Conflict – Nourishing Fruit or Poison Apple

Are We Lost in the Garden of Eden or Trapped in an Endless Fairytale 

Conflict–what a terrible and yet beautiful word. Conflict is something all human beings must learn how to do from the moment they realize they are a different entity from their parents, primarily of course the mother. In psychology, this moment is known as the Primal Split. In Judeo-Christian doctrines, it is known as Original Sin as epitomized in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis telling how God created the world and all life in it and then created Adam and Eve to live in it and enjoy it.

Image from Wiki: Lilith Lilith (1887) by John Collier in Atkinson Art Gallery, Merseyside, England

But like any children, Adam and Eve inevitably disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; the one capable of inspiring inside of them the knowledge of good and evil. The conventional story tells that it is Eve who picked the tempting fruit after being deceived by a sneaky snake. But did you know Eve was Adam’s second wife?

Eve was Adam’s second wife. Adam had a secret first wife whom God created at the same time and in the same way as Adam. She was his equal and opposite in every way. Her name was Lilith. History mostly remembers her only as a demonic figure. One must look to medieval Jewish tradition to find where Lilith is remembered as Adam’s first wife, before Eve. However, when Adam insisted, she play a subservient role, Lilith grew wings and flew away. 

I suspect what really happened in the Garden of Eden was entirely all too human. Upon getting his new beautiful, obedient but docile wife–certainly not his equal–Adam carried on an affair with Lilith. Eve never caught on, but God did. The only snake in this story is Adam’s manhood, and God was mad for his transgression for he created Eve for Adam on one condition to be faithful to her and Adam disobeyed. So, he had no choice but to throw Adam and Eve out of Eden. Lilith having transformed into a different sort of being, simply flew away


The First Mortal Conflict

Conflict Styles: What Sciences Says — And how Liberating Structures can help create an environment where the most effective styles are possible. *** Medium blog by Christiaan Verwijs *** Most conflicts happen under the waterline. Illustration by Thea Schukken. *** You can also listen to this blogpost in this episode of our podcast.

So here we are: humans of the world left to find our way forward after the dramatic fall from Eden due to the first conflict of the world! A parent-child conflict, of course, just as the Primal Split is a primal parent-child conflict awakening the psyche to consciousness, but that is another story.

For this piece, I am sticking with the supernatural conflict between God the Father and his children, us. So super charged was this first mighty conflict, discord and strife remain the default mode of knowing in the world.

When conflict is done in an open, fluid, inquiring way, it can illuminate the world between us and inside of us, at least for a moment like a flicker from a spark caused by conflict. These sparks help us see more of what we don’t know about the world, about each other, or about ourselves. When we see the unknown, we can begin to know it. When we know it, we can integrate it into our Field of Consciousness (the part of ourselves illuminated by consciousness–i.e., what we know). This is how we grow our consciousness by seeing and learning more about the world around us and inside of us–most often through conflict.

But conflict can also cause us to get stuck within static, standing patterns of disagreement, disaccord, disharmony, and dissension. These patterns grow instead of consciousness. Over time, these patterns become rigid, unyielding, taut, stressed, tight, solid, and harden objects tend to collapse under pressure, trapping the individual’s desperately trying to sustain and defend them from attack. This becomes a crushing process, a dying process because locked into a standing pattern of permanent defensive conflict, the psyche does not grow and what does not grow in this realm, dies.

I will illuminate two talks I heard recently that were inspiring. I believe they offer opportunities of learning better ways to engage in conflict. This is important to learn because conflict is not going away anytime soon in the human world. So we might as well get better at doing it. I have imagined two common standing conflict patterns that all of us get caught in at one time or another. The first, I call getting Lost in the Garden of Eden. The second, I call getting Trapped in a Fairytale.

Lost in the Garden of Eden

Image from Wikipedia: Depiction of the sin of Adam and Eve by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Paul Rubens

When we come together in relationships, we recreate a little bit of the Garden of Eden inside ourselves and inside of others. This little bit of Eden is a safe place to grow and learn about the world and ourselves. Of course learning means conflict because we are human now, but in relationship, we are in a place where we can be safely seen and heard for who we are–the good and the bad. This is love. Love is capable of holding the opposites of who we are in dynamic balance as we learn and grow through conflict and mistakes.

There is nothing bad about making mistakes or having conflict, except we can get stuck in bad patterns of conflict that hold us down in inferior patterns of behavior, second class beliefs, mediocre ideas, average/commonplace/uninspired ways of being in the world. This is how we get lost in Eden. We let our inferior self lead.

This leads me to the first talk I want to highlight. It is given by Esther Perel about how we can develop resilience in our relationships. I heard it on the Ted Radio Hour.


Esther Perel: How Can We Develop Resilience in Our Relationships?

Image from Ted Radio Hour: Listen Again — Esther Perel: Building Resilient Relationships *** kts7/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Esther Perel begins her talk saying, “People want to feel alive in their relationships. And they want it in their friendships, they want it at work, they want it in their romantic relationships. It’s essential.” Esther says this feeling of aliveness is what inspires us as human beings to build trust with each other, to collaborate or compete with each other, to build intimacy and maintain it through time.

One of the most powerful things about relationships is that they can help us weather uncertainty and survive against the odds. Esther says any “prolonged uncertainty …is accompanied with a sense of grief and loss, not because we lose people only but because we have lost the world that we knew.” She explains that she focused her work on working with couples because the couple inside the family really transformed. When marriage was a no-exit enterprise, then it didn’t really matter if the couple did that well or not. I mean, it mattered a great deal, but it didn’t matter for the survival of the family. People stayed together miserable if they had to. Once people could leave, the expectations and the demands from their intimate relationships completely changed. And I found that transition really fascinating.

Here are fascinating moments from Esther’s talk:

There’s Energy In the Room

I realized that there was an energy in the room with a couple. You could actually see the change happening in front of you if you helped people to connect or to open up or to be vulnerable with each other or to speak truth to each other or to apologize to each other.

We Think We Can Be Happier: But Really, We’re Just Walking Deeper & Getting More Lost in the Garden of Eden Inside Our Soul

Today, we don’t leave because we are unhappy necessarily, but we also leave because we think we could be happier. And that is how consumerism has entered modern marriage.

The Crisis of Desire is A Crisis of Imagination: We Need Each Other to Get Unlost in Eden

I stumbled upon sexuality. It was absolutely not planned. And I stumbled about it, actually, around the Clinton scandal because what interested me was how sexuality in every society, in every culture becomes the place where the most archaic, traditional, rooted aspects of that culture are lodged or, on the other end, where the most progressive, radical, transformative changes take place.”

So, we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging. Give me identity. Give me continuity. But give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort. Give me edge. Give me novelty. Give me familiarity. Give me predictability. Give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that.

…the crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination.

When I say that we cannot have one person give us what once an entire village used to provide, what I’m saying is that there is a kind of individualization in romantic love that I think is problematic. Look. At this moment, I’m not just even meeting a partner. We are meeting a soul mate. A soul mate used to be God; you know. But at this moment, people are talking about ecstasy, transcendence, meaning, wholeness, you know, things that we used to look for in the realm of the divine that have now been transcended into romantic love. It was meant to be. It’s almost a divine intervention. It fell from the heavens in front of me.”

What I will say is that people need community, and they need other friends. They need other people to talk to. They need other people to share activities that their partner isn’t interested in. To ask one person to do all of that – to give me belonging, to give me meaning, to give me community, to give me transcendence, to give me – and then all the other stuff of everyday life – succession, children, family life, money, etc. – that is…

Massive Transformation 

Relationships are undergoing massive transformation on all levels. But especially couples have gone through an extreme makeover. There is no other relationship that has gone through so much change.

The following comment comes at the end of a segment where Esther and Manoush listen to part of a piece that aired on “Where Should We Begin?” dealing with infidelity… the most difficult type of conflict a couple can attempt to grapple with, especially because of the shame and failure our culture tends to attach to it. What Ester zeros in on is something I think all conflicts hold in common and that is coming to a better understanding of each person’s humanity and their individual journey that has brought them into the current conflict.

And interestingly, when you reach the end of the session and you hear his – you know, his challenges around his feelings about masculinity, about the fact that he could not have a genetic connection to his children, about the way that, you know, he became the way he is not out of nothing. He becomes humanized. You may not like him, but you begin to understand him.”

For anyone playing at being an armchair therapist or just genuinely trying to be a friend and advise someone in a difficult conflict, what Ester says next is very important to remember.

And that is the role of the therapist. The wife has to decide what she wants to do. And nobody lives with the consequences of her decisions but her. So, it’s very easy to tell people do this, do that. We are not in their seat. We help people gain clarity. We help people there to do the things that they are afraid to do if that’s what they say they want to do. But we also understand that this is a couple that has two decades together almost, that they have a rich life, that they actually often get along quite well and that…

The Wonderful World Work & How the Bottom Line Accelerated Our Disorientation that Dumped Us on the Sea of Unconsciousness (Now We’re Really Lost in Eden)

Another fraught and difficult realm to navigate conflict is the workplace. Ester says, “When people go to work, you interview them about their official resume – what schools did they go to, what experience of work have they had? And nobody’s asking you about your unofficial resume, and your unofficial resume is your relationship history, and that relationship history does not stop at the door when you go into the office; it travels with you, and it is going to influence how you work with your colleagues or with your father or with your co-founder, etc.” 

In a character from the Netflix miniseries OA, the young woman playing OA talks about the invisible self. It is the part of ourselves that we hide from others…sometimes hide even ourselves. But this invisible self is a reservoir holding all our potential selves. It holds our values, virtues, principles, ideals, and ethos–what the I Ching calls an individual’s superior qualities/Superior Self. It also holds our deceitful, empty, fruitless, idle, inconstant, ineffectual, nugatory, null, profitless, shadowy qualities/Inferior Self/Selves. It is hard to underscore just how important it is to illuminate more and become acquainted with all of who we are. It is the only way to truthfully, justly, compassionately navigate our fate, which is all those parts of ourselves still hidden in the darkness of the invisible self. We create Eden in relationship to each other. We get lost in Eden when we break our relationship to each other by letting the Inferior Self take control of our thoughts, decisions, and actions in the world we share together–this is how we create Hell.

The OA | We’re Angels | 1,061,667 views•Oct 25, 2017

Esther discusses how for years; it was very hard to get invited to companies to talk about relationships because it was considered a soft skill. It wasn’t part of the bottom line. And soft skills were often considered feminine skills, and feminine skills were often idealized in principle and disregarded in reality. She goes on to say this changed as transformations in workplaces changed and then suddenly, relationships become the new bottom line because no amount of free food or money…Compensation, benefits is going to compensate for a poisonous relationship. And then I began to think, you know, I would love to go and show how these relational dynamics that I have been exploring, they don’t just take place with your partner, your romantic partner; they actually are part of your relational life.”

A Bad Business Breakup

I ask everybody, how many of you and your businesses have bad breakups? And to what extent do those breakups and in what way do these breakups influence the way you start to work with the next person and even who you hire? Often, we tend to hire the person whose strengths match the weaknesses of the one before you. I think work is a very rich ecology to explore the overt and the covert, the seen and the unseen relationship dynamics that people bring. We expected more in our personal relationships, but it happens no less at work.”

On a Time of Working from Home Using Too Much Zoom

So, I would say I don’t think we are working from home, Manoush. I think we are working with home. I am with my family, my children for some of us, my partner for some of us, my parents, my siblings, my roommates. I am inhabiting all the roles at the same time. I am the parent, the teacher, the lover, the friend, the child of the colleague, the boss, the CEO, you name it. And it’s all happening often on the same chair in the kitchen.”

So, we have all these disembodied experiences. And people talk about exhaustion for a reason – because even the phone is much better, you know, where we actually are in synchronized time and not in a delay constantly. And we’re not trying to look at people with whom we actually never make eye contact. So, I think it’s a very different reality.”

On Losing A Job

And when I lose my job, I lose a fundamental part of my identity. I thought I mattered because a younger generation has been raised with a deep sense that they are important and that they matter. And I can – I am totally dispensable and nobody actually really feels responsible for making sure that I will have something to eat. I think what a pandemic does for work and for personal is it rearranges your priorities. It makes – you know, a pandemic is an accelerator. Every disaster is an accelerator of relationships. It’s an accelerator because it brings mortality to the forefront or loss – loss of job as well. And at that moment, you basically say, what am I waiting for? I’m going to go do what’s really important.

Relationships rest at the center of who we are, who we want to be, how we become what we want to be, unless we get trapped in a standing pattern of conflict that can get us lost inside ourselves and in relationship with each other. Ask yourself what relationships are you in and what is their quality, vitality, fluidity, and spirit? Are they growing? Are you growing? If not, why not?

Trapped in a Fairytale

ABC’s Regina the Evil Queen of Once Upon a Time

Conflicts can rear up into ugly, unexpected things that tear relationships apart or trap them in stagnant, unchanging patterns that don’t allow for true growth. The trap may be beautiful where every wish is granted—a fairytale. Or the trap can be frightening and disorientating—another sort of fairytale. Both are dangerous because both end up separating you more and more from the hard work any real relationship requires to stay strong, supple, and grow through time.

If the separation grows too wide, too deep, a rupture of reality occurs. We do this all the time when we fail to heal the cracks caused by conflict, but rather focus on the cracks in another person’s story, ideas, beliefs. When we dissect and vivisect each other through constant unresolved conflict. When we fail to take responsibility for our part of the conflict. When we fail to hold the other in compassion and love and trust both people want to know the truth of who they are, who they are in relationship to each other, who they are in relationship to the world and universe. This is how we break reality into a million, billion, trillion pieces that just keep shattering more and more. This is how we create alternative realities, fairytales, where we may have control, but we don’t have knowledge… we don’t know anymore who we are, what we have become, or that we are trapped in a fairytale where we are the author, the characters, the victims, and the victor.  

Once Upon A Time 1×21 “An Apple Red As Blood” – Regina Forces Snow White Ate The Poisoned Apple | 722 views•Nov 2, 2018

Whole groups of people can become locked inside fairytales, the boundaries of which are defined by one-sided arguments and lopsided beliefs. This is how human conflict becomes polarized. This is how radicalization forms and grows into a monstrous thing like a horrible fairytale.

Our modern lives are very complicated. Because of this, there are lots of conflicts… many, many of which go unresolved and fester. This is what I am calling getting trapped in a fairytale. The trap is inside our own mind and it causes us to lose sight of who we really are turning us into characters like the big bad wolf or Mary with her little lamb and making us ignorant of if we are eat the nourishing apple of the Tree of Knowledge or the poisonous apple brewed by the Evil Queen. The I Ching would say when this happens, one’s inferior selves have gained control are are trying to get rid of one’s superior self… the war is inside.

I really found Adam Grant’s talk with Shankar Vedantam on The Hidden Brain illuminating. I particularly found how Adam talked about two common types of human conflict:

Relational conflicts are inherently much more difficult to see clearly and navigate smoothly.  I think every adult human being on Earth can cite a relational conflict that never was resolved and remains an open wound between both individuals involved. This is a tragedy always when a conflict cannot be resolved for it leaves an open wounded inside each individual’s mind that becomes inscribed within the growing consciousness—potentially causing it to grow lopsidedly, which will recreate the unresolved conflict over and over again with new individuals in desperate attempts to heal and continue conscious growth. 

Task conflicts are very different actually essential for groups of people who have come together to solve a problem or to implement a collective effort. Task conflicts are how collectives grow the collective consciousness. However, if we are individuals who have not mastered relational conflicts, task conflicts are easily co-opted by an individual’s psyche and turned into a relational conflict, which serves to inhibit and sink the efforts of a group to grow and solve challenging problems.

Hidden Brain with Adam Grant – The Nice Guy – author of The Fool’s Journey

Image from Pinterest — Fool Images

Shankar Vedantam introduces Adam Grant by saying, “Grant is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School. He’s the author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. He’s interested in the question of obstinacy. Why do so many of us find it difficult to question our own beliefs and challenge our own views?”

Adam begins his talk by recounting a conflict where he refused to admit he was wrong

I think I was 12. My friend Khan was on the phone with me. It was a commercial during Seinfeld and we got into an argument. I don’t remember what it was about. And I just refused to give in, even though he had really good proof and eventually he hung up on me and I called him back and I said, did the power go out?”

On Competing Powers of Self

And as long as I can remember, I’ve been agreeable. And it’s weird because on the one hand, I hated admitting I was wrong, and I was extremely stubborn. (…) But on the other hand, I really liked Harmony and I wanted to get along with other people.

The Downside of Always Being Agreeable and Wanting Harmony

Yeah, I think like everything else in life, it has tradeoffs. So, on the one hand, agreeable people create a lot of harmony. They tend to get along with other people. They’re constantly encouraging. But if you look at the data on leadership effectiveness, one of the things you see is highly agreeable people tend to be worse at leading organizations and teams than people who are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. (…) They say yes to everything and they don’t challenge people enough.

Agreement Bias

“…agreeable people are really prone to what’s called agreement bias.” Adam tells how this can be bad: “Cleverly. Where you come to the table, somebody offers you a terrible deal, but you hate the idea of saying no. And so, you say yes to something that’s not in your best interests.”

The Problem of Always Going with Your Gut

I remember my mom telling me if you’re unsure of an answer on a test, go with your gut. Go with your first instinct. And yet, if you look at the research, if you do go with your gut versus your second guess your first instinct, which is better, and on average, the vast majority of students who reject their gut, they actually improve their scores on average.” 


“And so, there’s a fallacy that your first thoughts are your best thoughts. A lot of times, intuition is just a subconscious pattern recognition. And the patterns that you’re recognizing from the past may not be relevant to the problem you’re solving right now in the present.”

I want to jump in here because we have lost so much knowledge of our inner realities our language and shared understanding about it has become muddled too. The confusion between instincts and intuition is one of these things. Instincts are short cuts to reality that help the individual survive dangerous and challenging circumstances. They are indeed triggered by pattern recognition that are recognized as dangerous, life threatening, or life promoting circumstances. Intuition is the ability gained by becoming a conscious being. It allows a conscious person to glimpse into the darkness of their unconsciousness and know something that would otherwise not be apparent or knowable. Repeated glimpses into the unconsciousness might recognizes patterns, but it takes conscious effort to unpack it and truly understand it. So, I would reword Adam’s second paragraph as instinct trying to navigate a world in which it never was evolved to live within… no wonder it gets multiple choice questions wrong!

Test Your Gut

And so, you don’t want to trust your gut. You want to test your gut. And even when you tell people about this evidence, they are still reluctant to rethink their first answer…” like what happened with Blackberry “I think we can both remember a time when basically everyone you knew had a BlackBerry and they just dominated the market. And then BlackBerry fell apart because – Mike and his colleagues were unwilling to rethink the very things that had made BlackBerry great.” “And they just got locked into this set of assumptions that what people wanted out of a BlackBerry was a device for basically work e-mail, as opposed to essentially a computer in your pocket for home entertainment.”

Big Stakes Can Led to Big Mistake: The Importance of Rethinking What We Know

“Our reluctance to think again can have even bigger stakes in the 1980s, NASA downplayed a brewing problem in the spacecraft Challenger. Since the spacecraft had completed many missions, officials assumed it was safe. But in January 1986, the spacecraft exploded moments after liftoff, killing seven astronauts on board. […] Or take the U.S. war in Iraq, where President George W. Bush and his colleagues failed to rethink their views after their initial rosy expectations of the war.

The Soup Nazi & the Drivers of Obstinacy

Shankar  says, “Adam, I want to talk about some of the drivers of obstinacy in our lives. I know that you’re a fan of the TV show Seinfeld. And there’s a famous scene which features a restaurant owner who is called the Soup Nazi.

Adam laughs as he explains what drives the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “He makes great soup, but he cannot tolerate the slightest criticism or deviation from the script. I want to play you a short clip where the character Elaine visits the Soup Nazi.”

The Soup Nazi | 1,914,009 views•Jul 22, 2017 | “NO soup for you!”

Task vs Relationship Conflicts

Shankar  recaps, “So the Soup Nazi illustrates something that you talk about at home, the difference between relationship, conflict and Task conflict.”

Adam replies, “Most of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, I think you’re a terrible person. And my life would be better if I never had to interact with you.” 

[…]

There’s another kind of conflict, though, that an organizational psychologist named Eddie Jan and her colleagues have studied. Task conflict, and it’s the idea of debating about different opinions and perspectives. It’s potentially constructive because it’s actually about trying to get to the truth. It’s not personal. It’s not emotional. We’re not trying to beat up the other person. We’re not feeling like we’re being attacked.

How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts

“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”

How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts

“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”

The moment that you object to his line, that you don’t follow his rules, he takes it very personally and bans you from his soup oasis.”

Less Conflict is Better: A Critical Mistake

I think the mistake that a lot of people make is they assume that less conflict is better. That if you want to build a successful collaboration or a great team, then you want to minimize the amount of tension you have. But as some researchers have argued, based on a lot of evidence, the absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.

How We Create Collectives of Apathy: Fairytales That Don’t End Happily Ever After

If you’re in a group where people never disagree. The only way that could really happen is if people don’t care enough to speak their minds.[…] in order to get to wise decisions, creative solutions, we need to hear a variety of perspectives. We need diversity of thought. And task conflict is one of the ways that we get there by saying, you know what, I think we actually don’t agree on what the vision for our company should be or what our strategy should be or how to design this product.”

Adam’s Study on Groups 

I tracked team performance over a number of months, and I surveyed people in teams on how often they were having relationship conflict as well as task conflicts. In one group, even if they agreed on nothing else, they agreed on what kind of conflict they were having and how much of it.”

It turned out in the failed groups, they tended to have a lot more relationship conflicts than task conflicts, especially early on, they were so busy disliking each other that they didn’t really have substantive debates until about halfway through the life cycle of their project.”

And by then it was almost too late to change course, whereas in the high performing groups, they started out with very little relationship conflict and plenty of task conflict, saying, look, before we design a product, we really want to get all the ideas on the table about how we might do it or what it might be for. […] …once they sorted those out, they were able to really focus and align around what their common mission was.

Where and How Things Go Wrong in Groups: Enter the Poison Apple or the Dragon

Adam says most often in a group, “Someone raises an issue with something that the group is doing, and people behave like the soup Nazi. They react and take things personally.” When this shift happens in a group, then “Everything that gets raised by the other person is interpreted in the most negative light possible. And then I think the other problem is people sometimes just they don’t even hear the substance of the idea because they’re so invested in defending their ego or in proving the other person wrong.”

But Wait… There’s More: Sometimes Conflict Arising Due to Confusion Over Beliefs & Values

Shankar  says, “There’s a related idea to this distinction between task conflict and relationship conflict that you explore in your book. Adam, you say that one reason it’s hard to admit we are wrong is that we sometimes confuse our beliefs with our values.

Belief or Value & the Dragon Scale

Adam says, “When I think about a belief, I would say that’s something that you take as true. A value is something you think is important. And yeah, I think a lot of us make a mistake of taking our beliefs and opinions and making them our identity. And since I spent a lot of time studying the workplace, I really enjoy thinking about how dangerous the world would be if people in the professions that we rely on every day did that.

Conflicts That Clarify Rather Than Confuse

There are examples of leaders who basically model what it’s like to have task conflict without relationship conflict. I was thinking of something that President Obama said some years ago when he invited someone, he disagreed with to play a prominent role in his administration.

We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.

To disagree without being disagreeable.”

On Correcting Others

Shankar recaps, “I think many of us forget this lesson at and we think that if someone else is wrong, our job is just to correct them. How we correct them is unimportant.”

Adam replies, “Yeah I think that’s such a common mistake in communication. We think it’s the message that matters. But so often whether somebody is willing to hear a message depends on who’s saying it, why it’s being said and how it’s being delivered.”

On Trust, Dignity & Respect

“I cannot tell you, Shankar, the number of times that I have rejected useful criticism because I didn’t trust the person who was giving it to me. Or they delivered it in a way that I found disrespectful or offensive.”

On Threats to the Ego: The Big Bad Wolf or Poison Apple Problem 

Not all of us listen to useful feedback even when it’s presented clearly and without rancor. That’s because we confuse challenges to our views with threats to our ego.”

Or Maybe It’s Just a Case of the Totalitarian Ego

“There’s a term that I love for this which comes out of psychology originally Tony Greenwald’s term. It’s the totalitarian ego. The idea is that all of us have an inner dictator policing our thoughts. The dictator’s job is to keep out threatening information, much like Kim Jong Un would control the press in North Korea.”

Inner Dictator to the Rescue!

“When your core beliefs are attacked, the inner dictator comes in and rescues you with mental armor and, you know, activates confirmation bias where you only see what you expected to see all along, triggers desirability bias, where you only see what you wanted to see all along.”

Corner Stones of the Totalitarian Ego Are Obstinacy and Stubbornness

“You can see the totalitarian ego at work in a study conducted some years ago by researchers in Australia. They asked volunteers to think of a time when they did something wrong and apologized for it, and to also think about a time when they did something wrong and did not apologize for it. Researcher Tyler Okimoto explains what they found.”

Adam: When you refuse to apologize it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth. [00:24:41]

Shanker: And in some ways, the sounds like the inner dictator when we when we apologize, in some ways we are disarming ourselves. And when we refuse to apologize, in some ways we are mounting a form of emotional self-defense. [00:24:50]

Adam: Yeah sadly, staying attached to wrong convictions makes us feel strong. And psychologists have also found for decades that the act of resisting influence only further fortifies our convictions. Because we can we basically get inoculated against future attacks. We have all of our defenses ready and we end up sealing our beliefs in an ever more impenetrable fortress. [00:25:04]

Edges of Convictions, Beliefs, and Conflict: Maybe This Really Isn’t Your Fight… Your Just A Scale in the Armor of Your Group Who’s in Conflict with Another Group

“So, I have a brilliant colleague, Phil Tetlock, who wrote a paper about how almost every decision you’ve ever made, almost every opinion you’ve ever formed, is influenced by your relationship to the people around you and by the groups that your part of and the identities that you hold about who you are in the social world.”

Preacher, Prosecutor or Politician – Do You Know What Your Conflict Mode Is?

“What Phil observed is we often spend time thinking like preachers, prosecutors and politicians.”

The Preacher

“Preaching is basically defending a set of sacred beliefs and saying, look, I found the truth. My job is to proselytize.”

The Prosecutor

“Prosecuting is the reverse. This stance in a conflict is to prove you wrong and win my case with the best argument.”

Getting Stuck

“Any time an individual or group has strong beliefs. It’s pretty unlikely they are going to rethink any opinions or decisions if they slip into preacher or prosecutor mode, because we already know.”

The Politian

“We’re a little more flexible when we shift into politician mode. […] when you’re thinking like a politician, what you’re trying to do is get the approval of an audience that you care about.

“And so, you might be campaigning and lobbying. And sometimes that means adjusting and flexing at least what you say you believe in order to fit in and win them over. The problem is that we’re doing it because we want to prove our allegiance to a tribe, not because we’re trying to get closer to the truth.”

Strategies that Help People Reconsider Cherished Opinions

Shanker asks Adam to tell the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who invented the first successful airplane. Adam describes:

“Of all the moments in history that I would love to witness, I think watching the Wright brothers argue would be pretty high on my list. So, if you look at the history of what the Wright brothers created together, it seemed like they were constantly in sync. They created their own printing press together. They ran their own bicycle shop. They made their own bikes together. They launched a newspaper together. And of course, we all know they invented the first at least successful airplane together. And I always assumed that they were just lucky to have such harmony.”

“And if you read any of the biographies that have been written about them, if you read their own letters and personal communications, if you read the stories and the anecdotes from people who knew them well, it was very clear that arguing was their default mode and it was almost the family business. What I think is fascinating about the Wright brothers is they mastered the ability to have productive task conflicts without it spilling into relationship conflict.”

It was typical for them when they were trying to invent their airplane to argue for weeks about questions like how do you design a propeller? 

They would sometimes even shoot for hours back and forth.

At one point, their sister threatened to leave the house because she just couldn’t take it anymore.”

The Power of Scrapping

But they seem to get a kick out of it. They called it scrapping and they said, look, the whole point of an argument is it helps both people see more clearly if you do it well.

They never saw an argument as personal that their mechanic used a phrase that I think about almost every day. He said, I don’t think they really got mad, but they sure got awfully hot. […] “That to me, captures the passionthe energythe feistiness that goes into, you know, duking out a set of ideas that’s really important to you, but not leaving that interaction angry.”

Even Brilliant Visionaries Need a Team to Scrap With

“You tell the story of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, obviously a brilliant visionary, but he was also famously stubborn.

The Problem with Highly Agreeable People

When you think about your network, we all have a support network that’s usually the highly agreeable people who we know are going to have our back and, you know, really lift us up or pick us up when we’re down. I think what we overlook is that we also need a challenge network, which is a group of people that we trust to question us to point out the holes in our thinking, the flaws in our logic, the ways that our decisions might be leading us astray from our goals.

Creating a Great Challenge Network

“It’s not clear to me that Steve Jobs did this intentionally, but he was very lucky to be surrounded with a group of people who played that role of a challenge at work for him. […] He was dead set against making a phone. He complained for years about how smartphones were for the pocket protector crowd. And Apple makes cool products. We don’t want to touch that. He could rant for hours at a time about how, you know, everybody was beholden to the cell phone carriers and they didn’t know how to make an elegant product. And sometimes he would even throw his own phone against the wall and shatter it because he was so frustrated with how bad the technology was.”

Cultivating a Fertile Idea Field & Planting Idea Seeds that Grow

“Luckily, Jobs surrounded himself with brilliant engineers and designers who knew how to get him to think again. You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. A lot of the things they did as part of his Challenge Network are things that we’ve seen people do every day. They would plant seeds.

They would say, ‘Hey, I hear Microsoft is talking about making a phone. How ugly do you think that’s going to be? And if we ever made one of those, what would that look like?’

They would ask questions like, you know, hey, we did the iPod. We’ve already put 20000 songs in your pocket.

What if we put everything in your pocket? And what they were doing was they were activating his curiosity.

Taming the Inner Prosecutor: The Sneaky Little Gremlin in Any Good Fairytale

“If you told him he was wrong, he would immediately go into prosecutor mode and tear your argument apart.”

Taming the Inner Preacher: Every Terrible Fairytale Needs a Sinister Minister

“If you told him about your idea, he would preach about his idea” 

Inspiring the Curious Seeker

“But if you could ask a question that intrigued and led him to realize that he didn’t know some things, he might then go out and try to discover them or give you the green light to go and discover them. And those kinds of conversations finally got him to reverse course and make a phone.”

Madhvi Parekh: A Curious Seeker

Beware the Logic Bullies: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall — Enter Evil Spock

Adam tells how he got the nickname logic bully: “I had a former student named Jamie [who came to me] for some career advice. It was clear in the first minute or so of our conversation that she was already locked into the plan she had made. I was worried she might be making a decision that she would regret. So, I told her all the reasons why I think [she was] making a potentially big mistake. She listened patiently for two or three minutes, then said, ‘You’re a logical.’ She [told me] that I overwhelmed her with rational arguments and data, and she didn’t agree [with], but she didn’t feel like she could fight back.”

The Real Magic Happens Inside

“The curiosity we show in trying to understand more about [our] own views and motivation to change [this type of] thinking. That’s where real thought happens.

Habits of Highly Effective Thinkers

“There’s a classic study by Neil R. and colleagues [that examines] experts versus average negotiators where they compare what their habits are.

One is [average negotiators] spend a lot more time both in their planning and in their actual negotiations, thinking about common ground and talking about common ground, saying we want to build areas of consensus before we find out where we’re opposed.

They asked a lot more questions (e.g., OK here are two or three possible proposals. What are your reactions to this? What do you like? What do you dislike and what are your thoughts? And that allow them to both learn more and again, signal more flexibility as well.)

Getting to the Great Ideas – Is It A War or A Dance?

Shanker summarizes: “We often think of trying to change someone’s opinion with the metaphor of, you know, a tug of war, that the harder I pull, the more I can get you off balance, the more likely I am to win. And the model that you’re suggesting here is a very different model, you know, model where you’re asking a lot of questions, where you’re seeking common ground, where you’re willing to make concessions, where you’re open to figuring out how you yourself might be wrong.

Adam adds: “There are some psychologists who have said we should think about disagreements, less wars and more as a dance. And I can’t dance at all. […] But what I like about the dance metaphor is, you know, that in a dance your job is to get in sync with your partner.”

You Can’t Lead All the Time to Save the Planet!

That means if you’ve both shown up to the dance with an idea about what steps you’re going to take; you can’t lead all the time and expect your partner to do all of the adjusting.

You actually have to be willing to step back and let your partner lead from time to time. And that’s what expert negotiators seem to do, its what great debaters seem to do, and I think it’s what all of us could do more when we have polarized conversations.”


 

I’ve taken you 40 minutes into this very beautiful and important talk, but there is more. You can read or listen for yourself if you have found any of this helpful. Adam and Shanker discuss how to frame multiple versions of an idea, setting up effective challenge networks, creating psychological safety to get to more and better creative ideas (idea places where people aren’t punished or penalized for offering opposite ideas), and creating group cultures based on trust and respect (critical part of psychological safety). Psychological safety does not mean sloppy:

[00:44:38] — Amy Edmondson is quick to point out that psychological safety is not about being nice or having low standards. We actually need psychological safety with accountability. We can have high expectations for people, but also give them the freedom and permission to rethink some of even what we might have called best practices.

They discuss creating environment where people are rewarded for being nuanced rather than punished. They talk about how to avoid becoming a group that is solution averse like what is happening with Climate Change.

[00:45:55] — “So, let’s say with climate change, for example, if you say, well, we need a whole bunch of companies to reduce their emissions and you’re talking to somebody who’s a staunch free market conservative, they’re not necessarily going to like that idea. And so, their motivation then is to deny the existence of the climate problem in the first place. And I think we should be really cautious about jumping to solutions. We would be better off saying, hey, I’m aware that there are some problems when it comes to climate change.”

[00:46:30] — “We shouldn’t spend all this time talking about why my solution is right or why your view that climate change isn’t an issue is wrong. Instead, I should say, well, given your views about what we should do on climate policy, how would your proposed solutions work and how would you implement them? And when you ask those questions, something really intriguing happens.

They talk about the invisible balance between idea flexibility and inflexibility (e.g., [00:48:15]

Winston Churchill facing down, you know, Adolf Hitler, even think of, you know, people like Mahatma Gandhi, you know, very singular, focused in terms of what they were doing, very unwilling to reconsider sort of the rightness of their views.)

They talk about explanatory depth, which is the idea that we think we understand complex systems much better than we actually do. They talk about the importance and benefits of being a little bit more intellectually humble, curious, nuanced, more doubting, and less dogmatic. These are the behaviors and habits that help people moderate their own views, become more patient with others, and become less extreme. In a time of extreme polarization on almost every conflict of existential crisis to human existence, isn’t learning how to become less extreme inside yourself a beautiful idea?!!!

Are you ready to rethink your cherished ideals and ideas today?

Click here to see full transcript of Hidden Brain with Adam Grant provided by the Happy Scribe

Click here to hear the full talk with Adam Grant on Hidden Brain, go to The Easiest Person to Fool

Other Resources Related to Conflict

Throughline: Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm

Image from Throughline — Billie Holliday

This tells about two women you stood in conflict against oppressive, lopsided, racists beliefs, behaviors, and practices. Because of their sacrifice and courage, our shared reality has been changed.

Description: When Billie Holiday was harassed by U.S. government agents and told to stop singing ‘Strange Fruit,’ she refused. When Shirley Chisholm ran for president and was ridiculed and told she shouldn’t aim that high politically, she refused. On this episode of Throughline, two pioneering Black women, Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm, who set their own sights and never backed down from a fight.


Searching for meaning in the North Dakota oil boom

Image from MarketPlace | An oil drilling rig in North Dakota in 2013. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

This piece talks about personal transformation through work and struggle.


Women Take The Lead In Fighting ISIS In ‘Daughters Of Kobani’

Image from  All Things Considered

Sometimes conflict is essential to change the world and bend it back into balance.

So much of the news from Syria consists of sad stories of chaos, of brutality, of war. But a new book — while a story about Syria and about war — brings us a refreshing story of hope, of female courage, and of heroes.


Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life

Image from Scientific American | Credit: Getty Images

Excerpt: “Before I get to the serious stuff, a quick story about John Conway, a.k.a. the “mathematical magician.” I met him in 1993 in Princeton while working on “The Death of Proof.” When I poked my head into his office, Conway was sitting with his back to me staring at a computer. Hair tumbled down his back, his sagging pants exposed his ass-cleft. His office overflowed with books, journals, food wrappers and paper polyhedrons, many dangling from the ceiling. When I tentatively announced myself, he yelled without turning, What’s your birthday! Uh, June 23, I said. Year! Conway shouted. Year! 1953, I replied. After a split second he blurted out, Tuesday! He tapped his keyboard, stared at the screen and exulted, Yes! Finally facing me, Conway explained that he belongs to a group of people who calculate the day of the week of any date, past or present, as quickly as possible. He, Conway informed me with a manic grin, is one of the world’s fastest day-of-the-week calculators.”


There is so much we don’t know. An open, fluid, flexible mind able to navigate complexity and conflict with curiosity, passion, and compassion is beautiful. They world needs more beauty now. Are you ready?

Just Breathe

“Breath Is Too Precious for Hate” — Rev. William Barber

In a time of Great Grief, one must find a thread of Great Belief to hang onto. Not just any thread, but one grown and spun from the center of your heart… the core of who you are as a living being traveling through space and time with other living beings all struggling to survive the setbacks and challenges inherent in being a space-time being. It must be a thread spun with compassion, understanding, truth (at least a willingness to sink into and see truth as it is revealed through time), kindness, patience, and love. This is an elusive thread to find because so many of our systems of being are based and reward the opposites of all these precious qualities of being human. But to survive Great Grief, this is the only way that will lead you and everyone you love to a better place in space and time.

But how do you do this? How does one find this rare and precious thread inside oneself to hang onto as the waves of lost, injustice, disease, death, isolation, exploitation, cruelty, ill treatment, and so many other things that happen to us as we try to survive through time…things that wash away at our very soul?

Just breathe… breath is powerful.

In a Scientific American article that I link to below (Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020), the Stanford neurobiologist Andrew Huberman discusses two things all of us can do to control our response to distress, trauma, pain, and suffering, even during a high-stress time such as this past year has been with an extremely divisive election, racial disparities spotlighted in brutal, traumatic ways in the killing of George Floyd (and so many more individuals unjustly) and unequal access to wealth and healthcare causing black and brown people to suffer the highest death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.

Breathe has never been more forefront and center than it has been this past year with the tragic events leading to chants across the country, indeed the world, of “I can’t breathe” combined with COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe as the novel coronavirus robs them of their ability to do so.

In the article mentioned, Andrew Huberman says, “Breathing represents a bridge between the conscious and unconscious control of the body.” Since I’ve been writing about consciousness and unconsciousness in my story Sapience, drawing much from Carl Jung’s work, I wondered what is the equivalent to breath for the psyche. Then, I remembered this song Breathe by Télépopmusik.

Breathe – Télépopmusik – Album: Genetic world

I brought you something close to me
Left for something you see though you’re here
You haunt my dreams
There’s nothing to do but believe
Just believe

Just breathe

Another day, just believe
Another day, just breathe
Another day, just believe
Another day, just breathe

(…) From LyricFind

Breath has long been a symbol for spirit–that invisible force powering all living beings. As human beings, we are aware of this spirit that is powering us and flowing throughout our life on Earth. Jung talks of the importance of this thing that is aware, he calls it Self or psyche. He explains that this small part of self that is aware must swim between that which is conscious inside oneself and that which is unconscious inside oneself to generate the energy necessary to maintain consciousness. This is what gives us the ability as human beings to choose actions different than what our instincts would otherwise dictate. It requires us to ascend up and down within the parts of ourselves that we know about because they exist within our sphere of consciousness and the parts of ourself that we do not know about because they exist within the sphere of our unconsciousness (the bigger sphere). Belief might be like a psychic vessel (a ship, a submarine, or maybe a fish) that we create inside ourselves (in our mind space) in order to make our epic journey through space and time.

However, belief is not omniscient (all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing) in and of itself. Belief is a part of the immortal body that exists somewhere in the realm of mind, but it is also very mortal and because of that imperfect. For belief to exist through time, just as the body exists through time, beliefs must be refreshed and refined with new knowledge (hopefully even wisdom) all the time, just like the lungs must be refreshed all the time with new air, fresh air so the corporeal body may live.

So how does one hold on during a time of Great Grief, Great Sadness, Great Stress, and Great Lost--like now? It is breath. It is belief. But one must take care to keep the immortal and mortal air breathed clean and refreshing for beliefs can lead individuals into very dark places as well as into illuminated places. It is up to you to choose which place you journey through space and time.

Following is a collection of stories percolating through me since I heard them that have inspired these thoughts. Or perhaps, I should say immortal breaths…and so, another day, just believe, another day, just breathe…

* * *

Michel Martin’s NPR

Civil Rights Activist Weighs In On Biden’s Early Days In Office — NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with civil rights activist Rev. William Barber II about his inaugural homily and what he makes of the first few days of the Biden administration. 

Excerpt from NPR transcript of this interview:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: And finally today, it’s been less than two weeks since the Biden administration took office, and it has already been a whirlwind. The president has signed more than two dozen executive orders addressing everything from immigration to climate change, as well as one of the issues he says propelled him to run for the presidency for this third time, racial justice.

So we thought this would be a good time to check in with civil rights activist, the Reverend William Barber II. He was invited to offer the homily at the inaugural prayer service. The text came from the prophet Isaiah.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING of the Rev. WILLIAM BARBER II:

And so the prophet gives the nation God’s clear guidance out of the jam it is in. Choose first to repent of the policy sin, and then repair the breach. The breach, according to the imagery of Isaiah, is when there is a gap in the nation between what is and how God wants things to be.”

MARTIN: It was both an affirming message but also a call to action, so we wanted to hear Reverend Barber’s take on what that should look like. To remind, he is the president of an organization called Repairers of the Breach, which is based in Goldsboro, N.C. He’s a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. And he is with us once again.

Reverend Barber, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.

BARBER: Thank you so much for having me on today.

MARTIN: What gave you the inspiration for the sermon?

BARBER: Well, I was asked to deliver it, and that was quite a humbling request. And then they asked me, did I know much about Isaiah 58? And, of course, that is one of the major passages of scripture recognized by Jews, Muslims and Christians especially. It is a scripture specifically speaking to the nation about how to repair itself after it has been through lying leadership, extreme leadership, mean-spirited leadership, oppressive leadership. And it really gives a step-by-step what has to be done.

MARTIN: Well, to — you know, to that point, I mean, the president in – President Biden in running for office and certainly at his inaugural message has been stressing a message of unity. And during your homily, you spoke of unity. I mean, you said the breach would be knowing the only way to ensure domestic tranquility is to establish justice, but pretending we can address the nation’s wounds with simplistic calls for unity. Can you expand on what you’re saying here?

BARBER: Well, surely. You know, one of the things I think more than just being a civil rights activist, I’m trying my best with others to be, you know, a moral leader, one who looks at things through the lens of moral analysis, moral articulation and moral activism. And you can’t have a simplistic view that all we need is “Kumbaya.” All we need to do is slap back — is pat each other on the back. No, no, no, no. There are real forces — and we have seen them — forces that we saw that would rather put a person on the Supreme Court than protect people from dying in caskets from COVID, forces that would rather give trillions of dollars — trillions — to corporations during COVID while billionaires make almost a trillion dollars and then fight to just give a few trillion to poor and low-wealth people and those who are hurting. These are real battles. And some people are not going to unite with justice. But if enough of us can unite with justice and love, we can move this country forward.

MARTIN: But I am interested in how you feel that happens when some have made it abundantly clear that they do not agree with this agenda. I mean, for example, I mean, your first, as I – you announced on Twitter that beginning tomorrow, the Poor People’s Campaign will be holding special Moral Mondays events. Your first event will center on increasing the minimum wage. Your group is calling for some very ambitious things like universal health care, limiting defense spending. I mean, the fact is that a significant number of people in this country don’t agree with that. So how does he reconcile both the desire that some people clearly have for a more sort of temperate, more moderate, more constructive tone and yet people like yourself who say, no, there are ambitious things that need to happen? How does he resolve that?

BARBER: Now, yes, 70 million people voted for Trump, but over 80 million people voted for Biden and Harris. They knew they were going to pass – they were going to fight for living wages, addressing systemic racism and to address health care. Biden won 55% of all poor and low-wealth people voting under – that made under $50,000 a year. In Georgia and other places, poor and low-wealth people voted for Biden and Harris at a rate 14% higher.

We’re talking about, how do we heal the soul of the South Side? And it’s only by healing the sickness in the body. And so what we’re talking about is a must – is a must. These things must happen, and when you have the power, even if you only have one vote – Republicans showed us something. They did it for the wrong reason, but they didn’t care if they had just one vote. They did what was wrong. So people who have one vote now must do what is right.

MARTIN: I can’t tell from listening to you whether you feel encouraged or you still feel frustrated.

BARBER: So I’m encouraged because the movement is encouraged. I’m encouraged because more people turned out to vote in the midst of COVID than ever turned out in the history of this country. I’m encouraged because 6 million more poor and low-wealth people turned out in this election than they did in 2016. I’m encouraged because this country has shown us that if you run on a progressive agenda, if you talk about health care, living wages and dealing with racism, you can win in California. You can win in GeorgiaYou can win in Pennsylvania. You can win all over this country if you give people a vision of progress for which they can vote.

I am discouraged on one thing, and it’s — but it’s going to come — that we still don’t hear enough about poverty. We hear Democrats talking about the middle class and workers. But if 43% of this country was poor and low-wealth before COVID, and 8 million more have been thrust into poverty since May of last year, and if only 39% of this country can afford a thousand-dollar emergency, we must use the word poverty. We must talk about poor and low-wage people. We must say their name and say their condition. And we must say we’re not going to lift from the middle up. We’re not going to trickle down. We’re going to lift from the bottom up.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, I want to acknowledge that, as you have acknowledged, that many people are still struggling because of the pandemic, because of the downturn. Obviously, some people – many people were struggling before that, but a lot of people are suffering right now. And this is something that you brought up in your homily. And I just wondered if you had some words of encouragement for people who are struggling.

BARBER: You know, as a pastor, I will tell you, in this season, sometimes I have not had words. I’ll just be honest. All we’ve had is presence, even if it was distant presence. All we’ve had is love. All we’ve had is sometimes just getting on a video and crying together when people couldn’t go visit their loved one. Sometimes that’s all we’ve had.

You know, one of the things some of us have done is ask the question real seriously, why are we still alive? I mean, in this moment when any of us could be gone in seven days, seven minutes – you know, we could contract COVID. We could be breathing fine one minute, and it could all shut down – why is it that we’re still alive? Or more importantly, what is it that we’re going to do with the breath we have?

And some of us have decided in the midst of the tears, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the pain, we decided that breath is too important to waste. We don’t have any breath to waste on being mean and hateful and unjust and hurting people. The only real use of our breath is to try to breathe some more love and truth and grace and justice into this world and in this society.

And so whether we live seven minutes, seven days, seven months, seven years or 70 years, that’s what we’re committing ourselves to do with every breath we take from now on because this moment has been a moment where we all have to face the potential of our own mortality in a very real way. We can end any moment, be alone on a breathing machine with nobody able to come and see us. And many people have died like that. And in their name and in their memory, even with our pain, we must use every breath we have to turn things around, to push our political system to do right from the bottom up, with every breath we have left until we have no more breath in us.

MARTIN: That was the Reverend William Barber II. He’s president of Repairers of the Breach. He’s co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Reverend Barber, thank you so much for joining us once again.

BARBER: Thank you so much. And blessings to you and your staff.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

* * *

After hearing the Rev. William Barber speaking with Anderson Cooper earlier in the year of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then again in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, I was so inspired by his deep wisdom, knowledge, and words that I created a playlist: Repairers of the Breach. We are all responsible for the existence of this breach, which grows deeper and wider with every act of ignorance, malice, and hate that we conduct into the world through our thoughts, words, and actions.

But we are all also healers of this breach, and we can repair this breach when we act with knowledge that we have distilled from our experiences in the world and that we have gained by taking the time to educate ourselves about things, about great mysteries and unknowns in this complex and beautiful world, and when we pay attention to great masters/teachers who have lived throughout time who can help us remove the veils of illusions and delusions–sadly created by others who have chosen to trick and deceive people for their own self-betterment.

We can repair this great divide, the breach we have all forged inside ourself and between each other when we conduct ourself with love and compassion, when we take time to pay attention to other people, especially to people who are suffering, who are in need, who have been ignored and left behind, who have not received the blessings meant for all living being on Earth because these blessings have been diverted and hoarded by a few, especially in these modern times.

Each of us is a healer and repairer of this terrible breach that has broken so many families and friendships recently, but we must constantly refresh our beliefs.

* * *

This American Life

Beware the Jabberwock — Stories from the upside-down world where conspiracy theorists dwell

Image from This American Life — Matt Chase

I had heard Act 1 of This American Life before (Down the Rabbit Hole, which is the story of Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook. In the years after Noah’s death, Lenny and his family were harassed by people who believed the shooting at Sandy Hook never happened – that it was all a conspiracy. Until one day, Lenny decided to fight back).

This is a powerful, heart-breaking, and terribly important story to hear. So, if you have not heard it, you should start with Act 1.

Act 2 is new to me, and it blew me away. Reporter Jon Ronson travels to Texas to uncover the origin story of Alex Jones, infamous founder of InfoWars. Having just finished watching HBO’s Watchmen, I was into origin stories. This is one that needs to be heard because it encapsulates an Archetype of our time. One that is dominating the minds of millions and millions of people these days. One defined by Conspiracy ObsessionSatan FixationBully Compulsion tendencies. It is so prevalent in America society today, percolating even more fiercely by the isolation imposed on every human being in the world due to COVID-19. Alex Jones is a man who had great sway and influence on our former President, Trump, who has a very similar mental world bound by the same Conspiracy ObsessionSatan FixationBullying Compulsions as Jones—something we all saw fall off the page of Facebook and come to life in the storming of the Capitol of the United States of American on Jan. 6, 2021.

I can just feel how one’s breath must tighten and grow shallower and shallower as one depends deeper and deeper into such rabbit-holes of deception and obsession that leads to hate, grief, and pain all for the good of someone like Alex Jones or Donald Trump, not for the good of the ones going into the holes.

* * *

The Moth — An Hour of Incredible Stories

Crashing the Coronation by Bokara Legendre“And she turned to me and she said, ‘Did you know the queen’s wig was eaten by a yak this morning?'”  

Photo by Sarah Stacke as featured on The Moth

Which direction in life will you choose to go? The journey running away from grief and pain by going to fancy parties and coronations in fancy golden high heels? Or will you choose to climb the highest mountain to see the llama or the Lama? 😉

* * *

The TedRadio Hour

Breathe — “Breathing is essential to life. And lately, the safety of the air we inhale, or the need to pause and take a deep breath, is on our minds a lot. This hour, TED speakers explore the power of breath.


This episode is all about breath. I did not think too much about it after I heard it, but then I heard the words of Rev. William Barber and I saw the importance of these stories in a new light. Because of this, I am highlighting them here and providing links to them so you can listen to them as you have time and interest to do so if you decide to explore the links between breathing, believing, and life. [Note that the images accompanying each story do not necessarily match the TedRadio Hour images but rather link to similar ideas/stories but different sources.]

Image from TedRadio Hour Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art/Shutterstoc

First Story: Tanya Streeter: How Can Breath Help Us Understand Our Limits And Our Potential? 

Image from Everything You Need to Start Free Diving — BY MEG LAPPE, MAY 18, 2019

Description: In 2002, free diver Tanya Streeter completed a record-breaking dive of 525 feet—in one breath. She reflects on the obstacles she faced, and the experience of pushing her body and lungs to the limit. This is a riveting story!

About: Tanya Streeter is a world champion freediver who was inducted into the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame in March 2000. For more than two months, she held the world record — for both men and women — diving to 525 feet in the “no limits” category, which is still the women’s world record for No Limits Apnea.

She has been featured in the documentaries, Freediver, and A Plastic Ocean. She also hosted a show on BBC Two called Shark Therapy, in which she attempted to overcome her fear of sharks.

Streeter received degrees in Public Administration and French from the University of Brighton.


Second Story: Andy Puddicombe: What Is The Connection Between Mind, Body, And Breath?

Image from Manhattan Mental Health Counseling: TOP 5 SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS ON MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS

Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on appreciating breath.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.


Third Story: Beth Gardiner: What Are The Consequences Of Breathing Dirty Air?

Image from Smart Cities World — Who cares about dirty air?

Description: Journalist Beth Gardiner and activist Yvette Arellano explain the long-term health effects of air pollution. Yvette lives in a Houston neighborhood near the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.

About: Beth Gardiner is an American journalist based in London. For ten years, she reported for the Associated Press in New York and London.

Now, her reporting primarily focuses on the environment. She has discussed her work on NPR’s All Things Considered, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and the BBC’s World at One.

Gardiner is the author of Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, an exploration into the long-term health effects of air pollution. Gardiner received grants to support her work on Choked from both the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Society of Environmental Journalists.


Fourth Story: Emma Schachner: How Did Dinosaurs’ Lungs Help Them Dominate The Earth For So Long?

Image from TedTalks

Description: Dinosaurs ruled Earth for 180 million years, but to dominate they had to outcompete a slew of other animals. Paleontologist Emma Schachner thinks their lungs could have been the competitive advantage.

About: Emma Schachner is an anatomy professor at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She also specializes in the 3D digital modeling of anatomy from CT and MR images, as well as scientific illustration, which merges anatomy, art, and scientific communication.

Schachner’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of a broad range of animals including alligators, chameleons, parrots and ostriches. She uses these data to reconstruct the biology of extinct reptiles, particularly dinosaurs and the fossil ancestors of crocodilians.

She received her master’s degree in paleontology at the University of Bristol and her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.


Fifth Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Us In An Ever-Changing World?

Image from Scientific American | Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020 | Credit: Bonnie Tarpey Getty Images

Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on breath and impermanence.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.


Sixth Story: Caro Verbeek: What Can The Scents Of The Past Tell Us About Our History?

Image from article: Life Without a Sense of Smell | Losing your sense of smell takes away more than scents and flavors — it can fundamentally change the way you relate to other people. By Emma Young | August 4, 2015 1:00 AM | Discovery Magazine [I chose this image/article because COVID-19 is robbing the sense of smell from many people, sometimes for months… and we don’t know how long yet this could last]

Each day, we breathe about 22,000 times–and all that time we smell. Scent historian Caro Verbeek recreates scents of the past. She says, just like music and art, smell is a part of our heritage.

About: Caro Verbeek is an embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and International Flavours & Fragrances. She creates olfactory tours and interventions for museums.

Verbeek teaches the course ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague and is the curator in chief of the olfactory culture program ‘Odorama’ at Mediamatic Amsterdam. She is also an advisor for immaterial heritage projects at Mondriaan Fonds.

She received her M.A. in curatorial studies at VU Amsterdam University and her M.A. in art history at the University of Amsterdam.


Seventh Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Improve Our Relationships?

Image from Tiny Buddha | Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender By Dr. Amy Johnson | “You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ~Steve Maraboli

Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on how breath can bring us closer together.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.

* * *

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro Interview with Sophie Fustec

Sophie Fustec’s New Albuum Is A Journey Through Her Grief

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Sophie Fustec, known artistically as La Chica, about her new album La Loba, in which she comes to terms with her brother’s recent death who died after jumping into a hot spring to save his dog. I was deeply touched by this interview and Sophie’s beautiful voice.

LA CHICA – LA LOBA | Dec 2, 2020

LA CHICA – OASIS | Dec 5, 2015

LA CHICA – Agua | Dec 3, 2020

LA CHICA – Sol | Dec. 3, 2020

ALTERLATINE | La Chica | Jun 27, 2019

* * *

Sophie Xeon

Then there is the tragic death of another beautiful Sophie–Sophie Xeon who was popularly known as just Sophie. She died at 34 after a terrible accident where she fell from a roof that she climbed to get a picture of a full moon. Ludovica Ludinatrice, Sophie’s representative, said: “True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us. The family thank everyone for their love and support and request privacy at this devastating time.”

SOPHIE — It’s Okay To Cry (Official Video) | Oct 19, 2017

Concluding Thoughts

Each breath we take is precious for every breath links us to every individual we ever come into contact with each and every day. Breathing\believing is how we weave the web of life (our shared reality). It is a timeless process done in our corporal bodies through breath and in our immortal bodies through belief. We all need to breath…to believe to survive and thrive.

What will you do with your breath today?

It is so precious…you are so precious…and life is so fragile and short.

Facebook Folly…The Mistake & the Fake

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  Carl Jung, The Philosophical Tree

This is a simple and very common story. It is a story about a mistake that lead to a misunderstanding that descended into fatuity. Stuff like this happens all the time between people. Most of the time, it leaves both parties feeling moronic, doltish, and foolish.

The exception is when one person holds more power or authority than another person. Then such common occurrences get channeled down a most menacing passage way. One socially designed to keep the power holder’s dignity and respectability in place while decimating the other’s social standing or means of making a living.

You think I am exaggerating?

Injustices use the energy created inside the mind to effect action in the world. Systems of consciousness evolved to divert the psychological energies generated by simple mistakes and common misunderstanding unto a few. The few are the handful of people who have amassed resources and become rich and powerful in the world of human beings. These rich and powerful folks then engineer the social systems to reroute the blessings meant for all people living within a system (e.g., a family, a tribe, a city, a state, a nation, a civilization) unto themselves. This has been happening for centuries, entrenching power unto a few people existing on the top of the social hierarchy.

Still doubt me? Watch Poldark to see how the system worked in the late 18th century and early 19th century in England–a country that emerged as a supersized powerhouse in molding how modern day Western Civilization works today. Sure Poldark is a work of fiction, but all good fiction draws upon archetypal characters acting in the real world.

Poldark: The Best of Ross Poldark | Nov 20, 2019 | Throughout the series Ross Poldark must navigate the disruption and disasters created by his childhood nemesis George Warleggan–a man born into wealth and good fortune but who wants constantly wants more than he deserves.

George sets himself against Ross because deep down George feels inferior to Ross. There are many scenes where George uses his wealth, social connections, and the law to bring Ross to his knees. He almost does. But, Ross is made of something different than George…very different.

In this clip, George and Ross point guns at each other and George asks Ross: “On what side will you fight Ross for the civilized world or the revolution?” Ross answers: “On the side that stands with humanity.”

But even a foolish, stupid thing can be turned into a source of knowledge, even wisdom, if one seeks deeper understanding and is not committed to upholding the existing system of being, most often referred to as civilization. It is for this reason I choose to tell and share this story.

To me it is a navigation map. Something an individual in a conflict can refer to as a reference point for guidance in navigating the depths of misunderstanding, especially when all the Cards of Knowledge are not being lain down on the Table of Resolution. Knowing how to navigate the strong currents created by deception, power plays, and one upmanship maneuvers can help both parties avoid dropping down into the even darker realms of being human. Down there in these darkest realms of the human psyche, mistakes can quickly transform into ugly beasts of folly that are quite capable of inflicting terrible suffering on other people, and even of swallowing a fragile ego whole, just like a snake swallows an egg.

Snake Swallowing Egg | Set to Creepy Music

You think I am exaggerating again, don’t you?

Girl With Dragon — A Mini Series Chronicling the Premonition of the Confluence of Unconscious Content that Was Going to Come Together in a Terrible Way… Some of It Was Mine… Much of It Was Mixed With the Content of Others Surrounding Me in My Life at the Point in Time

If you are like me and taught the edges of your thought are the edges of yourself and believing this, you have probably constructed a pretty nice ego (or perhaps it should be called an egg-o!..lol..) to comport yourself through life, just like I did. Most of the time, your ego construct probably serves you just fine, just like mine did. But if you are like me and believed this to be all that you are–like that pretty egg just sitting there doing nothing to invite the devastation and destruction fate so often serves–then you encountered autonomous unconscious content inside yourself but outside of your egg-o, it was probably pretty traumatic, just like it was for me.

But wait, there is more: you realize such autonomous unconscious content exists inside everyone who you love, respect, answer to at work, depend on as friends, etc., ect. When you realize this, such an encounter with autonomous unconscious content can turn into something very devastating, just like it did for me.

I chronicle it in my girl with dragon story that tells about what happened to me as my autonomous unconscious content mixed with everyone’s else around me to create the perfect dragon storm of autonomous unconscious content acting in the world.

Girl With Dragon – Part 1 | Apr 2, 2019

If you’re not into reading blogs (even super short ones), I turned this story into a video series. But, there are only 3 because during this time of my inner journey, I needed encouragement and attention. This first video got a lot of likes and comments when I shared it, but the next two seemed to reach no one. So, I stopped making them. I didn’t have any more energy inside to do it even though they made me happy. I was relying on the time and attention others were giving me then. It is not a good way to live; however, the Facebook universe is built this way. It incites us to live on the outer most edges of ourselves, which are the most public, the social roles we play in our groups and society. Facebook promises fame and fortune for those who learn how to play this game well. But, there is a dark side to this game we are all playing on this platform.


The brutality is built right into the platform (as well as other social media platforms) and it can spill over into reality in terrible, evil ways. Consider the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. This genocide used Facebook to incite terrible, brutal violence in the real world. The New York Times conducted an in-depth investigation of this genocide and reported what they found in this article: A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military

“Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group, the people said. The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it is so broadly used that many of the country’s 18 million internet users confuse the Silicon Valley social media platform with the internet. Human rights groups blame the anti-Rohingya propaganda for inciting murdersrapes and the largest forced human migration in recent history.”

“They posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes as they flooded Facebook with their hatred. One said Islam was a global threat to Buddhism. Another shared a false story about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man.”


There is also a brutality conducted daily on ordinary users of this platform. It is quite invisible but follows the currents of time and attention generated by everyone using the platform that day or point in time. We, the users, create the currents of time and attention swirling around on all the social media platforms. But since they are a collective creation, no one individual controls them. That’s what makes it fun–learning how to galvanize, shock, and stir up attention, and then send it this way or that. These are little streams of course, but if you’re good… they can grow… and if you’re really good, the currents of time and attention can transform you into a top dog or a shark inside a fish tank. Then, all the other little fishes in the tank will follow you anywhere you go.

But, if you fall outside the collectively generated currents, you will feel the coldness of being ignored, the silent treatment (even by your friends and family in your network) inflicted upon you for crossing some unseen social boundary, usually a taboo. In short, Facebook is slowly but surely turning its users into Attention Addicts. Any addiction of any nature usurps an individual’s inner psychological energy that is needed to think, to feel good about self and others, and to act with intergirty in the world. I believe this is a new type of addiction we are growing in ourselves, all around the world. It is to our own detriment for it is another channel being carved into our collective consciousness diverting the blessings meant for everyone unto a few. Not much is written about this evolving new addiction, much more needs to be written. However, I found this article, which is very interesting: Why I Was Addicted to Attention, Lies, and Drama by Vironika Tugaleva.


This is a tangent, and I will not take any more time to talk about now other than to say these places I speak about that are concealed deep inside the human psyche have been mostly forgotten by our civilized, modern world. They have been suppressed, denied, and rejected for centuries. The most common refrain used to justify this refusal to be a whole human being is ‘that’s not civilized.’

But these uncivilized parts of self exist inside every person’s psyche. They are the empty-headed, slow-witted, dopey, short-sighted, ill-considered, inept, cocked-eyed parts of self. They are the parts of ourselves that have been stashed and locked, and double locked away. No one wants to admit these parts exist: the asinine, loopy, unthinking parts of ourselves that can make us feel or look repulsive to others–perhaps even dangerous.

To admit such detestable vulnerabilities publicly can result in being ostracized. This is most of all true of modern day Western Civilization. And social shunning can have severe and damaging effects on the social roles that we are forced to assume and inhabit in order to live a modern, Westernize life that allows us to feed, cloth, and shelter ourselves and our loved ones.


The silent treatment is very effective, and it is a very old practice. It can be traced far back into the dawning of Western Civilization. My friend Barry Kort pointed this out recently, and I have researched shunning several years ago for the story I am writing.

Ignoring someone for some socially perceived fault was encoded into law by Hammurabi who was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty of the Amorite tribe, reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC. The Hammurabi code of laws, a collection of 282 rules, established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice. The laws varied according to social class and gender, and it took a brutal approach to justice. And these codes did not die out with the conquering of Babylon. There is a fascinating discussion of this code in this interesting book: Shared Reality: What Makes Us Strong and Tears Us Apart. Public shunning was one of the punishments devised by Hammurabi and disguised as coming from God. Today, we know the silent treatment is a form of psychological abuse.

An article in Psychology Today states: “The silent treatment is a strategy frequently used by people who appear to possess great self-control and claim to be more rational than emotional. At the same time, it is related not only to an expression of passive violence but also to a concealed strategy of psychological abuse. That is to say, it can profoundly damage the person on the receiving end.”

“The worst sin to our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity”

George Bernard Shaw

Image from Psychology Today article on The Silent Treatment as a form of psychological abuse

I postulate there is another way to navigate mistakes and misunderstandings. A way that evolves us as a species and helps us individually grow more whole. It is not an easy way, but it is a way that sheds light on these unseemly parts of ourselves that allows us to see them and bring them to the fire of one’s flame of consciousness. I propose that it is exactly these parts of ourselves that desperately need rescuing now. To not do so will condemn us to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors who have given us this current brutal system of consciousness. I put forward it is percisely the primitive, most primordial parts that live inside every human being’s psyche who needs the gentle hand of understanding and tenderness of love for no other reason that for being. 


What Happened…

I write about all this in my story titled Sapience: The Moment is Now. It is a story that required me to descend to great depths inside myself. It was so dark down there, I got lost. But the descent allowed me to resurrect some of the deepest, most forgotten parts of myself. And strangely, it is these parts that have helped me survive a terrible year–a year of sudden reversals and suffering around the world. Nothing more needs to be said except 2020.

All things, good and bad, hold power to awaken and illuminate more of who we are as tiny flecks of illuminated consciousness. Four years earlier, I was searching for venues to share a documentary I made about the first Women’s March. It was a super historical event. One that emerged organically like a super sentient being dressed in pink. This being, feminine of course, was a counter force rising in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. The election that landed him in the White House. 

I interviewed 39 people that day, then used my new skills in iMovie to assemble a homemade documentary. It’s not that good. It’s too long and amateur. Some would say it’s exceedingly boring—except for the interviewees. Their voices are powerful.

Netherworld — Haunted House 2018

After making this long video, I wanted to share it. And so, I ventured into the Netherworld of social media. It is a place until this moment in time that I instinctively avoided as a vile, loveless Pit of Perdition. And, I was not wrong about this.

I’ll get back to this later.

In the wake of Trump’s election, lots of new Facebook groups were forming around the world. There were Women’s March groups, Indivisible groups, and groups dedicated to the idiocracy of Donald Trump’s America. I joined many of these groups across America and around the world. I also joined Climate Change and Environmental groups because these issues run through the storyline of the narrative I’ve been chasing since before 2009 and writing daily since 2012. A story that was bursting into reality with the election of Donald Trump. That’s why I went down and interviewed people. It was so uncanny–what I had written and what was happening–I had to talk to other people. Indeed, I can sum up my story in three words; it is one about Climate Change and Consciousness.

Promo Video for Sustain the Flame published Mar 26, 2017 | To see the full documentary, click here.

At this time of rapid uptake of joining Facebook groups, I came across a group called the Ecology of System Thinkers (EoST). It was a bit outside my wheelhouse. However, I reasoned I had a degree in Human Ecology with a concentration in the sciences. Plus the group promoted itself as an intersection of diehard Systems Thinkers and everyone else. So, it seemed to me that I fit the parameters they had defined.

At this time, I noticed the time and attention one admin gave to members, especially to members experiencing conflict and arguing (boy—were there arguments back then!). I was impressed by this and came to understand he was one of the founders of the group. I found him inspiring. We became Facebook friends. 

About a year later, I recall he took time off from his deep involvement in the group citing it took too much of his time, and he needed to put more of it into his family and other things going on in his life. I thought this was an admirable action too. The new admin replacing him was highly at first involved too. And we were already Facebook friends from another group. We had several in-depth, probing conversations. Then, the other guy came back and a few more admins were added. I noticed the first admin however was no longer as highly involved as before, except for a rare post here and there. In fact, he rarely commented any more on posts.

I remember being named as one of the members in this group who got high engagement from other members, but who was not participating or liking other members posts. He was trying to get more engagement from all the members. He was right. There is nothing more boring than a group where no one likes or comments on anyone’s posts. I liked and commented on other members posts for a time. But no one noticed. So, my engagement naturally declined, falling back to my pervious occasional posts. When I shared something I had done, I tried to make sure I connected its content with the interests of group with a comment of how it was relevant. 

After my father died, this admin and others added as admins in this group or would be soon added to the admin team of this group, appeared super supportive of my sad situation. But it was short-lived support. All of them soon moved on in their own veins of being and interests in Facebook endeavors. In fact, none of the admins (5 of whom were my Facebook friends) ever liked a post I shared in EoST or commented on a post I shared in this group.


One day this year, I noticed the group no longer appeared as one I belonged to.  I thought this odd but paid no mind to it until one day I searched for the group and could not find it, I became more curious about what had happened. 

By now, it had been several weeks after I noticed the group had disappeared. I decided to ask my Facebook friend who was one of the head admin of this group what had happened. After a day of inquiring with the other admins, he simply told me one of his admins (he didn’t know who) was cleaning up spam and removed me on that basis. Apparently, this admin did this without consulting with any of the other admins assuming that I was a fake account that was spamming the group. My friend, the admin, expressed no shock, no sadness, no remorse about what had happened. Rather, his message to me was more like a lecture: It was overly zealous admin who failed to be as zealous in checking who or what was spam. He also told me matter-of-factly none of the other admins were at all regretful of this zealous admin’s actions. To me, this demonstrated an unconscious complacency by the whole admin team in support of questionable, overly harsh actions.

I had a bad feeling. I could not say exactly what or why I was feeling this, but I felt I had to act immediately. So I did. I blocked all 10 admins from my personal account. Then, I answered 3 unanswered messages in messenger. I told them I was deactivating my Facebook account and very briefly why. Then, I deactivated it and was gone. I didn’t think anyone would even notice my absence.


The AfterMath of What Happened

But it turns out I left a wake.

It turns out I had an ally after all, Barry Kort.

I had recently featured him in my last blog titled AfterMath — The Magical Calculus of Consciousness. In this blog, I tell the story of how a casual conversation in another Facebook group sparked insight in me that aligned with content I was wrestling with in my story.

Unbeknownst to me, Barry was championing my case. He had taken it up with the admins of EoST. From what I’ve gleam from bits and pieces I learned about later, Barry was assessing and analyzing what had happened and why. He was spelling it out eloquently and illuminating deeper currents of thinking that were informing the actions occurring inside the group. 

He did not have all the information because much of it remained hidden; however, his analysis is excellent and offers opportunities for insight and growth. But of course, this kind of growth is hard. Because of this, it is often rejected, especially by collectives, because it is not pretty, it is not nice. It is the stuff about ourselves we have all had to reject and hide away because we would be viewed as monsters by others for revealing these parts of ourselves.

This is a trap. It is a trap built into our modern systems. It was built to divert the blessings meant for everyone within a system or a group unto a few. It happened long ago. Most of us now no longer remember how it use to be. We are taught to believe this is normal.

It is not.

It is inherently cruel.

Left unchecked and unchanged, our modern systems of consciousness are growing more and more lopsided. They are turning in on themselves and will soon devour themselves. Just like Beth Harmon, the star in the Netflix Original story about a young orphan girl who is a chess prodigy, we (the humans of Earth) are inflicting the consequences of our individual and collective unconsciousness on ourselves and on each other through thoughtless, careless, cruel actions.

Beth Harmon – Alone | Nov 5, 2020

A Brilliant Light — Image from The Sun, a Brilliant Lamp in the Sky

Barry has given me permission to share some of his analysis here:

Bébé, in her E-Mail to me, expressly decried the absence of an empathic human response. That created a dilemma for me, because Π was unable to provide the original context, so I had no useful information on what happened to cause Bébé to feel betrayed and wounded. Π could similarly see no reason for Bébé to be angry at him. But after I shared with him a bit more information, Π did see why her anger was directed at him. In other words, the failure to share relevant information blocks the possibility of empathy. If having and expressing empathy is the ultimate goal, then concealing information is anathema to that goal. — Barry Kort — December 17 at 6:13 PM

Barry has hit on something extremely important here in that: concealing information is anathema to the goal of expressing empathythis something that is actually very important to the world of Systems Thinkers. In the past 4 years that I’ve belonged in this group, no one has ever talked about the importance of empathy and understanding. I learned more about Systems Thinking in this one paragraph written by Barry than I gleaned over 4 years of being a member of this this group. The power of empathy in constructing Bridges of Understanding allows for repairs to the deep divisions engineered into modern living–systems designed to keep us separated and isolated in our individual thinking and group silos.  

As near as I can tell, this one admin departed from the model that Π and the other admins would have employed. As I understand it, this lone rogue admin unilaterally determined that it was correct to summarily boot Bebe out of the EoST and does not repent of that belief. It’s unclear to me how this lack of consensus among the Admins can be resolved. It may be too late for Bébé, but it means that this phenomenon is likely to recur, perhaps with another would-be contributor in the future. What has occurred is what Gregory Bateson would have called “Schismogenesis” meaning a fracturing and a fragmenting of Systems Thinking into two or more conflicting factions, each of which would employ disparate practices. As near as I can tell, this is why Bebe has lost faith in the integrity of the Systems Thinking culture. At least one faction would retain the practices of the anachronistic and deprecated model of the Police Culture. This disparity has roots that goes all the way back to the disparity between Theology and the secular Rule of Law. I had long hoped that the contributions of the more enlightened systems science would have at long last resolved that hoary and lamentable rift. — Barry Kort — December 17 at 11:37 PM

What more can I say, Barry sees a phenomenon at work and operating below the threshold of conscious awareness of this group. He has chronicled it in a most palatable way. Refusal to look at his analysis or to consider it in the light of understanding can only mean the undercurrents of concealment and denial are running deep and strong.

That’s what Π said, too. But it also reveals a phenomenon that troubles me far beyond this kind of commonplace mistake. Intention is one element in a Theory of Mind. Clearly the rogue admin misjudged Bébé, with respect to her intention. It’s clear from copious evidence that her posted content originated from a thread in GCC that included Sam, Doug, and myself (I am leaving Sam and Doug as they have been allies in this situation too). But another element of a Theory of Mind is emotional state. I was astonished at how erratic Π was in characterizing my emotional state. And Π’s inexplicable misconceptions in that regard helped me appreciate why Bebe reacted so strongly about the lack of empathy she encountered in EoST. I’m quite used to it, as almost no one ever gets it right when they try to assess my emotional state. Long ago, I learned that I have to expressly say that I’m chagrinned or disappointed or vexed and perplexed by some observable phenomenon on the social networks. But even having done so, Π still asserted an inexplicably incorrect character model, as if I were some chimera of his imagination. How the devil could he have gotten it so wrong? I reckon Columbo, Poirot, or Miss Marple would have a field day with this one. — Barry Kort — December 18 at 3:24 AM 

Barry is absolutely correct, this is a case for the all the Columbo(s), the Poirot(s), and the Marple(s) of the underworld of man’s psyche. I’ve been writing about this (and by the way sharing it in EoST to the sound of silence) for quite some time. I dubbed this work the work of Consciousness Warriors. I suspect my work is too artistry and suspicious for the Systems Thinkers of EoST. Indeed, Barry’s thinking seems to be received this way as well, which is a lost for the group.

«Clearly the mistaken action by the admin touched a deeper nerve, no?» Precisely so, Doug. As I understand it, Bébé posted something in EoST, whereupon some undisclosed Admin summarily deleted it and unceremoniously blocked Bébé, erroneously believing it was spam. Π said that’s all he knew; he didn’t even know which of 11 Admins it was. But according to Π, whoever it was did not believe it was an error to have deleted Bebe’s post and to have summarily blocked her. As to what Bébé posted, my surmise is that it was something related to this contemporaneous blog post, which contains content Bébé had just gleaned from a discussion thread in GCC. 

Sapience: The Moment is Now

 –Barry Kort — December 19 at 9:57 AM

cc: several people ~ I wonder if Einstein would have been unceremoniously ejected from the same Systems Thinking communities that Doug and I got booted out of. If so, would he have soothed himself by playing the violin? — Barry Kort — December 18 at 7:06 PM

Doug and Barry are indeed right, a deeper nerve was hit and exposed. It is right for Barry to point out this type of thinking/reaction sequence and how an individual who did not fit in such as Einstein would have been treated if the systems operating now and are ubiquitous in modern society had operated then. Would we know about black holes, the theory of general relativity, and the photoelectric effect?

«I try to remember the devil of second order cybernetics. Observe the observer. When I do, I am of course observing myself observing someone observing.» That’s the opening lines of one of the paragraphs in Nora Bateson’s article in the O.P. And it occurs to me that the long comment thread initiated in response to BPT’s question, “What happened?” is an instance of “the devil of 2nd order cybernetics: reckoning the observer. What did the observer know and when did he know it? What did the observer report, and when did he report it? Did the observer know and report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Was anything left out or distorted? Was any of it paraphrased, glossed over, or taken out of context? To my mind, this cuts to the issue of Bearing Accurate Witness (and the consequences of redacting information that one would rather not have brought to light). I don’t know that we’ll resolve this issue here, but I submit that the political decision not to bear accurate witness is inconsistent with the fundamental tenets of cybernetic systems theory. As I understand it at this juncture, Bébé lost faith in the culture of systems thinking because it morphed from science to politics, and that departure introduced what she calls a “darkness” (and I call a corruption) of the fundamental tenets of systems science and systems thinking. — Barry Kort — December 19 at 6:15 PM

Barry is shining a brilliant light into a dark place. I have lost faith in the culture of Systems Thinking. The darkness of the human mind is indeed the source from which all corruption infiltrating the systems man has made creeps in. It takes conscious work to keep the darkness at bay. Most people don’t want to do this work because it is icky, painful at times, and humiliating at other times. So, we hide it in the dark places inside ourselves. But it does not go away. It remains quite actively there and very capable of acting autonomously and antithetically to our own self-interests. This is how the corruption works. I write extensively about it in my book.

As I see it, the community of systems thinkers have splintered into two discernible factions. The smaller faction, to which you and I subscribe, is that we employ the axiomatic principles and tools for thought of systems thinking to solve both systemic problems “out there” in the world at large, as well as systemic problems that arise within the corridors of our own discipline and practices. Moreover we do our work in public, so as to demonstrate that we are role models for our methodology even when we are addressing internal issues within our own community.

The larger faction (as apparently exemplified and revealed by at least three of the more prominent leaders in EoST) is that internal misadventures and departures from the governing axioms, principles and practices of systems thinking are not addressed in public (and perhaps not even addressed at all). 

In yesterday’s Barn Raising, it occurred to me that you and T. were especially articulate in characterizing this dichotomy that divides Systems Thinking into these two mutually incompatible factions — a dichotomy that only surfaces when the practice of systems thinking itself has veered off the rails with respect to keeping its own house in order.

If that analysis has any merit, then it’s our minority faction which is obliged to devise a way to proceed in a constrained manner that is true to the core principles without alienating ourselves from the larger faction. Per G.‘s methodology, the title of this drama would be, “Physician, heal thyself.”

Bébé uncovered a “darkness” in EoST that might be characterized as a shame-based cover-up that is then seen as a “corruption” of the professed principles and practices of systems thinking. At least that model explains her loss of faith in systems thinking as she experienced it first-hand in EoST. At least that model explains why she characterized them as a bunch of “fakes” (because they didn’t practice what they preached). In classical stories such as those found in the New Testament, the corresponding term of art would be “hypocrisy.”

There must be a “third way” to proceed that is both effective as a diagnostic process and acceptable to the likes of Π, Beta, and the otherwise unidentified “zealous admin” whose rogue actions precipitated the ensuing liminal social drama (and its 2nd-order offshoot on my timeline).

Sam, in the process of recusing himself, Beta (not real name) referred to a non-private chat in which he declared his intention to de-attend the conversation over the issue of doing it in public.

May I add your name to that non-private chat so you can provide your insight on why this process is going awry?


The Folly & the Fake

Barry has provided a powerful and in-depth analysis for those who have the strength to digest it. A lass, I doubt many do. In addition to these tidbits I gleaned from my deactivated account; Barry shared something further with me that floored me. It is the reason I felt I had to deactivate my account though at the time I could not tell you why I felt this.

Below is a small excerpt of a longer exchange. It is the most hurtful and it so full of misperceptions and misrepresentations; I do not even know where to start. I feel compelled to dissect it sentence by sentence from my point of view. The truth lies in-between and so too is our shared reality. Where you fall as a 3rd Party Reader depends on where you stand upon your own inner terrain of being. It has been this way with truth ever since man crossed the threshold into consciousness so long, long ago. 

Image of Folly by Colwords

Π: I already get a lot of email I would rather not have.

My interpretation: Dam it, Barry! Don’t you understand how busy and important I am! Why are you bothering me with this?

Π: Her anger, then, is pointless and achieves nothing, in terms of anything I can do, it’s too late for that. Rather it’s a phase she needs to go through personally to get to a period of acceptance.

My perspective: Π is pretending he knows me so well that he can instantly infer why and what I am angry about. His foolish attempt to assign value to someone else’s anger is folly. It reveals a reckless irrationality that is swimming about inside his mind. Not realizing the monster he fears lives inside him, he attempts to deflect blame of the injustices I have complained about as self-inflicted. This is a gross oversimplified of reality. One that is bound to create blow back.

Π: However …Over many years, I have suggested to her, indirectly, that writing her book was not in the end going to be the catharsis she seeks for the death of at least one parent.

My perspective: Π demonstrates his vast knowledge and understanding of me by showing he doesn’t even know which parent died. In fact, he doesn’t even remember when or how the death occurred. He is knocking his brain to recall if I even have already lost both parents. So, to not look completely stupid, he’s covering his bases with the stony-hearted phrase: the catharsis she seeks for the death of at least one parent. Besides being muddled in his mind about how long my parent has been dead, he demonstrates his utter lack of listening skills. I’ve told him many times I’ve been writing this story long before I ever met him or joined the EoST. I have written down enough material for 12 books with 12 more in my head. This is not a catharsis process grieving for a dead parent—what an inconsiderate, thoughtless, self-centered jerk!

Π: I suggested she was better engaged in writing for other people, but she did not want to pursue that. She has chosen her own path, in terms of adjusting to loss, especially ignoring counsel from others, and there are consequences for that in terms of teaching m recovery rates. Feeling sad about loss is one thing, taking out anger on others is actually counterproductive.

My perspective: Here again Π demonstrates utter ignorance of who I am, what I’ve done, even how old I am. He says, “I suggested she was better engaged in writing for other people…” …as if I were 22 or 23 years old. You know… I bet he does think that’s how old I am poor bloke. He’s about 30+ years off. I’ve written for lots of other people. I have raised more than $10 million dollars for individuals, non-profits, and corporations around the world from the things I have written for other people. I’ve been part of huge proposal teams that have written winning proposals for huge government contracts totaling another $10 million dollars. I’ve written media and new releases and planned/implemented special events, planned-giving, and other types of fundraising things raising another $1 to 2 million for other people.

Writing for other people provides as much safety and security as being the Press Secretary on board the Titanic who is ordered to whip out a flashy News Brief about how fabulous, sea-worthy, and unsinkable the ship is while it is sinking into the watery, cold depths of the North Atlantic. I made a video about this recently. Not that Π would have seen it as clearly I am not a person worth his time or attention.

White Flag — Miracle Day | Aug 2, 2020

So forgive me if I’m done writing stories for other people! These comments drip with his shallow, flaccid, artificiality. He reveals himself here as a self-obsessed, self-conceited bloke of magnificent proportions. Boy was my admiration misplaced in him. 

Π: Namely, I feel she has not properly got over the death of her parent, and also seems to blame others without reason for their ignorance – stupidity even – when she thinks they should know better. But I’m afraid we are all human beings. We all make mistakes. There’s nothing personal involved. No one knows everything, as pointed out at considerable cost by Socrates, a deep Systems Thinker himself.

My perspective: Here Π demonstrates once again how well he knows me. Again, he can’t even name which parent died–mother…father? He leaves the door open that both parents may very well be dead…because he really doesn’t know. Not only that, he asserts himself as an expert on grief. Then callously and cruelly blames me for my own suffering and pain.

Side Note: I wrote about this too…being blamed by those who really don’t know me at all for my misfortune on 10/31/18. At this point in time, my personnel tragedy was about 3 months old having occurred on 8/4/18. On Facebook, it was old news now. Looking back, this is when most of my Facebook friends vanished! Vamoose–all the individuals who were paying me so much attention before my father died…disappeared. And all the individuals who were not paying me much attention before dad died, joined the bandwagon of condolence wishing because–WOW–I was getting a lot of attention on Facebook then, and it would be a missed opportunity not to be seen by others on Facebook (you know… the murky, mutual friends that Facebook has engineered for us). Who hasn’t got Facebook suggestions: Hey, ‘so and so‘ is a friend of ‘so and so‘… someone you just became friends with on the platform and so you become friends with everyone else’s friends and pretty soon, you don’t really know who your friends are any more because everyone’s friend have become so inbred and artificial. Now, I understand why and what has been going on at a deeper, seedy level.

Dodo and reality barbs in vortex — Original art created by Bébé | The Divine Dodo series

But, back to the conflict… that’s what you really want to read, right? (wink):

Indeed, there are plenty of times I have brought misfortunate on myself, but this is not one of them. I along with millions of other people just like me get far more misfortune than we deserve. It is inflicted on us by the Systems of Thinking that have been designed this way. They are cruel systems dreamed up by unconscious Systems Thinkers. Our modern Western systems have been engineered to divert the blessings meant for everyone existing inside the system unto a few.

[See Postscript at the end of this blog about Charles Dickens Scrooge and how fair “the system” has been for so long of time to the masses-the ordinary men and women just trying to survive another day in it.] And you dare to call yourself an enlighten Systems Thinker… shame on you Π.

Even though this statement drips with cruelty and contempt, now, we are finally getting somewhere!!! This is what all the bells and whistles Π’s been throwing up into the air are all about. They are simply distractions because he’s afraid he will look stupid and cold-hearted (reptilian). He begs for his humanity meanwhile denying me mine. Then, in the next sentence, he has the gall to elevate himself to the level of Socrates—the father of Systems Thinker – ‘Oh my – we must be impressed with him now, mustn’t we?!

Π:I have deliberately not sought to take control of EOST, although I could have done so, BECAUSE I’m a system thinking guy, who sees those control patterns repeated again and again over history, with largely unsuccessful results, and much pain along the way. I will cite Hitler and the Jews here.

My perspective: This part of Π’s soliloquy is between him and Barry. But really man, come on… citing Hitler and the Jews just because Barry is asking you for accountability of the group you founded. Pretty high and mighty… and very sad.

Π:I have tried to work collaboratively with other Admins because I believe 💯% in working that way, and I’m unwilling to change that, underpinned by ST reasons.

My perspective: This part of Π’s speech continues to be between him and Barry. He’s a System Thinking guy… just so you don’t forget that aspect of who he is.

Π: “Bébé can return but chooses not to. Again, it’s not my choice, but a self-inflicted wound on her part. If she wants to return I will 💯% support that, because I know that it was a mistake on the part of Admins that we have discussed and can rectify.

My perspective: Thank you Π but no thank you!! For 4 years, I’ve contributed thoughtful content related to the “Systems Thinking ” from a non-systems thinker’s perspective (something you told Barry that was part of your aspirations for starting the group in the first place). During this entire time, neither you nor your admin team have given so much as a blue thumbs up… much less commented on a single post I’ve made in this group. Rather, I’ve been ignored, and now possibly, I see this is no accident,

Rather, in the past 6 months, I have engaged with your members more so than you or most of your admins who rarely post or comment on anything (except one who posts but rarely comments on members posts). During this time, I have encountered some of the most misogynistic, potty-mouth men than in any other group I have belonged (and that is a long list).  

Self-inflicted wound?! I don’t think so. It is more like you’ve been a poison swirling around in my pools of friendships on Facebook. Silently, but decisively, your hidden attitudes and beliefs about me have been undermining me and belittling me to others. You think your disparaging attitudes and false beliefs of me go unseen just because you don’t say them like you’ve said to Barry… but you are wrong… these things permeate and infect the mutual Pools of Consciousness we have shared…like the group of 11.8K members amassed and growing into a gelatinous pool of goo because big groups tend to pull the collective consciousness down to the lowest levels of being unless hard work (like Barry is doing here) is attempted.

Π: That’s the real point that she and you should be focusing on.

My perspective: More distraction – “Oh look… look over there… that’s where the fire is…” Aren’t we all sick if these types of shenanigans after 4 years of Trump?”

Π: For Bébé to blame humanity for being human and making mistakes is to expect folk to be superman. I’m sorry but that’s not a reasonable or Systems Thinking approach to take.

My perspective: No, I am blaming you. I simply expected that you wouldn’t be so shallow, fake, and artificial. Once again, Π reveals himself to be self-conceit and superior to others. [See It Feeds on Fear and Sadness… scroll to the bottom where you will find information about Superiority and Inferiority Complexes]

The Thing That Feeds on Fear and Sadness

Π: Consider her anger shared, BTW!

My perspective: Good, you are finally beginning the process of waking up. But given what I’ve seen, you’ll find a way to throw cold water on it.

Π: But please note, again from a Systems Thinking perspective, I think anger that blames others is a pointless and net negative activity, a view clearly endorsed by the Dalai Lama, another Systems Thinker, and this anger is currently a self-inflicted and perpetuating wound.

My perspective: Ah…the Dalai Lama! Yes, it would be nice to insert a little wisdom into such abundant false conjectures and accusations of a person that you clearly do not know. If he used even a little bit of wisdom, Π might even be able to locate the compassion inside of him, locked away in a place forgotten. He is so fixated on self-inflicted wounds… it makes me wonder if it is not himself that he is referring to. I am simply a convenient target to project it onto for a time. He’ll need another one soon.

Π: If you choose to share this with her, please give her the whole context, not a juicy extract of your choosing, where I think sometimes your own past suggests that you miss some of the fine points involved.

My perspective: Yep, got it all—loud and clear! Now I see you for what you really are: a self-absorbed, conceited man who needs to put others down in order to feel big and powerful and like a Superman or like Socrates or the Dalai Lama. Rather you are petty and cruel. It is really rather sad realization.


Why Calculating Consciousness is a Useful Activity

This is the accounting, the AfterMath, of a simple, reckless mistake, something that occurs frequently on a platform such as Facebook. Actually, something that is accelerating and growing within all social media platforms that are acting like incubators for unconscious autonomous content that exists inside every human being. 

What Barry revealed in his calculus of what went wrong rises beyond a simple, reckless mistake, but a refusal to grow consciously. He uncovered an aggressive unconscious projection that had been conducted upon me, and even onto him for his efforts to understand. Had Barry not undertaken this work, I would not have known the underlying inner narrative that was acting like a toxin between me and Π and that was having a corroding effect on everyone with whom we were mutual Facebook friends. Inner narratives are powerful. Even if never shared or spoken to someone else, they influence an individual’s choices and action in the world and this is how reality is made.

Without Barry’s intervention, analysis, and willingness to share what he learned with me, I would have remained in the dark with my feelings of worthlessness and that something nefarious was afoot, but unseeable. I sensed there were foul undercurrents working against me. Now, I know. Barry has shown me my feelings are valid and can be trusted

When someone is not treating you as as a friend should treat a friend, consider there may be a hidden inner narrative at work that is acting more like a devilish poison designed to wear you down and dissolve you for the benefit or entertainment of another. 

These things happen in real life as well as in the fake lives we live in social media. I call them fake lives because on social media platforms we are really performing–constantly curating our content and pretending to be our most ideal selves (never mentioning or acknowledging our other half because that would be less than ideal to mention). Even more nefarious, some people pretend to be someone or something they are not in order to sell or swindle things from other human beings who are simply seen as resources to be used then thrown away.  

So trust your feelings. If someone who has befriended you is not treating you as a real friend, a true friend, trust yourself and take action to protect yourself.

Thank you Barry!

Postscript:

The Numinous Power of Stories in the Human Psyche

Stories and narratives, especially those running inside our heads, have long played an oversize role in shaping our shared reality. All stories emerge from our inner spaces of mind. I call them mindscapes. We all have these sacred internal spaces that we build over time and reshape as we tell ourselves what has happened to us on our journey through time and space. These inner stories are powerful.


In this episode from This American Life, the power of how stories can shape reality is beautifully told in this Christmas mishap of storytelling that was a little bit too real.

Matt Cardy / Stringer, via Getty ImagesFrom This American Life episode: Lights, Camera, Christmas

How Narratives Shape Human Reality

Ever since humans gained consciousness, they have told stories about their experiences in space and time. We tell stories because we can, and they imbue life and energy into everything we do and believe and influence how we act in the world. This American Life tells wonderful stories about being human. I am selecting this one here as a prologue to the story of the Misadventure and Folly of Facebook to illustrate how power the narratives we hold in our head are in shaping our reality.

Lights, Camera, Christmas! — This holiday season, we bring you a show filled with stories of people going to great lengths to throw a special Christmas for their families. In particular, I want to highlight the story of the Mutchler’s who embellished the Christmas story of Santa and his reindeer and his elves in ways that grew to gigantic proportions within the minds of their 3 children. 


Humans: The Storytelling Species

We are a storytelling species. And, human beings can conceal these internal stories that shape our motivations and actions in the world. In the real world, where people encounter each other in the flesh and blood, bodies and faces reveal hints of underlying motivations, conscious or unconscious, that are propelling action in the world.

Over millions and millions of years, living beings evolved complex ways of perceiving and decoding essential clues contained in bodies and faces. Clues that if deciphered fast enough could hint to possible life-threatening or predatory intentions.

In the human world, our basic animal instinct to survive has been raised us above the ground of basic survival by becoming conscious. Consciousness also gives us our ability to think, and this has allowed humans to outcompete every other living being on Earth. It has also allowed us to change reality to suit our needs.

But there is a price for this power. The price of consciousness is to grow it or to incur a debt that must be paid by costly misadventures that arise from unconscious behavior and actions in the world. Some will be good, but other misadventures will result in trial, torment, and tribulation. They will be ordeals of misfortune, suffering, distress, trouble, worry, and woe. 

No human is perfect, of this there is no doubt, but some humans conduct themselves with greater compassion, gentleness, and humanity that conduct peace, warmth, and brotherly love into the world. Meanwhile, other human beings conduct themselves with heartless indifference in the world, a consequence of unconsciousness that burdens the bearer over time by warping our marvelous abilities of thought bending them into monstrous variants of the survival instinct rapacious greed and vulturine avaricious


What Does Scrooge Have to Do with Anything?

Want and Ignorance from A Christmas Carol (1984)

The classic story of Scrooge and the manifestation of Ignorance and Want as the children hiding inside the robes of Christmas Present. The Ghost tells Scrooge the children are the responsibility of all mankind.

On Quora, Gwendolyn Smith, a former teacher who has taught adolescents for 27 Years, answers this question: What is ignorance and want in ‘A Christmas Carol’?

Charles Dickens was a strong believer in social justice. He also understood that ignorance and want had the potential to doom our society if left unchecked. His use of the term want is different from our use today. To us, want means desire; to Dickens, it meant abject poverty, a complete lack of the barest necessities of life. Remember what the men who were collecting for the poor said — that want was felt even more keenly during this time of year — and Scrooge’s response: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” His solution was to throw the poor and starving into prison and the jobless into workhouses. In other words, “It’s not my problem.”

The Spirit emphasizes that, as bad as want is, ignorance is worse. Why? Because as long as people remain ignorant — lacking in knowledge, information, and understanding — they will continue to lack the resources to gain jobs and work their way out of want. Instead, the problems will just compound, until society is destroyed by them. Want is self-perpetuating. Those of us who have the resources to do so must help those who languish in want and ignorance if we are ever to do away with them.

Dickens believed so strongly in the dangers of ignorance and want that he allegorized them as children, possibly to show that we as a society must take a hand in caring for the poor and the ignorant and help them learn the tools and skills to help themselves — the way we help our children. If we refuse, we, like Scrooge, are doomed.

Ignorance and Want from Pinterest (no source cited)

Just as ignorance and want are the terrible consequences of people who have been subjected to injustice in the real world because of the unjust systems we have created and imposed on ourselves, but mostly we have forgotten this small detail. They also have devastating consequences inside the minds of men and women. They are born and sustained by beliefs and inner narratives that operate much like algorithms or sheep dogs that shape one’s mind into an ignorant, stupid, one-eyed ogre. The story of Scrooge is very much about this kind of ignorance and want… indeed, it is the external expression of ignorance and want in the world suffered by the poor and disenfranchised people of the world that individual’s like Scrooge could help alleviate in the world exactly because of his wealth and the opportunities this afforded him.  

It is because of the unlikely appearance of the apparition of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s very miserly business partner that affords Scrooge to conduct an inner accounting of his beliefs and internal systems of consciousness that have governed his equally penny-pinching actions in the world. When we remain ignorant of the many different aspects of ourselves that exist inside our psyche, we tend to become very lopsided human beings that despite our best intentions to do good in the world usually end up doing a lot of bad things in the world, indeed, wicked things. This is because everything existing within the spectrum of consciousness is an energy and just because an individual refuses to admit certain aspects of who they are does not make them disappear. In fact, these lost, forgotten, unseen parts of self tend to gain energy and grow within the psyche, thereby gaining an outsized influence on an individual’s choices and actions. Even more dangerous, these splintered, unacknowledged aspects of one’s own psyche in a desperate effort to be seen by the Self so that it can be integrated into the wholeness of who one is as a conscious being, it will be projected onto “the other person” who becomes the villain or the cause of an undesired situation. This happens suddenly and naturally when an individual encounters a circumstance that triggers unconscious content into action. It is when we fail to recognize these aspects of ourselves and integrated them into the wholeness of who we are when we are most capable of conducting the greatest evil in the world.


The Real Story of Scrooge is Individuation

Scrooge is the story of individuation.

SCROOGE ON THE COUCH: HOW THE NUMINOUS TRANSFORMS | EPISODE 90 | Dec 19, 2019 | This is a fantastic podcast series Jungian in tone and flavor!

My friend Fabian Navin finds and shares absolutely wonderful concepts distilled and illuminated by Carl Jung and other individuals who took the process of individuation seriously. Ultimately, every man and every woman choose: to remain in the darkness of our own unconsciousness into which we all are born, or to release the light inside of us (trapped in matter) and reveal the divine, limitless being who walks between heaven and hell and survives.

Photo: Jolande Jacobi with C.G. Jung — From Fabian Navin’s post

Fabian Navin: December 26 at 8:30 PM  

“To many people it seems inconceivable that there could be in their psyche autonomous contents and an activity which is not “done” or “willed” by them. It is one of the most important achievements of the individuation process to experience this non-ego, to make it conscious to a large extent and to accept it as a helpful, constant companion. To live only within the limited confines of the ego is senseless and painful. But to participate knowingly in the boundless creative life of the psyche and in the archetypal images of the non-ego is full of meaning because whatever we do or omit to do is then resolved in something greater than the ego. 

Here a bridge may be thrown across to the metaphysical realm, and here Jung’s belief in God reveals itself. He asks: “The decisive question for man is: Are you related to something infinite or not? That is the criterion of his life . . . Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self-forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In this consciousness we experience ourselves concurrently as limited and eternal, as both the one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we also possess the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite.” 

Knowing participation in the “infinite” follows, in the psychological realm, from the awareness of the inner God-image, of the Self. Intimations of heaven and hell have been man’s since the earliest times, for these are the two poles—the light and the dark—between which his soul swings. A swing towards one side is always followed by an equal swing towards the other. Peace is found only at the centre, where man can be wholly man, neither angel nor devil, but simply man, partaker of both worlds. The search for this centre, for this balance of the soul, is a lifelong undertaking. It is the basic task and the ultimate goal of psychotherapy. 

For this centre is also the place where the Divine filters through into the soul and reveals itself in the God-images, in the Self. It represents the moment of quiescence when the image of God can be perceived in the polished mirror of the soul. The “balance” meant here has nothing to do with what we call “happiness” in the ordinary sense of the word, nor with that state of freedom from care, suffering, and effort which hovers before most people’s eyes as the goal of their heart’s desire. Rather, it means a state in which both worlds, the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the joyful and the sorrowful, are united in self-evident acceptance and reflect the true nature of man, his inborn duality. 

In this sense the individuation process leads to the highest possible development and completeness of the psychic personality and is a preparation for the end of life. Whether one goes the “natural”, more, or less unconscious way of individuation or takes the consciously worked through way depends, presumably, on fate. But one thing is certain: unconsciousness or wanting to remain unconscious, to escape the call to development and avoid the venture of life, is sin. For though growing old is the inescapable lot of all creatures, growing old meaningfully is a task ordained for man alone. What meaning has our life? None but what we give it. 


The consciously undertaken way of individuation can, as we have seen, be considered from several points of view. In conclusion, we will list some of the most important.

As a process of psychological development, it represents the step-by-step maturation of the human psyche to the point where all its potentialities are unfolded, and the conscious and unconscious realms are united by integrating its historical roots with present-day consciousness.

From the point of view of characterology, it throws the typological profile of the individual into ever clearer relief. It facilitates increasing control of the auxiliary functions and of the undeveloped, inferior function and attitude, resulting in a growing capacity for judgment and decision and an extension of the freedom of the will.

From the sociological point of view, it integrates the individual with the collective and adapts the ego to the demands of life.

In psychotherapy it brings about a redistribution of psychic energy, assists the dissolution of complexes, identifications, and fixations, as well as the withdrawal of projections. It furnishes a means of recognizing and enduring one’s own shadow qualities, of finding one’s own values, and thus of overcoming neurosis.

Finally, from the religious point of view, it creates a living relation between man and the suprapersonal and gives him his proper place in the order of the universe. Through the encounter with the contents of the unconscious realm of the psyche and their integration with consciousness it lays the foundations of an independent, personal philosophy of life which, depending on the individual, may also ally itself with a particular creed. 

The individuation process, however, cannot be grasped in its deepest essence, for it is a part of the mystery of transformation that pervades all creation. It includes within it the secret of life, which is ceaselessly reborn in passing through an ever renewed “death”. 

“If man is to live,” says Jung, “he must fight and sacrifice his longing for the past in order to rise to his own heights. And having reached the noonday heights, he must sacrifice his love for his own achievement, for he may not loiter. The sun, too, sacrifices its greatest strength in order to hasten onward to the fruits of autumn, which are the seeds of rebirth.” If this sacrifice is made willingly—a deed possible for man alone and demanded again and again on the way of individuation — transformation and rebirth ensue.


Most people, however, prefer to be born only once. They are afraid of the pains without which there can be no birth. They have no trust in the natural striving of the psyche towards its goal. And so there are all too many who halt on life’s way. They venture nothing, they would rather forgo the prize. 

Often even those who go the conscious way of individuation have not understood that the greatest problems in life can never be finally solved. “The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly.” These words of Jung’s should console us for never having met a “fully individuated” person. For it is not the goal but the striving towards this goal that gives our life content and meaning.“ 

~Jolande Jacobi, The Way of Individuation, pp. 129-134


And here is another gem shared by Fabian Navin about individuation as experienced by the alchemists whom Jung studied and learned from greatly.

Fabian Navin: December 26 at 6:53 PM  

“One of the most fascinating aspects of the esoteric tradition is that they view the human being as a sleeping God, there’s none of the sin stuff, we are not sinful creatures, we are divine creatures, but we have forgotten who we were, because the light has been trapped in matter, and so long as my spark of light is trapped in matter I’ll just keep reincarnating over and over again. 

But if I can liberate that spark and then unite with it then, that would be the definition of enlightenment that the Anthropos symbolizes. So the Alchemists also believed that they were Redeemers ,they believed that they were Redeemers in many different ways, according to the Alchemists if the act of Christ’s redemption of the world was insufficient, it wasn’t complete, we have to complete it. 

And again it views the alchemists as a very powerful spiritual being on par with the divinity in some ways. One of the ways they express this: they would use the book of Genesis, as in alchemical texts, and so they would work with light, try to create light in the way that God did, in order to create in their little world this new divine being. But the ones that were a little less philosophic and ambitious also believed that alchemists were Redeemers because they were transmuting lead into gold

Now from their perspective, and I think this goes back to Aristotle, there was the idea that metals grew in the earth, that lead, if left in the earth for a million years would naturally become gold, it was their evolution. so lead is the sick gold, it’s a deformed gold, it’s an undeveloped gold. So the alchemist says: well I don’t want to wait a million years, I can do this in my laboratory in maybe five. They’re not just making gold so they have money, they’re trying to redeem lead, they’re trying to transmute it into its healthy form, and they had this idea with all of matter, that this earth could be a paradise if the impurities could be transmuted out and the lead of our own world could become a golden world. 

They applied that to the human being, as Jung does, we start out lead, we’re unconscious, we’re chaotic, we’re impulsive and destructive and what-have-you, but we can transmute our psyches into gold, and if we do that, then we experience the Anthropos and then we experience ourselves as more than human, as more than lead. You know, as was said earlier: if you take the world that we live in at its concrete terms it’s a pretty hopeless situation, but if you take the world that we live in as something that could be transmuted and redeemed especially through the imagination, and through the finding of meaning, then it’s not so hopeless.” —  Jeffrey Raff – Jung and the Alchemical Imagination

Jeffrey Raff – Jung and the Alchemical Imagination — Jun 13, 2020

We Are Numinous Creatures Who Have Forgotten So Much of Who We ARE

Raising of the Spirits, Chuck Connell | Jungian Genealogy, by Iona Miller | What a marvelous website!!

From Iona Miller (another find by Fabian Navin):

  • Interlocuteur: “If we became aware of the ancestral lives in us, we might disintegrate. An ancestor might take possession of us and ride us to death.” ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 139
  • “[W]ithout relatedness individuation is hardly possible. Relatedness begins with conversation mostly. Therefore communication is indubitably important.” –Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 609-610
  • We think we shape ourselves and try to act authentically. But our identity is malleable, and the unconscious plays a big role in that. To adapt with integrity, to be true to yourself, would require a clear sense of who you are, really and it is still context dependent. We are not the authors of our own narrative. Psychological well-being is tied to a coherent sense of self identity but is not its only source.

Here is a Real Systems Thinking Man

And this man is not known for his Systems Thinking, but he has done more to improve the systems we live inside than any Systems Thinker I have yet encountered: 

I should like now to pull together into one statement the conditions of this general hypothesis, and the effects which are specified. If I can create a relationship characterized on my part: by a genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings; by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as a separate individual; by a sensitive ability to see his world and himself as he sees them; Then the other individual in the relationship: will experience and understand aspects of himself which previously he has repressed; will find himself becoming better integrated, more able to function effectively; will become more similar to the person he would like to be; will be more self-directing and self-confident; will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive; will be more understanding, more acceptant of others; will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably. I believe that this statement holds whether I am speaking of my relationship with a client, with a group of students or staff members, with my family or children. It seems to me that we have here a general hypothesis which offers exciting possibilities for the development of creative, adaptive, autonomous persons.” 

~Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy


One, Two, Three — Go Forth, Be Conscious!

The Glorious Beingness of the Middle of December | Series: Have You Been Outside Today?

This is one of the videos I have been making during 2020 to survive it. I always end my video notes with the following questions:

What will you do with your Field of Consciousness today?

More importantly, what will your Unconsciousness doe with you today?

Thank you for your time and attention!