Monday, December 8, 2014


In the last post I made a connection between Power and Survival. And since the topic is Belief, maybe it's time to begin the connections.

What is Power?

This isn't about electricity or horsepower, I mean personal power. It's that thing mom and dad always used to enforce decisions. And teachers and big kids. It seems those early meanings of power largely define the way many of us still see power today as adults. And so it shows up as the means to control others. It also seems that the automatic reaction to fear is control. Now I'm not talking about the panic of being attacked or a real life threatening situation. I'm referring to that fear that is present, perhaps under the surface, therefore not measured, which makes me want to control the situation, usually by trying to control other people.

What I just described is something very familiar to me and perhaps to you. Again, what I have described is mostly unconscious behavior. I have a definition of Power I'm not clear about, that I'm trying to use unconsciously to deal with other people in an unaware controlling or manipulative way in order to feel safe from a threat I haven't clearly identified.

If that is hard to follow, that's totally understandable. And it actually illustrates the ability people have to confuse themselves into unconsciousness about their choices and behaviors.

Now I'll bet you don't trust yourself when you think you're confused. So, if a person doesn't know their feeling is afraid, react to it unconsciously by controlling and has to meet with a customer or a boss or a spouse, what are the chances of having a successful experience with the most important people in our lives?

I've gotten by in such situations. But in truth they were always corrosive to the relationships in question. So let's talk about doing something that isn't better. Better than poor is probably still lousy. Lets' talk about doing something different.

I claimed at the outset that this would be about Belief. So in order to investigate that an agreement about definitions is critical. There's no use exploring ideas if we have individual understandings of the words. The first is Power.

If my definition of Power comes from age 5, adult life is going to be difficult. Power as I am using it means having the ability to exert my energy in a specific direction. (You math people might relate to a vector).

And I know I have Power because I am breathing and that isn't possible without it. Further, I can choose to do one of three things with that Power. I can give it away, as most of us have done in situations where we have felt suitably threatened, thinking someone else will protect me. The next thing I can do is use it like the bullies do, against someone else. I hope you'll agree that neither of those is likely to produce a worthwhile result for me.

The third thing I can do with my Power is use it for my own benefit. And when I do that, I make my life better. And the interesting side effect is that all the people who are important to me also benefit; some directly, some indirectly.

Someone who has this Power and is willing to use it as described in the last case can use that Power to identify his/her feelings. In that case, I discover what it is I am actually afraid of and how serious is the threat I'm facing. Specifically what do I need the Courage to face? And I can use my Courage to take the appropriate action to deal with the fear. There is no need to avoid, control or manipulate.

None of this is possible without being aware of what I think and how I'm feeling. And my definition, in this case, of Power is actually a Belief in how things are. In a way, this is a building block of my mythology.

C'mon back for the next piece. See you soon.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


The last series of post here dealt with emotions and the way 21st Century humans in the West are dealing with them. Which is to say, describing some of the ways we are trying to avoid them. It doesn't matter whether it happens in the workplace, where the expectation is that feelings get checked at the door, or at home where they tend to be relegated to the female part of the family, or when the males lose it and explode all over the wrong person.

While I'm aware that these are easy generalizations that don't describe every situation, none the less, it still holds that most contemporary Americans don't know what they are feeling and have no idea what they mean when they become aware of them.

We are often encouraged to be in the present. Eckhardt Tolle has made a great success for himself speaking and writing about it in his best seller "The Power Of Now." The title is misleading to me because it claims that Power is somehow contained within Now and that I can somehow learn to either harness the power for some purpose, or I can succumb to that power and then, I don't know what comes next.

As you might expect, I have raised the topic of belief so I can look at how it exists in society. After almost 19 years of coaching I have become aware that the clients I've worked with are a lot like me. They act based on the way they believe things are. Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime learning about and teaching the way myth has operated in the lives of humans as far back as he could see. We have come down from a ling line of myth makers, yet we are pretty much mistaken about what Campbell was trying to teach us.

Humans are pretty much awe struck by what we call Creation. It is enormous and mystical, beyond our comprehension. So we have always tried to understand how everything got here. Actually I think we have tried to figure out how we got here. So these myths that have been created by civilization after civilization are the stories told to try to figure out the mystery of us. They explain the ineffable.

Today we think of myth as a synonym for lie. Actually, a myth is a Creation story, as told by the observers of a time. Where they seem to be untrue is at the scientific level where our knowledge and experience find details that seem to invalidate the myth. But the myth is about a culture and their understanding of what they see and what inspires their awe and the way they explain it to themselves so they can focus on being hunter gatherers or farmers or fishermen instead of being constantly amazed and spending their days in wonder.

You might ask, what does this have to do with belief in today's world?

Good question. The answer requires looking back in order to see the context that gives rise to our belief.  Not long before his death in 1987 Campbell was talking about the fact that our current mythology (our Creation story) has been overtaken by our Cosmology. What he was referring to was the nature of the gods. Or for monotheists, God. Early humans thought the gods were among us. While we couldn't identify them, they were responsible for the events we could observe but not understand. The next view was the gods as Giants. They lived in the forest outside our view somewhere, but we saw the evidence of their work. The next stop was Mount Olympus, followed by Heaven.

Campbell said that we always find the gods so powerful that they couldn't live where we live, it wouldn't make sense. But today we travel the heavens, as we call it, and we have no new way of seeing the gods out of our reach. The danger with this is Hubris, or excessive pride. That dangerous belief that I am God. Interestingly, every Western civilization's stories begin with Pride. Whether it's the Garden of Eden, or Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, every one is a war with our vision of power and how it is expressed.

It seems that what's most important to humans is Power, at least in the West. I can claim no familiarity with Eastern Mythology and am unable to quote it, but I suspect there is a similar story to tell there.

This connection here seems to call for a proposal. The connection between the struggle with and for power must be connected to the most important subject to the human. That's survival. The most important thing to every species has always been claimed to be survival. And all the successful species have found ways to support and assure their survival. Interestingly, most species are dedicated to the survival of their species. Humans seem to have evolved to the point that I am more important than the species. And the speech in the West is continuing to focus more and more on the individual. Yet the anthropologists think it is our interconnectedness that has assured our survival so far.

Have we lost our humility and connectedness to our hubris?

More tomorrow.