Jul 112012
 

Last week, I discussed the research of James W. Fowler, a Methodist minister, into the developmental stages of faith. Dr. Fowler built his ideas on the pattern of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. This is also worth considering.

Dr. Kohlberg found that moral development was revealed by one’s attitudes toward justice and how one reasoned on, and resolved, moral dilemmas. Related research identified justice as a masculine orientation and added caring as the corresponding feminine. At each stage of development, our moral behavior becomes more responsible, nuanced, and predictable.

Young children (and some poorly-developed adults) judge the morality of an action by its immediate consequences. Snatching a cookie or running a stop sign are just fine so long as you are not caught and punished. The focus is on personal benefit without considering ethical standards. Obedience can only be enforced with the threat of punishment.

The next stage is able to consider the needs of others, but only to the point of  deciding how to get what one wants. This is the “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” attitude of moral relativity.

Adolescents usually begin to judge the morality of a situation according to the expectations of authorities within their culture. They are willing to comply obediently because they are convinced that “it is the right thing.” This rigid morality typically views things very strictly in terms of “black and white.” A “good boy” or “good girl” conforms to accepted social roles. Morality is usually judged by intent and how an action affects relationships.

Some people understand that social order requires voluntary compliance to the standards of their community. They accept that laws must be obeyed and personal sacrifices made because it is their duty. They will stop at all stop signs simply because it is the right thing to do and because it sets a good example for others.

As it becomes obvious that different cultures hold different expectations, laws become regarded as adjustable social contracts within each community. The most important consideration becomes an understanding of “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” The operation of an effective Democracy requires this understanding and acceptance of compromise as inevitable for the common good.

Eventually, moral reasoning stops being derived from others; it depends on an individual appreciation for ethical abstractions and universal principles. This is not the same as moral relativity. Each person becomes responsible for deciding that he or she cannot march neighbors into gas chambers, no matter what. If a law is unjust, there is an obligation to disobey it. There are fewer arguments about rights, but more empathetic consideration of what is right. This stage is still considered rare.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

It should not be surprising, in our scientific, technological world, that faith has been subjected to empirical studies and analysis. Hold onto your hat: it turns out that both people and communities of faith develop through a predictable series of stages… or find a comfortable level and stay there.

James W. Fowler, a minister in the United Methodist Church, wrote “Stages of Faith” in 1981 while a professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University. Additional research has followed. Here is a summary of the results.

Preschool children often confuse fantasy and reality. Their mix of ideas are picked-up, but not fully-developed, from those around them. They may believe in God and the Tooth Fairy, but already know that the guy at the mall is not really Santa.

School-age children begin to use logic and take things very literally. They may strongly and stubbornly hold onto ideas that come from trusted authorities. Their parents may still be insisting on the details of Santa’s visit to every home on Christmas eve.

Teenagers become aware of multiple, conflicting belief systems, but often associate strongly with a single institution and its doctrine. These staunch believers tend to “double-down” against any challenge to the anchors of their faith. They are easily persuaded that exposure to other ideas is dangerous so that they are determined to remain isolated within their community of support.

In young adulthood, with continued exposure to other peoples and their beliefs, some begin a period of critical re-examination of the elements of their faith. They may become disillusioned with their former community and move forward to independently search for a new foundation. Paradoxically, this progressive movement is often criticized as “backsliding.” Many men, especially, become “spiritual but not religious” and stop worshiping in a church.

In mid-life, it sometimes occurs to people that much about life is conflicting, unknown, or even unknowable. Neither faith nor logic fully satisfy. Much has to be taken, at any given time, as a paradox or mystery. Sacred stories and symbols may be a comfort, but not a foundation. Their spirituality may merge with their intent to “live a good life.”

A few older folks reach a point where they feel that life and gratitude, day by day, is sufficient blessing. There is no need to agonize over doubts, carry guilt from past mistakes, or dread what may happen in the next year, or the next moment. These folks may open themselves, within their remaining capacities, to take full satisfaction in the love of, and service to, others. These people may still embrace the formal worship of a specific divinity, but their capacity to love is no longer dependent on any given doctrine.

No developmental stage that serves the needs of the individual and their community is necessarily bad. Still, increasing tolerance always accompanies increasing spiritual development.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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May 232012
 

John Dean referenced Bob Altemeyer’s work extensively in his 2006 book, “Conservatives without Conscience.”

In case you wanted to dig deeper, your link is http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Altemeyer explains: “This book is about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.”

“The feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read The Authoritarians enables me to give you the major reason why you might want to do so too.   “It ties things together for me,” people have said, “You can see how so many things all fit together.” “It explains the things about conservatives that didn’t make any sense to me,” others have commented. And the one that always brings a smile to my face, “Now at last I understand my brother-in-law” (or grandmother, uncle, woman in my car pool, Congressman, etc.)”

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Apr 102012
 

I was discussing the concept of  “developmental levels of worldview” with a friend. She keep wanting to imagine that my description of a hierarchical, predictable sequence of developmental stages suggested increasing “smartness” or “betterness.” I was having trouble getting across the ideas that any worldview stage is perfectly fine so long as it serves the needs of your current circumstances and does not oppress others.

Eventually, I suggested that progressive developmental levels was like a progressive experience of elephants:
[This does not accurately represent my belief system; it’s just an imaginary hierarchy of experience.]

  • What’s an elpherbunt? (simply no clue)
  • I have heard of elephants.
  • I have read a story about elephants. (unable to independently anticipate the experience of an elephant’s subsonic rumbles)
  • I have seen an elephant at the circus.
  • I have watched elephants at the zoo. (the most common limit to likely developmental stages)
  • I have lived with elephants in the wild. (few people would even imagine that anything more was possible)
  • I have memories of being an elephant.
  • I have always been an elephant. (few elephants would even imagine that anything more was possible)
  • I am the race memory of all elephants.
  • I Am that I Am. (God’s description of himself in Exodus)

Each stage is adequate for the needs of certain individuals in certain circumstances.

At each stage, some greater [effort or] involvement has been achieved to have had a larger understanding.

At each stage, it is difficult to explain the experience adequately to some who has not been there.

At each stage, it is difficult to imagine the richness of knowing involved in additional stages.

I’m not suggesting that all of these stages are actually plausible for an individual. But, then again, how could you actually be certain of that unless you were I Am?

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Mar 082012
 

I found a relatively new poster at open.salon.com. http://open.salon.com/blog/not2late4 She writes with thoughtful passion about ways that she has had to face and reason about controversial situations. It turns out that I was the first one to “favorite” her and we exchanged several messages. She was distressed by the strong anger that one her articles had provoked and was considering withdrawing from the site. I hope that she will carry on.

Dear Kat,
People who write like you do are really annoying. This is actually a good thing. Don’t worry about it. Keep it up. Perfect your art. I got a bumper sticker for my wife’s car that said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  You may also draw more encouragement from http://herestothecrazyones.com/ As an award-winning elementary school teacher, my wife always kept the quote prominently framed on a wall … at student’s eye level.

If you read some of my stuff posted at SocioDynamics.org (some of which is cross-posted at open.salon) you will see that I have been wrestling with the questions of why some people are persistently fearful, angry, ignorant, or bigoted. I’ve found many answers in the science of psychosocial development. Unfortunately, the answers point to the fact that, in sequential developmental stages, there will just be things that many people can’t understand yet. And, they will dislike you intensely for discussing those things.

Introducing a new idea is, for them, like bringing a new cat into the house. There is no, hello-how-do-you-do. There is just reflexive hissing, arched backs, and hair on end. But, in time, it (usually) settles down to shared naps in the sunny spot on the floor. If there is hope for cats, there is hope for the public discourse of ideas… and maybe even all of humanity.

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Feb 092012
 

By David Satterlee

All politicians are aware that they need to be careful of their words. Words have the power to invoke strong emotions, which can distract from rational debate. These words, repeated over and over, confer the conviction of certainty and authority, even when they lack any basis in fact.

But, Republicans seem to have made the cynical use of emotional words (instead of the discussion of ideas and consequences) a primary focus of their message for many years. Do not misunderstand me. I will say again that all politicians use influential words. However, my premise is that Republicans seem to operate on the unabashed theory that they can make anything true by saying it often enough to the uninformed. Let’s compare some early Newt Gingrich to some contemporary Frank Luntz.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich described his goal as “reshaping the entire nation through the news media.” (New York Times, 12/14/94) His aggressive negativity fits with his philosophy that, “fights make news.” (Boston Globe, 11/20/94). In a GOPAC training tape of that era, he advised creating ‘shield issues’ to deflect criticism: “You better find a good compassion issue where, you know, you show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center, and all you’re trying to do is shield yourself from the inevitable attack.”
The 1996 GOPAC memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” went further by listing words to use to accuse Democrats and defend Republicans. It’s cover letter from Newt Gingrich explained that, “The words in that paper are tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually tested ideas and language.” The memo said:

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that “language matters.” In the video “We Are a Majority,” language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party… As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates, we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”
That takes years of practice. But we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.
This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that, like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.
Contrasting Words
Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie… liberal… they/them… unionized bureaucracy… “compassion” is not enough… betray… consequences… limit(s)… shallow… traitors… sensationalists… endanger… coercion… hypocrisy… radical… threaten… devour… waste… corruption… incompetent… permissive attitudes… destructive… impose… self-serving… greed… ideological… insecure… anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs… pessimistic… excuses… intolerant… stagnation… welfare… corrupt… selfish… insensitive… status quo… mandate(s)… taxes… spend(ing)… shame… disgrace… punish (poor…)… bizarre… cynicism… cheat… steal… abuse of power… machine… bosses… obsolete… criminal rights… red tape… patronage
Optimistic Positive Governing Words
Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!
share… change… opportunity… legacy… challenge… control… truth… moral… courage… reform… prosperity… crusade… movement… children… family… debate… compete… active(ly)… we/us/our… candid(ly)… humane… pristine… provide… liberty… commitment… principle(d)… unique… duty… precious… premise… care(ing)… tough… listen… learn… help… lead… vision… success… empower(ment)… citizen… activist… mobilize… conflict… light… dream… freedom… peace… rights… pioneer… proud/pride… building… preserve… pro-(issue): flag, children, environment… reform… workfare… eliminate good-time in prison… strength… choice/choose… fair… protect… confident… incentive… hard work… initiative… common sense… passionate

Frank Luntz recently wrote, “Words matter. The most powerful words have helped launch social movements and cultural revolutions. The most effective words have instigated great change in public policy. The right words at the right time can literally change history.” (Huffington Post, 3/1/11)

In “The 11 Words for 2011” he comments:

  • “Uncompromising integrity.” Of all the truthiness words, none is as powerful as “integrity,” but in today’s cynical environment, even that’s not enough. People also need to feel that your integrity is absolute.
  • “The simple truth” comes straight from billionaire businessman Steve Wynn, and it sets the context for a straightforward discussion that might otherwise be confusing or contentious. It’s the perfect phrase to begin and end the budget-deficit-debt debate.
  • “You decide.” No, this is not paying homage to Fox News. The lesson of 2010 is that Americans want control of their lives back, and they don’t want Washington or Wall Street making their decisions for them. So add the phrase “you’re in control” and you’ve said exactly what Americans want to hear.
  • “You deserve.” This comes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and it was first employed by him in his highly praised 2006 SOTU response. It tells voters precisely what they should expect from their politicians and their government.

Notice that his focus is not on integrity, truth, or reason (although these words are used), but on the ability of these words to manipulate and persuade. Spend some time with this point; savor it and use it as an illumination in a dark corner. Is a product really better because a different color makes it “new and improved?” Can you really believe that the new automated customer service phone system was installed “to serve you better?” Do you really believe all the accusations that Republican candidates threw at each other (or at our President) during the 2011/2012 GOP primary debates?

Do not misunderstand me. I will say again that all politicians use influential words. My objection is to the use of falsehoods and unsubstantiated accusations wrapped in phrases designed to trigger emotional responses IN PLACE OF persuasive rhetorical reason. This is especially onerous when the audience is predisposed to respond to calls for loyalty and obedience to authority more than to understanding and reason.

What was that? Did I just say that there is something wrong with conservative audiences? Yes and no. Research into individual and cultural development shows that all individuals and social groups mature through a predictable series of worldviews. Each worldview in this progressive dynamic of maturity embraces all previous worldviews. And each new worldview transcends and supersedes previous ones as they no longer succeed in explaining, making meaning of, and guiding decisions about life circumstances.

Earlier worldviews respond predominantly to emotions, power, and authority while later worldviews respond more to evidence, empathy, and the dynamic nuances of collective benefit. This makes it easier to recruit holders of earlier worldviews using simpler assertions that appeal to their predispositions.

In brief, individuals and cultures move through a predictable path in areas such as cognition, morality, emotions, and faith. There have been many researchers in these developmental areas. Although they may assign different stage names, they all identify systems of developmental levels. Let’s take an example:

Don Beck, in his book Spiral Dynamics, based on the research of psychologist Clare Graves, identified and described:

  • SurvivalSense – Instinctive – “Express self to meet imperative physiological needs through instincts of Homo sapiens.”
  • KinSpirits – Tribal – “Sacrifice to the ways of the elders and customs as one subsumed in group.” This is the level of traditional cultures.
  • PowerGods – Preconventional/Egocentric – “Express self (impulsively) for what self desires without guilt and to avoid shame.” Expressed by the mentality of street gangs, Vikings, etc.
  • TruthForce – Pre-Modern/Traditional – “Sacrifice self for reward to come through obedience to rightful authority in purposeful Way.” Embodied by fundamentalist religions.
  • StriveDrive – Modernism – “Express self (calculatedly) to reach goals and objectives without rousing the ire of important others.” Expressed in the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
  • HumanBond – Postmodernism – “Sacrifice self-interest now in order to gain acceptance and group harmony.” Expressed in 1960s pluralism and systems theory.
  • FlexFlow – Integral – “Express self for what self desires, but avoid harm to others so that all life, not just own life, will benefit.”
  • GlobalView – Holistic – Sacrifice self-interest purely out of principal to achieve greater good.

Each new worldview allows individuals or communities to deal successfully with an increasingly complex world. On the other hand, each worldview is a necessary and universal, if temporary, stage in development. Each worldview serves its purpose at a particular stage, and is retained and still available to those who have acquired the ability to deal with more complex issues.

Unfortunately, people holding earlier worldviews have difficulty in understanding the reasoning and motives of those who have moved on to more-comprehensive systems of thought. Because of this, it is easy to persuasively misrepresent scientific thought to a tribal culture, or lie about the motives of someone holding a global view to someone pledging obedience to a specific leader or religion. No amount of explaining would have convinced the Victorian English colonial empire that they should “make love, not war” or organize meetings so as to be sure that everyone had a chance to express their feelings.

This same dynamic makes it easy to misrepresent liberals to conservatives. Whoops! You may be thinking that I did it again. I DID NOT SAY, “liberals good, conservatives bad.” If your worldview is working for you and you have values that move you to behave virtuously, that is a wonderful thing. In fact, you can’t become liberal without passing through a conservative phase. Been there, done that, moved on. However, there is no reason to think that this makes you better than your neighbor. Some of your neighbors are also moving on. This is all good.

At some point, some people begin to discover that their current way of thinking isn’t working for them anymore. If they struggle hard enough, it is possible to break through to a new way of thinking. When this happens, events take on new meaning, uncomfortable ideas begin to make sense, and you feel like you can see more clearly. But, you will be tempted, after several frustrating attempts to explain yourself to your old friends, to just say, “It’s complex.” They may accuse you of being a superior son-of-a-bitch and stop spending time with you. Then they will tell each other how much you hate them now. ‘sorry ‘bout that. Been there, done that, moved on.

My point is simply this: when the time comes to take a larger view…

  • Be willing to give up emotional reflexes for rational evidence.
  • Be willing to give up small-group loyalty for large-group tolerance.
  • Be willing to defer gratification now for more important gains later.
  • Be willing to give up selfishness to care about the welfare of others.
  • Be willing to balance individual liberties with the common good.
  • Be willing to come together in middle ground to work together to make life better for everyone.

And, don’t let dishonorable people lie to you and use you to achieve their own selfish advantage.

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Jun 112011
 

I wrote this poem in 2004 for a grandchild. You know who you are. And, you’re still welcome to visit at every opportunity!

Friends, please help me to share this video.

Agents and publishers, this needs to be a picture book.

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May 272011
 

Individuals generally derive their identity based on the groups to which they belong. Sometimes group membership, when the group is seen negatively, causes the members to suffer low self-esteem. Consider the various groups to which you belong.  What instance(s) can you relate from your life in which membership in a certain group caused you to have low self-esteem?

Having someone criticize the community to which you belong does not have to direct your self-esteem. Your response is dependent on the nature of your own character, values, and worldview. Continue reading »

Mar 072011
 

 

Political candidates and other public persons need to make the best of every opportunity to present themselves. They need to make sure that each appearance shows their best side. I have found that preparation and presentation reinforce each other. Mastery enables an air of confidence, while projecting confidence sets the stage for mastery.

Continue reading »

Jan 032011
 

 

The Emotions of Transformation

By David Satterlee (With appreciation to Susan Cook-Greuter)

The language, concepts, and vocabulary that people use forms the filter through which they see and understand the world. At higher levels of development, you become aware of this process. You are more-able to stand back and observe, not just everything else with dispassion, but your own actions, reactions, emotions and motives as well. You can enter the ego and see that you are playing this game or that game and be a genuine witness to your own struggles.

At first, you feel suspicious of this new perception. You don’t understand it well enough to defend it. It feels threatening and disturbing. Your foundation of assumptions has begun to crumble. You become aware of more of your mental processes such as creating explanatory stories and drawing conclusions. You begin to question all of the stories that you have previously created to explain things. But gradually you become more comfortable with the process of watching your mind at work.

Once you can begin to see yourself reaching the limits of previous understandings, struggling with inadequate ideas, and struggling to sort things out in a new way, there is a joyful satisfaction, an uplifting glow as you feel yourself transcending a critical cusp. You feel a little more vital, alert, and awake; saying: “AHHH.” Something totally “else” has opened to you. The struggle has ended as you allow yourself to flow into it. There is a new calmness in being able to watch everything happen and being able to choose to engage or not engage. A new faith emerges that you can remain grounded, without feeling threatened, trusting and accepting without proof, that most things are just fine, the way they have to be, where they are, what they are becoming, at this time.

As age advances toward death, there is a greater sense of holding, rather than moving. Although the prospect of death, like a premature loss, can still be frightening, there arises a curiosity and a mild anticipation. Although the prospect of dying produces a personal regret, it is inevitable and necessary. Another premature loss, becoming senile before dying, seems an even greater, tragic, and more dreadful threat. The body should drop away when the” self” departs. In any event, your departure will be only a minor adjustment in a cataclysmic universe rumbling with emergent potential.

At one stage, you struggle to understand and analyze increasing complexity and higher levels of perspective. You begin to see regular patterns of structure and how objects and ideas relate to each other. In another stage, you begin to see regular patterns in the dynamic flows of information and relationship. With an increasing grasp of complexity, the details begin to drop away, leaving pulsing clouds of being that, from a broader perspective, reveal new objects, structures, and patterns. The realization occurs that you are but a minor mote in a minor mist at the minor end of a minor domain. The realization occurs that, standing as a witness beyond all that is within, you are not separate from that which seemed within or without; you flow with the totality of all flow. Nothings flows without your flowing as well. You are flow. Flow is.

Copyright 2011, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Dec 262010
 

Climbing the Spiral

By David Satterlee

The way I am is better than how I have ever been.
I really am more satisfied with now than some past when.
I’m smarter than I used to be; as smart as I know how.
I don’t think one should need to be beyond where I am now.

But if once I have moved beyond the history of my past,
My progress to my here and now just might not be my last.
As I have struggled to transcend the problems I have met,
I must admit I should expect to meet more problems yet.

Although my errors led me to the way that I should go,
I don’t suppose “the hard way” is the only way to know.
Perhaps a search outside myself will shed a better light.
Have others come before me? Could they lead me out of night?

I should have the guessed; the path I tread has been traversed before,
By some who mastered lessons I’d be foolish to ignore.
If I care to examine all the best that they can tell,
I needn’t struggle near as hard in order to do well.

Copyright 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Dec 252010
 

KinSpirits Worldview Highlights

KinSpirits consciousness exists in a hierarchy of worldviews:

Continue reading »