wealth but also believes he does not deserve wealth) the act of trying to reconcile these beliefs will siphon off energy that could otherwise be put to use in obtaining that wealth.

I have found that developing a personal mission statement (as advocated by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) is a very effective technique to ensure one’s beliefs, goals and actions are aligned. Without a mission statement a person is left to make decisions on a case by case basis. Whereas, a mission statement can always be referenced to determine whether a decision is in alignment with one’s beliefs, goals and actions. Of course creating a mission statement requires a person to first contemplate his goals and beliefs.

CONCLUSION

I found this chapter to be muddled and overly complicated. Personally, I think it would be far more effective to say that a person’s beliefs must be aligned with their goals. Repeating a mantra to create a belief that is not aligned with other concurrently held contrary beliefs will be either not possible in the first place or will create opposing internal forces that will fight each other. This will leave the person feeling conflicted and will make him ultimately ineffective. By contrast, creating a mission statement that outlines a person’s goals and beliefs will work to clarify what a person actually wants. He will then be in a better position to discard those beliefs that are not aligned with his goals thus making him more likely to achieve them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part II, Chapter Two – Desire

Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.

Napoleon Hill states with authority in Chapter Two of “Think and Grow Rich” that desiring riches obsessively is a necessary component to acquiring riches. This can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for some people who have been conditioned to think that desiring riches obsessively is an unhealthy or sinful psychology to adopt. The phrases “money can’t buy happiness” and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (MT. 19:24) come to mind. Even the the Buddhist Four Noble Truths teach that the cause of suffering is desire or craving. Accordingly, if one wishes to adopt Hill’s philosophy and he or she is a practicing Christian or Buddhist (or an adherent to a similar philosophy or theology) he or she must then either ignore these moral teachings or come up with a way to explain the conflict. Either solution puts the person at a disadvantage regarding successfully implementing Hill’s strategy relative to a person who does not possess these moral hang ups regarding desire.

At the same time, Hill infers himself to be a practicing Christian in this very chapter, where he says:

Christianity is the greatest potential power in the world today, because its founder was an intense dreamer who had the vision and the imagination to see realities in their mental and spiritual form before they had been transmuted into physical form.

Hill does not specifically address the seeming conflict between his thought that Jesus actually put the principles outlined in “Think and Grow Rich” to work and that Jesus seemed also to preach against pursuing wealth as an obsessive desire. One must assume that Hill had some sort of justification for his philosophy in order to make it align with Christianity. Or perhaps he just ignored the discrepancy.

At any rate, in this chapter Hill articulates a six point plan to acquire riches in this manner:

First. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definite-ness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).

Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)

Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.

Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ, SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

Through the repetition of this practice (asserts Hill with authority) a person will acquire riches. Yes, there is a degree of agency involved on the part of the practitioner. He must formulate a goal, formulate a plan to reach that goal and begin to act on that plan. But there is also the inference that the power of the universe will super-naturally assist the person who embarks on this course of action. Perhaps it is merely the case that acting on a specific plan of action is enough for most people to succeed without super-natural aid. But perhaps the thought of super-natural aid somehow works to aid in the motivation behind executing this plan. Or perhaps there is truth to the super-natural assistance which compliments the natural efforts of the practitioner. It seems that Hill made no attempt to explore this question. This resonates with the theme discussed in the previous post that thinking too much about this process will somehow rob it of its efficacy. As such, it is better not over analyze the strategy if one wants to successfully employ it to achieve the desired goal.

Instead he focuses on the mysterious aspects of the universe which he sees guided by Infinite Intelligence. It is not clear whether this “Infinite Intelligence” is the same thing as the Christian God. Perhaps Hill just wanted this book to appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Strange and varied are the ways of life, and stranger still are the ways of Infinite Intelligence, through which men are sometimes forced to undergo all sorts of punishment before discovering their own brains, and their own capacity to create useful ideas through imagination.

By contrast, I suppose men possess finite intelligence. But this finite intelligence seems to be connected to or has its origin in the Infinite Intelligence which is both a resource and an independent actor which helps the people who meet it half way.

Strange and imponderable is the power of the human mind! We do not understand the method by which it uses every circumstance, every individual, every physical thing within its reach, as a means of transmuting DESIRE into its physical counterpart. Perhaps science will uncover this secret.

According to Hill, the human mind has a power that the person possessing the mind generally is not aware of. This is a strange thought because it is not entirely clear how a person can be separate from his or her mind. This is why the whole endeavor of willing a desire into being is a mysterious process. It may also be a clue as to why desire and riches are thought to cause suffering and to create an obstacle on one’s way to heaven.

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An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part I, Chapter One – Introduction

CONTEXT

I recently started my own web based business. Around the same time, I heard through multiple sources that I should read a curious book entitled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. This book surprised me in that it described in unique detail how the psychology and physics of wealth and success function and interact according to the author. He claims to have arrived at this understanding by interviewing 500 people who climbed from nothing to great wealth. There is some controversy about the veracity of this claim. But enough sources recommended this book to overcome this controversy.

Hill first published the book in 1937 during the tail end of the Great Depression which he attributed to a generalized lack of confidence in the economic systems around the world. Obviously, this time period predates our current politically correct mindsets as is demonstrated by some of the examples he cites in his introduction including a “colored child who deliberately master[ed] an adult white person” demanding, “MY MAMMY’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!” and the “Oriental” who described what he perceived to be the “queer slant” of an American’s eyes. For those easily offended persons take note. At the risk of being taken out of context and branded a racist, I actually found it refreshing to read the writing of a person who’s context and psychology is so different than the typical modern perspective.

The following series of blog posts will be an analysis of Hill’s book. I will also try to connect this material to other writings and ideas I have been exposed to recently as they all seem to relate in an interesting way.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

[W]e are the Masters of our Fate, the Captains of out Souls, because we have the power to control our thoughts. 

Hill bases his philosophy on the premise that people have the power to control their own thoughts. Ironically, if I do  not think about it too hard, this basic premise seems to be true. However, if I do think about it, it is not at all clear that this premise is true. To wit, I do not actually know where my thoughts come from. As I experience thoughts, they materialize “in my head” and I feel justified to take credit for them as if my mind manufactured the thoughts in some intentional way as an architect would plan out the construction of a house. But as far as I am aware, thoughts simply appear from nothing. It is just as likely that I created them as it would be that they are produced somewhere else and then transmitted into my head.

Then again, it is not clear how that thought would have been created by a third party and then transmitted to me. That third party would have had to create the thought themselves and that presumably would have taken some planning (i.e., other thoughts). As such, it does not seem possible that a thought could be created because to create requires forethought which itself is a thought. Perhaps thoughts exist independent of the people who think them as a cloud floating in the air that is encountered by the thinker. Perhaps what I can do is make myself more or less open to these thoughts by adopting a mindset. Although I am not certain of that because a mind set might be no different than a thought in the final analysis.

Alternatively, it seems as if I can genuinely influence my mindset through an act of will. If I am in a negative mood, I can recognize this mental state and then take steps to change it. There seems to be agency to this process. But perhaps this agency is merely the implantation of agency from a third party. It does not feel that way but I cannot be certain about that.

Obviously, this line of reasoning can lead down a rabbit hole. For example, if I am not the creator of my thoughts then what exactly am I? I seem to be the one who experiences my thoughts. That is, I am the consciousness that experiences the thoughts I think. Sam Harris in his book “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” made the point that there is no “I” but rather consciousness and the content of consciousness. The perception that there is an I who is conscious is an illusion generated by the fact that consciousness seems to take place inside our heads where the brain is located. The nature of consciousness, however, is beyond the scope of “Think and Grow Rich”.  The point is, that thinking is a complicated phenomenon and this complexity is worth considering because the premise of the book is about thinking. In fact it is the first word in the title. However, meta-thinking is probably counteractive to thinking and growing rich in the manner Hill describes.

Accordingly, (I suppose) in order to properly use the book one must assume that the I of consciousness exists and that it (to some extent) controls the thoughts that pop up within it. Let us proceed with that assumption.

USING THE POWER TO CONTROL THOUGHTS

TRULY, “thoughts are things,” and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a BURNING DESIRE for their translation into riches, or other material objects. 

Regardless of where thoughts come from and how they are created (and if they are created) they are things that exist. Of this we can be as certain as we can about anything. Hill states with authority that when thoughts are combined with definiteness of purpose, persistence and desire the result will be the achievement or manifestation of what is desired. The more recent book written ostensibly to appeal to Stage Green, new aged women, “The Secret” made this claim as well. Implicit in this strategy is that the universe will supernaturally cooperate with the thinker as long as the thinker thinks in a specific manner. Indeed, Hill says exactly that.

[T]he ether is filled with a form of universal power which ADAPTS itself to the nature of the thoughts we hold in our minds; and INFLUENCES us, in natural ways, to transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent [and] this power makes no attempt to discriminate between destructive thoughts and constructive thoughts… 

That is, people with negative mindsets sabotage themselves and the universe they live in through their negative thinking. In the introduction, Hill illustrates this principle with three stories. The first is the story of Edwin Barnes who had no money but through his will and persistence became a business partner with Thomas Edison. The second is the story of R. U. Darby a gold prospector who mined gold but quit when the seam ran out only to later find out that the seam continued three feet away. Subsequently, he became a millionaire by selling life insurance using this lesson of persistence. The third is Henry Ford who seemingly willed the V8 engine into existence when everyone else told him it was impossible.

The supernatural quality of the universe cooperating with a person who possesses the correct mental state is a central premise of this book. Certainly, it seems logical that a person who is motivated and confident to achieve a goal is more likely to achieve that goal than is a person who is lazy and lacks confidence. What seems less likely or unproven is that the universe works to manifest the thoughts that exist in the minds of people. However, as stated earlier, I do not understand how thoughts are created and if they are truly my own. As such, perhaps thoughts are more connected to the external physical universe than I know.

 

 

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Spiral Dynamics

Over the past two months Leo Gura of Actualized.org has been creating videos explaining the theory of Spiral Dynamics developed by Don Edward Beck and Clare Graves. Spiral Dynamics is a developmental, psychological model designed to map the historical evolution of both people and the societies of which the people are constituent parts.

There are eight stages to the spiral, each with its own set of characteristics. The first and most primitive stage is Beige characterized primarily through individual survival with little to no cooperation with other people. Modern homeless people are an example of the stage Beige mindset. The second stage is Purple characterized by primitive cooperation among people typically at the family or clan level. Cavemen are an example. The third stage is Red where stronger individuals within the relatively egalitarian Purple start to assert their dominance over the weaker members. Viking civilization and tribal societies are examples. The forth stage is Blue where we see authoritarian, communal societal structures begin to assert themselves in order to reign in the excesses of stage Red. The Roman Empire and Medieval Europe are examples of the stage Blue mindset. The fifth stage is Orange characterized by a rejection of the stiff Blue societal structures with a greater emphasis on individual achievement, science and materialism. Modern, liberal, capitalistic societies are examples. The sixth stage is Green characterized by a rejection of the excesses of Orange and a return to spirituality and communal responsibilities. Modern hippies and left-liberals are examples. The seventh stage is Yellow characterized by a rejection of the excesses and Green’s failure to solve societal problems with an emphasis on systems thinking and individual achievement. Albert Einstein is considered to be an example of a stage Yellow thinker. The final stage is Turquoise characterized by a shift from the individual Yellow to a more holistic world view. Very few people and certainly no societies have achieved stage Turquoise at present.

One important observation the spiral articulates is that humans and the societies they create evolve alternating from an emphasis on the individual to an emphasis on the community in a cyclical manner. From individualistic Beige to communal Purple to individualistic Red to communal Blue and so on. In a sense (according to this model), the development of mankind’s psychology is based on the confrontation between these two opposing forces. When one is taken to an extreme the other rises to counterbalance it.

Of interest to this blog is how well the system of Spiral Dynamics describes stage Blue. Specifically, the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic (two blogs that I have been reading over the past couple of years) come to mind as two good articulations of the Stage Blue mindset. As described by the Spiral Dynamics Integral website, the general characteristics of Stage Blue thought are:

  • Values and norms, discipline, duty, regularity, and feelings of honor and guilt
  • WE versus They Thinking
  • Searching for meaning, order, routine and security
  • Self-control, discipline and loyalty to the doctrine and the rules
  • Absolute, literal and definite
  • Morality
  • Hierarchy, obedience and willing to sacrifice to a greater cause
  • Control and structures of authorities
  • Obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt
  • Organize, manage, concretize and structure
  • Values effort and responsibility and shows discipline
  • Rules, rights and duties are significant

This description seems to describe almost perfectly the mode of thought expressed on these blogs both by their contributors and the people who comment there. I suspect these people would reject the notion of Spiral Dynamics entirely. This would fit perfectly within the model. Because (according to the model) they see the world in essentialist terms and by definition reject nominalism they cannot see the world as evolving purposefully or in a healthy way. I suspect they would dismiss Spiral Dynamics without much consideration as a “liberal” idea. If the world is changing it must be for the worse because stage Blue (not that they would embrace the term “Stage Blue”) was the best possible stage. Anything, departing from stage Blue is ugly and it is appropriate to judge those who question stage Blue sensibilities and enforce stage Blue sensibilities through shame and guilt. This emphasis of “obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt” explains a great deal as to how my interactions with the people who comment and contribute to the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic have played out.

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