MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 3: Living in Two Worlds

Preface

Publishing this series on the medial personality is difficult for me.  I am not an expert on anything except my own life and even there I’m still learning.  My anticipation of others’ reactions threatens to derail the project.  I am tempted to write for potential critics when I’m not on the verge of giving up altogether.

Concepts about the medial are complex and explaining them requires personal disclosure.  It’s not easy to find the right balance of telling enough about myself to illustrate the concepts without making myself the focus.  To counter that, I’m using material from my journal and from personal correspondence — revised only for clarity and for confidentiality.  That writing is as unself-conscious and as honest as I get!

I want to reiterate something I wrote in the first article of this series:

“Listen for the echo of your own lives in what I’ve written.  That is what is most important!  Each of us knows more than we realize.  Our ‘knowing; is not something anyone can teach us.  It is something we already have; It is ours to discover or rediscover.”


Living in Two Worlds

- - - - unicorn meme - cropped

While I can smile at the humor of this unicorn meme, it actually rings true for me.  Events in the everyday world are disorienting.  It is only in the depths of my inner world — a world where unicorns may be found — that I feel validated.

I was born living in two worlds.  I think all of us are.  As children we lived in the inner world of our imaginations as much as we did external reality of everyday consciousness.  As we grew toward adulthood, this changed.  The world of our imaginations was almost imperceptibly replaced by the consensual reality of everyday life.  Some of us never stopped living in two worlds.  It took many of us a long time to recognize this and some of us never will.  It took me decades! 

NOTE:  I need to explain the words I use.  Elsewhere I’ve written that the medial was born living in two worlds:  “the outward world that is considered ‘reality’ by consensus and an inner world of the collective unconscious.”  I interpret Jung’s term, ‘collective unconscious’ as an umbrella for other concepts that I associate with that realm:  creativity, imagination, dreams, daydreams, fantasy, insights, intuitions, gut feelings, mystical experiences, altered states of consciousness, nonordinary experiences, etc.  And so, I could also say that all of us were born living in the inner world of the collective unconscious and the outer world of the consensual reality.

I feel the unreality of ‘reality’.  With a foot in each world, I can’t maintain my balance for very long.  I fall to one side or the other.  When I spend too much time in the consensual reality, I begin to believe in the separations that define it.  Then I suffer.  In the past I feared that complete immersion in the inner world would risk insanity.  I don’t anymore.

I’m not sure when I began feeling drawn to this inner world.  It had an eerie, seductive quality, and I called it the ‘Other Consciousness.’  It frightened me.  I was afraid that I would get lost there and not be able to find my way back.  And there was another fear, too:

“The fear that I’ll look foolish — that my body will be in one world and my consciousness in another, and I will act out in my body things appropriate to the other world but inappropriate to where it is.”  (Poustinia Journal, July 1989)

Back then, I used Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal to confront this Other Consciousness and my fear of it.  The Intensive Journal provides a method for personifying concepts so that they can be explored in written dialogues — essentially inner conversations.  Progoff called these conversations Dialogues with Events.  It has always been my favorite part of the Intensive Journal.

After many dialogues over a period of several months, the Other Consciousness revealed itself as a trinity of concepts with one of them eventually shifting identities to that of my medial nature, ‘Medie’.  That was in 1989.

In those dialogues, the Other Consciousness told me:

It is imperative that you learn to perform your role as medium (medial) correctly.  There is much good that you could do.  The dangers from a knowing misuse of that role are not nearly as great as its misuse from ignorance.  And not much good can come from allowing it to happen — from allowing the ignorance to continue.

It would really help if you understood as much as possible about how the mediating works.  You don’t have to deliberately use it.  You already know some things about the process.  At the very least, review and organize the knowledge you do have.

It would help if you could distinguish your own emotions from those belonging to someone else.  It would also help if you could distinguish between responses that are genuinely to you from those that are to material that’s been mediated.

Being centered is a prerequisite to being able to make those distinctions, but you need to be more than just centered.  Once you are centered, what you need to do will become clearer.

Despite my intention to immediately comply with this guidance, my inner work went into hiatus shortly after that.  For the next twenty years or so my attention was drawn to the external world of school and work.  Occasionally some personal distress would send me back to the Other Consciousness for assistance.

During the past decade, I’ve learned that when I have both feet firmly planted in the inner world, I can function well in both worlds — maintaining an awareness of oneness in the illusion of separation.  It is not easy to do this, and far too frequently I fail.  It is only in cooperating with Grace that I am able to do anything at all.  It has taken most of my life to understand this.  (Below is a quote from my Poustinia Journal from 2008)

Try walking with two ‘right’ feet. It’s easier than having a right foot and a left foot going in different directions. 


Excerpts from my Poustinia Journal:

Sunday, October 22, 1989:  (Reflecting on events surrounding my move from Iowa City to Los Angeles in 1973, a spiritual quest common to that time)  That whole period in my life was lived at the point of convergence on my Map of Consciousness.  I frequently lived in that Other Consciousness and my actions were determined by events there.  But I also lived in the ordinary world and kept track of everyday reality and accepted responsibility for myself and the consequences of my actions in that everyday reality.

I remember, too, the confusion about which world to live in.  The Other Consciousness usually felt more authentically ‘me.’  But sometimes it would seem too ‘far out,’ and I would switch back to everyday, practical reality where education, job, security and opportunities of advancement, conformity, etc., felt more appropriate.  The ‘right’ thing to do.   Acceptable.  But I always knew which consciousness I was in.  The confusion was about which to choose.  The confusion over choice extends back before the period I wrote about — at least a year or two before that.  And more likely all the way back to my childhood.

…I remember how the role of medial seemed to explain a lot of things that puzzled me about my problems with relationships.  Recently while reading Codependent No More, I found in that whole syndrome (of codependence) a more complete and acceptable (reasonable, rational, normal) explanation of those same problems.  Now this role of medial, psychic stuff comes up again.  I suspect that they are both the same thing, but from different perspectives.  Having weak boundaries is part of codependence, and I’ve also heard weak boundaries used as an explanation for psychic experiences.

I’m not sure where I am now on my Map of Consciousness, but I suspect I’ve been living more in ordinary reality, and my plans for school, career, marriage, etc. are in the ordinary reality.  I wonder if they will continue to be so.  Medie (My Role of Medial) and Other Consciousness both kept insisting on their importance in my life — “central to it” — no matter how much I argued against them.  I hope the whole thing manages to be resolved, integrated, and made wholesome.


Earlier entries:

Sunday, May 29, 1988:  I feel as if I live at the point of convergence of different ‘realities.’  I work hard at staying in the everyday, Ego reality, but occasionally drift toward Madness.  It’s a weird, crazy sort of feeling that I try to avoid and push away.  Depression, loneliness, unhappiness and anger aren’t a part of Madness.  They are very much a part of the everyday, Ego reality.  I want to live out of the Self, and I’ve been there enough to know what it’s like and that it’s possible to do that.

Self has a weird sort of feeling, too — weightless, free-fall.  The initial experience of it is so much like Madness that I automatically push it away, too.  The boundary between the Self and Madness is easily crossed and I’m afraid of moving toward the Self and finding myself in Madness instead.


Wednesday, April 26, 1989:  I don’t have my ‘Map’ with me.  But I feel as if I’m living out of my Self while trying to heal parts of Ego and Madness and having to fight the pull of each.  If I can manage to do this — more or less by choice — maybe I will be able to handle ‘bad things’ happening without becoming severely depressed.

Ego reactions this morning.  Feeling a little depressed.  Insecurity about my ability to have loving relationships.  Loneliness — wanting loving relationships.  Reminded myself that living out of Self gives me all I need for me and for others.  That is possible, and I can choose to do so.

Tonight feeling lonely and insecure — ‘different.’  Not like those who are people-oriented and with lots of people resources.  Not as lovable as they.  My most significant, human other is a professional relationship.

I’ve got to remember that feelings like this come from Ego.  I’m not really needy or inadequate.  I have it all within me.  And I’ve been living out of that space for most of the last four months.  That’s what I have to remember.  Growth — and maybe eventual involvement with people — will come from that place within.

Let’s face it, I am different.  Not eccentric or crazy, but ‘complex’ and ‘different’ and surprisingly simple, too.


Tuesday, June 27, 1989:  After reading Chapter IV, Role of Woman as Mediator, in Irene Claremont de Castillejo’s, Knowing Woman, it’s obvious that the role of mediator (medial) is strongest in me.  It explains a lot of things:

Needing to be alone so that I can sort out my own thoughts and emotions and distinguish them from the influences of others.

Being able to put on another’s skin and speak for him as I did so often in the various forms of group therapy — and for friends.

Why various people found my giving and caring to be threatening.  G’s saying, “I was afraid you could see through me.”  Maybe I saw too clearly.  I was certainly experienced as being too intense.

The times I’ve misunderstood another but didn’t realize it until some time afterward.  My delay in experiencing reactions to various events, feeling angry or insulted and discovering what I really wanted to say too long after the event to say it.  Are these all part of being a medium, too?  Having my identity so overshadowed by the person I’m with that I cannot respond as my Self until I am away from them, until I’m alone.

My Map of Consciousness.  Feeling that I was at the convergence of Ego, Self, and Madness.  The confusion of moving from one to another and feeling ‘crazy,’ or of being in two at once.

The poustinia is an appropriate vocation for a medial.  But is it still mine?  Can I achieve the greatest wholeness there?  Or is marriage a better path for me?  I would choose marriage if I could become whole enough to be a positive medial.  Otherwise the quarantine of the poustinia would provide for the mutual protection of myself and the world around me.  And maybe only in the solitude can I be positive enough to benefit both myself and the rest of the world.


Wednesday, June 28, 1989:  I feel unlovable.  Too different.  Too uncomfortable.  Too much the negative medial.  When useful as a medial, too invisible.  I pour myself out and there is nothing to fill me.  In a marathon group therapy I did role playing for so many.  Wanting someone to do that for me.  No one did.  No one could?

Anger (someone else’s not directed at me) – resistance to it makes me hard like a tuning fork.  Opening to it makes me soft, and I let it flow through me and dampen its effect.  So much material coming out.  I feel overwhelmed by it at times.  Drowning.  I want a break from it.  But afraid to stop the flow or try to slow it down.


Friday, June 30, 1989:  How do I do that?  How do I learn to control the mediating?  Exploring the whole area of being a medial and an intuitive is a terrible temptation to pride and superiority.  Every person I’ve known who has claimed to be psychic has been unbalanced and used the gift destructively.  I would rather deny it than do that, but Irene Claremont de Castillejo says that it will just have to be dealt with by a later generation when other business would be more appropriate for them.  I guess I’ll just have to wrestle with it as best I can.

There seems to be something very strong in me that will not allow the essential part of me to be lost or overshadowed for long.  Self-preservation is a powerful force in me.  My spiritual director has commented that I’ve continued to be my individual self even when it was confusing and uncomfortable to do so.

I really want to understand this medial role in myself.  I want to see it for what it really is without all the prideful, ego inflating things getting in the way.  I want to be able to distinguish events in the past when I operated as an undifferentiated medial from those that were something else entirely.

I honestly don’t think I’m a strong psychic.  But something in me definitely appears to have acted as an undifferentiated medial.  I have had difficulty sorting out my own thoughts and feelings from those of the people around me.  ‘Impressionable’ I’ve called it.  I am not as ‘impressionable’ as I used to be.  Or am I?  I’m not as ‘nice’ to unattractive people as I used to be.  I’m most comfortable and at peace when I’m alone.  But I’ve had lots of bad experiences with people since I was a child.  Maybe this is all because I learned to be a people pleaser rather than being intuitive.  Or do the two go together?


 

Map of Consciousness

- Meme - People with think you're crazy

These journal entries mention my Map of ConsciousnessI chose to write about it last because it just sounds ‘crazy’!

I did a lot of work before I understood my reliance on the inner world.  I experienced shifts that appeared to have more to do with different states of consciousness than with emotions.  To sort this out, I created a map that divided consciousness into three, overlapping states:  Madness, Sanctity, and Ego.

According to my Map of Consciousness:

Ego is everyday reality where things are:

  • ordinary,
  • controlled, and
  • known. 

Madness and Sanctity share qualities of being: 

  • extraordinary,
  • out of control, and
  • unknown. 

They differ in that Madness is:

  • insane
  • unwholesome, and
  • sick. 
  • Perhaps evil?

While Sanctity is:

  • wholesome,
  • holy, and 
  • the true Self. 

There is a fine line between Madness and Sanctity and a point of convergence where the three states meet.

I created my Map of Consciousness before I learned about the medial (aka ‘mediumistic woman’), and found validation for it when I did.  Plotting my experiences on the map, I often found that I was at or near the point of convergence.  Below are two versions of my Map of Consciousness:  a photo of the original and a recreation for clarity. 

- - - - Map of Consciousness - photo of original
Original Map of Consciousness probably created in early 1988 or before.
- - - - Map of Consciousness typed scan

Map of Consciousness recreated for clarity.

 


 

References

Beattie, Melody.  (1987) Codependent No More.  Center City:  Hazelden

Corson, Roberta Bassett.  (1998).  Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture.  Santa Barbara:  Pacifica Graduate Institute

de Castillejo, Irene Claremont.  (1973).  Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology.  New York: Harper & Row.

Progoff, Ira.  (1975).  At a Journal Workshop:  The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process.  New York:  Dialogue House Library.

IN MEMORIAM: AFC Dean Edward De Tar (November 18, 1932- March 29, 2017 )

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While my brother, Air Force Col. Dean Edward De Tar, did not die in combat, Memorial Day is a fitting occasion to honor him.  His own words do this best.  He witnessed death in combat and was haunted by it.  In what he wrote about his own life he honors those who died in battle.

In February 2010, he sent his sisters a birthday greeting by email.  (Dean was the only one of the five of us not born in February.)  In his message he wrote: 

I wish you all a happy, happy year. I am reasonably healthy albeit disabled with Parkinsons, PTSD, COPD and ED.  I am attaching some explanatory pieces.

The “explanatory pieces” were what Dean had written about his life: “My Life Post-High School”; “Combat Incidents Resulting in PTSD”; and a list of names honoring Legion of Valor members, combat losses of pilots in his unit, and two of his Vietnamese students post war.  With the permission of his son, Dean II, I’m publishing these documents. 

Dean died on National Vietnam War Veterans Day after a lengthy battle with Parkinsons disease — and ‘battle’ he did!

(Veteran Tributes posted an obituary for Dean on March 30, 2017.)  http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=441

 

My Life Post-High School

Introduction

I was born to Hazel M. and Eli E. DeTar on November 18, 1932 at the family farm on the Avery Road.  I attended Maxon Elementary School and White Elementary School before entering Albia High School.  I graduated number 22 of 77 graduates.  Due to farm chores, I had little time for other school activities.  My honors were from the FFA, Chapter Farmer and State Farmer.  I could not get away from farming fast enough.  I was not the only classmate to flee to other fields.

1950-1959:  BS-Industrial  Economics; Commission as 2/Lt, USAF; Pilot wings; Marriage to Nancy Marie Gowen of Dallas, Texas; First child; Iceland tour of duty; promoted to 1st Lt.

1960-1969:  Assigned to Sioux City AB; Fuchu, Japan; Second child; A-1E Combat Crew training; Posted to  Pleiku AB and Danang AB, Vietnam; flew combat in Vietnam and Laos; decorated with Silver Star, DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), and Air Medal; promoted to Captain and Major.

1970-1979:  Commanded a force of 39 aircraft to rescue a downed airman; awarded Air Force Cross; shot down in Vietnam and was rescued same day; my tour ended with having flown 265 combat missions logging 560 combat hours; reassigned as gunnery instructor and to the Pentagon as a staff officer; suffered a brain hemorrhage ending my flying career; attended Air War College; posted to US Embassy, Madrid, Spain, as Air Attaché; reassigned to HQ, Defense Intelligence Agency; promoted to Lt Col and Colonel.

1980-1989:  Retired from USAF; settled in DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth); worked on Reagan campaign; entered Executive Search Industry; established a search firm; entered temporary employment business; paid off all mortgages, at last debt free; welcomed Patsy Gomez to the family when she married our son, Dean II.

1990-1999:  Welcomed first grandson, Devin; business flourished; welcomed second grandson, DesTin; Son David left the house, was assaulted spent 6 weeks in coma, recovered, disabled; I became involved in veterans affairs; served on various councils and boards.

2000-2009:  Closed the business; elected National Commander, Legion of Valor of USAF; had breakfast at the White House; place on dais with President Bush; did a lot of trout fishing on San Juan River in New Mexico; member of committee to fund a Fisher House at Dallas VA Hospital, raised $7.2 Million, funded Fisher Houses in San Diego and Minneapolis; son David succumbed to ravages of drugs and lousy style of living.

Epilogue

My life has been a success in my eyes.  I achieved nearly all my goals and was feted and decorated for many of my actions and activities.  I have enjoyed a wide variety of assignments in the military and the satisfaction of building a very profitable business.  I spent 26 years in military service and 17 years as a sole proprietor.  I traveled widely and lived in several countries.  I have enjoyed 53 years of marriage to the same woman who is my support and my most avid supporter.

 


Combat Incidents Resulting in PTSD

I flew 264 combat missions in eleven months from May 69 to April 70 logging 560 hours of combat flying.  This is a listing of combat incidents I believe caused my PTSD.

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Dean, 2nd from the left, in front of his personal aircraft with some of his flying buddies.

 

23 Jul 69, two of my squadron mates crashed and burned on a combat mission.  Bill Picking, an experienced combat pilot, was flying with Tom McCarthy on Tom’s first combat mission.  Their plane burst in flames and both rode it to the ground.  It was my first smell of death in the cockpit in combat.

15 Aug 69, I challenged five NVA (North Vietnamese Army) gun emplacements so my wingman could attack and silence them.  We succeeded.  I was awarded a Silver Star.

In Sep-Oct, my wingman lost control of his aircraft on an emergency landing and was badly burned.  We all went to see him in the hospital which sobered us all.  We also went to see a navy pilot we had rescued.  He had a set of ice tongs to keep his broken neck aligned and lots of tubes from his body.  The four of us were shocked.  A few years later he and I lunched at the Pentagon and found we had nothing to talk about.

12 Nov 69, Gerry Helmich crashed on a smoke laying run while supporting a rescue effort for a downed F-4 pilot.  Another of my classmates gone.

21 Nov 69, Jim Herrick, a classmate, crashed on a mountain in Laos, remains not recovered.

17 Dec 69, Glen Manning, classmate and squadron mate was killed when GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) misidentified him and he crashed in the mountains.

On 6 Apr 70, an explosive round penetrated my aircraft and exploded in the cockpit.  I refused to go to the hospital.  The flight surgeon said he could not, or would not approve a Purple Heart medal.  I told him very forcefully that I did not want a PH medal.  Three of our A-1 aircraft were shot down on this rescue mission. John Deier, Ed Whinery, and Dave Friestad, all were recovered by us.

On 21 Mar 70, after recovering a downed F-4 pilot, my wingman, Ed Hudgens, crashed and burned.  He was a good competent pilot whose aircraft was on fire.  He did not get out.  I remember him every day.  I had never met him before that mission put us together.  Somehow, I felt responsible for his death.  (Dean received Legion of Valor Award for this.)  http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=3617

On 25 Apr 70, while striking a NVA force trying to take control of a major road intersection managed to strike my aircraft setting it on fire, I headed for higher mountains.  When the fire grew more intense, I ejected.  I ended in a tree from which I could lower myself.  I got down, collected my thoughts and decided to wait for rescue as my chute was not visible from the ground.  After a couple of hours an army helicopter came, lowered a jungle penetrator which I mounted waiting for a lift.  Finally, the helicopter began to move with me still in the trees.  A two inch diameter vine got between me and the lift cable putting me in danger of being crushed.  With great effort, I freed myself and the rest was routine.  I was safe again.  The flight surgeon grounded me ending my combat career.

From Sep 69 to Mar 70, I was awarded five DFC’s (Distinguished Flying Cross) and five Air medals for actions in support of special operations teams operating in Laos.  Those were missions with lives at stake.

Those are the incidents I remember.


 

LOV MEMBERS IN DFW

(Legion of Valor Members in Dallas-Fort Worth)

WWII

JESSE NAUL, WWII

BILL WILHOIT, WWII

JIM MEGELLAS, WWII

KOREA

JAMES STONE

DICK AGNEW

JOHN GLAZE

VIETNAM

JOE ABERNATHY

JOHN CORDER

DEAN DeTAR


 

COMBAT LOSSES OF PILOTS OF MY UNIT

TOM McCARTHY

BILL PICKING

WAYNE WOLFKEIL

GLEN MANNING

GERRY HELMICH

JIM HERRING

ED HUDGENS

 


 MY VIETNAMESE STUDENTS POST WAR

LI XUAN CHAU

NGYUEN VAN DANG


 

Acknowledgements:  THANK YOU to Dean Edward De Tar, II for reviewing this post and helping with his father’s acronyms and to Danny Gordon who provided the photos of his uncle in his Facebook posts.

MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 2:  “The Beggar Boy” – A Metaphor for the Subtle Medial

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Somewhere in his work, Ira Progoff taught that creative projects often take on lives of their own separate from their creators.  (I learned this from one of his students, Mary K deLurgio, MFT.)  The Beggar Boy is like that.  Once it was completed and shared, The Beggar Boy became his own person.  He is now free to communicate with his readers in whatever ways fit them best.

The Beggar Boy began as a metaphor for my own life.  Writing it helped me make sense of things.  Despite its brevity, it took over thirty years to complete!  Once completed, it became clear that the metaphor was universal.  After reviewing it for this post, I saw that it is also the story of a ‘subtle’ medial.

The illustrations are photos of art work that I’ve come to associate with The Beggar Boy. However, “The Little Vagabond,” is cuter and more cheerful than the character in the story. I found him on a note card published at least 28 years ago by the Association of Handicapped Artists. The artist, L. Calloni, mouthpainted the original. The dusty road is a pastel of a real desert trail at St. Andrew’s Abbey, done by one of their monks, Fr. Werner Papeians de Morchoven, OSB (1914-2008). Fr. Werner’s pastel is the only piece of valuable artwork I own.


THE BEGGAR BOY

PART I

Once upon a time there was a ragged, little beggar boy. Well, actually, he wasn’t a beggar. He earned what he got from doing odd jobs. And he wasn’t ragged either. He was really quite presentable in an unobtrusive sort of way. He just felt like a ragged, little beggar boy. His family didn’t want him and sent him out alone to make his way in the world.

PHOTO - Beggar Boy post -Dusty road(1).jpg

The boy had traveled long enough to have left behind the familiar sights of his family’s home and the community where they lived. He now walked along a dry, dusty road. He’d been walking the road for days seeing little that caught his interest. But now he saw a beautiful city on top of a hill way off in the distance. At the very top of the hill was a castle, glinting in the sun like a golden crown. The road seemed to be leading in that direction.

The road was well used. Every once in a while noble men or women would ride by on fine horses or in magnificent carriages. Some, not seeing the boy at all, passed him by in haste leaving him blinking and holding his breath until the dust cleared. Others, who traveled on foot, bumped and jostled him as they passed. Still others, spying him from a distance, made a wide detour around him as if put off by the boy’s appearance.

The most peculiar encounters may have been caused by a trick of sunlight. That was the only explanation that made sense to the boy. Sometimes travelers would approach him as if he were a wise and holy man. They would seek his advice or ask a blessing, and depart praising him for his goodness. The boy did the best he could for them, but he knew they were mistaken and hoped they wouldn’t be too angry when they discovered their error. At other times, the boy caught sight of people passing by him at a respectful distance their faces turned toward him with expressions of awe and pleasure as if seeing some exquisitely beautiful and graceful creature. And there were those who saw an arrogance of wealth and talent and beauty in the boy that surpassed their own and made them jealous. It was always the most wealthy and talented and beautiful who saw these things. They would taunt the boy and trip him and throw obstacles in his way.

These encounters greatly disturbed the boy. It was only fair to be praised and punished for what you were. But to have it happen for what you weren’t was madness.

Occasionally a brave and generous soul would stop to converse with the boy, offering a kind word and maybe sharing some food. Sometimes the generous one would ask the boy to serve as bearer, but the boy was too little and too weak to help for long. He could not keep up. Always, always he was left behind.

Contact with the noble people, showed the boy how little he had and how much it was possible to have. He saw that he was very poor and felt a great sadness because of his poverty. The boy kept on walking, a little lonelier but a little more hopeful than he was before.

Each of the people who stopped told the boy they were on their way to the king’s banquet in the castle on the hill. They talked about their friends and the good times they would have, and how delicious and rich was the food they would eat. The king had open house all the time, and the banquet table was always full.

As he heard these stories, the boy was filled with a great longing to attend the banquet. Sometimes he would tell his visitors of this longing and ask if he could go, too. They always told him that of course he could — when he grew as big and strong and was as finely dressed as they. At this the boy’s heart would fall because he knew that to grow big and strong enough to earn fine clothing, one must have good wholesome food to eat and plenty of it. That was something he would never have.

Occasionally the boy would ask the noble people to take him with them. He was careful to ask only the kinder ones. They all told him that they’d like to very much, but there was always something more important that they really had to do, and he’d understand that, of course. But he wasn’t sure that he did. And so the boy continued his solitary journey filled with a great longing and a great loneliness and a hope that brought him pain.

One day, after much weary travelling, the boy found himself on the outskirts of the city. Just being there eased his pain a bit. Even if he couldn’t attend the banquet, he could be close to where it was happening. But before he had a chance to stop and rest, a breeze blew from the castle the enticing fragrance of the most wondrous food in the world. It so filled the boy with its attractiveness that, trance-like, he began walking toward the source of the fragrance. When he came to his senses again, he was at the king’s castle! At the open door to the enormous kitchen where all the food was prepared for the banquet! And there inside, supervising the work, was the king himself!

The king saw the boy and knew him for he had loved him all his life. The boy was unaware of this, but the longing and the loneliness so overwhelmed him, and the sight of all that marvelous food caused him such hunger, that pushing back his hair and tucking in his shirt, he gathered up his courage and walked into that great kitchen.

He knelt trembling at the king’s feet. “Your Majesty,” he whispered with a tongue too dry for speech. Then licking his lips and clearing his throat he tried again. “Your Majesty. Um. Could I please? Uh. Would it be possible? Uh. Can I attend your banquet?” And then timidly, fearfully, hopefully he looked into the face of the king.

The king smiled at him then with such love and compassion that the boy forgot to be hungry. The king answered with great gentleness, “No, my son. You are not big enough or strong enough to attend the banquet. The food is too rich for you and would make you ill.”

If there had not been such love in the king’s voice, the boy would have died of pain and disappointment. And then the king continued, “You will be my servant. You will carry food to the banquet table, and you will serve my guests. You will grow strong through your work, and the fragrance of the food will be your sustenance. But if you should ever feel weak and hungry, come to me, and I will give you the only food that is necessary.”


PART II

The boy served at the king’s table for a very long time. With the passing of years, he grew to become a fine, strong man. He wasn’t handsome, but he wasn’t unpleasant to look at either. His appearance was such that one hardly noticed him at all.

One day as he was waiting on the guests, it occurred to him that he was as big and strong as any of them and a lot better than some of them. Like the fellow who dressed in funny clothes and always let food dribble down his chin. And the old lady who ate only ice cream and smelled of stale urine. And then there was the old man who heaped his plate full, crammed the food into his mouth, and growled at anyone who tried to talk to him. Surely if they were welcome at the banquet table, there must be a place for him, too.

Not long after that, the man approached the king and asked if, now that he was grown, he could sit and eat at the banquet table. The king did not answer. He simply continued his inspection of the kitchen as if the man weren’t there at all. The man made the request of the king on several other occasions, but he always got the same response.

The man became angry at this. Each time he served at table he compared himself to the guests and became more and more envious and more and more resentful. The tantalizing fragrances no longer gave him sustenance. They made him unbearably hungry. The man did not consider asking the king for the “only food that was necessary” that he’d been offered as a boy. The king’s refusal to acknowledge his request to sit at the banquet table made the man reluctant to ask for other food.

After a while, the man began sitting at the banquet table whenever there was an empty place. He could never manage more than a bite or two before a guest asked him to leave. “That’s my wife’s place.” “My husband sits there.” “My daughter is just coming back.” “I’m saving this place for a friend.”

Without nourishment, the man began to grow weaker. The numerous rejections made him aware that he hungered for companionship as much as for food. He was both hungry and very lonely, and he was consumed with a rage of resentment and envy.

Sometimes the man took long walks away from the castle exploring the wilderness outside the city limits. Away from the sights and sounds and smells of the banquet hall, he felt his suffering less intensely. He no longer had the strength to work the long hours that were his normal routine. His work caused him such pain that he began spending more time in the wilderness and waited on table less and less. None of the guests noticed.

The man stopped asking the king for permission to sit at the banquet table, and he made no more attempts to join the banquet uninvited. These days when the man looked into the king’s eyes, there was no love there nor even indifference. He saw amusement — without a trace of kindness.

The man began to shrink in stature and to become gray and ghost-like. No one noticed. He stopped waiting on table. No one noticed. Food arrived at table and was eaten, dishes were cleared away, and more food was served. That never changed. It had been that way before the boy arrived. It continued while he grew to manhood. And it was uninterrupted now that he no longer worked.

The man left the castle. No one noticed.

  


PART III

The man built a home for himself in the wilderness. He made friends with the animals and found wild foods to eat. He grew in harmony with nature. He no longer thought about being included with others at the king’s table, and he was content with what he had. There was a kind of peace in that. Even though his suffering had stopped, the man was never truly happy. Sometimes he pretended to himself that the king still looked at him with eyes filled with love.

One day when the man was very old, the king appeared to him in a vision and told the man that he had never ceased to serve others. The sustenance the man had always provided was not the food he served in the castle so long ago, but the grace that flowed through his soul to others because of his relationship with the king.

The king explained that the man had misunderstood his life because its real purpose had been kept a secret. The man had been given a task that was so important that knowledge of it would have overwhelmed and incapacitated him.

The king showed the man how the grace that flowed through him had enriched the world. No one knew it came through the man, and the man saw that this was as it should be. For the grace to have been associated with him in any way would have restricted its flow to a mere trickle.

The man saw, too, that it was good that no one remembered him. He asked the king to continue to keep the secret. The man knew that one day he would die, and he wanted no one to feel pain from his life or his death. He did not want anything to interfere with the grace that had enriched the world. The king agreed to honor this request.

That evening while the man watched the sunset from beneath his favorite tree, he fell asleep and died. The last tangible food he served was his own body. Insects and wild animals feasted on flesh. Soil absorbed what was left and nourished the tree.

The grace that flowed through the man while he lived remained at work in the world.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ending was inspired by the TV series, Fringe. In the third season finale, the hero sacrifices himself to save two worlds from mutual destruction. He is successful, but no one remembers that he was ever alive. This is an elegant gift. Worlds are saved, and the hero is lost. But no one remembers him so there is no pain of grief. There is also no body to dispose of and no business left behind for others to conclude.

 Part I was written sometime during the spring of 1982 and Part II on 10/23/1988. Part III was begun 10/23/1988 and completed 7/09/2012. The entire story was revised 11/10/2012 for clarity and continuity.


 ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Untiltled Pastel of Desert Trail. Artist: Fr. Werner Papeians de Morchoven, OSB Fr. Werner: https://www.saintandrewsabbey.com/category_s/97.htm

The illustration,“The Little Vagabond”, is a photo of a notecard.. The back of the card reads: “THE LITTLE VAGABOND” 178.07. From an Original mouthpainted by L. CALLONI. Published by the Association of Handicapped Artists, Inc. Litho in U.S. A. by Holling Press, Inc. Buffalo, N.Y.

 An internet search provided no information about L. Calloni, but I did find the following organization:  Mouth and Foot Painting Artists: https://mfpausa.com/pages/about-mfpa

MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 1: Definition, History, and Related Concepts from an Autodidact’s Perspective

- - - - QUOTE - Part 1

Preface

How do I begin to write about this?  It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life — long before I had a name for it.  Irene Claremont de Castillejo provided that name in her book, Knowing Woman, when I read it for the first time more than thirty years ago.  Since then I’ve been using the concept of the medial to understand myself and to work out ways to live with my medial nature so that it causes the least disruption for myself and others.  I’ve done this for me with no expectation that I would disclose any of it outside the privacy of spiritual direction.

That changed in November of 2014 when I was taking a course to become certified as a spiritual director.  Among the assigned readings was a biography of Henri Nouwen by Michael Ford, Wounded Prophet.  I was amazed at what I found there.  Henri Nouwen was a medial!

Nouwen’s life as presented in Ford’s book clearly shows the influence of the medial archetype.  From Ford’s description, it would be easy to diagnose Nouwen as having borderline personality disorder or at least codependence.  I understood the dynamics of his psychological pain from my own experiences.  Nouwen was possessed by the medial archetype.  He was ‘all things to all people’ and felt lost and desperately lonely when he was not in front of an audience or with supportive others.  Others drew through Nouwen what they needed, and the medial archetype made that possible.  Nouwen’s distress was because he did not understanding that dynamic.  When he was alone and nothing was being transmitted through him, he felt empty — because he was.  Nouwen was unable to realize that he was separate from and more than what flowed through him.

No doubt, this is an overly simplistic interpretation of Nouwen.  He was a much more complicated man than what I’ve just described.  He listened for Guidance and took great risks in following what he discerned.  His writing shows depth and spiritual maturity, and his published works continue to inspire others.

What shocked me was that I’d been graced with sufficient understanding of the medial function to realize the importance of having an identity separate from it.  Inner Guidance insisted that I needed to share this with others.  I was overwhelmed with dread at the prospect.  I made ineffectual efforts to comply, but didn’t manage to get past my fear.  Now more than three years later and because of an unintended public post on Facebook, other medials have asked that I write what little I’ve learned about it.

I still don’t know how to do this.  I’ve reviewed some academic material about the medial, but that doesn’t feel like the way to proceed.  I’ve come to understand that medials must do their own exploration.  It’s part of the spiritual journey, and as such, it is so unique that it is primarily a do-it-yourself proposition.  One of my gifts as a medial is to facilitate others’ access to their own inner wisdom.  I trust that what I write will do this, even if the specifics do not apply at all.  I have not studied this in any formal setting

Metaphors and images from my own inner work and excerpts from my journals may be more helpful than academic explanations — although I will provide a little of that as well.  This post is likely to focus more on ‘academic explanations’ in order to provide background and context for future posts.  I expect all of this to be a disjointed communication about a complex topic published in an erratic series of blogs rather than a continuity of polished articles whose topics flow logically from one to the next.

NOTE:  Please understand that my ‘academic explanations’ are limited by my incomplete knowledge of the subject.  I have not studied this in any formal setting.  What research I’ve done has simply been to make sense of my life.  I haven’t gone deeper than what I’ve needed for myself.  Therefore, my presentation of this material is likely to contain an inherent bias of perspective.

I encourage you to listen for the echo of your own life in what I’ve written.  That is what is most important!  Each of us knows more than we realize.  Our ‘knowing’ is not something anyone can teach us.  It is something we already have, and it’s ours to discover or rediscover. 

The very best resource for information about the medial is a dissertation by Roberta Bassett Corson published in 1998:  The Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture.  I reviewed her dissertation as preparation for this post and much of what I present here is drawn from that.

Roberta Corson’s dissertation is available through ProQuest.com as a PDF document.  Price is $38.  The website is not easy to navigate, and it is helpful to have the publication number:  9912586. 

If you are serious about understanding this topic, Ms. Corson’s work is worth the investment!  For an academic paper, it is an easy read, but feel free to skip sections that don’t seem relevant.  You may want to begin with the five portraits of medial women in Chapter 3 before diving into the background material and the conclusions.

I’ve been immersed in this topic for so long that I no longer remember exactly where I acquired some of the information I’m sharing.  I will provide as much source information as I can.  Eventually I will compile a list of other resources.

What is a Medial?

The term ‘medial’ is short for ‘mediumistic.’  And it all began with Toni Wolff.  She had a complicated relationship with Carl Jung, first as his patient and later as his assistant/guide and eventually his protégé and mistress.  This was not unusual within Swiss culture at that period in time, and Jung’s wife knew of the relationship and accepted the different roles each woman played in Jung’s life — however, not without difficulty on all sides.

Toni Wolff is most noted for her model of women’s personality types.  Of course, her work was influenced by the culture of that time where men played a dominant role and women were subservient.  Consequently, women’s personalities were interpreted in their relationship to men.  Wolff described four personality types for women:  mother; hetaera (companion, friend); Amazon; and the mediumistic woman — or medial.

The medial personality as Wolff proposed it only applied to women.  Although most of the literature on the medial continues to do this, it is no longer true.  It wasn’t even true back then.  Jung, himself was a medial, as was Toni Wolff who used her medial gifts to assist Jung with his inner explorations.  The medial personality is not gender specific!

Medial Archetype, Medial Traits, & Medial Personalities

My best understanding of the medial is as an archetype.  An archetype is an energetic form that provides structures for various functions of human experience and/or personality.  I understand the medial archetype as embodying the ability to access material from what Jung termed the ‘collective unconscious.’

All of us have elements of the medial to one degree or another, and we frequently access material from the collective unconscious through dreams, insights, creative ideas and intuitions.  Just as with any other trait, different people have it to different degrees.  Everyone has it is as part of being human.  For some the medial is also a facet of their personalities that may be activated at some point in their lives — sometimes as a result of spiritual practices, sometimes because of a significant life event, and sometimes as a result of trauma.  For others it defines their personalities and ways of being in the world.

Medial Personality:  Vivid & Subtle Types

Someone with a medial personality is born living in two worlds:  the outward world that is considered ‘reality’ by consensus and an inner world of the collective unconscious.  Because this is experienced from birth, the medial is often unaware of being different in this way and assumes that others have similar experiences.  Roberta Corson’s research distinguished two types of medials:  ‘vivid’ and ‘subtle’.  She discusses these as length in Wounds of the Medial Woman.

Some medials have ‘vivid’ experiences like telepathy, clairvoyance, or precognition.  Others are only aware of a ‘subtle’ sensitivity.  This makes it more difficult for them to identify their medial nature.  Medials of both types often unknowingly attune themselves to the unconscious expectations of others and behave accordingly — which may or may not fit who they truly are. Sometimes they share others’ experiences as if the experiences are their own.  They often have difficulty distinguishing what is theirs from what is another’s.

Both types of medials share the challenges of recognizing, accepting and managing their medial gifts.  Vivid medials have clear evidence of their gifts, but that evidence may be experienced as frightening and confusing.  People around them may also respond with fear and confusion.  Vivid medials are typically what one thinks of as ‘psychics.’  Their gifts are subject to exploitation: 1) the medial’s exploitation of others as an exercise in power and control; 2) others’ exploitation of the medial’s special knowledge for their own ends.

Challenges for subtle medials are more ‘subtle.’  While in the beginning, both types of medials may assume that everyone else experiences life the way they do, it takes longer for subtle medials to identify their differences.  Subtle medials may be so attuned to the desires and expectations of parents and other significant people in their lives that they live the lives others want for them.  It may take years for subtle medials to realize this — even into adulthood.  And once they do, the changes required to live as authentic selves may cause significant disruptions for them and for those around them.

Collective Unconscious & the Medial

One of the medial’s functions is to make material from the collective unconscious available to others.  Until the medial becomes sufficiently aware of his or her access to the depths of the collective unconscious, that material may get communicated to others in ways that cause chaos and disruption.  The proverbial ‘bull in the china shop’ or the clumsy adolescent who hasn’t yet learned to coordinate rapidly growing muscles are images that give the flavor of the inadvertent communication of material from the collective unconscious.

The task of developing an ego that is strong enough to manage living in two worlds is daunting.  Separating one’s individual experiences from shared experiences is difficult and interferes with forming a strong sense of self.  Some never manage this.  Often the medial takes on the projections of another and sometimes of an entire society.  Irene Claremont de Castillejo wrote about this in her book, Knowing Woman.

In the chapter, Roles of Women – Woman as Mediator, de Castillejo wrote: “She (the medial) is permeated by the unconscious of another person and makes it visible by living it.  …She may become permeated by a religious creed and put herself at its service.  She may express in her own person the spirit of an epoch.  Joan of Arc was such a one.”  Later in the same paragraph de Castillejo quoted Toni Wolff:  “The mediumistic type is rather like a passive vessel for contents which lie outside it, and which are either simply lived or else are being formed.”  de Castillejo adds:  “In that sense she is valuable in giving shape to what is still invisible.”

Shadow & the Medial

What the medial responds to and transmits is not always positive.  And it is not always a woman who performs medial functions.  In de Castillejo’s chapter, Responsibility and Shadow, she wrote:

Our interconnection does not end with the family.  We all meet in the unconscious.  How many men have been hanged for murder merely because they were the weak recipients of the murderous shadow of a whole race?  There would be fewer murders if we could all acknowledge within ourselves how easy it would be for anyone of us to kill.  In wartime we explain our brutality some other way.  In peacetime we forget and some man or woman slightly weaker than the rest is hanged virtually for us.

Shadow is not always negative.  ‘Shadow’ is the label Jung gave to those parts of us that are too threatening for us to own or acknowledge.  It can be what we consider ‘bad’ and unacceptable or it can be gifts and abilities that we reject because we fear the demands they could make on us if we were to acknowledge them.

The ‘shadow’ of what we reject is often indiscriminately projected outward where it may be accepted and expressed by someone else.  Joan of Arc accepted the projection of a luminous shadow on behalf of the people of France.  Adolf Hitler may have embodied the dark shadow of the German people of that era.  And perhaps our current President, Donald Trump, is performing the same function for present day United States.

Collective Unconscious

What is this ‘collective unconscious’ that occupies such a prominent place in the lives of medials?  This is one of those concepts that is best approached through images and metaphors.

Even though these days my meditations take me to a vast underground ocean where all waters connect, it was not always so.  Many years ago I relied on Ira Progoff’s metaphor of deep waters and wells.  In his book, At a Journal Workshop, Progoff often referred to the collective unconscious as the Source of All Waters and/or the Source of Deep Wisdom and of Creativity.  He emphasized, as did de Castillejo, that we are all connected there.  Carrying the image forward, he connected the work of the Intensive Journal to accessing the Source of All Waters through our individual wells.

Decades ago in attempts to understand my medial nature, I wrote a journal entry expanding the metaphor to help me explore connections to and interactions with that realm.  What follows is a revised version of that entry.

WELL METAPHOR:  Will, Ego, & Self       

            The will is an attribute, and as such it is neutral.  It is the energy or force that allows for endurance and perseverance.  It can be employed by either the ego or the Self. 

            Identifying one’s will with the ego and labeling it as something ‘bad’ is a fallacy.  And trying to give up one’s will through obedience to another’s will is also a fallacy.  In fact, it cannot be done.  The will must be employed to even be obedient to another.  Obedience to another’s will isn’t even a sound way to overcome one’s ego.  The ego can claim such obedience as its own and further strengthen its hold on the individual.

            The ego itself has been given entirely too bad a name.  Having a healthy ego is essential to knowing one’s Self as an individual and being able to express that Self to the world.  People with weak egos have difficulty knowing who they are apart from others.  People with overgrown egos know that they are separate from others but have lost contact with their Selves.

            Using Progoff’s image of the well and the underground source of all the waters helps to describe this.  The ego is like the shaft of the well that allows the waters of the Self to rise to the surface and be expressed to the outer world as an individual.

            People with overgrown egos have built huge edifices atop their wells. They have something very powerful and individual to express to the outer world, but the waters of their Selves cannot rise to the surface, and they are cut off from their connectedness with others at the Source of All the Waters.

            Some people with weak egos live mostly at the underground source.  Their well shafts are so narrow or crumbling that their waters cannot reach the surface.  They must borrow another’s well shaft in order to have anything to express to the outer world.

            Others with weak egos have trapped themselves above the ground.  Their well shafts are so weak that they have crumbled, and the opening is buried.  These people have totally lost contact with their own well and the Source of All Waters.  They can reach water only by attaching themselves to the above-ground structures of others’ wells.  They are more likely to be attracted to people with overgrown egos than those with healthy ones who might be able to help them reopen their wells.  And so they continue to be cut off from the waters of Self and cling instead to someone else’s illusion.

            People with healthy egos have wide, strong well shafts that are open to the outer world.  They are connected with the underground source of all waters and are able to express themselves as individual springs of refreshment to the outer world.  

MY WELL:     The image of my own well is borrowed in part from Merlin’s spring as described in one of the books I read about King Arthur.  I don’t remember which one.  I use it for the twilight imagery meditation when I prepare to write dialogues for the Intensive Journal.

            There is a spring rising to the surface in a clear, cool trickle of water.  It is surrounded with greenery and wildlife.  Beside it is an old tin cup ready for use by anyone who wants to drink there.  Nearby is a well opening topped with the traditional wishing well structure.  It has a bucket attached to a rope that can be lowered into the well.  I ride in that bucket when I descend to explore the contents of my well, and it ensures my way back when I go deep enough to reach the source of all waters.     (Poustinia Journal, 8/07/1989; revised 7/03/2013; 4/30/2018))

Conclusion

I hope that I have managed to communicate enough about the medial personality to provide sufficient background and context for subsequent posts.  What I’ve presented is an autodidact’s incomplete understanding of the basic concepts — hopefully without too many errors.  While I am a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I have no formal training in Jungian psychology.

I write as a medial — and a ‘subtle’ one at that.  I write because my medial nature requires it and because other medials have asked me to give them ‘words’ for their experiences.

There is paradox in this.  Much of the medial experience cannot be languaged.  It is beyond words.  I’ve been privileged to hear James Finley teach on mystical experiences.  What I remember of that lesson is this:

When we talk about what is beyond words, we are only able to understand each other because we have had similar experiences. 

I trust that this paradox applies to the ‘words’ written here.

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to the Facebook friends who encouraged this writing.   Indeed, if not for their comments on my posts, this would not have happened.  Many showed a heartening acceptance and encouragement of ‘otherness.’  Others asked for more information after sharing about their own experiences.

A special thank you to Bonny White and to Jim Curtan.  Bonny provided technical assistance in proofreading and editing this blog.  And both Bonny and Jim have been generous in their understanding, support and encouragement.

References

Corson, Roberta Bassett.  (1998).  Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture.  Santa Barbara:  Pacifica Graduate Institute

de Castillejo, Irene Claremont.  (1973).  Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology. New York: Harper & Row.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola.  (1995)  Women Who Run with the Wolves.  New York:  Ballantine Books.

Ford, Michael.  (1999)  Wounded Prophet:  A Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen.  New York:  Doubleday.

Finley, James.  (February 22, 2014)  Mystics and the Mind of Christ.  Retreat day for Stillpoint:  The Center for Christian Spirituality.

Myss, Caroline.  (2001)  Sacred Contracts.  New York:  Harmony Books.

Progoff, Ira.  (1975).  At a Journal Workshop:  The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process.  New York:  Dialogue House Library.

 

Chaos Theory Gives Me Hope

Rowboat on the Ocean

I am siting in a rowboat on the surface of the ocean.  A shore and green trees are in sight.

I am only aware of what is happening on the surface.  

Momentous activity is occurring in the depths.

 

I am not just the person in the rowboat.  I am also the boat, the shore with its greenery, and all the ocean with the the momentous happenings in its depths

(Revised from ISD Journal, May 3, 1995)

Is It Soup Yet?

I am an ingredient in a soup being stirred in a large, iron cauldron over an open fire built on the ground.  Beyond the fire it is dark.  I cannot see who is doing the stirring.

This period of my life has been like the chaos in a stirred soup.  Some parts are going faster than others.  I can’t always grab what I need when I think I need it.  It arrives when I’m not where I can use it the way I want to.

Things I have to take care of I do because the situation is forced on me.  Things get done but not the way I want them to.

Everything is out of control — past, present, and future.

I withdraw from the chaos.  I resist becoming soup (“Is it soup yet?”).  I am afraid.  I want to become soup.  But I’m afraid to become a part of the maelstrom.  I am uncomfortable with conflict.

And yet I know I will become soup!

(Revised from ISD Journal, May 6, 1995)

Both of these images* are about change.  There are two kinds of change.  One kind builds on and elaborates an existing structure — the rowboat on the ocean.  The other requires the existing structure itself to change — the soup stirred in a cauldron.  We have been living in the rowboat world, with a surface calm, while changes have been occurring in the depths outside our conscious awareness.  Those changes are now being experienced as the cauldron world of stirred soup.  And I believe that we “will become soup!”

Different theories have different labels for these two kinds of change.  Piagetian developmentalists call them “assimilation” and “accommodation” (Berk, 1991).  (Think about the shift required in going from math to algebra.)  Cyberneticists label them “first and second order change” (Nichols & Schwartz, 1991).  Idealized systems designers refer to them as “problem solving” and “evolutionary change” or as “continuous and discontinuous change” (Frantz, 1993).

Idealized systems designers design for evolutionary change, and chaos theory describes the processes involved in this kind of change.  Chaos theory is a popular term for a collection of theories that attempt to explain the behavior of complex systems.  Chaos theory has been used with all types of complex systems — the weather, the turbulence of flowing fluids, population fluctuations of different species, and the irregularities of coastlines (Lonie, 1991).  The theory has increasingly been applied to human systems and psychotherapy.

In its barest essentials chaos theory assumes that:

1. Change is the only constant in the universe (Moss, 1994).

2. Everything in the universe is connected to everything else (Chubb, 1990; Lonie, 1991; Moss, 1994).

3. Small causes can produce large effects in complex systems.  (aka, The Butterfly Effect) This is also known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. (Chubb, 1990; Lonie, 1991).

4. Complex systems are only predictable for the short term and the near future (Chubb, 1990; Lonie, 1991).

5. Disorder and chaos precede the emergence of something new (Lonie, 1991).  The ‘something new’ is usually a higher order of evolution.  De-evolution is rare.

6. Chaos is a localized phenomenon in a larger ordered system (Lonie, 1991).

Chaos Theory gives me hope because:  ‘Something new’ emerges.

Essentially chaos theory asserts that change is normal and ongoing.  Since everything in the universe is connected to everything else, a change in one small thing has the potential to produce widespread change and maybe even affect the whole universe.  Unfortunately the effects of the small change aren’t predictable very far into the future.  There is a period of disorder and chaos before something new can emerge, but these are only a localized condition in a larger, ordered system.  The ‘something new’ is usually a higher order of evolution.  De-evolution is rare.

Chaos Theory gives me hope because:  There is order somewhere.

Evolutionary chaos is a localized phenomenon in a larger ordered system.  There is order somewhere.  If I am the localized area of chaos, there is a larger, ordered system outside me that is stable and calm.  Having faith in the existence of some larger, ordered system will help sustain me in my chaos.  The larger ordered system can be the continuity of the cycles and patterns of my life as it has unfolded since its beginning.  Or it can be some accessible support system such as family and friends, a formal support group, a spiritual community, or a therapist or spiritual director.  It can also be something as intangible and immense as the order of the universe or God.

I believe there are systems within the area of chaos that also retain order and meaning.  My core values and my real self are inner systems that may offer guidance and stability while I am in the midst of the chaos of change.

Cooperating with change like a force of nature.

I can also transcend the anxiety of evolutionary change by cooperating with it like a force of nature and converting it into excitement.  I know from my own experiences that it’s possible to do this.  Surfing the ocean’s waves or shooting a river’s rapids are metaphors for the experience.

Some part of me remains outside the anxiety as an observer while the rest of me deliberately enters into it to be buffeted about and almost drowned and then spilled out onto a sandy shore exhausted and relieved, but changed and at peace with myself.  Perhaps, with practice, all of this can be combined into a way of being that is so much a part of who I am that it won’t require so much thought and effort.

Idealized systems design theorists recognize the pervasiveness of change and seek to shape that change to produce a future that conforms to their own values (Banathy, 1987).  They have developed a variety of strategies for shaping change in smaller systems (Frantz, 1994) with the hope that these methods may one day be applied on a global level (Banathy, 1987).

ISD strategies have several things in common (Frantz, 1994):

1. Recognizing that there is something in the present that is unsatisfactory and could be improved.

2. Creating a vision of a future that is satisfactory instead of trying to fix what is wrong in the present.

3. Examining the designer’s values in general and in regard to the specific focus of the design.

4. Acquiring information and experiences that clarify this vision of the future.

5. Recognizing that idealized systems design is an iterative process with no easily predictable path from beginning to end, and that this process contains periods of chaos and confusion that produce anxiety in the designers.

6. Producing a design that complies with certain standards of completeness and validity and that is practical enough to be attainable.

Values are central to influencing the nature of change.

Chaos theory suggests that changing smaller systems may influence change in larger ones.  Our individual and collective values are central to the nature of the changes we influence.  Core values are what fuel the design process.  It is essential to clarify them as much as possible.  These deeply held values can provide a bridge across the anxiety barrier (Frantz, 1993) to what is outside existing reality.  Core values can be ideals or expressions of ideals held on a deeper level.

Ideals, by their definition of perfection, are already outside existing reality.  From there it is only a small step to dream of bigger things.

Let’s dream of bigger things!

*The images were written as preparation for developing an idealized systems design (ISD) for negotiating the chaos of evolutionary change — my master’s project for California Family Study Center in North Hollywood, California. I will use content from that paper in this and future blogs with revisions to adapt for the intervening decades and to make it more readable and less pedantic. My master’s project was published under the pseudonym, Mary Doherty.  Because ISD papers were often on individual’s lives and contained sensitive, personal information, the school allowed the use of pseudonyms to protect privacy.  The full, academic version of the paper is available in the library at Phillips Graduate Institute, Chatsworth, California.  It was written before CalFam became Phillips and relocated.

References

Banathy, B. H.  (1987).  The characteristics and acquisition of evolutionary competence.  World Futures, 23, 123-144.

Banathy, B. H.  (1987).  The design of design inquiry in the context of human activity systems.  Proceedings of the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for General Systems Research, H34-H45.

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INTRODUCTION

The night of the 2016 presidential election I stayed up late to hear the results.  I’d been anxious about the election because of the viciousness of the campaign rhetoric.  If Hillary Clinton were elected, it would mean that life in the United States would go on more or less as it had before and there would be stability.  With Donald Trump as president, it could be a descent into chaos.  And maybe chaos was what we needed to eventually reach the kind of change that our country — and indeed, the world — is anxious for.

I preferred continued stability and a slower rate of change, but as a sometime student of chaos theory, I understood that our country might need the chaos generated by a Donald Trump presidency to evolve into something new and greater than it ever has been — not a return to past greatness.

Donald Trump’s election has motivated many of us who have traditionally been passive and apolitical to become involved.  His election showed me that I wasn’t living in the country I thought I was.  Many others have expressed this same reaction.  In discussing this with a friend, we decided that we needed to listen to those whose opinions differ from ours and whom we’ve previously dismissed.

I began my ‘listening’ through Facebook.  I found websites that published articles that explored issues in depth from various sides.  I also read the comments on posts from both conservatives and liberals.  I found anger, outrage and finger pointing on both sides.  I heard beneath these comments emotions of anxiety, fear, and confusion.  The world is changing in ways we cannot comprehend and have little control over.  We, as humans, tend to look for someone to blame to make sense of the incomprehensible.  And sometimes in doing so we create greater divisions and add to the problems we want resolved.

What has also become clear to me is that little of this is about Donald Trump.  He has given voice to the concerns of those of us who haven’t felt that we have been heard.  But he is the focus and NOT the cause.  I am grateful that he has brought to light the divisions within our communities and our nation as a whole.  I want to do what I can to heal our collective woundedness.

I knew the day after the election that I could no longer remain a passive bystander.  I didn’t know what I could do, but I had to do something.  I shrink from conflict.  I don’t do it well.  I do not have the mental agility to engage in debate and confront others about issues.  I don’t have the stamina for it either.  There are many others who are better suited for that sort of activism.  What kept going through my mind as I was pondering what I could do was a quote from Edmund Burke, an 18th century Irish statesman:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Eventually I remembered my master’s project on idealized systems design (ISD) and that those who developed the ISD discipline did so with the intention of influencing global change in accordance with deeply held values.  What if I could give others tools from ISD to help them cope with the chaos of our changing world?  And while I was thinking about that, I remembered other writing projects — some from my past and some unfinished and waiting to be addressed.  Only a few of them have been shared with others.

Maybe I could write for another Facebook page or set up a blog.  I could share what I’ve written of my journey and do it as an invitation to others to make their own journeys or to rediscover — or perhaps discover for the first time — journeys already taken.  I wouldn’t want my writing to be noticed as much as I’d want it to point readers to their own insights and experiences and the deep wisdom that each of us carries.

But what would I call this blog?  The topics I want to address don’t connect well enough to generate a descriptive label.  And furthermore, I’m no expert on anything except my own life!  My life — by circumstance, by necessity, by calling, and by choice — has been primarily a journey of inner exploration.  The topics connect for me because I’ve lived them.  Could they connect for readers?

When I researched the quote about the “triumph of evil” to verify both the wording and the author, I discovered another quote from Edmund Burke:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

It was not an easy decision to go forward with the project of writing a blog.  I could without difficulty rationalize inactivity because of the inadequacy of my credentials.  But I don’t want to make the mistake of doing nothing.  And so for now, this is the “little” I can do.