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Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Cults | Also: Practitioner and Coach Categories and Types

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Someone asked me if I had watched "The Deep End" - the documentary about Teal Swan. I had never heard of her. I watched the trailer and as soon as I heard her speak, I knew she was full of sh*t. Took me 5-10 seconds.

Then I had someone tell me the kinds of things she has people engage in and I was disgusted. after stating what I saw as the positive purpose of the exercise, I broke down for the person the dynamics and meta-structures of what she was up to in those instances and why one should not do that to participants, and how it is actually counter-productive.

But this is not about her - it is about cults and cult-like communities in general, many of which are far worse and include a lot more systemic pathology. And the exposure of some of them in recent years ... has me thinking about cults and coaches and politics and just how and why people fall for these people, be they gurus or politicians. Which got me thinking about the transformation industry in general.

I try to spend as little time as possible thinking about the coaching and practitioner industry. That might seem strange since I have been in it for so long (full-time since 2004), but honestly, the more I am exposed to it, the more I find myself recoiling. Maybe it is what I perceive as a lack of depth in the industry, or - as a meme one friend sent me the other day said, “God, please give me the confidence of a 25-year-old life coach”. But in contemplating it - and in noticing trends over the 30 years I have been engaged in transformational communities, I have distinguished a few “types”.

These are off the top of my head, so I am open - and welcome - any feedback, comments, or additions. Or for you to share your own experience in encountering these or other categories of “coach”.

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🔮The Regurgitator: they parrot the thing they just read, heard, or learned in a workshop and they get it all over everyone. Very little precision, and it often feels very gross (vs subtle) and like a blunt instrument. A lot of projection may be involved. You can contort yourself to see how it fits, but it really has little to do with what is happening for you or your desired outcomes (if they even asked you about that). They also have little apply-to-self or self-reflection. 

🔮The Mentor: they have vast experience in one area and teach others how they succeeded (sometimes often after a lot of trial and error or at least one major failure).

🔮The Technician: They are very skilled in a very narrow area - one modality - and it is the only lens they view things through, they are, however, very competent at that one thing.

🔮The Mindset Master: They really have one primary tool: linguistic or perspective reframes. “If you just think about it differently, you’ll feel better”. While this is true - and critical for day-to-day happiness and an integral part of developing facility with self, the problem with this one is if used as the only tool - or over-applied - it often steps over somatic feelings and emotional build-up that will need to eventually be cleared out - and in doing so they stack up in their body and may lead to a massive meltdown of sadness or depression later on. The deeper thing needs to be addressed and often goes unaddressed so they are engaging in bypass or what I heard recently may be termed as “toxic positivity”.

🔮The Synthesizer: they consume all forms of personal development and likely have for some time and then come up with their own version that is an amalgamation or an integration - or new material entirely that builds on what came before. They are also very good at pulling from that experience and applying it at a more individual level for people - choosing the approach or modality that will best serve them in the presenting context at that time. There is both depth and breadth.

🔮The Guru: This one seems to have deep spiritual knowledge and has adoring followers. Their followers' eyes glaze over when they talk about them as if they are under a spell. Sometimes it is unclear what specific value they bring or if the followers integrate the teachings into their lives. People often fall in love with them and at some point, their illusions are shattered and they become very disillusioned. As much as they were in love with them is the degree to which they will now have disdain for them.

The benefit, of course, is the feelings of community and acceptance the student experiences with other followers and the shared experience. Until, of course, the inevitable descent into pathology or cult-like dynamics. Over 80% of them seem to engage in sexual misconduct at some point.

I have a theory that the larger a transformational community becomes, the more it tends toward pathology even if the leader is pure in intention, teaching, and their own personal ethics.

🔮The Scam Artist: This speaks for itself. Some of them just see a way to make money and do not even see themselves as scamming people, but are usually very entitled, charge above market rates for their services out of the gate with little experience, and may even encourage a “wish list” purchase, etc. (like a dominatrix or escort would), including tools for their business they could and should ethically purchase themselves. Often they do month-to-month agreements instead of extended offerings because they either do not have the energetic capacity to hold someone over several months, or are not competent enough to continue with a client beyond the quick sale of the 1-month agreement. Maybe it’s a side gig. One of many. They also get a dopamine hit from being in a position of authority in someone’s life, no matter how fleeting or temporary that may be - and they often come from that place, not from a place of serving their client in achieving their outcomes.

They don’t last long, thankfully.

🔮Professional Scam Artists: Megachurch preachers, Trump, et al. Grifters and con artists all of them. Praying on the old and the feeble-minded.

🔮The Hobbyist: “I give my friends advice all the time, I may as well get paid for it!”. Enough said.

✨There is also the therapist turned coach, which is always interesting - and of great value for some.

✨And on the other end of the spectrum, the young sex worker turned coach (but in a different context). The challenge there is they bring a lot of the dynamics from their previous offerings into the business of coaching and that does not translate well professionally or inter-personally. They essentially have to re-learn business.

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If you are interested in becoming a clean and skillful practitioner (or a synthesizer) attend my next practitioner certification training. Full details about that training are »here«. If you are curious about working with me one-on-one, schedule an initial conversation »here« to have a conversation and we will discover if we might be a fit or not.


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The Cult of Classification

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We, as a people, seem to love classifications. As humans, it is what we do best: identification. It separates us from primates. We can identify and classify things into systems, genres, classes, subclasses, and so on.

This is a great skill; a skill that could even save your life someday as you classify “dangerous, not dangerous – deadly, not deadly”. The ability to identify (what is it?) and then extrapolate accurately (what does it mean?) is indeed a critical skill. A skill no less critical even as we get more and more civilized. In fact, it could be argued that the dangers get ever more complex and demanding of this skill the more complex our society becomes, and the more knowledgeable we become.

When this gets interesting is when we apply and over apply this skill to other human beings where physical safety is clearly not a concern. We have all sorts of categorizations and systems of classification. We have ethnicity, sexual preferences, and orientation, political party affiliation, zodiac sign, political orientation or leaning, class separation, high school cliques, enneagram number, etc., etc.

These are all tools we use to classify, to categorize, and to put people into some box or drawer. At first, it may seem like we use these tools to gain a better understanding of who they are, really.

Is that how we typically use them, in actuality? The way I have seen myself and others use them is as I described above. We put them into a box. We now think we “know” them, or at least that portion of them. They are a democrat or a republican and all of a sudden, we now “know them” politically. They are a 3 on the enneagram, and all of a sudden we “know” what to expect of their behaviors; their light and beautiful side and their darker patterns.

We put them into a box and we can then relax, or tense, or whatever, but some part of us relaxes. We know them; we can now relax and move on to putting another part of them into a box. Are they heterosexual or homosexual? Ah, they are bi-sexual. We can now relax (or tense [laugh]) because we now “know” who they are sexually.

But do we? (It is fascinating to see someone feed their ego when they think they have “nailed” someone’s zodiac sign or enneagram number by guessing at it; excited about putting someone in a box.)

Once we put someone into a box, we then stop relating to who they are as a unique and beautiful being -- we begin to relate to the box. We begin to fit all of their behaviors into that box or view their behaviors through the filter of said box.

Sure, we are more comfortable ourselves once we have classified them, but the real relating begins to die a slow (or rapid) death. We now stop relating to who they are in this moment, right now, and begin to relate to what we read about them in a book, or what we see about their “type” on TV, Etc. Then what began as a tool for greater understanding and deeper relating has ended up as a wall or a barrier to greater and truer understanding – a barrier to more intimate relating; a wall around the heart. A wall and a filter we are often not even aware of.

And what are human Beings anyway? They are manifestations of the divine.

Can we really classify that?

Human Beings at their best and most inspirational are creative, spontaneous, dances of improvisation, which is completely unpredictable, and if we get too caught up in who we think they are, we may miss a glimpse of God as it dances right before us, right within our grasp. While these tools for classification are useful to a certain point, they are only useful to a certain point, where if we want true relating, true intimacy, they must then be cast aside. If we truly desire peace on this planet, it will take something like this, from all sides, from all perspectives, from all lands.

From the heart, guided by the head, enveloped in Spirit.

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Evolutionary Relating | Introduction to the Book

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This is from the introduction to the forthcoming book. You can find additional excerpts here.

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It’s the one thing that unites and connects us all.

We are not united by national origin, gender, politics, ethnicity, and the like. Not universally. The one thing that universally unites us is this:

Love

It's the one thing every human has in common.

Any poem about love in any language still transmits the same experience regardless of the language we translate it into. Sufi mystic Rumi and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda were separated by several centuries yet both their poetry still translates to this:

Love

Love. Love and a clear reverence for the women they loved without losing any of their masculine centers. It's almost become a lost art.

But it does not matter where your lover came from or whether you have the same birth language - or even speak the same language. Or what color they are. We can fall in love with anyone from any place - from any religion or cultural background - at any time.

We’ve all experienced some version of it. 

Perhaps it was the rush of the chemical attraction--they touched your hand and the electricity was unforgettable. Or maybe it wasn’t the chemistry, maybe it was the feeling of finally being home. Or a kind of comfort and safety you felt almost immediately. Or maybe it was a feeling of familiarity--as if you've known someone for years even though you just met them.

Then at some point when those feelings (many of which we discover are Illusions and projections) are dispelled, and the person begins to behave in ways that disappoint, confound or even anger us, we may begin to question the connection that we have with them and at times, perhaps, even our own judgment. 

Inevitably, we come face-to-face with how many assumptions we've made. How we have built our entire relationship and levels of trust, as well as our fantasies about the future, on these assumptions. And in our pain and confusion, we often make grave errors that only make matters worse and tragically make our future in that relationship - or the next - even worse still.

Sucks, right?

But you know what? 

Virtually all of that is avoidable.

Most of us do not know how to set ourselves up for success in the beginning - we start dating based on chemistry and attraction or availability - not on aligned values. We do not know how to have the conversations to set a baseline for what we will agree on - what our agreed foundation is - heck, some people wait so long to have these conversations that they are not even sure if they are monogamous or both dating other people months into dating (!)


These are conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. And some people know that, but they don’t know how to have those conversations.

Or worse, they are simply too scared to have them.

Then when conflict arises,  we lack the tools to navigate the situation in a way that feels good, let alone connective and satisfying to both of you.  

Or when the relationship stalls we don't know how to keep it alive, sexy, and have it continue to inspire and uplift - to bring out the best in us.

Then when it ends we have no constructive way to deal with the grief, the self-doubt, the anger, and no capacity to deal with feelings of betrayal or loss or confusion. 

At that point, some of us immerse ourselves so deeply into the process and feelings of loss that we may even think that we are destined to repeat the cycles - and perhaps some of you have - that do not work and lack fundamental workability.

This book strives to solve most of the avoidable challenges and problems that arise in all three stages of relationships and provides structures and tools to assist you in working through the unpredictable - and in some cases unforeseeable - problems that arise. 

In the beginning: how to avoid unwarranted bliss and the inevitable crash - disappointment and even, how to avoid mediocrity in the middle or simply being in a habit rather than in a relationship, how to deal with anger fear jealousy all those things that can arise and create conflict in that middle stage. And of course, the confusion, anger, and grief that can arise when it ends if it ends and how to set yourself up for Success without vilifying the other person and how to reclaim your power if you've lost yourself in the relationship. 

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Is Your Relationship To God Wrecking Your Relationship With God? (Part 1)

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[Note to the reader: "God" is used throughout as a signifier to point to wherever you put your worship. It could be conventional religions as I will mainly address, but you could just as easily replace it with Gaia if you "put your worship" there--if the environment is your ultimate concern. or you could replace it with polytheistic beliefs such as Hinduism. Or maybe you put your worship in the Universe, Consciousness, or Community. Consider that whatever your ultimate concern is, the concepts in this article can apply to that thing as "God" for you. Doing this will allow you to get the most from this article. -Jason D McClain]

Is Your Relationship to God Wrecking Your Relationship With God?

It’s a provocative question, isn’t it?

Why even ask it? It is fraught with predicable emotional triggers and will produce reactions that may blur the importance and the point of the topic at hand.

We could use your relationship to your "self" or your relationship to others or even your relationship to money. The fact remains that we could use any of those concepts--any of those signifiers--to get to what we are pointing at and we will use a couple of them as lead-in examples because of their familiarity--but it would not be as effective to stop there for our larger conversation; not as effective as getting to the very root of our relationship to and with our deepest and highest stages. But even more to the practical: we will use God for the simple fact that there is no concept or question more galvanizing—making us sit up in our chair and pay attention--than questioning our very relationship to and with the Divine.

So we use “God”.

Before we begin to explore the question, we need to lay the ground on which we will stand: stages of egoic and emotional development. Stages that we interpret the world through and react emotionally from.  Stages through which we will interpret every aspect of our lives--events occurring around us, the actions of others as they relate to us, the world we navigate through politically, economically, romantically, and, yes, our spirituality and the nature of the Divine.

So if we are to examine our relationship to God (or “the Divine) then we must begin with an understanding of the lens we gaze through.

"God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different."  --Rabbi Harold Kushner

From pre-personal to personal to trans-personal. From vengeance to justice to grace. From pre-rational to rational to trans-rational. From ego-centric to enthno-centric or gender-centric or nationalistic to world-centric. From unconscious to conscious to super-conscious. These are just some of the ways we can label the grossest stages of development of the Self—and they are stages of increasing wholeness and increasing embrace. Each stage transcends, yet also include the benefits of the former. Each is noted for its increase in capacities and increase in the ability to hold an ever-increasing number of perspectives. We could also think about these stages as an expansion of what an individual can identify with or as. From ego-centric to ethno-centric / gender-centric / nationalistic to world-centric; identifying as just an individual to identifying as a member of a community or collective of individuals to identifying as a member of a global community—a citizen of the planet and a member of its ecosystem. Plainly put: our stage of self-development will determine our world-view—and that world-view will evolve over time. And that evolution will have a directionality.

Human development can be divided into three major phases: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional, or pre-personal, personal and transpersonal (Wilber, et.al., 1986). This applies to the development of cognition, morality, faith, motivation and the selfsense. The infant enters the world unsocialized, at a pre-conventional stage, and is gradually acculturated into a conventional world-view, whether it be religious or secular. A few individuals develop further into post-conventional stages of post-formal operational cognition (Pfaffenberger, et.al., 2009), post-conventional morality (Sinnott, 1994;), universalizing faith (Fowler, 1995), self-actualizing and self-transcending motives (Maslow, 1971), and a transpersonal self-sense (Cook-Greuter, 1994; Wilber, 1980, 1983, 20001).

-Frances Vaughn, Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2010

We could say that one of the primary practices (as well as one of the primary indicators of personal evolution) is the ability to take on an ever-increasing number of perspectives; the ability to understand—even if not agreeing with—an ever-increasing number of perspectives or “views” of or “from” a given place.

And that lens—or lenses—is the filter through which we view the world as well as being the platform we will likely react from. This is not a box we can put ourselves or others in. It is not a classification as rigid as a “type”. Think of it more as a probability: a weather forecast, or a general orientation within high odds. Think of it more as a lump or a wave. But even still, the fact that we will likely interpret through and react from our “stage” of development of the “self” is hard-wired as a probability can get.

And, the endeavor we call “personal evolution” is the process of activating movement and moving through those stages.

Why is this important?

In the process of personal evolution we have both the mechanisms to create, and the path to enjoy, true peace within--and to reduce conflict without. An ever-expanding ability to hold an ever-increasing number of perspectives leads to a life that experiences greater ease, reduced fear and reduced anger, greater empathetic capacities, increased self-acceptance, increased capacities to handle whatever life may throw at you—and respond more resourcefully, and ultimately, leads to an aligned, purpose-filled and full-filled life.

As within, so without.

In recent history, it has become commonplace in personal development circles and communities for us to realize that our relationship to ourselves is very important—it is an accepted fact that it will determine a great deal of our experience materially, inter-personally, and emotionally. It may be thought of as self-concept, or self-esteem and self-acceptance, self-care, and self-love. This shows up in particularly high-relief/ particularly sharp in contrast in work with relationships where it is clear to more and more people (whether we like it or not) that our relationship with our self will determine our relationship dynamics with others: how well do we honor boundaries both for ourselves and for others? Do we feel we deserve to be happy and deserve to have a relationship in which we are treated well—with kindness and respect and love? How easily and openly do we communicate?

In essense: the degree of health we enjoy in our relationship with ourselves (and to our “self”) will have a great deal of influence on the degree of heath an vitality we enjoy in relationships with others—and life in general.

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Is Your Relationship To God Wrecking Your Relationship With God? (Part 2)

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Be sure that you've read Part 1 » here «.

[Note to the reader: "God" is used throughout as a signifier to point to wherever you put your worship. It could be conventional religions as I will mainly address, but you could just as easily replace it with Gaia if you "put your worship" there--if the environment is your ultimate concern. or you could replace it with polytheistic beliefs such as Hinduism. Or maybe you put your worship in the Universe, consciousness, or Community. Consider that whatever your ultimate concern is, the concepts in this article can apply to that thing as "God" for you. Doing this will allow you to get the most from this article. -Jason D McClain]

 

As I asked in Part 1:


"...was Jesus really born of the Virgin Mary? Was Lao Tzu really born as a 900 year-old man? Is the earth really resting on the head of a giant serpent (or the shell of a giant tortoise)? And of course, the subject of great debate most recently it seems: is the Earth really only 6,000 years old? Are these facts—with belief in them required to enter into the afterlife? Or are they gorgeous and useful poetic metaphors pointing to a greater truth in a way that people at the time could accept, pointing to Divine power?"

These metaphors are a testament to the belief in stunningly powerful, mystical, and magical forces embodied in "Spirit". Stories told to the good common folk of those eras. Metaphors they could relate to. This was useful and good—in fact, it could have been no other way at the time. However, the vast majority that count themselves among the world’s religions have lost touch with this simple wisdom: that metaphors of their spiritual traditions do indeed hold tremendous aesthetic value and inspirational mythopoetic beauty, however, they are not the Truths themselves.

Nor should they really matter when discussing spiritual merit. Would we say someone was not a good person if they acted with love, grace and charity all of their life, dedicated to the service of others, but rejected the idea of the Virgin Birth? Of course not.

Sadly, focusing on the details of the metaphoric stories as a basis for “faith” rather than the individual relationship with the Universal Truths results in losing access to Divinity and Spirit. Ending up, in turn, hopelessly (and endlessly) arguing over details of form and presentation-details of stories told long ago so that simple people could easily have access to God. These arguments aren’t just friendly disagreements or intellectual debates engaged in among scholars; they have split families and divided congregations--and sent nations to war on too many occasions for us to want to list here.

The fact that this is so, and that is springs from traditions that were and are meant to free the spirit, spread love, and acceptance, and give hope to the hopeless, is no less than tragic.

So that we can attempt to avoid the same pitfalls, let us set aside what is “true” or “false” about these mythopoetic themes and focus instead on the more personal and individual experience. This is what is relevant for our discussion that is focused on the context of personal evolution.

For that, we need to address not the truth, but the utility of our relationship to the Divine--"to" vs. "with." This “to vs with” business is not just fun with prepositions. It has a very practical impact on our internal life and emotional experience.

The manner in which we relate to anything determines its meaning and importance in our lives. Whether that thing is a significant other, a new career opportunity, a rainy day, traffic on the highway, and/or yes, even “God”. Perhaps we should even say In fact, especially God—not because that is accurate, but simply because of the impact that our personal relationship with God has on our real-life happiness.

Let’s take traffic.

We have all experienced traffic on a highway. How do you relate to it? What is your interpretation of it? Do you view it as a waste of time? A hassle? An increase in vehicular pollution? Or perhaps you see it as a welcome break and use it to unwind on your way home listening to relaxing music or an opportunity to listen to a favorite book on audio? The obvious point is that how you “hold” this experience we call “traffic” in your subjective world will give rise to a specific and tangible emotional experience around it, or what we will call an “atmosphere”.

 “It is never the thing itself, but rather your relationship to it”.

Knowing that let’s take it out another level: it is not just how you relate “to” traffic that will determine your experience. While this is true, we could take one more step and realize that we are not just in traffic--if you are in your car in the middle of traffic, you are the traffic. You are at the very least a component part of it as a whole.

Think about that the next time you are cursing the traffic you are in.

You can see what we have done there, and you are likely already familiar with the importance of and the ability to “frame” your experience described in the above paragraphs. This is nothing new. Most of the wisdom traditions teach that how you interpret an event will determine your emotional experience around it—and with regular practice, you can discipline your mind to interpret your experience in a way that leads you to have the emotional experience of life that you desire. Simple. Not easy, but simple.

And yet, when we get to the context of God—we go all whacky. As if it somehow no longer applies.

Just as we examined if your relationship to traffic serves you, we will examine the same of your relationship to God.

I was with a client and we chased the source of his "issue" to a particular construction he has of God—and God and spirituality is very important to him.

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