Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Live and Learn; Learn and Live

There is an old adage: live and learn.  This is the first half of life experience. The first half of life is the work of shaping and expression.  The infant already has many forces that have shaped her at birth.  There are inherited traits of her family going back into the distant past.  There are the influences from the womb.  The infant does not enter the world an unshaped lump of psychological, physical or spiritual clay.  There are many experiences in the womb such as loud noises or chemicals released by or passed through the mother’s that shape the growing fetus.
Once born the child’s most important task in the early years is learning how to fit in.  Her humanness has many needs that are seeking to be fulfilled.  There are the obvious ones of protection and feeding.  There are the very important human ones of nurture, guidance and being important.  Her family environment teaches her what she must do to get those needs met.  What she learns is what things are significant, how that significance effects her, and how to express what is significant to her. 
She also learns the other side of fitting in.  In learning to adapt her needs, she may have to tone down, warp or even hide her young self.  The developing child learns meaning.  She learns meaning so that she can survive.  Some of this meaning is fairly straight forward physical survival information. It is the kind that warns that a fire is hot.  It also teaches what responses her cries for food, attention, fear, or frustration will get. It is teaching her how to belong to her family. 
Most of us spend the first half of life verifying what we have learned.  We seek and/or create environments and people that confirm this early shaping.

Learn and live” of the second half of life is not an easy job.   Nor does it every end.   As we experience our patterns, we must learn “how we got to be the way we are”.   What are the many experiences, often mercifully buried, that shaped our young ego.  As we learn how we were molded at the same time we must learn “how we are”.  This is different than the shaping influences.  “How we are” is the expression of our early adaptations in the first half of life. 
It is interesting to note that there are usually three to seven primary experiences that act as themes for our ego expression.  We may have been beaten every day of our life but there is one beating that is the defining theme of that experience and how we assimilated it into our self image.  It is each of these three to seven thematic experiences that we must meet and grieve to learn in the second half of life.
These early shapings are the source of brain chatter.  It is the dos and don’ts of adaptation that keep the human animal within the bounds of acceptable behavior.  With illumination we bring to consciousness the themes and energy behind the patterns of our behaviour.  This is a necessary first step.
Illumination is not fault finding in its orientation.  It is critical and gentle assessment.  For example when assessing anger it is examined in various ways. How do I display or not display anger?  What were my childhood models for anger?  Was there a rageful person in the past that made anger displays a non choice because of a wish to not emulate and/or a fear of display?  Was it a home where anger (or any emotions) was proscribed?  What happens with angry thoughts?  Is there guilt?  Is there shame?  If anger does not come out straight how does it display?  Which of my behaviors are sideways expressions of anger?  How has my anger and other’s anger influenced my relationships?  If there was no good role model for anger what are a my personal, acceptable expressions of anger?  How do a I learn to practice these expressions?
Illumination work encompasses all of our patterns. How do I control my world?  All life needs to have a sense of control or efficacy.  Are there moods that I use?  Do I fail inorder to succeed or the reverse?  How do I define my territory?  All life defines territory if no other way than occupying a space. What displays do I do to indicate when my territory is invaded?  How close is intimate, personal, social?  What did I learn about sex, sexuality and sensuality?
How we got the way we are is one component of illumination.  We must also learn how we are.  This is very difficult to do alone.  We need a trusted environment and trusted others to be mirrors for us.  It is the old trees for the forest problem.  If we can know that the feedback is in the now and not put someone else’s face (for example a mother) on the person giving the information then we are on our way to learning our old patterns and beginning new patterns.
This is hard work.  We were shaped at a very young age.  The breadth and depth of awareness and development of the emotions were very immature.  As new behaviors are attempted there are screams of protest and covert sabotage from our early shaping in the name of survival. The adaptations established were put in place at a very young immature age and they were design to meet at least minimally the requirements of the environment that allowed the child to get its needs met.
Energy constantly follows thru and around us.  When we are wounded - when our love is imageless - when our hope is dammed - when our dance is bound then the energy does not flow.  Two birds are hatched in our chest.  The one flies with a broken wing.  The other hides in the nest afraid to fly. 
Hiding in the nest we hold dreams of goodness and fantasies of loud applause as we would soar.  The broken wing flier goes in circles; so the world always looks and feels the same.  We learn to fly this way.  This is how flying is done.  When flying is not done this way we fear falling.  The world must always look the same or . . . ! ! ??
The point to the two birds is that our adaptations are the circling bird.  Who essentially maintains the wounds.  We in some ways selectively live in situations that keep us circling.  Why should the child within (the bird hiding in the nest) trust you the adult who continues to apply the constraints and “abuses” and continues to exist in situations that apply these constraints and “abuses.”  So we must make friends with ourselves.  Learn to trust ourselves. 
The true move for healing is switching our feelings of shame to feelings of guilt.  Then we are dealing with our behavior and not our personhood.  With shame changed to guilt we can do things that atone for the behavior and begin to have a deeper sense of belonging.  We may also decide that the behavior is not one to feel guilty about; that the making the behavior negative was someone else’s problem and the behavior is a natural and acceptable part of ourself.  We can learn to accept mistakes, weaknesses, and inabilities as well as our gifts and abilities.
We do not change.  I think we can face our devils and neutralize them by moving shame to guilt which is impowering because then it becomes behavior.  I think we can learn that what was our onus is also our gift and learn to use it as such.  I think we can release some of the early energy tied up in wounds so we are can be more childlike and not childish.  But I don't think our essence or the early shaping of it can change. We become aware.  We move from the powerful shapings of self-talk and shame to the choices of mature self reflection. 


Shame is a critical part of our humanness.  Shame can be looked at as a feeling of not belonging, of exclusion from the group.  For a highly and imperatively social animal, our lifelong development of attachment/bonding is pivotal to belonging.  We have a genetically based need to find structure, process and meaning within a social context that arises from both our evolutionary path and the very composition of our information processing.  It is an interplay of biology, language, family, society, culture, and cosmology.  It is a dynamic, ongoing, relational process within ourselves and with others.

It is important to understand the core of shame is not belonging.  As a totally social animal, not belonging is a powerful motivator.  As example, shame arises when we, as children, have no socially acceptable release for our natural frustration/anger.  Or where our natural feelings of flight manifest as fear or terror are condemned.  Shame is the feeling that arises when a behavior that is manifesting a naturally occurring internal state invokes the social response of disgust; of being cast out; of not belonging.

With the social response imprinted very early on our basic survival patterns, self- consciousness acts to maintain a sense of shame whenever the disallowed internal experience occurs.  This is often below awareness because recognition of this aspect of our self is a threat to belonging; hence to survival.

Shame’s counterpart is guilt. Guilt arises from the disapproval of our behavior as opposed to rejection of our personhood.   When guilt occurs, a way is taught for rectifying our error and for the acceptable expression (no matter how convoluted) of our experience within the social context.  Guilt provides a process for continued membership in the group.  In this way it provides continued support for the “traditional” patterns of socially accepted behavior.

Shame and guilt are decidedly different experiences.  Guilt offers continued membership while shame banishes. The pathway to human belonging is channeled and powered by these two emotions of reference that arise through the functioning of self-consciousness.   I believe these two emotions of reference are primary in the processes of personal and social change. 
(The concept of emotions of reference comes from Lewis, Michael. 1992. Shame-The Exposed Self. The Free Press. N.Y.)

A few readings:
Gilbert, Paul and Andrews, B.  1998.  Shame: Interperson Behavior, Psycholpathology, and Culture.  Oxford U. Press. Oxford.

Lewis, H.B.  1987.  The Role of Shame in Symptom Formation.  Eribaum Ass.  Hillsdale, N.J.

Lewis, H.B.  1971.  Shame and Guilt in Neurosis.  International University Press. N.Y.

Lewis, Michael. 1992. Shame-The Exposed Self. The Free Press. N.Y.

Lynd, Helen Merrell.  1965.  On Shame and the Search for Identity.  Science Editions. N.Y.

Peristiany, J. G.  1966.  Honour and Shame.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago.

Scheff, T. and Retzinger, S.  1991. Emotions and Violence: Shame and Rage in Destructive Conflicts. Lexington Books. Massachusetts>

Schieffelin, C.  1985.  "Anger, Grief, and Shame: Toward a Kaluli Ethnopsychology."  In Person, Self, and Experience.  Edited by G. M. White and J. Kirkpatrick.  Univ. of California Press. Berkeley.

Schneider, Carl.  1977.  Shame, Exposure, Privacy.  Beacon. Boston.

Sroufe, L. Alan.  1995.  Emotional development: the organization of emotional life in the early years.  Cambridge U.  N.Y.   Page 68 for 18 month old shame.

Tangney, June and Fischer, Kurt; editors.  1995.  Self-Conscious Emotions: The Psychology of Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, and Pride.  Guilford.  N.Y.

On the bioeconomics of shame and guilt

Shame has biological roots, possibly enhancing trust, favoring social cohesion. We studied bioeconomic aspects of shame and guilt using three approaches: 1—Anthropo-linguistic studies of Guilt and Shame among the Yanomami, a culturally isolated traditional tribal society; 2—Estimates of the importance different languages assign to the concepts Shame, Guilt, Pain, Embarrassment, Fear and Trust, counting the number of synonyms listed by Google Translate; 3—Quantitative correlations between this linguistic data with socioeconomic indexes. Results showed that Yanomami is unique in having overlapping synonyms for Shame, Fear and Embarrassment. No language had overlapping synonyms for Shame andGuilt. Societies previously described as “Guilt Societies” have more synonyms for Guilt than for Shame. A large majority of languages, including those from societies previously described as “Shame Societies”, have more words for Shame than for Guilt. The number of synonyms for Guilt and Shame strongly correlated with estimates of corruption, ease of doing business and governance, but not with levels of interpersonal trust. We propose that cultural evolution of shame has continued the work of biological evolution, but its adaptive advantageto society is still unclear. Results suggest that recent cultural evolution must be responsible for the relationship between the levels of corruption of a society and the number of synonyms for Guilt and Shame in its language. This opens a novel window for the study of complex interactions between biological and cultural evolution of cognition and emotions, which might help broaden our insight into bioeconomics.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I lost 20 pounds when I was in the hospital for a month. I had two tubes sticking out of my back and was essentially immobile. Then when I left, I spent two months not sleeping and struggling for air. Now, I have a new inhaler and I sleep well and am far more mobile.

Here is a picture of the tube they took out of my back. It was embedded up to black stop. The light switch indicates its length which was over 14 inches. It is attached to the bandages that held it and the other tube in place on my back. The other tube had been pulled a week earlier.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


This is the DVD made in 2004 of one of my speeches to young people in schools. This video was made by my neighbor, Dan Zirbes, who is a jack of all trades and a very smart person.  I spoke to more than 2000 youngsters around Central Minnesota.
I also had billboards up all around on major highways.  See below

This opens with a three dimensional view of
 my chest from my very first CT scan.
The purple mass is my tumor,
the red organ is my heart.  



This is the web site I created when I was going through treatment.  I sent up dates to friends weekly.

Some of the kids held fun raisers and put the billboards up themselves.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Many living at the top of the energy consumption pyramid fervently believe there is a green, sustainable, renewable clean energy available for our future.  Much of this belief is founded in the fervent wish to maintain a significant aspect of our present energy way of life.  To foster and support this belief, a couple of parables help us understand how factual this might be.

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, "This is where the light is."

This parable offers several insights.  First the obvious, that we look where it is easiest to see.  But there is I believe a deeper lesson, that we look where we want to see. 

This next parable adds a second dimension to seeing the truth concerning green, sustainable and renewable devices for the future. 

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."
They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who
touched his leg.

"Oh, no! It is like a rope," said the second man who touched
the tail.

"Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
"It is like a big hand fan," said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. 
wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" 
They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. 
The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant.
So, actually the elephant has all those features as you all said."

Clearly a primary lesson of this parable is the need to see the whole picture.

When you look at solar energy collecting devices:

Is this your image?

Or do you  imagine this?


Text Box:



So what do you think of when you call something green?
Or call something renewable?
Or call something sustainable?


Grass is green but that is not what you mean, not the color.  Do you mean it doesn’t harm the earth?  If so do you see the whole elephant or only look where you want to find the key?

How about renewable?  Do you mean it can create itself?  If so, are you saying it can duplicate itself?  If so, are you talking about all the parts renewing themselves – panels, inverters, controllers, all their internal parts, batteries, wiring and all that is mentioned in the box above.  Does it create itself like a horse or an oak tree?  What do you mean when you say it is renewable?

Sustainable – for how long?  When I plant my garden, part of it I put into clover to build the soil for the following years.  Where do I get the clover?  If I grow it myself, I deplete that soil somewhat when I harvest seed (harvesting with personal or machine energy).  If  I buy the seed, do I let someplace else consider how to deal with the depletion?  There simply is no free lunch.


There is the assumption that humans will change their ways and conserve energy and not consume, consume, consume. This is akin to Jevons' paradox (perhaps there is one more germaine). If the energy is available, what will stop continued consumption of tools and toys? Who will go first with this restraint and restricting? Think of the uproar if legislated.

I think it is incredibly difficult to wrap our heart, mind and spirit around the massive changes facing us. A world no longer powered by fossil fuels, no matter what incarnation, is almost inconceivable and for many terrifying.   It is indeed traumatic for what it might (probably) means not just for us but also for our love ones, children, grandchildren. Our hearts break. We want to fix it. So we do more technology and more ultimate harm.

It is comforting to prefer the noise of delusional magical thinking and pretending that the system of perpetual growth can work forever; that some variant of business as usual can persist.  There is just too much tied up with it and any unraveling would be far too chaotic and unpredictable. Wrapping our heads around the eventualities of global warming; of overshoot; of the desecration of world wildlife; of the acidification of the oceans; of the poisoning of pollinators stymies.

We are slowly technologizing ourselves into extinction. Technology is seductive. Is it the power? Is it the comfort? Or is it some internal particularly human attribute that drives it? Technology surrounds us and becomes part of our story and myths. Technology tantalizes the human mind to make, combine, invent. There are always unintended consequences with technology. It affects how we experience the world in time and space. It affects how we feel about the world. If all the externalities were included in the prices and cost to nature, we would be very, very wary of technology.

I think we have moved from technology in the service of religion (pyramids and gothic cathedrals) to religion and culture in the service of technology. It isn't a deity that will save humanity but in the eyes of many - it will be technology.

We will do more of the same, business as usual until there are no more holes in the ground to dig, no more water above and below to contaminate, no humans to wage slave, no other lifeforms to eliminate. Yes, we are building Trojan horses in our hearts, minds and spirits. It will be elitist and entitlement and hubris – it will end with both a bang and a whimper.