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The Dance of Discovering Deep Self

Though everyone has a personality, its source is seldom a point that receives focused individual research. From what ground does personality arise, and how does it evolve? One school of thought proposes that the root of our personality lies in our genetic code, while another argues for personality is an evolutionary product of our ongoing experience. In either case, our personality is inextricably linked to defining the nature of self. What does this self consist of, and how and why does it emerge as an entity consciously recognizing its mirror image as being distinct from "otherness"? Developmental psychologist, Jenny Wade, offers a unique perspective in considering this question. Her theory, based on the holonomic model of Bohmian reality, posits that we evolve through several distinct stages of consciousness. More specifically, through the dynamics of becoming aware of our development, we are able to consciously evolve toward an authentic, self-actualized and realized state of being.

In our search for understanding self, David Bohm's notion of reality is useful, if not, insightful. According to Bohm, the forms and patterns of reality are a result of the constant flux of a creative, dynamic and emergent undivided wholeness. These forms and patterns arise from the flow and change processes that are responsible for the transformation of being to becoming in what he called the holomovement. This phenomenon consists of two aspects: the explicate order (that which can be seen) and the implicate order (that which cannot be seen). The objects of the explicate order are in essence the unfolded projections of a much deeper, higher dimensional and fundamental enfolded implicate order. Novel structures spontaneously emerge form the holomovement, which itself provides an inexhaustible source of creativity.

Bohm's model provides us with processes for understanding the unfolding of one's own personality. It enables us to determine how the "I" emerges, transforms and may potentially transcend through conscious evolution of self. Just as Bohm’s notion of the implicate order of reality unfolds into the explicate forms we observe in our everyday life, the personal evolution of self appears to follow a process of unfolding other potential selves from some ground state of being. Therefore, these potential selves are always present in some latent form waiting to unfold and manifest in expressed form.

Webster's dictionary defines personality as: "the quality or state of being a person...the totality of an individual's behavioral and emotional tendencies". Thus, the act of reflecting on one's personality provides a window for the purpose of observing and knowing one's authentic self, as well as for noting its emergence. For centuries those interested in exploring inner space have developed personality surveys and tests to assess the unique patterns of behavioral and emotional tendencies that unfold during the natural growth and development of the individual. All of these assessment protocols agree on at least one concept— there exist distinguishable personality types. While one's basic patterns appear to resist change, it is clear that movement within a fundamental framework can and does occur throughout one's lifetime. Moreover, individuals can consciously evolve different aspects of self in the self-actualizing process known as becoming. For example, this is most easily seen in the various experiences and processes that together are described as engaging in a creative endeavor.

As we actively participate in the act of creatively expressing ourselves we transcend our normal state of conscious awareness and enter a transpersonal realm beyond space and time— the creative source of the universe. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to this state of being as “flow”. It is here where the egoic self melds with otherness to create a sense of oneness with reality—wholeness. Moreover, it is in this state that the creative self (e.g. artist, musician, scientist, athlete, and writer) encounters new images and insights that transfigure the familiar forms and patterns into new and unique frameworks of creative expression. In this regard the processes of creative expression are therapeutic, or at least they function in ways that actively and dramatically change and evolve personality characteristics. That these traits may be categorized within personality types, and that their patterns of self are predictable and definable, is apparent. That there are useful measurements of an individual's personality characteristics is obvious. That there are means for discovering the origins of one's own personality is promising. And, that the act of creating meaning is a means to consciously transforming and transcending one's own manifest self is nothing less than extraordinary.

Carl Jung’s psychotherapeutic experience led him to posit that there are conscious and unconscious aspects to the self. Moreover, the self construct arises, in part, from innate predispositions that evolve and unfold in time to develop into one’s personality. In analyzing the various personality patterns amongst his patients, Jung noted that they appear to exist as preferences that serve to bridge the conscious and unconscious realms of self. Moreover, conscious use of these preferences is purposeful and necessary in that it deals with the generation and expenditure of psychic energy. However, pathologies result when these predisposed preferences are either not utilized or suppressed. Carl Jung’s personality typology came to be based on two distinct dichotomous personality types: Introversion and Extroversion and two sets of functions: Thinking/Feeling and Sensing/Intuition. All functions are present in one’s psyche but three of them usually operate consciously, while the fourth, which operates unconsciously, compensates for the other three.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used personality questionnaires today. It was originally developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers in an attempt to provide women, who were entering the industrial workforce during World War II, with a way to identify which type of careers would best suit their unique abilities and personal characteristics. Their initial questionnaire evolved into its current iteration. They based their questions on Jung’s typological theories of personality. They added Perceiving/Judging to Jung’s opposing pairs of preferences (i.e. Extrovert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuitive, and Thinking/Feeling) to define eight different ways of dealing with information, which in turn resulted in sixteen Psychological Types.

While Jung’s typology and Myers and Briggs’ MBTI provide valid and reliable insight into the nature of one’s personality, they were both preceded by a more ancient and psychospiritual personality instrument— the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a personality instrument whose ancient cultural roots are found in Sufi tradition, and whose spiritual foundations emerge from notions common in both Kabbalistic and Christian religious beliefs. The word Enneagram stems from the Greek “ennnea,” meaning “nine” and “grammos” meaning “points.” It is an ancient model, intrinsic to Sufi mysticism, where it is applied to mapping cosmological processes and the unfolding of human consciousness. The Enneagram, as it is practiced today, describes nine different personality types and their interrelationships. Understanding one’s Enneagram gives the individual insight into personality through a range of human potentials in a model of consciousness that addresses the relationship between personality and other levels of human capability.

It is interesting to note that while both the MBTI and the Enneagram assess personality types, they measure different aspects of the psyche. The MBTI assesses the conscious, cognitive aspects of the psyche, whereas the Enneagram reveals aspects of the personality that emerge from the unconscious, and motivating forces underlying the psyche. Recent analyses have determined that while both typologies vary in their approach to understanding the psyche, the personality types of one are correlated with those of the other. Consequently, it is becoming more apparent that utilizing the insights revealed from both typologies provides a more complete context within which to understand the forces underlying motivation and behavior.

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How Systems Thinking is Killing Your Creativity: An Organization is not a System!

(This article first appeared in

The new open participatory organization (OPO) paradigm entails a move from thinking in terms of systems that can be “known” or “designed” or “intervened upon” by a person or persons who occupy a privileged position outside that system, to thinking in terms of complex responsive processes of human interaction. Since the 1940’s there have been different ways in which we came to think about organizations as systems. The early systems thinkers relied on cybernetic theories of regulatory feedback loops that were encountered or that could be designed inside the system to produce predictable outcomes. Today, cybernetics is still useful in creating operational frameworks where regulatory points function as reminders: what to measure, when to anticipate errors, when to test, how and when to review our work. Cybernetics works well inside closed operational systems that are simple and where results are reproducible.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

However, whenever we are dealing with humans, complexity arises in the many many local interactions that take place between them in their ordinary everyday activities of organizational life. There is no “outside position” from which an individual or leader can take account of “the whole” and impose interventions on it. This is the meaning of the popular phrase Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Every attempt to control the complex responses of people in participation, only escalates complexity through other measures — adaptive push-back, gaming the system, deviant behavior, leveraging power, ranking and politicking strategies, obfuscations of all sorts, and the like. Furthermore, there is no way to align culture since culture is constituted by streams of values that are continuously shifting in every individual while simultaneously being negotiated among them. When people come together they spontaneously begin to accommodate, assimilate or reconcile power relationships that result from asymmetrical values, needs and skills. During this process, the field of participation continuously shifts from configuration to configuration, creating ever-more complex formulations of what it is to be an I,we, me or us. The notion of searching for fitness in a complex adaptive landscape readily comes to mind.

What “fitness” represents in this process of human interaction, is a coherence that is established when what it is to be I -me is generalized from the myriad particular instantiations that are possible within the context of individuals, into a imagined “whole” or “unity” that is experienced as we-us. This requires that both the autonomy of each individual — the felt sense of the I,accommodates a socially shared aspect — a role that functions as a me; and that this “me” is simultaneously assimilated by every other individual until the moment of reconciliation when the felt-sense of we-ness emerges as a shared reality. This we-ness can be further reified through shared narratives among the many, or rhetorical devices from the few, peer pressure and social anxiety, politics of exclusion and inclusion, and xenophobia and ethnocentric tendencies — to eventually construct a strong sense of an us which is dialectically opposed to a them. This is the point where group coherence — the lively, adaptive, responsive, creative and complex mode of collective participation — collapses into its invariant and pathological form, cohesion, an outcome of unconscious tendencies to concretize the I-me-we forming processes into abstract and invariant formulations of bounded wholes, with insides and outsides, strong delineations of inclusion and exclusion. It is at this point that the collective loses its capacity to authentically participate, and instead falls into paranoia, stasis, and group think that are key indicators of group cohesion. It is only in this state, where people begin to act more like programs than as authentic agents in a field of participation, that the manager can adopt the posture of “acting on” the collective from a privileged position where the manager is free to act, whereas everyone else is subject to interventions from “outside.” Except in extreme cases where either physical or psychological force is employed, the manager’s posture is merely an illusion, only made possible by the collusion of the collective, who, for reasons of their own, act along with the manager in sustaining a fiction that offers some convenience for everyone.

It is this convenience of human collusion, that we commonly call “the system.”

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What Needs to Emerge: How to Speak Across Paradigms

Daniel Thorson, founder of the EMERGE podcast (, interviews Bonnitta Roy, MA, Program Coordinator of the Consciousness Studies and Transpersonal Psychology program. In this wide ranging interview, Bonnitta provides her view of the Sam Harris and Ezra Klein debate-podcast on VOX, which was the culmination of a year-long public feud.

Ezra Klein and Sam Harris engaged in a very public dispute in which they had difficulty communicating with each other across their different paradigms. Bonnitta indicates where they go wrong, and how to we all can learn to speak across paradigms - an important skill in the age we are living in.

Below is Bonnitta's interview, and, if you want to listen to the source material, the podcast of the Klein-Harris debate below that.



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Writing is Hell

I wandered around the unfamiliar community center searching for a group that looked like they would fit the description of a children's writing group. As I walked into a room on the second floor, a woman slammed down a notebook in exasperation and exclaimed that she must be nuts to want to be a writer because writing was hell!

Well, not only did I realize that I had found the right group, I knew that this was a place where I belonged.

She said that she had writer's block and came for inspiration. We then went around the room and told a little about ourselves. Several people there were published children's writers. I was immediately both awestruck and intimidated. I wondered if I should even stay...

Then people were asked if they wanted to share. The intended audience for the writing ranged from picture books to young adult fantasy. What I was most impressed with, however, was the quality of the writing and the helpful comments and advice that came from the group. The procedure after the piece is read is to verbally give comments and to ask questions of the writer. Then we are all expected to write notes on little blue pieces of paper commenting on what we liked about the piece, one tidbit of advice for the piece, and one question that we still had.

I did get up the courage to share my writing that night and I will save my little slips of blue paper for a very long time. I loved getting gems of advice on my writing. It was so hard to share with a group of strangers. But, those strangers could not have been more welcoming and encouraging.

The second writing group I began attending was a group in Clinton. Although most of the writers were aiming their stories at young adults or adults, they were also welcoming and kind with their comments.

Listening to the group, I began to get a feeling about how to say a suggestion in a positive way that would not hurt the brave writer willing to share. And, even though I still intend to write more for children, I learned something from each and every writer at both groups.

Another thing I found interesting was that both groups had different suggestions for me on the same story. Which brings me back to this past cohort weekend spent on editing. Our presenter Jane Lincoln Taylor said multiple times that a writer needs to consider an editor's comments and then make a choice to follow the advice or to pass. I decided to follow some of each group's advice.

Writing. What can be a harder personal burden than to decide to become a writer? Maybe the woman in the children's writing group was right. Writing is hell.

And... I'll let you know how the next writing group goes.

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