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.