Integrity and Your Social Potential

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SONY DSCPerhaps it is at times better to measure your integrity on the degree to which you are asserting your potential to best positively influence the community and to manifest your purpose as opposed to measuring your integrity by the degree to which you conform to an overgeneralized social value, an overgeneralized social perception, or a bureaucratic regulation.

In short, I am suggesting that integrity is often the noble attribute which keeps a person from manifesting their potential.

Integrity then becomes defined as the degree to which one asserts willpower to maintain adherence or consistency with a positive social image… the difficulty with this definition is that it seems to have unintentionally minimized the importance of honesty or authenticity.

I am well aware that this position (that integrity is subjective and relative) is often at the root of an operating system which can, and historically has, lead to severe social consequence.

It is not the purpose of this piece to minimize the importance of compassion and empathy when defining Integrity.

I am not suggesting an adherence to an “ends justify the means” dogma. I am not suggesting that one should measure their integrity based on the ends as opposed to basing it on the means…  (The means exists in the moment… the ends exist in the future, which is an illusion or at least not certain… the means is all we have to measure integrity.)

I am suggesting that there is a great diversity of socially compassionate ‘means’ that we can choose from as we progress through life’s continuum of moments.  By infusing dialectics into the investigation of integrity we will surely find that any action will be both positive and negative…

Let me get straight to an example I see quite frequently in my practice… very often people will stay in a job which is not best suited for them because they have too much ‘integrity’ to leave.

The value is something along the lines of, “I can do it and people count on me to do it… therefor to be a person of integrity I must persevere though the hardships of the job despite the sentiment that the job lacks positives or is the source of negatives.”

The trouble with this view from a mental health standpoint is that this form of integrity often encourages a person to continue in life without a sense that they are orchestrating their purpose… additionally, often there is an internal dissonance as they are making a choice in order to be viewed as having integrity, but they do not feel integrity as they there is an authentic void born of continually walking a path which is incongruent with one’s core self.

Further… when an individual finds themselves in the existential battle with helpless meaninglessness they become more difficult for significant others to attach to … this hurts the relationships which then hurts other individuals… and now we arrive at a point where integrity is actually the source of a family system’s discord.

This Discord can manifest in a multitude of ways… often a person will have no meaning in their vocational life and will therefor seek an unrealistic amount of meaning from a partner (this expectation then causes significant stress on the union). Other times the meaninglessness fosters a depression in the family system which demands a significant portion of the system’s energy thereby taking energy away from another person in that system’s ability to engage in their own purpose (creating an existential crisis feedback loop).

The solution is simple… simply add the variable of purpose to your definition of integrity so that being a person of integrity necessitates authenticity.

“Are your choices of action congruent with unfolding your purpose?”

Very often your chosen actions are congruent with the value of selflessly helping the community, and if your actions are additionally in line with your purpose, than the potential social benefit is higher.

Let me end with a story.

There was a man who was an unbelievably good gardener… so good in fact that he was able to grow plants in soil types which were not thought to be suitable for a given plant…

There was another man (we will call him the boss) who was in charge of the farming operations for the town… he had a significantly advanced understanding of geometry and was able to patrician the land in ways which were both easily accessed by the town farmhands and efficiently situated in relation to trade.

Unfortunately the way that the land was partitioned did not take into account what land was ideal for what crop… crops were then often planted in less than ideal soil. When the gardener talked to the boss about his observation that he could grow significantly healthier crops with significantly better yield for significantly less work the boss accused him of insubordination.

Many people depended on the Gardener as very few people could have grown much of anything in the current system in which land was partitioned to different crops without consideration to the needs of the relevant plants.

Integrity encouraged the Gardener to go to work every day and to continue on without ever again making insightful suggestions as to how to improve the system… The Gardener grew more and more emotionally tired over time and he found that it was taking even more energy for him tend to the fields.

The Gardeners partner softly approached him and asked him to remedy the emotional burden which had fallen on the family.

What should he do?

The Double bind is evident… if he continues on, he and his family system will fall farther and farther from wellness, but those who count on him to keep a broken system functioning enough will avoid the anxiety that would come from an assertive change.

If he leaves he will stop enabling the broken system and could potentially (though there is no certainty) involve himself in a functional system which was open to his influence… he would have the potential of manifesting his purpose but in the process many would suffer the anxiety inevitable in change.

What feels like the decision which is based on integrity?

It takes integrity to follow a rule … and it takes integrity to go against a rule.

Integrity, like an ethic, is relative… this is why dialectics are important when we are conversing about values.

Following a rule can often serve to minimize the anxiety of the collective… anxiety is usually an inevitable byproduct of change (unless one is devoid of attachments).

Anxiety is often labeled as suffering… without change suffering stays the same… and yet change causes anxiety which is labeled as suffering…

So then must you suffer to remove suffering? Or can we learn to hold a different relationship with change?

If you could have a different relationship with change what decisions would you make to live with greater integrity?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Dialectics – open your mind and balance will occur naturally

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 Quick summary: There are many different definitions of what “dialectic” means and most are relatively related while others are a bit different (the Hindu and the Buddhist dialectics are more similar than the Socratic dialectic). I intend to talk about Dialects as a subject which helps us to experience the idea that all things are both “good” and “bad” at the same time. The purpose of such a discussion is to propose that people whom you disagree with are not wrong per say… they simply hold a different opinion or perspective. I am not trying to create indifference regarding the actions that you or anybody else would take… by accepting dialectics we can free ourselves from the judgments of our minds; which I believe leads us naturally towards engaging in actions that promote systemic harmony.

 

Note – It is virtually impossible to write about dialectics without constantly contradicting one’s self. For every point I make the opposite point is infinitely true – if I wrote this way I would never finish this blog.

 

Dialectic – everything is good and bad, right and wrong (the chicken and the egg)

Dichotomy – everything is good or bad, right or wrong (the chicken or the egg)

 

One purpose of dialectic thinking is to enable yourself to be open-minded about all that occurs in your perception.

  • By accepting that you will not be able to successfully categorize your environment with dichotomous labels, such as good or bad, you free yourself to engage the world with a child-like curiosity while being less guarded or defensive. In short – you are more open and accessible to this experience we call life.

 

“I don’t know” – this statement is often thought of as an example of wisdom and there are many expressions based on its’ underlying themes. Why? When someone says, “I don’t know,” he or she is essentially suggesting,

  • “I don’t claim to know any objective truths or any truths that would increase my likelihood of finding life predictable- and I can accept that.”

 

Opening your minds to other people’s subjective perception opens you up to more people – I am a proponent of relationships and I have seen many relationships falter because people chose their dichotomous belief over the relationship. (This also has to do with the ego, which I will cover in a future blog).

            – lets say you have a friend that is your skiing buddy… one night you get into an argument about health care… you can’t reach a point of agreement and you both go your separate ways. Here is the dichotomy – “I like going skiing with my friend, but he has health care views I disagree with” (what does health care have to do with skiing?). Here is the dialectic – “I like my going skiing with my friend, and he has health care views I disagree with.”

            – Dialectics can allow you do observe without the need for judgments (which can call for decisive actions) – in this way you get to keep more of the friends that you “disagree” with.

 

Existentialism (pertaining to meaning such as the meaning of life)Our mind needs to categories and judge our existence to reduce something called existential anxiety (anxiety that we hold when we find something to be meaningless – example – “why did the person die in the natural disaster”).

            – We create dichotomies to make life appear to be more predictable – if life was more predictable it would be easier for us to find meaning or to make sense of life. Our minds believe that if we could find meaning then we could significantly reduce our constant underlying fear of death (I will blog about this in the future). Incidentally for some reason my acceptance of the dialectic –“I am infinitely everything and infinitely nothing,” dramatically reduced my own fear of death.

 

Exercise 1) – Get together with a group of people and try to arrive at a universal truth (something that is always true in every context). Be sensitive in your critiques, but at the same time hold an understanding that the point of the exercise is to prove that from a philosophical perspective there are no universal truths. Note – this is not a jab at religions – I too choose to have faith in some of my beliefs (the difference is that I don’t really care if they are ‘true’ and I know that I could never prove them to be ‘true’).

Exercise 2) – think about a subject that you subjectively label as “bad”… now attempt to alter your perception so that you see that subject as good (pick a fairly benign topic when you start).

            -ex) * The forest fire that burned down my fiends house was bad… it destroyed irreplaceable possession like their photo albums.

                   * The forest fire was good in that the forest needs fires in order to be healthy; my friends chose to live there because of the forest. Without fire the forest seeds are not released.

 

I have two biases (related to the subject) that I should offer – These biases explain why I do not hold a fear that dialects will lead to an indifference that will cause people to engage in meaningless destruction. –or why I believe dialectics do not lead to sociopathic behavior.

 

  • I believe that all people are inherently ‘good’ – by ‘good’ I mean that the intention of all individuals (parts) holds the intention of maintaining balance or harmony for the system (whole) – and visa versa (this is the biological dialectic – the parts are the whole and the whole is the parts – the part are greater than the whole and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). As a therapist I have never met a “bad person” and by opening my mind I can say that I don’t need to ‘fake’ acceptance as my reality has thus far shown that there is something to empathize with in every human I’ve ever met (and organism for that matter). “The worst things done in the world were done with good intention.”

 

  • I believe in intuition – sure I have read about meta-cognition (pre-thought – cognitions outside of our awareness) and I love the literature on the subject… and I am talking about something a bit different – something metaphysical which universally communicates an understating of ecological like principles (the interconnectedness of all things).

 

Judgments which serve to objectively categorize – Our minds tend to make decisions based on information that is not based on the present moment (ex. if I destroy this person I will be safer in the future). By holding firmly to a set belief that something is absolutely always good or absolutely always bad, we remove our ability to let our intuition guide our actions within the relative context of the given moment.

Do the Ends justify the Means? – If your intuition or your inner empathy compass (or whichever term you prefer) tells you in the moment what action ‘feels’ right, would it be the right decisions to ignore this feeling in order to follow the procedure manufactured by your mind and its’ desire to create objectivity? Again – “some of the worst actions imaginable were done with good intention.”

  • the concept of “the ends justify the means” is based on the idea that – there is a cause and effect relationship between the ends and the means – in other word the means (actions) will irrefutably lead to the desired ends (result) – If this were true then life would be predicable.

“Life is good and bad… now you choose how your gonna see it” – Will

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

pathologizing, labels, dichotomies, existentialism and acceptance

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Quick summary: I am offering a discussion concerning the drive to label and how labeling impacts suffering. There is a heated debate in the field of psychotherapy as to whether psychiatric (DSM) labels help or hurt the client’s recovery. I am commenting on what encourages our emotional reactions and behavior related to the topic.

What questions might arise from such dichotomies concerning to label or not to label?  Should psychotherapy be governed by modernist or post-modernist principles? There is the dialectic “and” that might surface here… this helps me to identify a label that could describe my own ego related to this subject (as my ego has a rather rigid view on the subject of labels). I hold my own dichotomous beliefs in awareness and attempt to grow from them… this subject finds me humbled… I strive to be open-minded as opposed to being dogmatic… and now I arrive at another false dichotomy and fool myself into believing that open-mindedness is simply the opposite of being dogmatic… do I strive for open-mindedness to a degree that I find myself dogmatically in favor of open-mindedness… dogmatically against dogma? Can I strive and still be truly open?

Existentialism would help this debate to arrive at a point of universality… what fear or anxiety drives us to such emotionally reactive views related to labels and the resulting intervention strategy? If we cannot find consistency must we live in chaos? Without stable labels can life avoid meaninglessness? Without having an indisputable knowledge and protocol, can we in this field still consider ourselves adequate or competent? The dialectic answer is a coexisting yes/no… And for the voice of yes let me propose an irony… isn’t it our ability to offer empathy from a place of acceptance which nurtures the therapeutic relationship, which is the most important variable in relation to outcomes? To be truly accepting do we need to accept that we don’t know… or to know that our labels are relative, transient, and infinitely tied to our own subjectivity? How do labels help us to know that we don’t know? Who are the labels for… the client or perhaps our own existential anxiety? Both?

When a human’s desire to label and quantify the environment leads them to act against their own best interest or the best interest of others, do they then have a personality disorder related to a lack of control surrounding judgments and projections? I say this in complete seriousness… if the subject is suffering, do we label hypo-control more than we label hyper-control? If control was put on a bell curve would we see equal amounts of suffering on both ends? Are labels a symptom of being overly concerned with controlling existence? Is life controllable or predictable? If life is neither controllable nor predictable than is our drive to label (ironically) pathological?

 Is labeling a symptom of our existential anxiety? Is labeling a behavior of avoidance? If we have failed for centuries to find a universal truth and yet we persist in our search using primarily the same methods, what label could be used to describe this search for absolute?

I believe that therapists have the good intentioned goal of reducing suffering and I struggle with the realization that labeling might be our way of avoiding or resisting the suffering which arises from our own relationship with meaninglessness… which arises when we attempt to quantify the unexplainable…. when we attempt to know and do not allow ourselves to simply be. Perhaps there is both hope and nurturance within the presence of acceptance… perhaps the felt sensation of healing arrives in this space.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Existential Recovery – Emotional freedom inherent in the choice of meaning

Quick summary: Most of us believe that the outside world is responsible for our emotions, that our emotional dispositions are externally controlled (ex. he/she or this event etc made me feel this way). I am going to suggest that the meaning that you place onto an occurrence in often what you are emotionally reacting to… I will suggest that you have a freedom to choose your emotional experience as you have a choice in what meaning you place on the occurrences in your life. Continue reading

What is the meaning of Life? – To live… consciousness of consciousness in existence

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I have contemplated the meaning of life and when asked what it is I usually defer to, “I don’t think that my brain is evolved to understand such things,” or “I am not sure that I am supposed to know… and I find that lack of existential responsibility to be comforting.” Today I will offer that perhaps the meaning of life is simply to live. When I say such a thing most people jump to anarchy, hedonism, and/or an existence without ethics and morality. To that I would reply that I believe that morals, ethics and structure are a part of existence, which life’s consciousness quantifies with terminology, relationship, math or language so that we reach some degree of understanding of the apparent balance of all existence. So to clarify, the meaning of life is then to live within the balance of existence… and to have life means to have a direct individual experience of this balance… to be able to experience this interconnectedness of everything from an individual perspective. 

What is life? Life appears to be consciousness.

What is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is to interact with your consciousness of consciousness and to experience the sensations of doing such.

Consciousness of Consciousness? perhaps consciousness existed and then became conscious of itself… Consciousness used math (apparently) to quantify the dimensions of itself and reality was then born. For some reason all that we can be conscious of seems to be quantifiable using math… this puzzles me.

And why do morals, laws, and cause and effect seem to exist? because life is made possible by its’ collective consciousnesses’ agreement to perceive structure in a sea of infinite chaos… if consciousness did not project a balance or an order onto chaos then it would have nothing to be conscious of… morals are a way for our current state of consciousness to understand the balance of the greater consciousness… morals, laws etc are our way of understanding how consciousness ordered chaos into that which is conceivable… within balance, existence became conceivable… consciousness therefore begat itself from an intention which it held before its apparent existence.

Which came first the chicken or the egg? Both

What is balance? Everything

How do you differentiate one thing from another? Collective agreement… as everything is the other thing.

 

Do you have any idea what you are talking about? I have thought about it long enough to know that I will never be able to think this into certainty… I will never know how to know what I am talking about.

This is all conceptually impossible! I agree, that is why I simply state that the meaning of life is to live.

 

That sound defeatist! And accepting?

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.