World 2: A Critical Assessment of the Current Human Predicament This is Module 1: The Impact of Personal and Collective Beliefs on Individual Behavior and Psyche
This Module invites you to consider our times and your role in them at a very individual and personal level. You will have the opportunity to address the following 4 questions. • What holistic criteria enable you to perceive the deep causes of current world crises? • What are some of the internal, or self-generated obstacles to taking action in the world? • What type of habitual behavioral patterns tend to block individual creativity and agency? and • What influences your sense of personal health and well-being on a day-to-day basis?
To answer these questions, you will embark on a learning journey that leads you to the articulation of a set of personal criteria for evaluating – from an holistic perspective – the deep causes of the challenges we face as a species living on Earth in today’s day and age. You will do this by focusing your inquiry at three levels: the individual, the local; and the global. Of course, you will be expected to draw on and incorporate learning from the work you did in the World 1 course in this, and all subsequent Modules of World 2. The next step on your learning journey will be for you to examine and challenge the mental models and beliefs that you feel may lead to subordination and a sense of powerlessness. You will be given the opportunity to explore how certain beliefs can generate a sense of powerlessness and subordination that can actually prevent you from taking action on your own. With this in mind, you will be invited to identify habitual behaviors that can actually block your creativity and your capacity to make a difference in the world. Finally, Module 1 will conclude with an opportunity for you to assess what factors influence your sense of personal health and well-being on a day-to-day basis.
The intended outcome of this first Learning Unit is for you to generate criteria for evaluating – from an holistic perspective – the challenges of living on Earth at the individual, local and global level.
At the end of World 1, you studied four particular paradigms and learned the distinct advantages that the one called Holos offers for dealing with complex dynamic environments. In this World 2 Course, you will study the various crises currently occurring in our globalizing civlization and the planet upon which we live. You will be tasked with critiquing the social narratives that have brought the global community to its current state. And you will be asked to evaluate various social narratives from an holistic perspective. In order to do all this, Unit 1 invites you to develop a personal set of criteria by which to evaluate the current state of the planet and its human inhabitants. As you will recall, the holistic paradigm is both systemic and non-reductionistic. It aims at a synthesis of the universal principles from traditional and ancient spirituality to modern science and deep ecology. It unifies, on the one hand, scientific understanding of the nature of energy and matter, and on the other, appreciation of the role of information and consciousness in human evolution. This perspective is woven into a unitary system that facilitates an integral understanding of the evolutionary process of life and of consciousness. This, then, is the holistic paradigm. In the field of Psychology, for instance, the Holistic perspective is now being used to portray the entire sphere of mind, spirit, body, heart, and soul consciousness as a subtle and effective interconnected whole.
Your goal will be to develop a set of five criteria for evaluating the world in which you live, building on the three holistic principles listed here: Systemic thinking, sensing and being Integration of rational and intuitive thinking Embodying the patterns of nature If you would like to adapt these principles in some way, changing, modifying or adding to them to make them more your own, please go right ahead! Amy: could you find pictures that would illustrate/evoke each of the three principles and are different from the ones used on the previous slide? I thought this one image encompassed all three ideas. Okay?
The intended outcome of Learning Unit 2 is for you to understand how certain internalized mental models, beliefs, or narratives may generate a sense of subordination and powerlessness that prevents self-determination.
Is insecurity an inherent condition of what it means to be human? In his book – Scientific Man vs. Power Politics – Hans Morgenthau boldly asserts that “The intellectual and moral culture of humankind is nothing other than the history of a deep insecurity which hopelessly condemns it to a permanent state of metaphysical anxiety. This anxiety is rooted in man’s condition of being a self-conscious creature, who having lost his animal innocence, finds himself forever clinging to security and creating religious, moral and social worlds of his own making in the hope of regaining his lost innocence.” As a self-conscious creature, man is intensly aware of his own mortality. Thinking about this fact, would you consider this to be a major source of insecurity? How do you think it varies from culture to culture? Amy: could you find two pictures to put below the quote: Adam and Eve leaving Eden after tasting the forbidden fruit A man contemplating a skull or something more contemporary that captures the thought expressed in the quote
Do situations of affiliation and subordination make you feel more secure? Way back in World 1, you saw how – from a neuro-physiological perspective – changes in the environment or in our state of consciousness can trigger fear and anxiety which – through a feedback loop between our “three brains” – reinforces values and beliefs about who we are and how we ought to be in our physical and social contexts. These changes often lead to self-preserving efforts and attitudes in an attempt to make the external changes conform to what our worldview says they ought to be. Affiliation to a group may fulfill a need for belonging and for protection. With it comes a willingness to endure subordination to the authority and to the norms of the group. What happens then to our capacity for self-determination? Amy: Could you find small pictures to illustrate affiliation (e.g., a group of people standing tightly together) and subordination (an individual or group bowing to a leader and/or a book) and put them next to the corresponding word on both sides of the diagram? The diagram itself could use a bit of visual enhancement.
Think about how hierarchy and subordination play out in different facets of our life: from family, to studies, to work, to social life. For example, in a family there is usually a head of the family at the table and children are expected to be listening and obeying. At school the teacher will be talking at the front of the classroom and students are listening and taking notes. At work there will a supervisor, a foreman who represents hierarchy and give our orders. In team sports there will be a captain or a coach who makes some key decisions and calls on the members of the team. Even in social life, there can be an organizer or a host who takes initiatives. You may experience hierarchy and subordination differently in these different facets of you life. We will ask you to reflect on how it affects your capacity to take creative action. Amy: could you find four pictures illustrating family life, studies, work and social life with, in each case, an authority figure: father, teacher, boss, captain or coach, group leader?
How does our built environment – the public and industrial landscape in which we live or through which we travel – reflect hierarchy or subordination? We will invite you to take a walk in your own neighborhood, town, or city center and look at buildings with fresh eyes. To what extent do structures like churches, city halls, office buildings, banks, high schools, reveal or signify hierarchy, subordination and power structures? As you walk, you will think about the activities that take place in the various buildings and public spaces you see: what is the relationship between these physical structures and the processes for which which we use them. You will pay attention to the relationship between these visible structures and the mood that they produce in the people using them Amy: could you find a picture of an urban landscape where a church tower, a city hall belfry and high-rise business buildings stick out, preferably with tiny people entering them or walking between them? You may also find other pictures to also high schools and banks with columns that make them look that Greek or Roman temples! There are good examples of these in San Francisco and in Oakland
In this third learning unit of Module 1, you will learn how to trace the sources of habitual behaviors to their roots and to appreciate how they tend to block creativity, personal transformation, and your capacity to make a difference in the world.
Habitual behaviors are rooted in our beliefs and mental models about ourselves. Beliefs and habits can be reinforced by social norms and structures. The red arrows in the diagram point to these various influences on habitual behavior. For example, a belief that “I am able to do this when conditions are right” may lead me to procrastinate. If my social environment does not encourage or challenge me to be accountable, my procrastination habit will become even more entrenched . The more conscious I become of my habitual behaviors and the corresponding beliefs which support them, the more possible it will be for me to challenge and change them. If the belief is deep-seated, it might be easier to observe to what extent my actual behavior contradicts my public commitment – what I pledge to do. I can then ask myself what other commitment may underlie that behavior and what would be the consequences of not honoring that private commitment. In the example above, my public commitment might be: I am reliable and deliver on time what I signed up for. But then I my observe that I am often late in completing my assignments. The competing commitment could be that I need to find the right moment or conditions for my creative juices to flow, and the underlying fear is that, if I don’t do that, my production will not be good enough, in my own eyes or those of others. Amy, can you find a picture or a cartoon of someone who procrastinates? It would be best if we had two pictures, one corresponding to the belief “I can do this when conditions are right” and the other to the procrastinating behavior expressing “I will do that I tomorrow when I will be ready for it” (e.g. lying in bed or watching a movie).
Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are constantly thinking about and interpreting the situations we find ourselves in. It’s as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation. Psychologists call this inner voice ‘self-talk‘, and it includes our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious assumptions or beliefs. Much of our self-talk is reasonable — ‘I’d better do some preparation for that exam’, or ‘I’m really looking forward to that match’. However, some of our self-talk is negative, unrealistic or self-defeating — ‘I’m going to fail for sure’, or ‘I didn’t play well! I’m hopeless’. Self-talk is often skewed towards the negative, and sometimes it’s just plain wrong. Negative self talk is a pernicious type of habit. That’s why it’s useful to keep an eye on the things you tell yourself, and challenge some of the negative aspects of your thinking. If, for instance, I have never been recognized – including by myself – for my own form of creativity, I may repeat to myself “I am not creative” and proceed to prove it to myself and even to others. When becoming conscious of it, I can identify it as my critical voice or the voice of my superego – a term from the psychoanalytic theory developed by Freud. To neutralize it, I could imagine my critical voice as a nasty or cruel character and see myself laughing at it, finding words to make it ridiculous, or placing it in a balloon that floats away and self-destructs. Amy: can you find an image or cartoon of someone engaging in negative self-talk? It does not have to be about their lack of creativity, but could point to the consequences of the negative self-talk in their life. You may find something like that in the Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams.
Our living environment influences our creativity and abiity to access our intuition. Dana Zohar, says in her book, The Quantum Self: “I owe more gratitude than I can express to the City and the University of Oxford (…) Quantum physics shows us that we cannot separate ourselves from our environment, and I doubt that I could have written this book living in any other place”. The type of working environment that facilitates learning and creativity varies a lot from person to person. Some of us may need a very orderly and neat environment and others an abundance of things, files, pictures, etc, Think about where you are as you are taking this course. How does your physical environment facilitate your creative thought and expression? Is your workspace configured to augment and enhance your ability to absorb information and to learn? Think about the ways in which it enhances – or detracts from – your ability to creatively engage with the people and ideas you are encountering. Amy: could you find two pictures and insert them side by side: one showing a very organized, orderly work environment and the other one showing a creative environment like the offices you see at IDEO or Pixar?
In Unit 4, you will explore how to appreciate the continuum of health in terms of increases or decreases in vitality, and to identify what influences your sense of personal health and well-being on a day-to-day basis.
The continuum of health – from death to life – includes the two horizons of disease and wellness, according to apithologist Will Varey. This continuum of development points to why a balanced focus between the prevention of disease and the generation of wellness might assist in our endeavors toward the health and wellbeing of each of us and of humanity as a whole. From that perspective, we will look at the progression in our understanding of the conceptions of health by examining four aspects of health: restorative, palliative, preventive and generative Through the exercises, readings, links and video material associated with this portion of the course, you will be invited to explain what health means to you in this broader context. Amy: could you find two pictures that would be inserted below the continuum diagram: one illustrating medical care being received by a patient in a hospital or doctor’s office and the other one illustrating a wellness activity such as yoga or meditation in a beautiful natural setting?
To embody and enact your experience of how health and wellness live in you, the next step will be for you to enage in a creative activity to access your intuition about your current state of health and wellness. After you have produced the artifact you are asked to create for this Learning Unit, you will be invited to sit with it and to let it speak to you. What is the story it tells about your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health? Amy, would you please set up an empty drawing sheet of paper with your hand in it and pens or pencils of various colors – to invite students in this activity?
To conclude this unit, you are invited to consult a number of other resources that serve to help you further broaden your perceptions and practices of health and well-being. Among them are talks, articles and books such as the Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, Consciousness and Healing by Marilyn Schlitz, and Healing beyond the body by Larry Dossey. After taking a short quiz about what you learned in this Module, you will then be ready to turn to Module 2 of this World 2 course. Amy, could you compile here a set of front-cover pictures of books and/or photos of health and well-being pioneers (addressing a group) like Bruce Lipton, Dean Ornish, Martin Seligman, Marilyn Schlitz , and Larry Dossey?