Monday, November 7, 2022

Generational cohorts and the differentiation of self

The idea of the socializing and conditioning of children which occurs facilitated by the culture the child grows up in, of which parents are only one factor among many, is significant in understanding human development.

Sociologically there are certain values, technologies, and political events which define generational cohorts. The popular names we have for these cohorts: boomers, gen x, millennials, gen z is shorthand for the culture that shaped these various cohorts. As a boomer therapist I am very aware of these differences as they shape the cognitive, value, and social filters through which a client may likely view and interpret the world. Being aware of these filters is the first skill of 21 which Cindy Wigglesworth names in her book on spiritual intelligence. The question that Wigglesworth asks to focus on this skill is "Do you think you can explain to others the impacts of your culture, your upbringing, and your mental assumptions on how you interpret the world around you?" The stage of skill development is low, medium, or high.

Being born in 1965 a person's birth occurred right at the end of the boomer generation and the beginning of the gen x. Gen x was the self esteem generation when there were prizes for everyone. You got a trophy just for participating rather than for any merit. Gen x was also the generation which saw the introduction of cell phones and the internet and was the generation raised by parents heavily influenced by the war in Vietnam and the Civil rights era with the assassination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcom X, Bobby Kennedy. Gen X also experienced  the introduction of managed health care and the explosive growth of publicly funded colleges, both four year and two year community colleges. Gen x also saw the introduction of birth control, the legalization of abortion and the liberation of females in western societies.

One of the questions always in the back of my mind when I interact with people is "To what extent do you know what makes you tick?" This is the first skill in spiritual intelligence and is at a very low level in our society. Most people, 80%, are annoyed with this question and become defensive. This phenomenon is not related to chronological age but to the level of spiritual intelligence the person has achieved in their life.

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. How many people do you find that live examined lives? Is living an examined life something which our society in general values and supports? It is something that we psychotherapists, hopefully, nurture and facilitate as it contributes to intrinsic rewards of true self esteem and self confidence and what Murray Bowen called "differentiation of self.".

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Your thought system generates the world you see.

There are many ideas to unpack in the preface to the book, "Who's really driving your bus today?" These ideas can be considered as generated by a thought system. Thought systems can be constructive and helpful to the welfare of homo sapiens, or destructive and harmful to homo sapiens. It might be interesting to take the ideas one at a time. 

The first idea described in your preface is “The 21st century has been a time of profound challenge to cultural and personal peace in America. These challenges have impacted our core sense of reality in significant ways.  Political polarization has left the two extremes in mortal combat, leading moderation to be attacked by both sides.  Each side presents different “Truth”.  There has been a growing intolerance and demand for “political correctness“ that leads to superficial soundbites."

We are living in a postmodern age where people have been taught that there is no truth. Truth is relative. As Kellyanne Conway said when challenged about the accuracy of the facts she was promoting that, "There are alternative facts." During the George W. Bush when an administration official was asked about the likelihood that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction, that truth is what those in power say it is. These attitudes have contributed to what Ken Wilber has called "nihilistic narcissism."

As a therapist I am inclined to share with clients the idea that truth is what works. I will ask, "How is that (belief) working for you?" We mental health professionals have adopted the scientific method hopefully which generates hypotheses, collects data to see if the hypotheses have predictive value, and adds to our knowledge. As a mental health services organizational manager I have always been focused on outcomes. Some key processes get better outcomes than others which leads to the question of "What are the best practices?" There are many factors to consider, and a systems model thought system as well as a linear reductive one is important for understanding that contributes to competence.

The current cultural polarization is over identity and belonging, Maslow's third need in his hierarchy. Whether policies work or not is often not considered. What is important is the affirmation and validation of one's chosen identity. It is by this validation and affirmation that one determines "truth." This agreement with one's preferred identity as the determining factor in determining truth often doesn't work and is not valid from the perspective of a scientific thought system but works very well for an ego driven thought system.

The key question might be "What is the thought system the person is using to determine truth?" It is the thought system the person chooses that is driving the bus. At lower levels of consciousness this choice of thought system is unconscious. It is an evolutionary imperative that consciousness be raised if homo sapiens is to survive as a species on this planet and in our solar system. Raising consciousness has been a prime mission of psychotherapy since its development in the early twentieth century. May our work continue and prosper.

The awareness of one's thought system is the first skill out of twenty one that Cindy Wigglesworth describes in her model of spiritual intelligence.

Monday, October 31, 2022

The Power of Stories


Stories provide a moral model of the world. They teach how things work or could work. The question is what does the audience make of the story? What does it tell them about the kind of person they are, other people are, and the world they are living in?

Does the story enlighten and uplift or deflate and demoralize?

Stories are the basis of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is about the client's story or the couple's story or the family's story, or the community's story, or the society's story.

The significant point here is that stories matter. Tell stories with care.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

What is the goal of psychotherapy?

Along with this idea is the one that the presenting complaint is not the real complaint. The presenting complaint is just the ticket of admission. The presenting complaint is what the client thinks they are supposed to say, based on their socialization, which makes them an appropriate candidate for psychotherapeutic service.

If you ask most people “What makes you tick?” They become perplexed, annoyed, and defensive. It is in this question that psychotherapy begins.

Psychotherapy is not the same thing as “counseling” and “life coaching” and “emotional management skill training.” Psychotherapy is a much more significant, challenging, and revealing journey into the self.

On this journey what will one eventually find? Our Transcendent Source. The basis of our Divinity.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

What is the experience of experience called?

At the core of IIT is a single measure called “Φ” (the Greek letter phi, pronounced fy). The easiest way to think about Φ is that it measures how much a system is “more than the sum” of its parts, in terms of information. How can a system be more than the sum of its parts? A flock of birds provides a loose analogy: the flock seems to be more than the sum of the birds that make it up—it seems to have a “life of its own.”


In IIT, Φ measures the amount of information a system generates “as a whole,” over and above the amount of information generated by its parts independently. This underpins the main claim of the theory, which is that a system is conscious to the extent that its whole generates more information than its parts.

Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 64). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Our usual way of thinking is cause and effect. In Western Civilization we tend to view and understand our experience of the world in a linear and reductive way. Seth’s idea of consciousness is a systems view, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and it is this “greater than” that contributes to consciousness.

This idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts is a primary concept in family therapy where the dynamics of the family system, the roles and rules that govern its functioning, is the frame of reference and focus of perception and apprehension. 

From this perspective one might ask “What kind of a family is this?” and “To what extent are they aware of how the system they participate in functions?” In other words, to what extent are members of the family conscious of its existence as a family unit and not just a collection of individuals?

A working definition of consciousness might be “the experience of experience.” The experience of experience is what Seth is naming “Phi.” Phi, claims Seth, is the measure of consciousness.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Being You, the book by Anil Seth

This month there will be a series of articles about Anil Seth's book, Being You: A New Science Of Consciousness.

Consciousness is usually thought of as a uniquely human phenomenon not shared with other living species. And yet, if one is asked what consciousness is, few could give a coherent response.

My definition at this point is "your experience of your experience." I have called it the "witness". A friend calls it the "observer."

The witness or the observer seems to be more highly developed in some people than in others. Ken Wilber, the Integral philosopher, and others teach the there are levels to consciousness.

Follow along this month as we explore the concept of consciousness.

This book is about the neuroscience of consciousness: the attempt to understand how the inner universe of subjective experience relates to, and can be explained in terms of, biological and physical processes unfolding in brains and bodies.

Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Which do we value more in our society: the body or the soul?

The body is the container for the soul, the life force, the consciousness. The word for it without the soul is "corpse." However, the body is more than just a container, it is a generator. As Seth points out the body is more than just a mechanical computer, it is a chemical machine. "I use the word “wetware” to underline that brains are not computers made of meat. They are chemical machines as much as they are electrical networks." Seth, Anil. Being You (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

It is interesting how in our society we are much more aware of and focused on the body than the soul. Our capitalistic system is constantly marketing products for the body and much fewer for the soul. Do you think it is accurate to say that in our contemporary society we value the body more than the soul?