Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

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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Evolutionary Thinking on the Evolution of Ego | Expand and Dissolve Rather than "Annihilate"

We have been sold a bill of goods around ego. One that creates internal division and conflict. One that creates internal dissonance. One that creates pain. One that, at its worst, can foster a certain degree of self-hatred. A dis-ownership of the self. A bill of goods that is 2,500 years old in terms of its story around ego, the nature of ego, and the "problem" of ego.

And there is a better way. One that can create the same intended result with a kinder, gentler more self-accepting approach that can accelerate the evolution of the ego through the radical acceptance of expanding the ego, rather than attempting the psychological and spiritual suicide of ego annihilation. 

You can also see some similar themes around ego in the business context, read this article:  Self-Esteem and the Solo-Preneur | Internal vs. External Locus of Responsibility for an even deeper cut, taken from an email I sent a client a couple years ago, read Your Self-Worth is a Settled Matter.

Ok...ready? ::: Heh.

A quote from Ken Wilber I posted spawned an in-depth, yet brief—discussion on the nature and evolution of ego, Spiral Dynamics, the Integral community, and related topics, including the difference between cognitive development and actual development ::: the difference being understanding vs emotional response and being, or stated differently ::: one’s “center of gravity”.

The style is conversational, as it was an actual conversation.

Below are excerpted comments in the thread that followed. The order of some of the comments have been changed for continuity of the discussion, and for flow. Some have been deleted for the sake of relevance. If you want to see the full, unedited thread for yourself, you can see that HERE. The edited and streamlined version is below for your reading enjoyment.

The quote that started it all :::

“The ego is not a thing but a subtle effort, and you cannot use effort to get rid of effort--you end up with two efforts instead of one. The ego itself is a perfect manifestation of the Divine, and it is best handled by resting in Freedom, not by trying to get rid of ego, which simply increases the effort of ego itself.” --Ken Wilber 

Of course, I cannot speak for Ken Wilber—nor will I attempt to.

Simultaneously, I have read and listened to most of his stuff. As a result, I can certainly imagine—to varying degrees of accuracy—what he is speaking to, so I will attempt to translate him.

AND this will be based on my own experience after 19 years of conscious work, clearing, and self-examination and evolution—AND based on my work with over 200 clients one-on-one in my Personal Evolution Program, which lasted [when I used to do that work]  about 7 months--designed to accelerate the evolution of their ego ::: to widen their embrace. To increase their ease. To reduce their fear. To eliminate most of their anger. To increase their esteem for the Self.

So I may be and will be projecting/hallucinating…and it will be accurate—to varying degrees. Your mileage may vary.

So…what is “ego”? Most in popular spiritual and psychological circles will say we must transcend our ego, or worse ::: “annihilate it”. Is this healthy? Is this ecological? Does it suit the ecology of the environment we exist in?

The ecology of the self?

Is “ego what motivates us” as Pi asserts? Perhaps sometimes, yes. perhaps always—sure.

And the question for me becomes, motivates HOW? From what stage? Because, you see, we will be motivated differently from different stages, for different reasons.

For me, ego is essentially the seat of our consciousness. Where it rests and comes from. Not its Source. Its Source is the very kosmos ::: consciousness with a capital C. 

James Reidy suggested as a definition :::

Ego: n. a person's conscious and unconscious beliefs about their own identity. 

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Quadrant-Based Model for Esteem for the Self

Self-Esteem Matrix

[Validation (V) ::: Worth | Referencing (R) ::: Efficacy]
Internal and external locus

 

 

If we combine Dr Nathaniel’s definition of self-esteem—that is that self-esteem has two integral and inseparable—yet equally important and parallel—components:

  • Self-efficacy [knowledge of our effectiveness/our value/guilt]
  • Self-respect [Making choices appropriate to life/self-worth/shame

…with another multi-dimensional idea ::: that the “high self-esteem” and “low self-esteem” binary representation is inadequate to accurately explain some behaviors and behavioral choices, and we look at where the individual’s attention is, then we begin to create a richer and deeper—and therefore more accurate signifier—a more accurate representation of esteem for the self.

I prefer that phrase, that is: esteem for the self, to the more common phrase “self-esteem” for two reasons:

  1. The phrase/word “self-esteem” is one of the most misunderstood and overused phrases in American pop psychology. And,
  2. The phrase Esteem for the Self refocuses our attention where it should be; our opinion of the “me” in our self-concept.

 The sad part is that what most of the “experts” in academia call “self-esteem” is simply not self-esteem, but rather “other-esteem”. This can border on the absurd when supposed experts call for an end to competition. Or, an end to grades in school.

Given that our esteem for the self is our immune system for life, it must be tested, so it can grow, respond, and develop the metaphoric antibodies to the hardships of life. While I am far from competitive, I am glad it existed in my upbringing. Grades. Martial Arts training, science contests, spelling bees, etc.

Anyway … to bring a richer texture to the conversation … in the above figure we have 4 basic locations or orientations to esteem for the self. Internal / external and validation / referencing.

Below are some relatively raw notes on the quadrants above, but more importantly, below that is a table that lays out some of the misconceptions about what it means to have true esteem for the self. For those of you who know me to be a proponent of stage conceptions, this is not in conflict with an egoic stage conception, but it would overly complicate the conversation for mass consumption to add another dimension in this writing.

If you are curious about how this quadrant-based model would interact with a stage conception for egoic development, shoot me an email … ok:

With no further ado:

UPPER LEFT ::: If someone is Internally validated [VI] and they are externally referenced [RE] then we have the ideal situation; someone who is internally validated, and therefore “immune” at a core level from the opinions of others—yet also externally referenced, meaning they care about gathering feedback from the outside world and from others—so they can continually become more effective, and—if need be—adjust their behaviors. This quadrant is the healthiest of the quadrants. Those grounded in this quadrant will be happiest, more at ease with themselves, interact more effectively with others, and produce better results in the real world.

 

UPPER RIGHT ::: Internally validated and internally referenced. Not ideal. They truly do not care about the opinions of feelings of others—and do not need them, but simultaneously they do not notice their impact or care about their impact. You could call this person the empowered idiot. Unaware entirely.

 

LOWER LEFT ::: Externally validated and externally referenced. This person is constantly contorting themselves to whomever is around them, based on subtle or gross cues, but they are also dependent on the opinion of others to feel good about themselves. They try to be everything for and to everybody. I jokingly refer to this quadrant as “hell”. They will never feel good about themselves as they are never in touch with themselves—and do not even know who they are—and their feelings will shift like the wind upon the whims or preferences of others.

 

LOWER RIGHT ::: Externally validated but internally referenced. This person is desperate for people’s attention, their validation and praise, yet is inner-focused and not able to adjust to cues. Imagine them seeking approval, and constantly bumping into walls and people all the time. Desperate for approval. Never quite able to do the right thing to get it. Let's call this quadrant "purgatory".

Heh.

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Motivation | Style, Structure, and Tasty Bite-Sized Morsels

One of the main challenges that small business people face—particularly solo practitioners or “solo-preneurs” in general--is the problem and the art of motivating oneself.

You are your own boss. If you have employees, then the game may be a little different for you as you have people depending on you.  However, if it is just you, there are often no external forces telling you that you must do any particular “thing”.  There are certainly exceptions to this—client deliverables, purchases that have been made, the general inertia of your business pulling you along at some point, but really, especially at first, it is an uphill battle for many on their own.

There are so many aspects to this problem of motivation that some never figure it out—or worse, they find solutions that compound the problem in the long-term because the “solutions” are ill-suited approaches. Ill-suited to them as individuals.

To really add fuel to the fire [or baking soda to the lack thereof] we have distractions, overwhelm, time management, prioritization, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

What works for one person in terms of motivation may or may not—and often does not—work for another. So it is with time management, goals, and the like. There is no one-size-fits-all or even a one-size-fits-most solution. Particularly for those who are more sensitive both emotionally and kinesthetically/energetically, many of the “take massive action” or “get present to the consequences if you do not” approaches create more internal dissonance, and if the tasks or milestones the individual is accountable for are not accomplished, this can lead to a build-up of that same internal dissonance, or worse, feelings of guilt or worse still, even shame, and with the principle of compound interest on the “debt” you have with yourself…well, we can see where it may and often does lead: overwhelm rather than accomplishment.

Even if it does not lead there for you, these levels of intense urgent styles of motivational techniques can cause a lack of balance at best, and at worst, hardcore burnout.

What is the solution? Custom design your own motivational strategy using a few basic principles and approaches.

 

Step 1: Discover Your Style

Find out what works for you at a base level. Since at least Aristotle was writing in the  300s B.C. we have known that humans are generally motivated in two basic ways or “directions” ::: away from pain or toward pleasure. Or both.

Stated in the context of goals and deliverables: away from consequences or toward a vision.

You will notice one creates leverage [and often contraction and internal dissonance] in your body—it pushes you. Compels you. Often uncomfortably. The other pulls you forward. It is expansive. It opens you and draws you toward it.

The danger is to judge one or the other. Urgency/away from/consequence driven motivation could be “bad” because it creates tension and dissonance. Vision is “good” because it is expansive. Or the reverse; vision/toward is “bad” because it does not create massive intense action, necessarily. Urgency/away from is “good” because it creates more instant [in some] results.

An additional component is style is how you like to be supported. 

This is also a critical component. While I am not an "accountability coach" per se, and never have been, quite often, clients ask me to support them in getting stuff done. Before I even begin such an aspect of our relationship, and since I can assume almost any style of coaching to serve them at this point, I ask them ::: how do you like to be supported.

No this before asking for external help--or be prepared to explore that inquiry with your friend, guide, coach, or accountability partner.

The truth is, whichever style works for you, as you become more aware, even now, at how you have created results in the past for yourself—when you found yourself simply motivated to accomplish what you wanted to accomplish—is the “good” style for you.

If an “away from” strategy works best for you, then create externally supported consequences to propel you forward. Engage a coach professionally, who coaches in that style. Or have a friend be your accountability partner—and someone willing to enforce uncomfortable consequences for/on you.

If this kind of approach has you feel overwhelmed, or has you feel like running from your entire support system [missing phone calls, not emailing them when you said you would, unaccomplished tasks building up, etc.], then consider the other approach: an approach that has you moving toward a larger vision. Toward a future you are creating. An approach that has you stay constantly present to the deeper meaning in the work you are doing; what your purpose of mission is, so you stay in the game. Plainly put ::: remember why you are committed to doing what you are supposed to do, in the grand scheme of things.  

As an example: you’re not simply “having a client session”. You are doing far more than that—you are helping someone have the life they have always dreamed of. And even greater or larger, you are contributing to the evolution of humanity itself—to a global vision of the Greater Good.

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Your Success Equation | Thoughts Action Will | Part 2 ::: Action

Part 1 can be found HERE.   Part 3 Can be found HERE.

 

Part II ::: Action

 

We covered the first variable in your equation for success ::: thoughts. And the third ::: Will.

 In this post we will cover the 2nd variable in your equation for success ::: Action.

 

Deliberate. Consistent. Action.

 

Many talk about the need to take “massive action”.  While this is useful, I disagree.  AND I disagree not because that approach is ineffective, but rather because it is harmful to the system ::: it is un-ecological.

Taking massive action can burn one out and then they must stop and take a breather. Then they go into massive action again. And they get burned out. And so it goes, the cycle infinite, ad nauseum. There is a fundamental lack of balance. Over time, this will lead to resistance to projects, significant health issues—a lack of lack of healthy being-ness with families, spouses, children, life partners, and lovers, who are lacking engagement from you—feeling a love deficit.

AND at worst, addictions—be they food or drugs or alcohol or relationships—so that people can detach and become disembodied.  So they can stop feeling how bad this approach feels in their body.

 

While those who advocate this approach are coming from a positive place, to be sure, I have only 1 question ::: “do we want to be advocating an approach that leads to the above pathologies?

Of course not.

 

This lack of balance and consistency pervades our culture to no good end—long term.

 

However, there is a more whole-istic [taking your whole system into account with a long term view added as an additional dimension] way of approaching action…

Think of your business—and your action around your business—like an extension of your body. Would you go to the gym for the first time and automatically try to spend 2 hours on the stair master? Of course not. Would you go to the gym for the first time ever and expect to bench press 300 pounds? Of course not. Even if you were actually able, somehow, to physically complete those “goals” you would be so wiped out the following day—and so sore—that you may or may not return.

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