Facebook junk food

Facebook junk food

A friend wrote about her frustration with Facebook where commercialism and self-aggrandizement rule (she didn’t use those words). Here are a few of my thoughts it, not the whole truth most certainly . . . Mostly they’re from my book Evolutionary YOU: Discovering the depths of radical change which is about escaping the control of the social matrix we think we already know about. I added the junk food metaphor just now.

In the tribes of old, we lived in full view of each other. Members were fully and constantly updated on what other members were doing. That was the tribe’s way, and there was no place to hide. In other words, long before Facebook, in our ancient past, tribal members were caught in an ongoing celebration of belonging and checking for the stone age equivalent of Likes. Everything we did reaffirmed our belonging and how much (or how little) we belonged to the tribe.

Facebook updates make this status-checking behavior more visible to us, but Facebook is just piggy-backing on the social architecture that’s already there: the need to know how we’re faring in the group and how “Liked” we are. How much we belong. Facebook members may check twenty or thirty times a day, but in the tribe of the past, this was constant, ongoing. The matrix is our past, whatever it may be in our future. 

The difference, and it’s an important one is that in the tribes of old there was a context of kinship and agreed upon social values so the connection was nourishing. FB by comparison is closer to social junk food.

There are a few nutrients in there. There are added vitamins in junk food too. The body takes in and assimilates whole foods in their contexts, food grown in healthy vibrant soil and local if possible. But with FB, the wholesome article-vitamins are denatured because they don’t come within a wholesome and complete context.

People are seldom able to actually use the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual material they get from FB to understand something more deeply. If they do, it’s in spite of the medium not because of it. FB doesn’t help to build a body of knowledge, live in it or connect with each other.

But it’s incredibly compelling.

Status and belonging are the invisible dark matter in our social space. Just like the dark matter in space pulls at us and is not seen, the need for status and belonging tugs at all of our exchanges. Beneath the stated purpose of the get-together, people have an underlying and more basic need to be accepted and respected – to belong. Although we seldom are conscious of it, this need is the glue of social cohesion and everything else rests on it.

We maintain our physical comfort by, for example, moving slightly or adjusting our sitting position. We loosen our too-tight clothing or scratch the momentary itch. In much the same way we monitor and maintain our social connection. With a similar effortlessness we bring our actions and thoughts into harmonious alignment with what fits into the culture. Just like our balance orients us to what standing upright feels like in the moment, our conscience orients us to what feeling and acting “upright” are in the moment.

Belonging is the hidden subtext in group settings and the hidden subtext underlying our mood and thoughts when we’re alone. As long as the dynamic is hidden and invisible, we’re shaped like Plasticine dough by the pressure to belong. Our sense of meaning is pulled subtly this way and that according to different loyalties. Meaning becomes free-floating, unmoored, not tied to our sense of self.

But when you’re seeing this, and especially if some other tribe members do too, you’re no longer under the influence of the tribe’s hidden rules. You’re now, at least partially, in a we-space where the rules can be rewritten.

Your public voice and your unique voice

Your public voice and your unique voice

Recently I’ve had numerous conversations, in workshops or intentional places, with people responding to the question, “What are you experiencing now?” It’s a naked question, a brazen question, a rude question. Certainly an unfamiliar one when it’s really asked and there’s room to respond.

Yet people can powerfully moved by having five minutes to respond to it – perhaps no one has ever asked them before. (Here’s the simple presencing practice I’ve been using for this.)

As the phenomenon of political correctness indicates, there’s a gap between what we say in a given situation – and what we privately think. We switch between what we really think and what we think we should think. And we do it continually, automatically, without noticing we’re doing it. It’s especially when a direct question like “What are you experiencing now” is asked (in a workshop or other intentional setting), that we notice our public and private voices aren’t the same. Oops!

The social norm is that the public voice is much stronger. The private voice is far harder to find.

It’s not that we don’t need a public voice and persona. We certainly do!

But our private, unique voice is not easily seen in this world – that’s why it seems so unfamiliar to be directly asked to speak from it. And moreover, we have no common language for all of this.

The public voice is strongly dominant but we maintain a polite fiction that we’re being an individual all the way.

The invisibility of our unique voice is evidenced by the face that we don’t explore our immediate  present experience with others. We might explore it in meditation or mindfulness practice, but not publicly, not transparently even to ourselves.

Instead conversation centers around events, people, things. We invent philosophies and religions. We make plans. We analyze and describe.

But our direct unmediated personal experience, the voice that’s closest to our hearts, is seldom requested or welcomed. The private voice gets deeply habituated to not speaking out loud – it feels safer keeping mum. And naturally enough, when sometimes it’s forced to speak, it tends to arrive with confusion and uncertainty, wondering if it’s safe and OK. In an atmosphere of welcome, it starts to find itself.

The public voice is more concerned with differences between people, the private voice is more alive to out shared humanity.

The public voice maintains the status quo while the private voice is more the voice for change.

The public voice speaks what everybody knows and the private voice, always unique, speaks what no one’s imagined yet.

Public voices never speak directly to you but private voices always do. Unique voice even speak for you because it speaks to what we have in common. The sharing of the private real voice is a revolutionary act, or rather an evolutionary one. You can watch the public voice on the news every night if you’ve a tv but the private voice has to find its own way and its own place to speak and listen.

And it takes time and work to find and develop it. It’s a process and a practice.

I’m just getting underway with an ongoing closed group exploration into unique voice,  – Change Agent Practice. It includes Presencing, using the “what  are you experiencing now?” question, with all the safeties and care that we can bring to it. And it includes group coaching to use the  group to support our  making changes inside and out. And more.

This group is just gathering  steam with the first leg, the presencing practice. This will continue and the others added when we’re a bit stronger. Do come try the presencing practice out and see how it is for you. If you know of any change agents who need support and challenge, will you forward the Change Agent Practice page to them. And consider it for yourself as a way to move forward with what you’re wanting to do, create and be.

Schedule and more coming soon.


Telling My Story

I’ve been avoiding telling my own story.

For several days I was writing a blog post about how we needed more honest personal story, more sex and gender in our  conversations. Then I noticed I wasn’t telling my own.

Telling is unfamiliar because I’ve been very close-mouthed about great chunks of my own story, forever.  Though much easier, it’s still difficult to talk about my early childhood and the pervasive experience of abandonment that persists from it. Hard to be fully with it and breathe and claim it, like the simple human thing it is. Hard to stay compassionate to self when I subtly re-abandon myself to go out into the world in search of belonging.  Because that depth feels from the inside as not normal and I’ve feared no one else could understand, I try and pretend it’s not there.

There’s something delicious in all of this though. The experience of not-belonging, so deep has it been, has made me very sensitive to it in my environment. I have an acute appreciation for other people’s sense of abandonment or belonging. It’s where I live and breathe. I’m continually drawn to people’s sense of belonging and how it lives in them. My early experience stamped this on my soul.

Often I want to intellectualize about this. Like now, I want to tell you about the gifts. And there are gifts and I’m very happy about them, but I’ll put that off for now. In fact, living in my intellect has been my relative safety and in recent years, I became a sort of lay scientist of belonging. (I wrote my book, Evolutionary YOU in the voice of that lay scientist and it’s probably the best description and celebration of how we belong or don’t. You really should read it.)

In that book I only alluded to my own story though and kept it at arm’s length. It didn’t feel safe to talk about. There were implied family secrets that a child’s sense of loyalty felt must be obeyed.

Part of the story from my childhood, and I’m speaking with a child’s partial understanding here, was that I was a keeper of my mother’s secret. She didn’t love her husband as much as she loved me. And perhaps another  man from before. Our bond was built of that secret and it was at the core of me. “Was.” It’s not right  to say “is.” Stepping out of that birth caul has been a long process and an incredible gift, the only one I ever wanted. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Everything comes together in the turning of the story. For a lot of my life I missed my father and wanted him to see me but he had his own abandonments. Not trusting women with my heart, I sought out safe companionship with men in men’s groups for personal connection. A long time in them helped me to start getting my attachment needs met because I was well accepted there. I saw and felt and knew that men were good and capable, and loving. They were not evil patriarchs. Even white men. Men are good, in so very many ways.

I edited and wrote for an alternative men’s journal over many years. We hosted numerous conferences for women and men to explore gender too and some of it was deeply experiential and helped me a lot, helped all of us a lot.  But the early pattern of abandonment, not being seen into being as a self, reasserted itself in my closest intimate relationships with women, in those love relationships where the early dynamic was rekindled.

I still feel called to support men. For me. The trashing of men and masculinity that’s in the courts, academia and now, in my country, the law, feels like a tremendous and dangerous burden for men, women and children. Part of claiming myself is speaking to that, making room for our gendered and sexual selves in new conversational spaces.

I want to make room for “trauma” too, for the equivalent of my early childhood experience. No individual is immune from “trauma” because trauma is in the race. It doesn’t show it’s scary face to every  individual of course but it’s somewhere in virtually every extended family and when it’s in the family, it’s in us too. It’s part of life. We are the products of a difficult experiment: World wars, unloved childhoods, forced migrations, famines and murder weave through the race along with the love and the beauty. All these hard things may be the bewildering face of love anyway.

I want a new conversation that makes room for all of these parts of ourselves. Not safe ivory tower conversations, the forms of which society has created for the very purpose of keeping out the stuff it doesn’t feel it can handle. Not spiritual-only conversations that seek unity and bliss and avoid the rough edges where we really live and breathe. Like sex and gender. Like early trauma. Like later trauma. Like love.

I don’t mean we have to talk about these things, like a project. I mean that it’s good to make them really and truly welcome because when they’re not, and because they’re real  for all of us already, we’ll live a guarded life, afraid of them erupting. We’ll be their jailers even as we put on brave faces.

We don’t know how to do this yet. Thank goodness. Because when we think we know how to do it, it probably means we’ll do what we’ve always done to keep the important stuff safely away.  We’ll try and manage the divine process.

The good news is, there is a “we,” brothers and sisters that want to do this. There’s also an unnameable evolutionary process at work that many in the “we” have felt. I put my trust in that as quickly as I can. I’ve tried running the universe but, as I’m sure you know if you’ve tried, it was no fun and it didn’t work at all.

More to come on this. Sign up above so you’re sure to get it. And note, a Small-group Intensive starting mid-October or early November. You can register now.

If you liked this, or even if you didn’t, consider leaving a comment!

Risk in consciousness groups

Risk in consciousness groups

I’m lucky to have places where I can speak frankly about what’s most important to me.  I can be well heard and hear other too.

I learn, stretch and grow in those generative depths.

But pleasure and expansion aren’t the whole story. Quite often I’m careful, walking on eggshells, wondering how to get my messy as-yet-unformed experience into a common space with others.

This evening I was in conversation with a male counselor and a female feminist academic. As I saw it, all three of us were bravely trying to hold space for our experience around being the sex we were, without being attached to our own experience as being the right one. Talking about it wasn’t familiar safe territory. Our loyalty to our own sex and our own experience could seem to invalidate the experience of the other, could get us in trouble. I relaxed as saw our common struggle to rise  to this.

Sex isn’t the only difficult conversation, of course. Our world is made up of subjects we feel deeply and personally about – but seldom and maybe never speak about directly  with others. Listen (as I’m sure you do) to the conventional narratives around immigration or Russia or the overextended economy, for example – or virtually anything else. The conversation has well-established categories that frame for you how to consider them. It’s about us and them, the right way and the wrong way, don’t you know?

Well no. I don’t know!

I’m hungry for more than that! Probably we all are.

And not just hungry. Apprehensive too, because it’s messy to step outside the conventional narrative.  What if I step on your delicate toes? What if you step on mine?

How does this social tendency to favor safety play out in the conscious communities we’re part of ?

Or does it?

I’m coming more and more to notice my own preference for harmony, bonding and connection. I favour these in groups I’m in.

I think that recognition of our common humanity and sticking with that is centrally important, necessary. But in valuing them I suppress truths and perspectives that may be unpalatable to others. Often. Hardly noticing I do it, I sometimes use consciousness groups for an unconscious purpose: to hide within them from the difficult task of offering what I really think.

If I told you, you might not approve of me, the unconscious inner logic goes. (And I do like to be approved of.)

I’m excited about what might come if we took the risk, if we had a culture of taking more risk, seeing what might come.

But I don’t think it’s just me who’s feeling these two sides calling to us. Wanting to belong deeply and intimately to the social group and also to be our wildly unique self. . . isn’t that just how it’s always been for us humans and always will be? Isn’t that just us all over?

I think it is and I think we’re ever more ready to risk trusting ourselves and each other. More willing to not sugar coat our experience or make nice.

The opportunity to do so is more available than  it was in the past. Historically the social norm was to identify with an all-embracing religious and social structure that did the heavy thinking for us, mostly by ritually avoiding it. We didn’t have to consciously examine the messy depths and were often punished if we did. Certainly explorers received no social support.

But being with the messy challenge to tell the truth was always the heart’s call deep down. Responding to it was always the way we opened up a different future for ourselves, one reaching, unknown moment at a time.

Check here for group inquiries into all this, here if I can help you personally.

Beyond social control is authenticity, but it takes a tribe to find it

Beyond social control is authenticity, but it takes a tribe to find it

Social control, political correctness, group think are all ways of describing the pressure to act or feel a certain “correct” way in order to be accepted and loved by the people that are important to us. Usually we think of these as negatives. But they’re  part of life. Handling them can be a genuine life-changer for us, putting us in the driver’s seat of our own life as never before.

Here’s why that’s so. We humans have a deep and primary need to belong, to be accepted and valued. But on the other hand we also have a powerful need, a primary value if you like, to be our unique and individual selves. These two forces – social acceptance and individual authenticity – are in a balancing act, if not an outright conflict, every hour of the day. If you’re not aware of this balancing act, it’s very likely that it’s in your life but you can’t easily see it.

Getting clear about the conflict and knowing how to navigate it, because it’ll never go away, is one of the most powerful things we can do to find our own unique way. It puts us right in the driver’s seat of our own lives – if we’re prepared to take the responsibility. Let’s isolate this important slice of our life and have a clear look at it. See if you recognize it in your own life.

As in all conflicts or tensions, there are two opposite poles. One is we fear being kicked out, disapproved of, ostracized by those who are important to us. We fear this will be our fate if we’re too much out of sync with group consensus, if we fail to fit in enough. Often we respond to this by not allowing ourselves to say what it is we really believe or want. At other times, we may not even be able to think it, to admit it to ourselves. We might censor ourselves in front  of our work mates, people we’re with in workshops and growth communities, our neighbours, and not uncommonly, our partners and families. The people that are important to us, in other words. These ties that bind can exercise a social control and this social control can be stronger or more effective than any army in limiting what we say or think.

So that’s one pole, the social control!

The other side of the tension kicks is the pressure to stand up for our values and what we really believe, group be damned. If we experience ourselves as not valuing or standing up for ourselves as an individual, we feel we’ve failed and can get down on ourselves. This is a primary source of high levels of anxiety and depression. But it can also be the shrinking before taking the next step in our work or career, because we don’t want to screw up.

Please remember, especially if you think I’m making this up or overstating it, social control is, by definition, not easy to see. It’s invisibility is the source of its control. And in the modern world with its shifting cultural values and memes it’s very difficult to know which group to be loyal too.

To get a better sense of what I’m speaking about here, how ubiquitous it is, take a look in the rear view mirror at how it showed up in history. Think of the church for example. Everyone took it for granted that the definition of reality as set forth by the church was simply right and correct. No one spoke out in dissent, not for long anyway, and few even thought anything different than the orthodoxy. This was not conscious social control on the part of the church or the priests. Even the ones who lit the fires to burn the Inquisition’s heretics thought they were doing God’s will. Either they didn’t question what they were doing or they hid their questions from themselves quickly, because that’s how social control works. It shows up as normal, as “just  the  way it is.”

Social control is a special kind of invisible because it’s not easy to see even when it’s pointed to. That’s because we’re invested in things being true or that way and to doubt it can cost us heavily. But we can take back what we’ve given over to social control and group think and chart our own way.

Taking it back will affect us in all parts of our life. It’ll change the way we show up as agents and doers. It helps us clean up our emotional life and take back our projections. It’ll directly affect the way we’re able to mature and develop our ideas. It even affects the way we wake up spiritually to the one life the mystic’s talk about.

All of this is possible, none of it is easy.

Here’s a visual metaphor for how human culture moves forward or evolves. Think of it like a giant amoeba, a blob made up of millions of individuals that finds its way forward over time, in response to the prompts of history. No individual can exist outside of the blob, and the blob exerts a tremendous conforming pressure on each of the individuals to stay inside it.

No one is coercing us overtly, of course. It’s just that we naturally and seamlessly conform to the dictates of “reality,” to what everyone knows to be true. We conform in other words, to life in the blob. And we do it continually. The fact that what the culture offers may not be true, or may not be what we as an individual need now, or even that the culture needs now, is seldom examined or discussed. New ideas and advancements come through individuals as creative leaps.

There is a way out of this, an amazing and powerful and beautiful way that gives unending gifts. It’s simple but not easy. The way is to examine our own individuality, what we really think, and really feel – what we’re really doing – in a dedicated space with others who are doing that too.

We can’t look at a relational problem all by ourselves. You can’t do it all on your own. I can’t do it on my own either. None of us can. But we can do it with others. It’s a group venture, a “red pill” to take that changes everything.

Comment below and make the energy go round!