Psychology / Self-help – Kindred Media Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Tue, 01 Dec 2020 03:41:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Psychology / Self-help – Kindred Media 32 32 Tomorrow’s Superheroes Fri, 13 Nov 2020 04:14:48 +0000 When the energy of attention suddenly stops feeding that virtual-reality, when that noise and its distortion in consciousness ends, a completely different reality-identity grabs the wheel just inches from the cliff. This new ground, this new reality, and identity, what Star Wars called The Force, “the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly free, timeless and fun, so simple […]]]>

When the energy of attention suddenly stops feeding that virtual-reality, when that noise and its distortion in consciousness ends, a completely different reality-identity grabs the wheel just inches from the cliff. This new ground, this new reality, and identity, what Star Wars called The Force, “the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly free, timeless and fun, so simple and natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity, our flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake,” true spontaneous intelligence – changes everything from the inside out.

– Michael Mendizza

News isn’t news. This world-changing COVID event is a clever twisting of image and data, delivered in daily doses through the most direct and powerful propaganda network ever conceived. As a filmmaker I always ask – who is producing the show? Who is writing the script?

Beneath the surface of our minds simmers now a new and terrifying assumption. Every human being, every surface, every breath we take may be infected with a deadly invisible predator. Who knows? It might be you or me. Don’t touch. Stay away. Cover your face. Roll up your sleeve. This slavery won’t hurt a bit. A global superstition has been injected deep in the soul of humanity. Look at what we are doing to our children, their innocent psyche branded, red hot, like cattle. While distilled, verified and often censored data tells a different story. Compared to recent years this flu season was measurably less deadly. 

What we call the human ego or social-image is an imagined virtual reality. Screen technology is a counterfeit of the same. The more primitive brain centers don’t distinguish between the counterfeit and the imagined. The state produced by both, fear, is the same. This is the unprecedented power of today’s propaganda, mimicking, and exploiting the same structure that spawns our identity. No wonder the hypnotic enchantment is so compelling, once implanted, why it is so hard to extinguish. 

Human consciousness is swimming in imagined thoughts, images, and the emotions they trigger. Like a fish in a bowl, we accept this as normal, without question. And tacitly this acceptance includes our personal identification with what is imagined. Our imagined reality is our identity. Both our reality and identity are dominated by undisciplined and unquestioned imagination. As long as this unquestioned imagined reality remains unquestioned – nothing will change. It will only get worse. You can feel the darkness spreading. 

Clever and convincing propagandists, snake oil salesmen masquerading as politicians, news-actors, and public-disease ambassadors, beat the drums and most eagerly drink the Kool-Aid, believing what is being injected so skillfully into our consciousness. Technology and implicitly technological-systems are leaching into our veins, being implanted in our bodies, changing how we think, perceive, and behave, for lockstep control and, of course, profit.

Machines and machine systems are not touched by the deeper capacities that define being human; empathy, altruism, joy, grief and despair, compassion, the capacity for authentic play and insight, and a deep, fundamental knowing that our very existence is an entangled, interdependent and symbiotic relationship, a spontaneous, adaptive dance with all life. This non-conceptual embodied constellation is our true nature, our true identity, not what is imagined.

Identity is the key. For centuries, undisciplined imagination has been the enchantment, pure abstraction, ego, and culture, leading the charge to the sixth great extinction. And like a Bruegel painting or Dorothy holding her silver slippers, the way home has always been waiting, so close – yet hidden from the enchanted mind of image and concept.

Real change comes from new acts that emanate from a single awakened realization, that awakening being from our collective imagined dream, an enchantment, and deadly entrapment that technology only deepens. When the energy of attention suddenly stops feeding that virtual-reality, when that noise and its distortion in consciousness ends, a completely different reality-identity grabs the wheel just inches from the cliff. This new ground, this new reality, and identity, what Star Wars called The Force, “the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly free, timeless and fun, so simple and natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity, our flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake,” true spontaneous intelligence – changes everything from the inside out.

So true and powerful is this awakening that it becomes the default state, like a big bright shining compass pointing in a completely new direction. And what we thought was the master, the magnificent capacity to imagine, conditioned memory, intellect, and technology, take their proper place as powerful tools, creatively sculpting wholeness and wellbeing, where before there was none, and not a moment too soon. 

While most will be eaten by technology, a few will escape, retain, and expand our true human essence. These few will be the outcasts who model nature’s true transcendent design. They will be the superheroes, living models, that tomorrow’s mechanical children will dream about, hoping one day to become. Let’s you and I be one of these.

Expanding Human Potential by Supporting Those Who Care For Children
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Why We Forgot How To Feel, A Video With Gabor Maté, MD Fri, 13 Nov 2020 03:25:05 +0000 There is a fundamental reason why many people have forgotten how to feel. Sustainable Human is a new Kindred partner. The film company is a 501c3 non-profit started by a husband and wife team (Chris and Dawn Agnos) whose mission is to examine the underlying stories that give rise to the environmental, social, and economic […]]]>

There is a fundamental reason why many people have forgotten how to feel.

Sustainable Human is a new Kindred partner. The film company is a 501c3 non-profit started by a husband and wife team (Chris and Dawn Agnos) whose mission is to examine the underlying stories that give rise to the environmental, social, and economic crises of our time and offer new stories that help humanity to live in harmony with each other and the biosphere.

Learn more:

Video Transcript

When a child is born, a child has two needs.

The first need is for attachment.

And attachment is contact, connection, love.

Without that, the human child does not survive.

Even an avian child doesn’t survive.

The baby bird has to have an attachment to the parents.

The parents have to be attached to the baby.

Otherwise the infant simply does not survive.

Mammalians even more so and most so the human because we are the least developed, the least mature, with the least developed brains, and the most dependent for the longest period of time of any creature.

So our attachment needs are enormous.

And they remain important through our lifetime because we have to have attachments to form societies, social groups, without which we don’t survive.

So attachment is a huge need – to be able to connect, belong,

be loved by and loved.

That’s just a basic human need.

But we have another need as well which is for authenticity.

Authenticity is the capacity to know what you feel, to be in touch with our bodies, and to be able to express who we are and manifest who we are in our activities and in our relationships.

Now why is that?

Well, think of a human being in evolutionary period who is not in touch with their body and their gut feelings.

How long do they survive out there in the wild?

So authenticity is another huge survival need.

But what happens to a child where the attachment need is not compatible with the need for authenticity?

In other words, if I am authentic, my parents will reject me.

If I feel what I feel and express what I feel and insist on my own truth, my parents can’t handle it.

And parents convey those messages unconsciously all the time.

Not because they mean to, not because they don’t love the child, but because they themselves are suppressed, or traumatized, or hurt, or stressed.

Now what does a child do with that?

Well, if I give up my attachment for the sake of authenticity,

Close my relationships upon which my life depends.

Therefore, there is no question.

What becomes suppressed is our authenticity, our emotions.

And then, we become 35, 40, and we don’t know who we are.

Somebody asks us, “what do you feel?” And you say, “I have no idea.”

And how many times have we all had the experience of having an inkling of a strong gut feeling, and ignoring it.

We ignore it and we get into trouble.

Well that tells us what happened.

What happened was that at some point we found out that it was too costly for our attachment relationships to be in touch with our gut feelings.

So, then it becomes not our first nature but our second nature to lose touch with ourselves and to suppress our gut feelings.

And then we pay the cost later on in the form of addiction, mental illness, or any range of physical illnesses.

But it all began with this tragic conflict that children should never be confronted with but are all the time between authenticity on the one hand and attachment on the other.

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It’s Not Your Fault – Some Things Are So Much Bigger Than You And Your Choices Fri, 23 Oct 2020 19:00:41 +0000 One late evening in 1999, Daniel Schneider and his wife were awakened by two police officers knocking at their door. Their 22-year-old son Danny was shot and killed in his vehicle, they informed the couple. Earlier that night upon heading out of his family home, Danny had told his parents he was going to a […]]]>

One late evening in 1999, Daniel Schneider and his wife were awakened by two police officers knocking at their door. Their 22-year-old son Danny was shot and killed in his vehicle, they informed the couple. Earlier that night upon heading out of his family home, Danny had told his parents he was going to a friend’s to study. Instead, he drove his little red truck to another part of town to buy opioids.

It’s the kind of thing we think would never happen to us. We imagine stories of opioid addiction or death by drug dealers only happen inside marginalized families with extreme disfunction. Yet the picture of Danny’s family is anything but that.

The Pharmacist,one of Netflix’s newest documentaries, follows the murder of Danny as told via the narrative of his father, Daniel, a pharmacist from Louisiana. Not only did he investigate the death of his son, but he went on to discover the disturbing truth about the scourge of opioid use in America.

Besides the main story, what The Pharmacist reveals is that a child raised in a good, kind, connected, solid family can end up a statistic. More importantly, it reveals a flaw in the nature versus nurture debate. The polarity of nature-nurture misses an essential third element…culture. Culture is a very influential aspect of our lives that shapes the people we are and the people we become. In Danny’s case, his stable family life was no match to the other cultures surrounding him—school culture, pharmaceutical, medical and American culture.

Why is this important to know? Because unwittingly, every day, each one of us—our choices, our beliefs, our perceptions, and our actions—is influenced by culture. We may think we are independent and critical thinkers, we may imagine ourselves emancipated from public opinion and sway, and yet like the proverbial fish in the water swims inside something he barely recognizes, we don’t see its influence upon us. Often, the most obvious, ubiquitous, essential realities are the ones that are the hardest to see and discuss.

Society points the finger at the individual—to raise a good kid, to be healthy, to recycle, to reduce carbon emissions, to succeed financially—but it’s a deflection to keep us engaged in our own personal choices rather than hold the society at large—our leaders, our institutions our policies—responsible for creating a culture that supports us to thrive.

If eating at McDonald’s is cheaper than eating a home-cooked meal using locally grown and sourced ingredients, how does that support the public to stay healthy? If companies insist we work at offices rather than from home, how does that support the public to consume less gas? If the education system remains entrenched in old ideologies and structures to educate a 21st-century child, how does that support us to raise confident and fulfilled young adults?

If states, cities, and national policies are not aligned in how to respond to a pandemic, how does that support the public to be unified in wearing masks and social distancing? And if doctors can dole out prescriptions for a drug in the same class as heroin for something as minor as a headache without so much as a word as to how addictive it is from the very first pill, how does that support people to avoid addiction?

Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, and producer of the film The Economics of Happiness argues that if policy shifts to support people to make the right choice easily, people, on the whole, tend to follow. “People down deep are good,” she said to me once over dinner. “They are not greedy, unkind, or selfish. What brings out the worst in people are policies that provoke fear, division, and insufficiency.”

She writes, “Increasingly distanced from the institutions which make decisions that affect their lives, and insecure about their economic livelihoods, people around the world are becoming frustrated, angry, and disillusioned. Because the bigger picture has remained largely hidden, few people blame the de factogovernment of deregulated banks and corporations; instead, they point the finger of blame elsewhere.”

People blame themselves. They blame each other. They blame particular political parties, immigrants, or residents who are ethnically or racially different. They blame the guy in the grocery store not wearing a mask, and he blames them for being angry about it. If you stop to think about this, what a perfect set up for the larger powers. Keep the people distracted by pointing fingers so institutions can carry on with their larger agenda unnoticed. The perfect divide and conquer.

I believe we need to be very careful right now with our well-meaning intent to assume over-responsibility for our choices, absent holding our leaders and our society at large accountable. I also believe we need to be careful with where we point the finger at individual others. As a people, we’d be wise to shift our view from changing ourselves and the ‘other’, to influencing the re-shaping of a society and culture to support all beings—humans and otherwise—to thrive.

In his book, The Mind-Body Code–How to Change Your Beliefs That Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success,neuropsychologist Dr. Mario Martinez demonstrates how our thoughts and their biological expression co-merge within cultural influences. His language of biocognition—how our culture affects our biology—provides a powerful basis for insights into health and success.

If dysfunctional lifestyles and toxic behaviors could change simply by our making a cognitive decision to do so based on our learning the facts about the issue, then smokers would simply and immediately quit smoking, and women would leave violent homes, poses Martinez. “True sustainable change requires gaining access to the cultural beliefs that deny you the rewards of your courageous commitment to change,” he says. But even then, the journey is not an easy one. “All cultures, East and West, have their own unique ways of punishing those whose ideas and behaviors run contrary to established beliefs,” he warns.

Lots of cultures around us influence us: corporate culture, medical culture, family, state, church, and country culture, just to name a few. Take for example our cultural narratives about age. In America, age is a cage. Turning twenty-nine sends youngsters into anxiety about becoming the dreaded thirty. And at the ‘retirement age’ of sixty-five, we are meant to stop everything and play golf, when in fact this is a time in your life when you are arriving at the culmination of your greatest mastery. Many of my clients are in the sixty to sixty-eight-year-old age bracket, and they are embarking on new and exciting careers. Yet all of them face the critically raised eyebrow of friends and family, “Why would you want to start that now?!”

The dangerous age narrative not only embeds biological information into our tissues, and actually influences how we feel each day. It influences our thoughts and actions. In fact, every cultural narrative influences us in that way. Which ones influence you? Think about it for a moment. Think about how, for example, you might blame yourself for being too busy and stressed. Yet your company culture expects you to be available and responsive to your email seven days a week. It’s not your stress or your choices within that organization that are the problem, it’s the culture.

There are so many narratives once you start looking. And most, if not all of them, are arbitrarily created and have no factual basis. Here are some: Homework is an essential part of a good education—studies showhomework diminishes outcomes. Staying married is better for the kids—not if the marriage is toxic. Breast cancer early detection saves lives—in the thirty yearssince a mammogram company transformed that campaign into a ‘medical fact’, 1.3 million women were overdiagnosed and their lives placed at risk. While eight cases per hundred thousand were helped by screening, 114 per hundred thousand were overdiagnosed.

Here’s another juicy one. Mothers often take the blame for almost everything that happens wrong to a child. Let’s take school shootings. Where does the collective mind point? To the mother mostly. She must have been a terrible one. But a teenager does not grow up to be a school shooter inside a vacuum of his mother’s arms. And he doesn’t just wake up one day in a bad mood and kill people. He was forged day after day, year after year, in an intricate web of various cultural conditions. So instead of blaming the mom, we could explore the school culture—his school’s response to bullying (most shooters were badly bullied throughout middle school and high school). Or we could explore the medical culture—the impact of psychostimulant and antidepressant drugs on developing brains (there is a link between shooters and these prescriptions). Or American culture—gun rights.

Overweight? Stop blaming your low self-esteem, your inability to restrain yourself. Our fruits and vegetables are far less nutritious than they were decades ago. We eat, we’re still hungry because our bodies are nutrition-starved. We eat more. The number on our personal scale is directly influenced by agribusiness, government policy, and corporate culture. Not to mention our cultural obsession with extreme thinness and all the narratives that go with that.

I’ll get some push back on calling out some of these narratives. That’s ok. As Dr. Martinez points out, that’s what cultures do. As you wake up from your own cultural trances and start to do things differently, you’ll get pushback too, or worse. Know that the pushback is not because your freedom or your choices are wrong, but because collectively the culture fears change. “We used to have so much time together,” says a friend subtly shaming you because they’re threatened by you finally writing your book.

Lockdown revealed a whole lot of narratives that simply were not true…narratives about working from home, about school, obligations and how we use our time, or how much ‘stuff’ we actually need. So get ready to be gaslighted by a culture that does not want you to wake up from the trance. As a recent cartoon showing two advertising executives read, “We can no longer make them think they really need this stuff.”

Many of us are asking ourselves who we want to be in this new world that is emerging as a result of the pandemic. I think it is a powerful and important question to ask ourselves. And with it, I wish to encourage each of you to ask what do you want your culture(s) to be? What narratives do you want to end? What influence can you wield over your friend culture, your family culture, your government, your company? What narratives do you wish to eliminate by not participating…ie, by not telling anyone your age anymore, by showing your school the facts about homework (or homeschooling if they don’t listen), by refusing to adhere to obligations that do not serve you, by no longer trading in your dreams in exchange for belonging and acceptance.

Flux and disruption provide the best conditions to create change because unlike other times when things are embedded and concretized, everything is moving, dissolving, and shifting. With a new election looming and a society in utter upheaval, we have a huge opportunity. Now is the time we want to look at what we want to shape in all the cultures that surround us. Complain to the manager, debate with your doctor, argue with the principal. Vote, influence, refuse, speak out, model, share, and inform. A new way, that is better for everyone is possible.

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The Psychology of Domestic Terrorists: Eliminationism Tue, 13 Oct 2020 01:10:39 +0000 We live in a soup of extremist attitudes.  The FBI uncovered and derailed a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The ideas held by the militia group planning the crime are not unusual in these divisive times, nor in Michigan which has a history of militia-type extremist groups.  But there is a longer history to notice. I […]]]>

We live in a soup of extremist attitudes. 

The FBI uncovered and derailed a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The ideas held by the militia group planning the crime are not unusual in these divisive times, nor in Michigan which has a history of militia-type extremist groups.  But there is a longer history to notice.

I grew up with the radio on most of the time, tuned into a university radio station with educational shows on the arts, public affairs, cooking, gardening. The shows expanded imagination, for example, providing insights about foreign lands and people from those lands—building empathy and understanding. It was an introduction to a type of cosmopolitanism welcoming Otherness.

Winner of the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015

But what happens if the radio listened to builds prejudices instead of taking them down? What if the shows you hear make you suspicious towards the Other instead of welcoming? What if the shows make you feel threatened by difference and even superior to the Other? Unfortunately, millions of people listen to radio that has these effects.

John F. Kennedy noted right-wing radio’s effects in the 1960s and used federal powers to curtail it (never to be forgotten by right-wing hosts); but after President Reagan dismantled the Fairness Doctrine (requiring alternative views to be presented on the same program), conservative radio took off and provides most radio entertainment in “red” America(Matzko, 2020).

David Neiwert (2009, 2017) describes the decades-long history of how talking points from the extreme right infiltrated mainstream conservatism via the whitewashing of talk radio, specifically, conservative radio. Hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who were considered to be bona fide conservatives, brought in cleaned-up extremist ideas (e.g., “feminazis”) and made them sound conservative. A key feature of right-wing radio is to scapegoat and demonize “enemies.”

After several decades of extremist view seepage into the discourse of conservative-credentialed pundits, extremist ideas are now central to Republican discourse. For example, David Duke, infamous former Klu Klux Klan leader, noted that the Republican Party’s platform in 1996 was very similar to his 1988 platform when he ran for president: antigay, antiimmigrant, antiabortion, antiwelfare, anti-affirmative action. Neiwert explains how this took place.

Right-wing extremism represents a “conservatism movement” in the USA, distinguishable from conservatism per se, which is about conserving tradition and making change slowly and carefully. The conservatism movement focuses on threat and exclusion, demonizing and dehumanizing those who don’t follow the party line. It manipulates the emotions and perceptions of listeners/viewers who are lured in with entertaining stories and susceptible to threat cues (recall that this susceptibility is often shaped by early life stress, contra the evolved nest, which undermines healthy development of the stress response system; Lupien et al., 2009).

The focus on hating those outside the sanctioned fold, even as infotainment, enables harmful action when the opportunity arises. As philosopher Iris Murdoch (2001) pointed out, if one routinely imagines harming someone perceived to be a threat just by their very existence, when the enabling situation arises it is much easier to take the harmful action because it has been imagined so many times. Neiwert writes that “small acts of meanness” (e.g., through words or shunning) can become pervasive and can turn into large acts. He notes:

[Incidents such as] nesting personal encounters, the ugliness at campaign rallies, the violent acts of “lone wolf” gunmen—are anything but rare….what motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—is the claim that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.” (p. 11)

In Neiwert’s account, the two key characteristics that distinguish eliminationist rhetoric from other political discourse is the focus on an enemy within the society, which targets whole groups of people as “vermin,” “animals, “monsters,” and the advocacy of eliminating those people through civil or violent means. In the USA, eliminationists hate the idea of an inclusive America.

In 2009, Neiwert argued that movement conservatism was not fascism –which would be openly revolutionary, dictatorial, reliant on intimidation and violence. However, he perceived “para-fascism” because although they threatened with bluster, movement conservatives lacked “the visceral, paranoid anger that animates so many actual fascists. They try to talk and walk like a fascist, but underneath, they lack the street violence and thuggery, the actual eliminationist enterprise that is the true fascist’s hallmark” (p. 27). Neiwert credited these distinctions for a situation then that was not irretrievable, remarking: “It is by small steps of meanness and viciousness that we lose our humanity” (p. 28). Eliminationism gives permission for people to act out their violence toward condoned targets. (One has to wonder if, with the plot to kidnap, try and possibly execute Governor Whitmer, we have moved past para-fascism.)

History of Eliminationism in the “New World”

Eliminationism in the broad sense was brought to the Americas by the European invaders. Nature was perceived as dead and dumb to be dominated and subdued for human ends (contrary to the Indigenous perspective that Nature is full of other-than-human persons to be respected and partnered with) (Merchant, 2003). Over time, America’s paradise of old growth forests across much of the continent, billions of birds flying around in droves, rivers full of otters and salmon was decimated to look a lot like the European landscape left behind; as we see today with hardly any of the original richness left (Narvaez et al. 2019; Sale, 1990; Turner, 1994). Even today US officials and citizens think nothing of killing animals they consider pests rather than partners.

When the Europeans arrived, Native peoples of the world were considered subhuman so killing them, as Columbus and the Spanish did, was not a sin until a papal edict declared that they were human and could be converted to Christianity; if they did not comply (with conversion rituals they did not understand), then they could justifiably be killed as infidels (McPherson & Rabb, 2011).

The culture brought to the Americas by White Europeans was characterized by superiority to and distrust of non-European and nature’s entities. In fact, they brought most of the “dangerous ideas” that are associated with conflict and violence: superiority, distrust, vulnerability, helplessness, injustice (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2000). Fear of vulnerability and helplessness was countered with control (instead of hospitality) towards Nature and non-Europeans. The European sense of superiority leads to a sense of injustice if their superior position is not maintained. Enslaving Africans added to the certainty of White-European superiority. Thus, there are deep roots of white supremacy in the country. In fact, Southern culture, rooted in slavery and oligarchic plantation society, is considered by some to have won the civil war as exclusionary attitudes and practices and misshapen historical accounts have pervaded the whole country (Richardson, 2020).

Growth or Fixed Orientation to Life?

Eliminationism is stuck in rigid categorization—fixed, black-and-white thinking. In right-wing radio world, instead of encouraging growing compassion (and a growth mindset; Dweck, 2006), individuals are encouraged to perceive the world in fixed categories—in both themselves and others (a factor related to less achievement and creativity, ibid). This, of course, tends to encourage shutting down openness to change or difference, a characteristic of authoritarianism (Stenner, 2009). In fact, a growth orientation improves flexibility and perspective taking, signals of intelligence (Piaget, 1952).

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

The major religions of the world traditionally considered spiritual growth to be necessary aspect of a religious life (Western Christianity mostly dropped the growth aspect and made religion an identity rather than a following of daily practices toward self-transformation; Wilber, 2006). Part of spiritual growth was decreasing egoism and increasing compassion towards others. Historically and traditionally, hospitality towards the stranger and the needy are part of the nature of a religiously driven good life (Marty, 2005, 2010).

Fundamentalist ideologies are crisis-oriented movements that flourish when the followers are convinced that their way of life is under threat (Almond et al., 1995). It subverts the individual to group needs, a group always headed by a male leader whose instincts are considered superior to reason or expertise.  A form of “stranger danger” becomes pervasive, and “dangerous ideas” flourish: superiority, distrust, vulnerability, helplessness and a sense of injustice or victimization (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2000) as well as conspiracies (Neiwert, 2009). Because the drives toward fundamentalism and authoritarianism are emotional and mostly subconscious, fact-based counter evidence is taken as just more evidence for the truth of a conspiracy (see QAnon).   In a black-and-white world, people feel unsafe and disconnected from the Other, with a pervasive sense of dread. A neo-Darwinian struggle (competitive survival of the fittest) is assumed necessary. Self-protectionism becomes predominant in one’s moral life (Narvaez, 2014).

The Draw of a Key Basic Need: Belonging

A sense of belonging is a key component of human flourishing. Babies feel like they belong to the community when their needs are met quickly, keeping them in a growth state (Narvaez, 2014). Harsh treatment puts them in a self-protective state which can become a trait (Milburn & Conrad, 2016). A welcoming social climate– the hospitality provided even to strangers that most traditional societies practiced– helps children and adults feel welcome and better able to be themselves (Marty, 2005). But there is a huge gap between western ideas of belonging and the approach in traditional societies. In Indigenous societies, a sense of belonging to the natural world and the universe is fundamental. Vision quests form a regular part of child development in Native American communities. One learns to trust oneself to the guidance the universe provides. This requires the society to trust the universe also, to allow the (presumably well raised) individual to follow their muses (spirit guides). Non-interference in the life course of the child is fundamental. A broader and deeper sense of belonging helps alleviate the temptations to feel superior, vulnerable, helpless, or distrustful, which are known to foster harmful behavior. Instead, one learns to practice openness to the guidance from the other than human.

When people are raised outside of a sense of belonging (e.g., basic needs not met as a child through the evolved nest) they will keep searching for reassurance and likely take up a version that inflates the underfed insecure ego, one that emphasizes their superiority, much like the conservatism movement has done for Americans who feel abandoned by family and community.

Taking up Self-Direction

As those who study intuition development understand, one’s intuitions and worldview are shaped by the environments one experiences (Hogarth, 2001). To have control over what intuitions you develop, you must choose relationships and environments carefully, as Aristotle noted. Whatever is repeated in the environments where you spend time—either in words, role models or experiences—is shaping what you think is true about the world. To move away from places and people that inflate your ego and give you dangerous ideas, you must select and build discourses and social environments that encourage openness and practical skilled receptivity (Marty, 2010). As major religions’ spiritual practices advise, as soon as your ego starts to get inflated, take action to move away from that idea and return to a sense of relational connection and humility. Sometimes a revamping of neurobiological capacities to self-calm is required (Mines, 2020; Narvaez, 2014).


Almond, Gabriel A., Sivan, Emmanuel and Appleby, R. Scott  (1995). Fundamentalism: Genus and Species. In M. E. Marty & R. S. Appleby (Eds.), Fundamentalisms Comprehended (pp.399–424). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset. New York: Random House.  

Eidelson, R. J., & Eidelson, J. I. (2003). Dangerous ideas: Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict. American Psychologist, 58, 182-192

Goldhagen, D.J. (1996). Hitler’s willing executioners: ordinary Germans and the holocaust. New York, NY, USA: Alfred A Knopf.

Hogarth, R. M. (2001). Educating Intuition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445.

Marty, M. (2005). When faiths collide. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Marty, M. (2010). Building cultures of trust. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans.

Matzko, P. (2020). The radio right: How a band of broadcasters took on the federal government and built the modern conservative movement. New York: Oxford University Press.

McPherson, D.H., & Rabb, J.D. (2011). Indian from the inside: Native American philosophy and cultural renewal, 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co.

Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The fate of nature in Western culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Milburn, M.A., & Conrad, S.D. (1996). The Politics of Denial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mines, S. (2020). We are all in shock: Energy healing for traumatic times. Newburyport, MA: New Page.

Murdoch, I. (2001). The sovereignty of good. London: Routledge Classics.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom.New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing. New York: Peter Lang.

Neiwert, D. (2009). Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right

Neiwert, D. (2017). Alt-right: The rise of the radical right in the age of Trump. London: Verso.

Piaget, J. (1952). The origin of intelligence in children. New York: International University Press.

Richardson, H.C. (2020). How the South won the civil war: Oligarchy, democracy, and the continuing fight for the soul of America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sale, K. (1990) The conquest of paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. New York, NY: Penguin Plume.

Stenner, Karen (2009). Three Kinds of “Conservatism. Psychological Inquiry. 20 (2–3): 142–159. doi:10.1080/10478400903028615.

Turner, F. (1994). Beyond geography: The Western spirit against the wilderness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wilber, K. (2006). Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Boulder: Shambala.

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What is a Flying Lead Change? Tue, 01 Sep 2020 16:04:32 +0000 An excerpt from my soon to be released book Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living]]>

An excerpt from my soon to be released book Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living

On a hot, humid afternoon, a small dog-like creature nibbles on fruit suspended above a lush fern-covered ground. The thick jungle forest is bursting with sound, as this is a time when mammal life explodes with innovative evolutionary options. Nearby our earliest ancestor (also small) moves past, vying for the same sweet delicacy. For a moment the two lock eyes.

Fifty-six-million years later, in the same place we now call Wyoming, their descendants are working together in perfect harmony, human and horse, to move a herd of cattle off a northern slope into a grassy valley. As the horse gallops up a ridgeline, suddenly the topography changes, and the herd of cattle makes an abrupt shift. In response, the horse effortlessly executes what is known as a flying lead change—a gravity-defying maneuver that allows them to change balance and respond to the changing scenario without losing momentum or unseating their rider. Like this, horses have been our partner in successfully navigating change for thousands of years—the perfect power couple.

A flying lead change is the equestrian term for a high-level yet natural gymnastic move that happens at the canter, lope, or gallop (a horse’s fastest gait). In lay terms, when a horse canters, they lead with either their left or right set of legs. Say you were watching this cowboy gallop up the ridge. You might see their horse reach with their left front leg farther than their right; that would indicate a left lead. Horses will remain in a particular lead (or at least favor one) and continue their trajectory in that manner. It is only by external influences—a radical change in topography, for example—that the horse will change leads.

The flying lead change, or flying change as it is sometimes called, is when the animal, mid-flight, changes their lead from left to right, or vice-versa. At its finest, when you are astride a highly trained horse who deliberately executes the motion with balanced elegance, a flying change is astonishing to experience.

A masterful feat of gravity defiance that would be the envy of any prima ballerina or black belt, the flying change requires a culmination of complex and coordinated elements executed in one dynamic flow mid-air: attunement to change, connection, balance and equilibrium, a quiet mind, openness to new possibilities, tempo, a suspension of pattern while continuing momentum, and finally levitation to create space for a transition of balance and new direction.

Collectively we are facing the need for the same physics-defying maneuver. Our topography is radically changing, which requires us to change the way we lead our lives, families, and organizations. Such topography calls us to execute this change with similar mastery: attunement, care, presence, connection, mindfulness, openness to possibility, levity, suspension of old habits, maintaining momentum, levitation for a transition of balance into something new . . . humanity’s flying lead change.

We need more than policy change; we need a collective change of heart, a turn of equilibrium, a radical shift in the dynamics of how we do things. Together in this book we will explore the conditions, principles, and practicalities that will, in the midst of our ever-speeding lives, support us to change our lead mid-flight into a new way forward that will sustain us across the millennia as the horse has sustained itself for tens of millions of years.

This book is not about horses. It’s about you and me listening together for a way of living and leading that is both practical and wise, as taught by an ancient successful system.

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The Roots of Pathology: Authoritarianism Towards Babies Wed, 19 Aug 2020 21:17:04 +0000 Societal problems start in babyhood, one comparative psychoanalyst argued. Authoritarianism harms others (see prior post). Authoritarianism towards babies is particularly harmful, as therapist after therapist report (e.g., Balint, 1968). Clinician James Clark Moloney wrote The Magic Cloak around 70 years ago, lamenting the state of mental health in the United States. Stationed in Okinawa during […]]]>

Societal problems start in babyhood, one comparative psychoanalyst argued.

Authoritarianism harms others (see prior post). Authoritarianism towards babies is particularly harmful, as therapist after therapist report (e.g., Balint, 1968). Clinician James Clark Moloney wrote The Magic Cloak around 70 years ago, lamenting the state of mental health in the United States. Stationed in Okinawa during World War II, he was astonished at the residents’ lack of mental illness despite the horrors of war.

He noted how mistreated U.S. children were at the time, causing the types of pathologies he saw in his practice with adults. Conditioned by a frightening past, they lacked the flexible social capacities of a healthy human being. With years of providing psychotherapy and, like other psychotherapists, he emphasized the importance of guarding the inner life of the young child, fostering a sense of security.

In the book, he drew conclusions about what had gone wrong in the childhoods of his patients in contrast to the lives of children in Okinawa.

Usually, a child grows from her center, increasing her capacities and confidence. When traumatized early, subjected to existential fear, the child loses her center of gravity. A child who loses her center of gravity surrenders spontaneity and functions as an automaton. This can emerge from a special environment, as in Nazi Germany, where “the psychology of character dynamics” was used deliberately to “Nazify” the populace (p. 337).

Writing shortly after the end of World War II and having served, Moloney describes the Nazi ideology as a sign of an inner need for perfectionism, a type of megalomania, an overcompensation for a feeling of extreme inner weakness. Nazi child-raising manuals (e.g., Haarer, 1934) were about ignoring the emotional needs of the preverbal child to such a degree they would be unattached and unempathetic but also malleable by authorities later. “The Nazis wanted children who were tough, unemotional, and unempathetic and who had weak attachments to others, and they understood that withholding affection would support that goal” (Kratzer, 2019).

Moloney said that practices similar to those of the Nazis were happening in America, though “for the most part, accidental” rather than deliberate (p. 337).

Moloney describes the effect of such a childhood on the adult Nazi. Deeply frightened in early life, the Nazi tries to be more perfect, to make himself worthy of being loved, while at the same time hosting a desire to revolt and be himself. The Nazi neutralizes the conflict by externalizing (aggressing against others), cataloging, classifying the world to render all else perfect.

Generally speaking, unlike a well-cared-for child, a child deeply frightened by caregiver behavior may never realize the growth and mastery of self (without an intervention like therapy). The child will repress the true self. “To live, he dies.” (Moloney, 1949, p. 61)

Masochism may be rooted here. In a religious context, the child can learn that it is a sin to assert independence—it goes against God. Yet at the same time, the social system demands: “Stand on your own two feet. Don’t depend on others.” Neuroses may develop to manage the contradictions and deep fear.

To survive, Moloney argues, the child must assume a “magic cloak.”

“Most individuals wear a magic cloak. This magic cloak is an assumed investiture with authority which is worn as a mantle of omnipotence. Out of fear of helplessness, in a terror-ridden world, the individual pulls about his shoulders the character of a supreme being. The cloak fits so snugly that sooner or later he becomes unable to distinguish between himself and the illusory assumption of majesty. In consequence, he becomes an actor, acting out a god’s part on the stage of life. He does not know that his is the role of an impersonator. He is unable to see through his own camouflage.” (p. 1).

“In these individuals, a terrifying danger threatened the self at a time when no adequate defense was provided. Subsequently, this dreadful experience becomes invaginated and consciously forgotten…This renders the individual insecure, cautious and frequently incapable of meeting new problems. He had failed before; he may fail again. Failure implies helplessness in the face of a death-threatening reality…Such helplessness demands the intervention of a powerful magic. …He commences to live in a self-created world…flooded with material evolved from the memory traces of the failure.” (p. 2)

Every magic cloak is unique to the individual, depending on such things as timing, context, and duration of the trauma. The child can take on the role of the endangerer, typically the parent, and become a perfectionist toward self and others. What kind of perfectionism is adopted will vary. For the German Nazi, Aryans who were obedient to the Nazi ideology and leader were the only ones who could be perfect.

In the authoritarian personality (which Nazi child raising promotes), according to Moloney, there are two “characters:” the frightened child and the frightening parent. It is better to be the frightener. When that’s not possible, self-surrender or withdrawal are the only safe paths.

“After the process of self-surrender has become established [from an authoritarian, punishing parent], the mechanism becomes automatic and can be put into operation by the presence of any authority important to the [person]. With the advent of such an authority, the bowing and scraping commences, and the patient “acts out” with th new authority the same type of obsequious, self-debasing behavior which was promoted originally by the tyrannical and “life-threatening” parent. ..The masochist will react to the new superior as if he were a martinet [puppet]…Despite the fact that he may be correctly appraised of the other man’s character through the intellectual process, still the emotional “intellectual process,” or the emotional “thinking,” will bring about a type of untraconformist behavior similar to that which was originally induced by the parent.” (p. 91)

Some individuals who are particularly passive and dependent in these ways may always need a superior to subordinate themselves to, otherwise, they may destroy their self-expression drives with suicide, says Moloney.

How then did Okinawans and American mothers differ in the mid-20th century according to Moloney’s experience?

American mothers at the time were encouraged to attend to the physical but not emotional needs of the child, much like what the Nazi handbook taught (Watson, 1928). At the time, mothers were encouraged not to breastfeed, to leave infants to cry, and force them to sleep alone. They commonly punished young children for not doing whatever the parent had in mind. These parenting behaviors are still common in the USA.

In Okinawa, children were not coerced or punished but were “well mothered” (p. 302). They were treated with dignity, as their own person. The practices align with those of our evolved nest. In the first several years, Okinawan mothers did everything they could to prevent frustration in the child.

“He is offered the breast whenever hungry or disturbed. The latter is important, because nursing during a fear state comforts the baby, allays his anxieties, affords him a sense of security, and gives him confidence in the protective power of the mother. This is conducive to a healthy psychological maturation. During these earlier days of life, fear states, if allowed to persist, can warp emotional development. Allowed to continue in a state of fear, the child develops an aggravated apprehension of the outer world and he loses his sense of security and his confidence in the protective powers of the mother.” (p. 302).

Dr. Moloney proposed that every American mother should be educated about the needs of the young infant.

“Mothers must be brought to realize that their role is that of an ally, a powerful, alert, vigilant ally who substitutes her strength and her world wariness for the helpless weakness of the newborn. …A mother-ally sanctions growth…and curiosity…the child will exercise his birthright of self-determinism…when he feels confident of his strength, he pushes away supports. Thankful but not enslaved, he avoids the parental help until some new and strange reality complex involves him. If he fails to solve this new complex, he again enlists the greater worldliness of the parent. By such a process he establishes self-sufficiency and world knowledge.” (p. 341)

“To be sure, in its earliest stages this method of promoting complete child development requires much of the parent’s time. However, the process has its true economy. Initial vigilance on the part of the parent will produce a self-sufficient, a self-reliant, self-confident offspring.” (p. 341)


Balint, M. (1968). The basic fault: Therapeutic aspects of regression. London: Tavistock Publications.

Haarer, J. (1934). The German Mother and Her First Child (Die deutsche Mutter und ihr erstes Kind). Berlin: Lehmanns Derlag Munchen.

Moloney, J.C. (1949). The magic cloak: A contribution to the psychology of authoritarianism. Wakefield, MA: Montrose Press.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Watson, J. B. (1928). Psychological care of infant and child. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

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Why It’s Hard To Trust Children Fri, 14 Aug 2020 02:39:23 +0000 Check out Teresa Graham Brett’s Parent Liberation Program, an online, self-paced study based on her Parenting for Social Change book, exclusively here on Kindred. Did that headline surprise you?It surprised me too, when I realized it was something I believed. And let me tell you now –this article is actually not about children. Or how […]]]>

Check out Teresa Graham Brett’s Parent Liberation Program, an online, self-paced study based on her Parenting for Social Change book, exclusively here on Kindred.

Did that headline surprise you?
It surprised me too, when I realized it was something I believed.

And let me tell you now –
this article is actually not about children. Or how they behave. Or their development.

It IS about you and me. As parents.

And what we bring to the relationship with children.

Hang with me, I promise it’s worth it.

Years ago, when I worked in academia as a social justice advocate, I imagined that when I became be a parent – the values of social justice would inherently be part of my family, and I’d be the most egalitarian mother out there.

Then . . . the unconscious became conscious.

That’s to say, two incredible sons came into my life, and I realized my framework around parenting needed some dismantling.

Tell me if you can relate to this.
As I grew up, I experienced the world in a variety of ways. From those experiences, I created a frame of reference about things operate.

When I grew up as a child, my voice and how I felt didn’t matter as much as what the adults in my life.

I was “shhh”ed or told to stop crying or that things weren’t a big deal. I wasn’t given actual choices about my life. I was praised for doing things that paralleled adult behavior (sitting still at the dinner table, being quiet, getting all As, etc.).I was also told, “Just wait until you’re older.”

These experiences (along with many, many others) created my framework for beliefs around parents and children.

These experiences taught me that, as a child, I was less than.

But you know what happened? I grew up.
I got older, I became an adult!

And . . . once I arrived as an adult, my belief framework told me that I had the right to view and treat children as I had been viewed and treated. I finally made it to the top, I was no longer less than, and now I could execute some control.

You see, it’s a perpetuating cycle.

So it’s not that I don’t trust children.
It’s that for the longest time, my framework didn’t even allow that as a thought.

Until we begin to bring to consciousness our distrust of children and our belief of adult vs. child – our relationships will stagnate. And we will not create a greater equality, greater respect, greater possibilities.

When we begin to truly trust children, we regain the trust that we lost in ourselves as young people.

The transformation of our inner selves begins the broader transformation of the world.

Trust would be the path to freedom for children, adults, and our world.

Trusting children gives them space to shine bright.

And, it will result in adults finding that light again deep within their souls.

Again, this is a process. It’s one I’ve been working on for years and continue to explore. I encourage you to go at your own pace, to be kind with yourself, and to trust yourself. In doing so, you are modeling a radically authentic way to be with young people, and you are changing our world.In awe of you and your journey,

P.S. I know that was a lot of content, so please be gentle with yourself. And if you’re wanting more support, take a moment to check out these four videos I created that give actual techniques to parenting for social change.

Four Techniques to Parent from Your Values

Addressing Insecurity & Worry

Shift the “Parent” Stereotype

Believe in Your Own Power

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Inhuman Treatment Of Others Is A Thought Away Tue, 14 Jul 2020 00:13:16 +0000 Categorizing people by race, then ranking races, leads to dehumanization. David Livingston Smith has a new book, On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It, which offers a helpful review of the kinds of psychological and social structures that lead to dehumanization and mistreatment of others. Smith defines dehumanization as conceiving of another person as subhuman. […]]]>

Categorizing people by race, then ranking races, leads to dehumanization.

David Livingston Smith has a new book, On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It, which offers a helpful review of the kinds of psychological and social structures that lead to dehumanization and mistreatment of others.

Smith defines dehumanization as conceiving of another person as subhuman. He asserts that:

“Given the right circumstances, virtually all of us are capable of slipping into the dehumanizing mindset, and committing acts of cruelty that would otherwise be difficult or even impossible for us to perform. (p. 6)

As I’ve pointed out too, individuals can shift into survival systems—fearrage, or panic states which are intertwined with the stress response—that shift the body toward self-protection (Narvaez, 2014). If my babyhood has been severe or if I was traumatized later, my brain can be “wired” to downshift to survivalism more easily and automatically than for those who have resilient brains, whose brains are wired for staying connected to others and self-calming when threat is perceived. (Evolved nest experience supports optimal normal development.)

Such brain shifting occurs through “neuroception”—the automatic preconscious assessment of safety or threat in every situation (Porges, 2011). Neuroception can occur bottom-up through sensory triggers in the environment that operate automatically to put us into a safety vs danger mindset. Neuroception can also occur top-down from concepts that we’ve learned from others. For example, if we are repeatedly told that ‘green people are dangerous,’ when we are faced with one, we will shift into a self-protectionist mindset (Narvaez, 2014). In other words, our cultural and social systems can set up learned interpretations about the world, not ones based on our own experience, but on what we’ve been told.

But it’s not only the individual person’s psychological traits or states of mind that lead to dehumanization. The sociopolitical structures also play a role. “Dehumanization is a psychological response to political forces” (Smith, p. 101). Inhumanity has been a characteristic of most hierarchical civilized societies in the historical period (the last 1% of human genus existence).

The Role of Racism

Smith gives a definition of racism as “the belief that races exist and that some races are intrinsically superior to others.” You don’t need to be hostile to be a racist, but you do need to rank groups. If you think members of a particular group are inferior, to have less intrinsic value than those of another group, you are exhibiting racism. Such racialized categorizations and rankings emphasize a hierarchy of value among peoples.

This grouping of people by “race” has a long history. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, discussed two kinds of people: Greeks and everyone else. Aristotle lumped together all non-Greeks as Barbarians —rather than, for example, as Syrians, Ethiopians, or Persians. Barbarians were assumed to be less rational than Greeks. Barbarians were ‘slaves by nature,’ meaning that it was natural for Greeks to enslave them. Similar ideas were used to justify colonialism and enslavement of peoples around the world by European powers.

During the Atlantic slave trade, Europeans and Americans lumped together African peoples as Blacks (Negroes, historically), dismissing the fact they came from different societies.

It should be noted that ranking perceived races in these ways is not scientific: the distinct racial types many people think of do not exist at the biological level (Roberts, 2012; Rosenberg et al., 2002; Saini, 2019).

Smith describes several historical events that demonstrate the shift into the dehumanizing mindset. The most famous, of course, is Nazi Germany.

For the Nazis, depravity was perceived to be built into people of Jewish heritage —not even one member of the group was redeemable.

“The Holocaust teaches us that when we are in the grip of a dehumanizing mindset, we often see the dehumanized other as toxic and frightening, resulting in what perpetrators see as a life-and-death struggle against a deadly enemy” (Smith, 2020, p. 28).

It’s important to remember that the dehumanizers actually believe that the people they persecute are less than human, making the process of dehumanization very dangerous.

Similar attitudes were evident towards natives of the Americas (“The Indian always returns to his blanket”—meaning they could not be “civilized”) and toward Black slaves who were assumed to have savage urges (Smith, 2020, p. 49). Lynching shows the worst of dehumanization behavior—sadism, torture, along with murder. Black slaves who wanted to escape slavery, their presumed natural state, were even thought to have a psychiatric disorder—”drapetomania”—and were whipped as a remedy.

Smith contends that “as long as racism persists, dehumanization is just around the corner” (pp. 43-44). Racism projects some as lesser human beings whereas dehumanization projects a less-than-human nature. “Dehumanization is racism on steroids” (p. 52).

A Deeper Problem: De-Personification

From the perspective of First Nation peoples and those who have lived sustainably for thousands of years, Smith may not go far enough (Narvaez, Four Arrows, Halton, Collier and Enderle, 2019). In most societies for most of human existence, the world was “personified”—full of persons, some of whom are human, and families of persons (whether bear, beaver, deer, raven, or whale) (Martin, 1992, 1999). In the view of deep ecologists (e.g., Arne Naess; Drengson and Devall, 2008) Smith may be taking too narrow a scope, not going to the root of the problem: the de-animation of the earth, perceiving other beings as less than sentient, and establishing humans as the only important living beings (Harvey, 2017). A value hierarchy among living things, taken up by civilization, may have started the ball rolling toward all the “isms” (racism, sexism, etc.), as Bram (2018) notes on multiple levels, leading to the human version of dehumanization.

Bottom line: We can convince ourselves to believe others are subhuman or not persons, through cultural narratives or through a threat-sensitive neurobiology, or a combination. To believe another is not a real person empowers us to commit acts of cruelty and destruction.

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Anger Is Your Friend Sat, 11 Jul 2020 16:27:32 +0000 It’s time to free it from your oppression and let it do its work “But we’re never gonna survive…unless, we get a little crazy.”Seal Recently a friend asked me how I was doing. “I’m angry,” was my simple reply. At once they rushed in to comfort me with advice on how to deal with my […]]]>

It’s time to free it from your oppression and let it do its work

“But we’re never gonna survive…
unless, we get a little crazy.”


Recently a friend asked me how I was doing. “I’m angry,” was my simple reply. At once they rushed in to comfort me with advice on how to deal with my anger as if anger were some kind of a parasite, disease, or unwanted house guest. I stopped them, “No…I’m really grateful for it. Anger is very useful for me.”

It seems like there is more and more to be angry about––each day another atrocity, another indignation, injustice, insult, and offense. If the current multi-layered tsunami of COVID, racism, hostility, bigotry, economic collapse, political corruption, climate change, and crumbling health ‘care’ doesn’t give rise to anger in you I would honestly wonder what’s up with that?

If you don’t feel outraged, perhaps you’re stuffing it down, numbing it out, or spiritually bypassing it just to cope. That would be understandable. We are not taught how to be with anger. And now that there’s so much to be mad about, it can be overwhelming. If that is the case, I’m going to offer you an important reframe about anger, so you can wholeheartedly befriend yours too, and not only survive these times but let it do the important work it was designed to do.

Of the many emotions we feel, anger––and its cousins rage, wrath and fury––have received a bum rap in spiritual and psychological circles. In more conscious arenas we are often told there are ‘two kinds of anger’ – the toxic violent kind, and the constructive kind. This still makes us wary of anger. So we drop it, tame it, transform it, try to have the right ‘kind’ of anger, or find out what’s underneath it. Seldom are we encouraged to embrace it fully as a pure and sacred state, let alone act on it.

But I’m arguing that there is only one anger…not two ‘types’ (certainly there are two ways to express it – constructive and destructive), and at its core anger is a wholesome and blessed emotion. Anger is love. It is in fact the fierce face of love. When something or someone we love is threatened, anger ensues to alert us to love at risk. If you think about it, why wouldn’t love, and all of the vulnerability, openness, and meaning that love embraces, have a fierce protector?

‘Wait just a minute,’ I can hear you saying, ‘Are you advocating for looting in the streets and anarchy?’ Hell no. Hang with me here.

The issue is not anger itself, but the tools we use when we feel it. Violent acts are mistakenly assigned to anger, but anger is not the problem. The problem is in what we do with it. Acting out anger and acting on anger are two entirely different gestalts. The former is a toxic reaction to anger, the latter is a powerful response to it.

“Anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification,” wrote poet and civil rights activist Audrey Lorde, “Anger is loaded with information and energy.”

Anger is not some base energy that needs to bypassed or calmed or examined so that you can be more centered, spiritual, or a good person. It is a potent alchemical ally for love. It burns hot and sears through the morass to see clearly that something is wrong. A trespass has been committed against something or someone we love. Anger is a sacred intuitive and carnal response to oppression in its many forms––public and deeply personal. When acted upon with wisdom, anger is transformational.

“Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt,” writes poet David Whyte. “What we name as anger is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care…”

Part of the overwhelm in feeling anger is due to our meta-emotions we have around our outrage. Put simply, meta-emotions are feelings we have about our feelings. We might be ashamed that we feel angry or scared that we are incensed, or embarrassed about our rage. Or as Whyte points out, we may experience waves of powerlessness or helpless vulnerability around our anger. These meta-emotions distort the fundamentally pure nature of anger itself and contribute to ways we may unskillfully act out on our anger and hurt others (or ourselves). In our lack of knowledge about how to work with anger, we fear it, vilify it and then mute it.

Dangerous consequences emerge in numbing out or silencing our anger. Oppressing our anger into submission, we fail to set boundaries, we lose clarity, we weaken our advocacy, we enable despotic powers, we get sick, we even die. Even our mindfulness practices become a way “to comfort, numb, adjust and accommodate the self within a neoliberal, corporatized, militarized, an individualistic society based on private gain,” writes David Forbes in his book McMindfulness – How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality.

Here’s the deal, we very much need anger to speak on behalf of love. If we are to transform the behemoth of oppressive mindsets and structures, anger is required to bring out our sacred warrior selves. So in the name of love, in the name of all who suffer, let’s befriend our anger. Let’s acquaint ourselves with its essence, why it arises, what it is trying to ignite in us, what it is assisting us to change. Because boy oh boy do we ever need some powerful, searing-hot, alchemical, transformative energies now.

To help us befriend this awesome powerful furious change-agent, allow me to introduce you to Kali. One of the most ancient and revered of Hindu Goddesses, Kali is the wrathful destroyer of evil and ignorance. Unlike her other god and goddess associates who each have consorts, Kali is whole unto herself. The Great Mother of the Universe, Kali is the heroic liberator and assisted all the great warriors when they were being overcome by demons. Kind of like what’s happening today. But Kali did not transform the universe through being nice. Oh no, no, no. She is the holy embodiment of anger, the fierce face of love. Images of her are not of beauty, bejeweled and draped with garlands of flowers, but rather her hair disheveled, fangs protruding from her mouth, and her tongue lolling.

Kali summons us to embrace our fierce feminine nature…embodied in men and women, and trust her (our) alliance to universal love. Yet notice if you have any resistance to her unconventional image…we’ve been conditioned to believe that good is lovely and nice like, say Venus, and anger is ugly hence bad. Popular culture finds groovy, politically correct, polite, and ‘spiritual’ ways to undermine it. That’s because oppressive forces that have socialized us from the beginning of time don’t want our anger revered and unleashed. If it were, that would be major trouble for racism, misogyny, militarism, xenophobia, homophobia, plutocracy, economic injustice, and all forms of bigotry.

Interesting that according to Hinduism, we are now in a cycle of time––what is called the Kali Yuga, the last of the four stages the world goes through as part of a ‘cycle of yugas’ described in the Sanskrit scriptures. It is a time of unrest, dissolution, and disruption so that a new world may emerge. Opinion is varied as to whether we are at the final stages or not. Regardless, Kali is being called forth.

Another powerful example to help you befriend your fiery passion are the Māori people of New Zealand. Their ancient ceremonial dance the Haka is still performed by New Zealanders (of all races) for many occasions. I encourage you to watch this video with the volume way up. It gives you a visceral, to-the-bone-marrow sense of the fierce face of love. Watching them is like watching Kali in action. Personally, I think it would do my soul a world of good if I did a Haka each day in honor of all that I love, and all that I want to protect.

In that spirit, I invite you to reconnect with the clarity of your anger. Be with it in its original state and from there, let it inform you about what you love, and what is at risk. Then choose how you want to express your protection of that love. Use the tools of assertion (constructive) rather than aggression (toxic), of response rather than reaction. More and more you’ll begin to trust your fierceness, rather than silence it.

How might that look? Anger acted upon might look like this: a courageous conversation, a petition signed, a commitment made, a book read, a boundary set, your own version of a Haka. My anger provokes me to write, to love more fiercely, to be braver. My fury invites me to wake up, to shake loose my denial, to speak out. My temper keeps me vigilant and clear.

A Spiritual Practice in Honor of Anger:

  • Recognize anger as a holy servant of love
  • Be aware of the meta-emotions around your anger because those make you vulnerable to aggressive reactions rather than assertive responses.
  • Practice just being with the anger – let it inform you. And when you have stopped polarizing against it, then let the energy of the anger begin to speak to you. Ask it these questions:
    • What do you love?
    • Where do you feel powerless?
    • What does it (what you love) / they (who you love) / or you need?
  • Act

On behalf of love, go ahead––get mad. Let your blood boil, raise your hackles, get your dander up, be in a huff. You won’t find me stopping you. 

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Become More Peaceful, No Matter the Circumstances Wed, 10 Jun 2020 21:54:23 +0000 Understand and satisfy your basic needs. There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see […]]]>

Understand and satisfy your basic needs.

There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see what needs of yours need to be met and seek remedies.

Physiological needs like food, shelter, sleep (Maslow, 1970), and bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2003)

It is amazing to learn that our cousins, small-band hunter-gatherers (who live like humanity did in prehistory), don’t eat that much (are used to feast and famine); sleep comfortably outdoors in homemade shelters, sometimes sleeping off and on day and night (Lee and Daly, 2005). So it matters what your body is capable of (they are stronger) and what you get used to (Wells, 2010). Long fasts seem to be a good thing (e.g., 12 hours or more between dinner and breakfast). Eating fewer calories may also be related to better health. Sleeping in chunks too is normal (Reiss, 2017).

Perhaps one of the most underestimated physiological needs is positive touch. James Prescott (1996), formerly of NIH, emphasized the importance of affectionate touch for proper development. Pets can be a way for some people to get their touch needs met (and the needs of the pet).

Babies especially need nearly constant positive touch (Sunderland, 2006). My lab’s work finds positive touch in childhood to be related to health and social capacities, and negative touch to be related to less self-control and other forms of psychopathology.

Bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2013) is violated by sexual abuse but also corporal punishment. The detrimental effects of corporal punishment are well documented and linked to greater aggression (Gershoff, 2013).

Safety (Maslow, 1970)

When in a war zone, a sense of safety is hard to come by and occurs only in moments. But most of the time elsewhere, a sense of safety is more about our psychological than our physical environment. That is, we can scare ourselves by how we think. Sometimes early life experience makes us threat sensitive where our stress response is easily triggered even when there is no real danger to our well-being (Lanius et al, 2010). For people who are threat sensitive, self-calming techniques like belly breathing, meditation, and vagal nerve stimulation may be helpful (more below).

Family members need to ensure that one another feels safe when together, as a matter of basic human rights (Nussbaum, 2013). Get help if this is not the case.

Autonomy (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

No animal appreciates being tied down (Panksepp, 1998). Humans, too, expect the freedom to choose actions. As Deci and Ryan have documented, in US classroom settings, children do better when they feel they have choices. The same is true for adults in workplaces. People like to feel like they have some say in what they do. Find ways to make satisfying choices (preferably healthy ones!).

Control (Fiske, 2003)

Avoid the relationships and situations that stress you and deepen your inner calmness. Learn ways to stay calm, no matter what happens. It doesn’t mean you are not mobilized to act but that you are calm enough not to get so distressed you can’t act or think. Various practices that support self-calming include belly breathing (takes some effort to learn but changes metabolism; Kabat-Zinn, 2013).

Learn to switch attention. Just as with a child obsessed with something impossible to achieve, redirect your attention. You could immerse yourself in beauty. Watch and get absorbed into a specific aspect of the natural world—tree, leaves, clouds, sun play, rain, waves, or ripples. Or immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude—count your blessings (Emmons, 2013).

The human capabilities approach includes as a basic need control over one’s environment in political and material ways, factors that are more common in democratically run institutions and societies (Nussbaum, 2009).

Competence (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

Most adults feel competent at work and when laid off or retired, have lost a sense of competence. Self-efficacy is a cherished skill is a protective factor for adolescents (keeping them from risky behavior). That is, having a talent admired by the community can keep you out of trouble.

Self-esteem often runs alongside expectations for what you should have or be. If you have lost your usual ways of feeling competent and your self-esteem is low, change your expectations. Life is often a series of letting go of dreams that won’t work out. Focus on developing your unique gifts, perhaps gifts you did not know you had. Pay attention to your envy. Maybe you feel envious of someone’s accomplishments or fame. Consider envy a signal of work you have yet to do to hone your own skills in that direction.

Self-Actualization (Maslow, 1970)

According to Maslow’s analysis, few people were self-actualizers and they were not being studied. But he developed a set of guidelines for those who want to self-actualize, which I have discussed in other posts—see here and here.

Belonging, Love, Affiliation (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Maslow, 1970, Nussbaum, 2013)

As social creatures, love needs are central to our becoming. Our relationships form us, nurture us, and guide us. Psychological disorders can stem from a breakdown in loving care in childhood. Our brains malfunction in isolation because they need others to regulate limbic and other systems (Lewis et al., 2004). Thus, it is important to learn to form and maintain friendships. Here is one set of suggestions.

Understanding (Fiske, 2003)

Why? is a favorite question of children learning to understand their world. Sometimes it is hard for adults to know why something happened. But one of my favorite aphorisms for living came from Clint Eastwood as a marine in the movie Heartbreak Ridge: “Adapt and overcome.” This means accepting what happens and moving your way through it. Take challenging experiences as opportunities for learning and growing.

Trust (Erikson, 1950)

Erik Erikson identified trust vs. distrust as a basic stage in the first year of life. One emerges with an inner state of trusting or distrusting the world based on the quality of care received (our species’ expected care is the evolved nest). If seeds of distrust have been planted in early life, it takes some effort to revamp them into basic trust towards the world. Extensive therapeutic or friendship relationships are helpful as is guided immersion in wild nature (Plotkin, 2003).

Purpose and Life Meaning (Staub, 2003)

We all need a sense of purpose, and in fact, those who have one tend to be healthier. In fact, young people who are missing role models and guidance from broader narratives can be susceptible to hate groups (see Picciolini, 2017, for a recent example). If you haven’t yet found your purpose, here is a set of questions to help you find it. A great form of purpose is to help others get their basic needs met.

Play (Burghardt, 2005; Nussbaum, 2013)

One of the best ways to meet many basic needs is through creative physical social play (e.g., chase/tag, spontaneous dancing, or dramatic role-play). These build social joy and flexibility. In young children, the “joy juice” of social play shapes a happy personality (Sunderland, 2006).

Nature Connection and relation to other species (Louv, 2016; Nussbaum, 2013)

Humans are earth creatures and resonate with natural systems. There are healthful effects of attending to nature in small ways, dailyFirst Nation traditions emphasize respect for “all our relations” with animals, plants, and other earth entities as part of living a good life.


Burghardt, G.M. (2005). The genesis of animal play: Testing the limits. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deci, E., and Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Academic Press.

Emmons, R.A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation and spirituality in personality. New York: Guilford Press.

Emmons, R.A. (2013). Gratitude works! A 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Fiske, S. (2003). Social beings. New York: Wiley.

Gershoff, E.T. (2013) Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7 (3), 133-137.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Lanius, R.A., Vermetten, E., and Pain, C. (2010). The impact of early life trauma on health and disease: The hidden epidemic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, R.B., and Daly, R. (Eds.) (2005). The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, T., Amini, F., and Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of love. New York: Vintage.

Louv, R. (2016). Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health and Happiness.Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.

Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row.

Narvaez, D. (Ed.)  (2018). Basic needs, wellbeing and morality: Fulfilling human potential. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Picciolini, C. (2017). White American youth: My descent into America’s most violent hate movement—and how I got out. New York: Hachette.

Plotkin, B. (2003). Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.  New York: New World Library.

Prescott J.W. (1996). The origins of human love and violence. Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10 (3), 143-188.

Reiss, B. (2017). Wild nights: How taming sleep created our restless world. New York: Basic Books.

Staub, E. (2003). The psychology of good and evil: Why children, adults, and groups help and harm others. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sunderland, M. (2006). The science of parenting. DK Press.

Wells, S. (2010). Pandora’s seed: The unforeseen cost of civilization. New York: Random House.

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