By Sophy Banks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
originally presented:April, 2008
Edited by Bill Maxwell
Start with a brainstorm of the question.
“What are the underlying beliefs of an industrial growth system?”
Not an easy question, is it? Let’s try breaking it down. The key questions, as we see it, include:
- What are the beliefs that underlie our world and shape how we see it, respond to it, and make our human society?
- How did we get here?
- Why do we make a society that is headed for self-destruction?
- Why are we so slow to wake up to the need for change?
- What is really going on?
- What insights can psychology, psychotherapy and wisdom traditions offer that help with these questions?
- What would an “inner transition” look like?
The first concept is that the inner and outer world are related, that our beliefs shape our behavior, priorities, and what institutions and organisations we create. These in turn shape our world and thus our experience so our beliefs and models of how the world is and how we can or should relate to it, to each other and to our selves are connected back to those experiences.
Childhood is the place where our core beliefs about the world are formed and our patterns in relating are largely determined. From the world view formed in childhood we go out into the world expressing the inner world through our actions, relationships and behaviour patterns. Thus we make our external society, technology, culture which in turn influences child rearing practice.
The underlying psychology of industrial growth systems (or empire)
We are always in one of two physiological states, governed by the sympathetic or parasympathetic systems. We are either in a good reality – relaxed, safe, expansive, confident in the world to meet our needs and support us. Or in a kind place of fear, anxiety, contraction – known as the fight / flight / freeze state.
In childhood we have a mix of these experiences. A key feature of childhood in our society is where negative experiences have a significant impact on our inner world view. Experiences of hunger (for love as well as for food), too much separation, lack of emotional mirroring and welcome, actual harm, contribute to a fundamental view that the world will not meet our needs and that we need to adapt ourselves to be received in the world.
Classic examples are the gender roles that boys should not cry when hurt, and girls should not be powerful or angry. When these emotions arise they will need to be redirected – perhaps a boy learns to get angry instead of sad, or to withdraw; perhaps a girl learns to turn her anger on herself or numb out rather than feel the direct emotion. Each family system has its own code for what behavior is welcomed and supported and what is ignored, judged or punished and we learn similar codes in school and other groups we belong to as we develop and grow.
This leads to an adapted personality and a distorted view of the world. What has been accepted by our world is accepted also by the individual, and creates our conscious comfort zone.
The personality structure that we find in western psychology is taken from psychosynthesis. What is available consciously is the middle area – thoughts, feelings, sensation, awareness, memories. But two areas are unavailable consciously: the memory of painful experiences where the sense of safety, connection, that the world would welcome and accept me as I am was lost. And with that goes the ability to truly experience and express myself authentically – and thus have true intimacy, joy in the present moment, access to creativity.
A key insight here is that access to both the “bad” stuff (recognised in most therapy models) and the “good stuff” is lost. And that the loss of them, and therefore regaining them, is intertwined.
To keep these memories out of awareness we create defenses – inner voices or injunctions that stop us from pursuing experiences which are taking us close to a memory of the material we have needed to repress. These are sometimes conscious – usually as criticial inner voices. This concept of a distorted self that has learnt responses to an unsupportive world has many names in different therapy schools – the armoured self, survival personality, adapted self and so on.