Our culture’s over-separatism is the source of much of the worlds present dysfunction. From cutthroat business and political competition, to our personal impulses to ‘out do’ or dominate others; from the exploitation and misuse of earths natural resources, to the compromise of personal integrity for outside approval; a deep seeded belief in separatism has pitted the world against itself. The misconception that our individual well-being is somehow dependent on acts of separation i.e. ‘competition’ (separation from others) and/or the ‘compromise of integrity’ (separation from self) has led us dangerously close to our own destruction.
While at one time “well-being” may have been mistaken as: the acquisition of wealth (at the expense of human suffering and ecosystem pollution); today it is not as easy as just building a castle somewhere far away from the problem and peacefully living out a selfish existence. Today we are all facing the environmental and socio-economic consequences of an overly separative system and it has become painstakingly obvious that true ‘well-being’ is not sought by overly separative and destructive means.
Though there have been pockets of more or less unified tribes and cultures throughout history, the unbalancing effects of separatism, as it is expressed through domination-driven hierarchy, has been ramped since recorded history began. Simply put: too few people in history have had greater realizations of oneness for society to reflect a more unified level of actualization. We are, as a collective, experiencing the discord that accompanies an unconscious actualization process: pain and turmoil is calling our attention so as to awaken repressed aspects of the collective (our connectedness). I don’t see the present world crises as mere tragedy, rather I believe they may be exactly what is necessary to finally tune us in to the bigger picture of who we really are.
I am optimistic because despite all the trouble in the world, now more than ever people are beginning to awaken to a greater unified balance. While it may seem like the level of consciousness driving the political, corporate and militaristic worlds still remains rather stagnant, there has been a major shift within the collective psyche. Thanks to all the wisdom teachings of the ages, the recent information boom and the connective power of the Internet, the recognition of universal virtue has transcended beyond any one exclusive system of religion. The greater underlying truth that connects all spiritual experience (love, equality, unity etc.) has begun to reveal deeper levels of interconnectedness on a grand scale.
We are beginning to actualize ourselves to a higher harmonic, we are breaking our ties to the dysfunction of old systems by expanding our personal awareness and edifying our paradigms. Unfortunately, the complex systems of separation that make up much of the structure of modern society have been rooted so deeply in our culture that they still often distort our impulses and behaviors surreptitiously. Though I do believe that the majority of the population, at least on some level, understands the necessity for greater world unity, many people will be unable to begin living a more cooperative lifestyle until there are more systems in place to support it. Therefore it is up to those of us who are ready to act now to be the innovators of these new planetary-systems.
But before we run off attempting to sell new systems of unity to the world, we must first be sure that we have cleared ourselves of all unconscious behavior patterns that still support an imbalance of separatism. It is easy to get ahead of ourselves and overlook some of the potentially destructive shadow aspects within us. Thus, in order to effectively actualize our ourselves harmoniously, and create truly balanced systems, we must understand our subtle impulses and take a deep and honest look at the full spectrum of our motivations.
Understanding Our Wiring
There is a complex array of overly-separative behaviors and pathologies that can express themselves. In order to simplify them, I have boiled it down to two general forms or categories that encapsulates most of the expressions of separative behaviors. These two pathological forms are Competition and Self Rejection. These two forms of pathology are basically two sides to the same coin; the coin being an expression of separation.
Competition: an expression of separation of self from others
Self Rejection: an expression of separation of self from self
Both of these pathological forms stunt actualization. Competitive behavior treats others as opponents by creating opposition, oppression, and exploitation. Self-rejecting behavior opposes the self, compromises integrity, represses authenticity and conforms under pressure. As a result of these expressions, our natural human drives have been perverted.
Over-separative behavior has become so commonplace that many have even theorized that humans are naturally competitive and dominating, but I do not believe this is our true nature. While it is true that humanity does experience the urge to compete and self-reject impulsively, these impulses would express themselves much differently if they were filtered through the prism of a unified paradigm. I believe that our true nature is cooperative; it only sometimes seems competitive because it has been perverted by our separative imbalance. Our natural human drives and desires are neutral in and of themselves, it is our beliefs about separation or unity that direct them and determine how they express.
Natural human drives and desires:
Our drive for physical survival
Our desire to have physical/material security
Our drive to cultivate a greater sense of self-value
Our desire to elicit positive response in others
These are natural human impulses that when filtered through a prism of consciousness that is actualized to a level of balanced unity are tremendously beneficial. Unfortunately, when these intense human drives and desires are filtered through a paradigm of imbalanced separation they become belligerent expressions of the pathologies listed above and are often mistaken as the evidence of an immoral human nature.
Next I will break down each of the human drives and desires with their accompanying separative belief system and the distortions which result.
Separative beliefs for physical survival and physical/material security:
“Other people are potential threats to my/our success and I/We must compete with or exploit them in order to thrive.”
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural instinct is channeled into various unnatural forms of competition. In this case, competition is motivated by a drive to ensure one’s ownership and/or access to physical/material goods associated with survival and prosperity.
We see this expressed as: cutthroat business practice, resource hoarding and exploitation
2. “I/We must conform with the status quo in order to financially support my/ourselves.”
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural survival instinct is channeled into various forms of self-rejection. In this case, self-rejection is the compromise of personal authenticity or integrity as a means for physical/material goods associated with prosperity.
We see this expressed as: working a boring job, being deceptive for financial purposes, or any behavior that compromises authenticity for material gain
“My/our personal value is realized through being better than others, measuring higher and out shining other people”
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural instinct is channeled into various unnatural forms of competition. In this case, competition is motivated by a desire for superiority, a lust for egoic self-value, or a competitive drive to compare ourselves to others as a means for determining self-value.
We see this expressed as: jealousy, competitive conversation, competitive judgment, relationship domination etc.
“My/our personal value is realized through outside acceptance and/or appraisal, popularity, and notoriety.
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural survival instinct is channeled into various forms of self-rejection. In this case, self-rejection is the compromise of moral integrity as a means for social acceptance, or a suppression of authenticity so as to generate self-value through social recognition.
We see this expressed as: imbalanced people pleasing, social conformity
Separative beliefs for our desire to elicit positive response in others:
“By outshining or intimidating other people I/we will gain respect.”
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural instinct is channeled into various unnatural forms of competition. In this case, competition as a means for demonstrating our value to others in an attempt to elicit a ‘positive’ response from people.
We see this expressed as: competing with someone to show off to someone else, belittling others as a means for showcasing our own value, using intimidation to get others to agree, conform or scaring people into ‘respecting’ us or ‘siding’ with us.
“We/I must forfeit our/my authenticity or sacrifice my/ourselves in order to be liked, respected, appreciated, noticed or praised.
Through this belief filter, the force of our natural survival instinct is channeled into various forms of self-rejection. In this case, self-rejection is the suppression of authenticity or any form of deceptive behavior motivated by the desire for a specific response from others i.e. respect, appraisal, laughter, or reverence.
We see this expressed as: doing good deeds solely for good credit, making statements that we don’t really agree with in order to attract someone else to us, taking cheap shots at people for a laugh.
A humble realization
It wasn’t too long ago that I started to really pay attention to the inner-workings of my psyche regarding my sense of self-worth and personal confidence. Before I began my deeper inquiries in this area, I had not given much thought to the moral implications of my methods for cultivating confidence and self worth. I imagine I was, and still am to a large extent, just like many people in the sense that my confidence and self worth seems directly correspondent to my circumstances. When I have recently been commended or praised I feel a greater sense of self worth, while if I were recently condemned or ridiculed, beneath the outer-layer of anger and self-justification, I feel devalued and smaller.
This dance of dichotomies between ‘valuable’ and ‘worthless’ is not only salient when I feel judgment from external sources, but also when I turn judgment upon myself. This usually starts when I compare my beliefs, skills, qualities, or accomplishments with that of another persons and let that comparison initiate a judgment about my own self-worth. This results in multiple thoughts and feelings, both subtle and gross, which are linked to the ideas of superiority and/or inferiority. Often this will happen too quickly to clearly monitor resulting in a unique convolution of judgments, anxieties, and impulses peculiar to the situation at hand.
It is this growing awareness of my own separative imbalances that has sparked my deep exploration of this subject. For underneath all of my conscious attempts to help usher in a new world of balanced connection and unity, I found that, in many ways I was still operating from a space of separative imbalance. I began to see just how tricky it was to humbly acknowledge my part in perpetuating the old paradigm of deception and competition, especially when everything I consciously stood for and participated in was inspired by ideas of honesty and cooperation. I began to observe the many faces of this shadow as it is expressed throughout the more ‘conscious’ social scenes.
Whether it’s activist groups, the transformational festival scene, spiritual fellowships, ‘new age’ movements, sustainability collectives etc., I still observe many of these pathological programs operating quite pervasively. I often observe it as a competition for who is the best healer, most profound artist, most spiritually adept shaman, etc. Ironically people are competing over humility and in many ways in-authentically adhering to ‘spiritual ideals’ that have become like a kind of ‘new age’ dogma.
So what now? The pertinent questions I arrived at during this point in my journey seemed quite obvious to me:
How can we initiate our own transformation in a way that catalyzes greater actualization?
How do we begin developing the ability to navigate old paradigm structures with greater integrity whilst beginning to create new communities that do support it?
In section 3 I will explore practical techniques and principals for implementing a more connected paradigm into our everyday lives.