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Reflecting on Oneself as Social Animal

The “Right” Choices for YOU & The Group 

How do you balance actualizing your potential by being “YOU” and do right by “the group?”

This is a tough one! This is the inner landscapes meeting the external landscapes! Here’s the big secret that’s really no secret at all—separate landscapes don’t really exist; they are intricately and DEEPLY connected. Some believe they are the same exact thing. Throughout this entire curriculum, in almost every practice in every course, I merely ask you to look at yourself as an individual self rather than as a social self, but indeed, you encompass both, each influencing and interacting and “being with” the other. I have repeated several times how self-study will greatly improve your relationships with others.

You don’t “DO YOU” in a vacuum. You are a social being, and that is a critically important and substantial part of how you are who you are–that is,  in relationship to other people. We haven’t been talking about relationships with others in these courses because my focus is on getting you to develop a healthy relationship with yourself. That does not imply that relationships with others is any less important. We are simply paying more attention to one thing more than the other.

Noticing Imbalance & Balance

These courses work from the premise that many modern people experience an imbalance between how much and how often we focus on others and the external world, whether that means fixing others, blaming others, being responsible for others, helping others, or being manipulated by the world of social media and super-corporations, versus how much we focus on ourselves and our realization and actualization. We wish other people were more self-aware so they would treat us better, and we do need to understand how we can take back our attention and make choices to avoid unhealthy manipulation.

We wish other people would understand us, we wish the laws would change and policies would be different, and on and on it goes, but, in these course we are doing OUR OWN personal interior work, that is– what we can, and owning our small part in the social world. Hopefully we can become more response-able for ourselves and know ourselves in order for our relationships with others to improve and thrive and to be response-able enough to resist nefarious manipulation by very strong forces.

Look around at how disconnected we are from one another due to the pandemic and how polarized we are as Americans due to the state of political life. PART of the remedy is for each of us is an inside job, if we want to solve these relational problems and improve relational dynamics in our personal relationships as well as politically, socially, and globally. Certainly, other work on the “external” landscape also needs to be done as well, (reform, collective action etc…)and you can do that better if you are better, more whole and well.

Put your own house in order, so that you can participate constructively as part of the group.

In this course, you are being asked to observe your personal, individual experiences as a human being, and thus being yourself and “doing you” includes making choices in line with your values which could certainly include deciding to do collective, social and political action and making choices about family, communal, and spiritual life.

In the practice below,  observe, reflect and write about values and groups.  

Reflect on relationships you choose and those you did not choose.

Write about your group membership(s) and values.

Write about who you are in terms of the groups you belong to and those you do not. How do you qualify to be in those groups?

Are the values of the group, the same as your personal values? Are there some values that are the same and some that may be different? Is there conflict there or not? If not, why not? If so, why? Explain.

Write about your membership in the human race. How do you qualify as part of the human race?

What groups would you like to be part of and why?

What groups would you like to leave and why?

The QUESTIONS are more important than the ANSWERS

How do YOU do the right thing– right for you AND that will not harm others– that will make things better and not worse for you and others? THIS IS SO CHALLENGING! Describe an example. Note your emotions as you respond to this prompt.

How do YOU make the healthy choice that fosters wellness and peace and balance for you AND for the group? This is the same question, written slightly differently. (My point is to get you to ponder the question not to provide “the” answer.)

Reflect on and write about fairness and harm and what those terms mean to you. Notice how you FEEL, emotionally and physiologically, as you reflect and/or write about these topics. (Notice which terms you use to describe your emotions, e.g. guilty, ashamed, resentful, angry, hopeful, etc…)

How do YOU Make the correct choices in your life– to make your interior self thrive as well as the social self thrive? Explain.

Perhaps you think you are making the “right” choices for yourself, but that turns out to be false. Perhaps you think you are not making the “right” choices, but that turns out to be false. Find out what you are really up to with your personal choices and choice-making that impacts others. It will take courage to accept the truth of what you discover while noticing the resistance that comes up.

Negotiation, Sacrifice, Balance
(Give a little, get a little, sometimes, and it depends…)

You have to negotiate within yourself—amongst your inner impulses, desires, needs, thoughts and feelings, and negotiate and cooperate with others which means making compromises and sacrifice. It’s a tricky balance. Just as within you, aspects of yourself must “die” for others to grow and flourish, so too with “letting go” of desires or beliefs to allow the social body to flourish and grow. And, as you have been learning all along, this is a difficult process requiring courage to notice and manage resistance (to change, loss) and honesty accept the truth.

Try to notice yourself in terms of choice when it involves you and a group and how you sacrifice or refuse to, compromise or not, let go of your ego’s desires or not, let go of a belief or not, cooperate or not.

Trusting your gut is related to social rules and standards for survival and membership in the group, as we are social animals and need to belong and be accepted by the group. Our bodies (and minds) know this and need connection and belonging. We are bodies and emotional as you learned in the Course on Self-Awareness. We didn’t just become civil in our minds alone nor rationally make this fact about human nature up.

Our humanness tells us to play nice and cooperate. We have altruism, empathy, and compassion built into us, as well as the need for order and control. Just like you learned in the Challenge Course, self-discipline gives you more freedom. So too for the group or social organism as a whole, proper discipline is necessary, that is, good, balanced parenting that supports growth and actualization for as many of its members as possible, if not, ideally, for everyone of them.

Avoid Extremes to Be a Good Playmate!

When people behave in the extreme or pose a serious threat to the group, the group collectively decides upon discipline to maintain the balance and survival of the group. It behooves each individual in the group to discipline themselves, to become a good parent to themselves which will allow them more personal freedom. If people struggle and fail to do this and pose a threat to themselves or others, the group provides help, support, and discipline as a good parent (not an authoritarian brutal dictator!) This is the ideal, of course, which in reality never works perfectly nor consistently.

Finally, the group, parenting, mentors, and elders all model both healthy and unhealthy human choices. They model responsibility, courage, and other aspects of character and virtue as well as vices and failures, abuses of discipline, and lack of insight etc…You get to choose which models to follow and you will be held accountable for your choices by the group.

Becoming aware of your own human nature and observing social life in all its complexity is A BIG CHALLENGE. When you think about it this way, holy cow, there’s an overwhelming amount of experiences to learn from. There are so many opportunities  to choose, make good and bad, right and wrong, extreme and balanced choices, which means so many opportunities for us to be more alive and well and fully expressed as ourselves!

PROSOCIAL BEING 

Obviously, ideally, we’d like to make decisions and choices that are good for us rather than harmful, individually and collectively. And, ideally, since we are social creatures and our relationships with other humans are such a HUGE part of who we are, our choices should, ideally, benefit the group or at least not harm the group or make its health worse! We are a constant work-in-progress, continually swinging between yin and yang. REALISTICALLY,  where do you fall on the social wellbeing spectrum?  Reflect and Write.

Notice how the pendulum swings!

As you may have already experienced in your life, humans are imperfect, health is a spectrum, and thus balancing your choices as an individual who lives among other humans is challenging! What I am suggesting here is “relative balance” which happens within the human group– some people get more, some less; some people must give up something, and others get something; and on and on it goes with extremism as pathological. If we completely abolish the political left or ignore it entirely, the whole political organism becomes dysfunctional, just as if we completely ignored the right– same outcome. When we choose to believe that all republicans are bad people and all liberals are good, that dichotomous all-or-nothing thinking polarizes us further and further away from cooperation and unity.  As social selves, we need each other for our individual health and fullest actualization, whether we like it or not.

Just as I explained the relative balance and imbalances that happen within you in your organism, the same is true for the social organism.  I think Modern Life shows how many people are unwilling to make sacrifices within themselves for their own growth, health and actualization AND make sacrifices for the group’s vitality.

Reflect & Write on your Groupish Nature

How groupish are you?

How much of your personal identity is defined by the group?

Reflect on your feelings and emotional life as it relates to relationships and groups.

What important emotional, mental, and physical needs are met by your group membership?

Write about a time where you sacrificed for the sake of “the group” (you define the group).

Write about a time when the group sacrificed for your benefit.

Write about one time when you were unwilling to “let go” a part of yourself when the group demanded it.

Write about one time when you were demanding someone in the group let go of something for you or your group.

Reflect in writing about your emotions, physical sensations, and ideas in response to the prompts above. Even though these are memories, notice both the more visceral and rational qualities of your experiences, as you remember them, and write about them. Just notice your responses.

Individual Values and Shared Human Values

So, making good choices within you and for you is connected to attention and knowing  your values. Living your values rather than follow distractions which include the urges and impulses from within you and the temptations that arise from the external landscape (other people, nature, living in the world) is the challenge of our age.

Another challenge is paying attention to how your values contribute to the health of the human group, shared humanity, because this is important for your own health. Why do you need to know this? Because you are human which means you are social and you need group inclusion to thrive to your fullest individual actualization.  You can’t be an entirely selfish asshole because it benefits nobody (you can be a little selfish, you can be a little tribal– again, it’s the extreme all-or-nothing that causes dysfunction within and “out there”).

What happens if your values conflict with the group’s values or the group’s values aren’t healthy for you or yours aren’t healthy for the group? Well, choices need to be made. Either the group changes, or you change, or you negotiate (ideally); that is, you compromise and cooperate.  Sacrifice, loss, and change (willingly or unwillingly) are how we survive ad thrive in groups. As always, balance is the key on both the individual or personal level (response-ability within one’s inner landscape) and on the community and global level.  If you have not yet noticed, do you see how a person on the inside isn’t so distinct or separate from the “outside” world?

You can choose to put yourself in healthy spaces and surround yourself with people  that support healthy, shared humane and humanitarian values. You can set yourself up, through choice, to minimize or eliminate unhealthy distractions– whether within you or from the forces of the world beyond you. So why do human beings fail to “do the right thing” or “make the logical choice”?  Why is it that  when we KNOW rationally or even by gut instinct, what the “right” thing to do is for our most healthy, authentic selves to flourish, that we fail to ACT accordingly? Because we are emotional, intuitive, fleshy embodied animals with human brains,  that’s why.

How can you be a good group member and be your own best advocate, friend, and wise guide too?

There will always be distractions and pressures pulling you away from your path toward values, and even the various urges, impulses, and thoughts within your own inner landscapes will seemingly be distracting and tempting you to go off course. If you are aware of them because you are paying attention, because you are practicing being mindful, you have a better chance of coping and managing than if you are oblivious and unconscious.

Super-corporations including the social media companies and conglomerates are reaching deeply into your inner landscape and manipulating your emotions, your physiology, and your mind in order to keep your attention, energy, desires, and self-awareness glued to their targets FOR PROFIT. They are manipulating YOU in unhealthy, nefarious, and negative ways, while also providing you with an amazing, progressive, useful tool that can be used for good health, healing, and wellness (individually and socially!) AND this is the conundrum of our modern time. THIS problem and the disconnection from ourselves as emotional, embodied beings is why I created this curriculum.

The wake-up call, a loud bell, and action you can take to defend and protect yourself and those you love is to know thyself. 

There’s no better reason than this to keep up your self-study for self-realization!

Yes– being a healthy human– both individual and part of a larger whole is a delicate and demanding balancing act on a constantly changing landscape—it’s the  challenge of modernity. Embracing the journey as a  learning process is the path to wisdom and vitality, individually and collectively.

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