Waking Up From the Trance by Peter Metzner

We are bombarded daily with messages from advertisers, the media, shows, movies, the news,  our families, work, friends, school, churches and  politicians to name a few.  Neuroscience has found that our brain is more active when we are asleep then when we are watching TV.  (Unless we are very selective about what we watch.)   Without being aware, we internalize these messages  thrust-ed upon us every day.   Advertisers use sophisticated classical conditioning techniques to make us mindlessly want things we  don’t need.  As a society, we have been conditioned to be materialistic and view success as having lots of money and “things”.     We see images of what the ideal woman should be, what success looks like, what we should drive and how we should think.    Based on our selection of news programs, our political affiliation or religious orientation as well as our self image,   we automatically seek out information that confirms and conforms to our beliefs.

In his ground breaking book ” What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why you Should do The Opposite, David Desolvo writes:  ” The brain doesn’t merely prefer certainty over ambiguity – it craves it!”  Our need to be right is actually a need to feel right!’   Neurologist Robert Burton calls this a certainty bias which skews our thinking.    Since our brains crave certainty,  we become anxious or threatened  if our world view, religious or political beliefs are challenged.  Even despite compelling evidence to the contrary.  (Disalvo)  Thus differing view points, cultures, religions and ways of living are threatening to many.   Think about it;  if my way of thinking or believing  is right, good and the only way – your way must be wrong.  So if I am good then you must be bad or evil and I should fight evil.. Right?  Or?…

It is easy to see how  religion can be a source of conflict rather than a force  towards healing .  It not that any particular religion is the problem.  It is simply our brains!      Kenneth Wilber, one of the great current thinkers of our time states moral development falls into three distinct stages.  It is all about me (egocentric)  to it is all about us (ethnocentric)  to it is about all of us. (world centric)  This parallels  Kohlberg’s three levels of moral development.  pre conventional to conventional to post conventional.    According to Wilber, 70% of the world population is ethnocentric.  Which means I see and accept the world through the lenses of my tribe, culture, religion,  country, political belief etc.

With  ethno centric populations being  70%  and numerous countries  owning weapons of mass destruction, controlling vast amounts of the worlds resources,  consuming  significant amounts of these limited resources, and polluting significant amounts –  it doesn’t take an Einstein to see the trouble we are headed towards!

In order for there to be peace, sustainability and a shared common humanity;  a critical mass of  people need to reach the third stage of moral development.  (Its about all of us ) Carl Jung was asked if there was hope for the world  and his answer:   “There is – if enough people do their inner work”.    It is up to each of us individually to wake up from the collective trance and realize that there is only one human race and we are all a part of it.  As Desmund Tutu says-  ‘We are all family”.    Jung and depth psychologists realized that on a soul level we are all connected.   This supports Jesus’ teaching that what you do to the least of us you do to the rest of us.   Einstein reasoned that that this feeling separate from each other is an illusion.   From an energy standpoint as well  – we are all connected.

Jung believed that Neurosis is being or having to be someone you are not.  This is the imprisonment of  having to conform to external definitions of who or what you should be.   Shakespeare wrote the “most confining prisons are the ones that we don’t know that we are in”.  Psychological health and emotional well being is to  live authentically. This is “to see with your own own eyes and to feel with your own heart”  (Einstein)

To “wake up” and develop awareness and mastery, is to  step outside of your emotional field”.  (Daniel Starr)   To do this;  is to over-ride our conditioning.    Awareness is the foundation for growth, healing and taking responsibility for our lives.  With awareness we have choices.  The cost of staying unaware is to  be on automatic pilot and living a life that is not authentically and genuinely ours.   When we stay stuck with self limiting beliefs like we are not good enough, deserving,  we can’t make a difference etc..,  the names, the places, the people may change in our lives, but we repeat patterns with similar outcomes.  As we become more aware, we have more choices  and can live more intentionally and creatively.

So how does one  wake up from a conditioned, neurotic life?

According to Starr and the wisdom traditions,  the first step is to become an observer, or witness, to daily moment-to-moment experiences.  Once we can observe an emotion or a belief and not identify with it we are less likely to be managed or driven by it.   This is an important step towards self mastery.  Awareness helps us  learn to manage or regulate emotions rather than be driven by them.

It is important to observe without making judgment.  Self judgement and being self critical entrap you in your emotional soup. Self-awareness enhances self mastery by letting us see or witness our repetitive patterns.  This allows us to intentionally choose  our direction and experience .    Self-mastery helps us be more  effective in our work or vocation as well as other areas of our lives.

Emotions are states of mind, and we are always experiencing some state of mind, so we are always feeling an  emotion – whether we are conscious of it or not.   There is a relationship between thoughts and emotions.   With each thought, there is an emotional trigger or an emotional association. We think about something,  then comes an emotional association, and this, sparks another thought with its emotional “baggage”.   The process continues as the emotions resonate or fuel each other and increase in intensity.  We have all experienced being upset or angry about something (or someone) and by continually thinking of the situation, we become increasingly agitated.  This  called “awfulizing”.  We can awfulize or “catastrophize” about anything:  fellow workers, managers, clients, policy, finances, relationships, family, self-esteem, and so on.   The patterns are very similar.  Being aware of this,  makes it is fairly simple to master.

The most important part of self-mastery is awareness, (Starr)  so when you start to notice the awfulizing, reward yourself for experiencing this.  You are then associating a positive emotion with the act of becoming aware.  This is a lot more beneficial then getting upset about awfulizing again.

When  we experience negative emotions,  it is usually because we are experiencing something in our environment or our mind that is not in harmony with what we want.   Think about this being an opportunity to discover what we do want.   The starting point is first  knowing what we do not want.  The steps are simple:

1)      Reward yourself for becoming aware of your awfulizing, or negative emotional state.

2)      Notice what it is that you do not want, and ask yourself “If that is what I don’t want, then what is it that I do want?”

3)      Consider what you want and imagine, feel, experience what it would be like to have what you do want.

This third step is very important, for you are now choosing an emotional state, and developing self-mastery.  (Again, which is better, being in a negative state, or choosing a positive one?)  With this exercise we “shift”, from conditioned patterns to more  effective and productive emotional states which allows us to better handle stressors and frustrations.

Making this shift, requires waking up to what is happening to you in the present, and by choice or intention, consciously turning your attention from what you do not want to what you do want.   Wherever you put your awareness, that will expand.  According to William James considered by many the father of psychology – we become what we think about.  Neuroscience has shown that by thinking regularly of the virtues and strengths we want to adopt – that our brains actually start to rewire synapses which helps us embody these qualities.

Happiness is a by – product of  having purpose, meaning, healthy supportive relationships and feeling like we are making a difference.   Psychological maturity comes from knowing who we are, being responsible for our behaviors knowing our strengths and weaknesses accepting and loving ourselves thus being able to accept and love others. (Marian Williamson)   Affluence in the fullest sense is knowing what matters, going for what is truly important and meaningful and feeling or having a sense of being connected to something larger than ourselves.  We each have a summons to living our own lives and to wake up from the trance.

The world needs you.

Suggested readings:

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do The Opposite,  David Disalvo 

The Essential  Ken Wilber; An Introductory Reader 

The Middle Passage From Misery to Meaning in Midlife;  James Hollis


Conscious Leadership and Living by Peter Metzner

Our EGO is our made up identity.  Ego comes from the Latin word meaning “I”.  According to Freud,  it has primarily two needs:  to be right and defend itself.  Its  major drives:  sex and aggression. (I think he had males more in mind with his theories)   This correlates to testosterone which supplies men with sexual drive and aggression. When too much is produced it can get one in trouble in the way of violence driven behavior.   When healthy, the  ego mediates  drives  for sex in healthy ways – ie in a committed relationship or in “healthy”  and socially appropriate ways.  Aggression is channeled productively into work or meaningful accomplishments in sustainable ways.

Psychologists after Freud believed that the our egos have higher level needs such as a need for meaning and purpose.  (Frankel)  When our basic safety and shelter needs are met,  affiliation needs become very important. When affiliation needs are met, the  higher levels needs for meaning purpose and individuation become more important.   (Maslow, Rollo May)

So what does this have to do with leadership?

The foundation for conscious leadership is to be aware.  To be aware of self, others, what really matters, and as much as possible to the larger world in which we play and work.  When the ego is immature, we are selfish.  “It is all about me”  which is an egocentric orientation.  In the next stage of ego development we care about:  our family, tribe, company, political party, religion, etc.  the focus is more “ it is about us”  This is an  ethnocentric point of view.     The third stage of ego development is a much larger sense of  “I” . “I care about all of us.”   This is a world-centric orientationA  movement from identifying with race, political, party, religion etc,  to a fuller awareness that I am not only:  a white male or female,  Christian or Jewish, black or white, Hispanic, Democrat or Republican but an American and; ultimately a  human like everyone else.  In a Spiritual sense  it is  “feeling” or realizing a shared connection to all people and with all of  life.  Desmond Tutu embodies this  awareness with his teaching that “we are all family!”

The sense of separation and feeling disconnected  has gotten us in trouble.  Since the ego always wants more and more, has a need to be right and defend itself,  it can never be satisfied. No amount of material wealth, power or privilege will ever be enough.  Almost like a hungry ghost – always consuming – never satisfied.  Elkhart Tolle states ” The biggest fear of the ego  is:  The truth!      This feeling of isolation and disconnect from self, others and the transcendent  leads to consumerism  and looking to the outside for validation and worth.

When fixated in an ethnocentric state of consciousness – I feel a sense of belonging and connection to my “tribe” but  separate and better than those that have different belief’s  religion, political view-point, culture etc.  Kenneth Wilbur’s research indicates that 70% of the world’s population is in an ethnocentric stage of  moral and ego development.  Is it any wonder that we are collectively in the trouble we are currently experiencing with the global financial meltdown, income disparities in the US, international and cultural conflicts to name but a few?   When combined with superior technologies in the form of weapons and economic power, and mixed with high levels of cognitive intelligence, an ethnocentric group tends to serve the goals of its members at the expense of others while convinced their beliefs  and actions are moral and “self”-righteous.   The result;  unending conflict with more and more sophisticated tools to use for defense and applying against the “out” groups.    Which seems to be one  of the recurring themes and dilemmas we are living though today.

With technology reaching warp speed and our collective moral and ego development lagging far behind we all have our work to do!  Maria Von Franz widely recognized as a foremost authority in psychoanalytic theory wrote that “Specialization leads to ego inflation”  In other words the more specialized a person’s knowledge is, the greater the risk of  hubris.  She cautions we all need to be vigilant against ego inflation.   For when we become  well-educated or  successful we can be too easily be seduced into thinking  that we are better than others  because of:  our looks, degrees, success, religion political view points etc.   This feeling of superiority or arrogance can and does lead to treating others not like us in inhumane and inequitable ways .

Von Franz, at the end of her life warned:  “The greatest threat to civilization is ego inflation”    So, is there hope for the world?  Carl Jung’s answer to this is:  There is hope for the world if enough people do their work – their inner work.   As Einstein stated, the thinking that got us into trouble will not get us out.   If  enough people and leaders grow or develop  to a more world-centric or it’s about all of us view and internal compass;  I believe too; there is hope for the world.   In every crisis there is an opportunity for growth.   Currently we are fast approaching the point when the pain of not changing is becoming greater than the fear of change.     The time is now for each of us in our own unique ways to become part of the solution.  You will find your leadership at the intersection of the world’s needs and your talents.  Listen to your heart.

Peter Metzner

Nov. 5, 2011

Finding your Inner Compass by Peter Metzner

“We are living in a material world”  Madonna

Society and the media especially condition us to think  that something outside of ourselves will make us happy or fulfilled. Think of the onslaught of Television commercials viewers are exposed to on a daily basis. If you are an adult and watching TV at night you are exposed to every imaginable pill that that will take care of:  Aches and pain, acid reflux, arthritis, depression, sexual dysfunction, to name but a few.  Advertisers would like us to  think there is  a pill for every ill.    Not to mention the clothes, cosmetics, cars, vacation getaways  presented  to make you think you need them to be happy.   Advertising is Classical Conditioning at its best or worst depending how you view it.   If we see something over and over again – regardless of whether it is true or not we tend to believe what we are seeing.  Since our brain is usually more active when we are asleep than we we are watching TV – being in a relaxed semi- meditative state makes us more susceptible to being influenced by the images and messages we see over and over again.

Ekhard  Tolle states:  “If something out side of your self is the reason you are happy then you are hostage to it.”      In my 12 years of coaching, training, and teaching Psychology; I have yet to find evidence of a link between material wealth and fulfillment and happiness.   If we are happy, material comforts and financial independence can enhance our sense of well being… however if we are unhappy  we are  like hungry ghosts -always searching and consuming  – never satisfied.  “Having more things does not make an unhappy person happy”.  No amount of riches, material comfort, business success, distractions, etc. can make us happy if we are anxious, driven, unhappy, suffering from low self esteem or lack of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Happiness is a by-product having a purpose, finding meaning, enjoying “good” relationships and feeling like we are making a difference in the world around  us.  We cannot be psychologically mature unless we feel like we are making a contribution to to the world or leaving it in a better state than we found it.  (Erickson) I am not saying it is wrong to want to be affluent and have financial security and travel the world.  I like striving for these things as well.     Maturity and mental health come from knowing who we are, being responsible for our behaviors, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, accepting and loving ourselves thus being able to accept and love others.  (Marion Woodman)  Affluence in the fullest sense is knowing what matters, going after what is truly right,  meaningful, having a sense of being connected to something larger than ourselves and  having healthy and supportive relationships. In other words: claiming our personal authority, knowing we all have a purpose for being here,  finding our own unique personal connection to the transcendent and world around us.

Living in the past

Imagine going to a photo shop and having film developed. (Remember the days before digital cameras?) You take out of the package some negatives to view.  You look through one and  put another negative in front of the other. What do you see?  Probably a blurry picture with the first picture obstructing the much of the view of the second.  in a similar way, we view our  present circumstances through the lenses of past experiences.  What happened to me before is clouding the experience I am having right now.  So if I hadn’t bonded well with a primary caregiver such as my mom or dad, this can become the template I view future relationships.    Inadvertently, unconsciously (of course)   transferring and projecting the experiences, emotions and interpersonal dynamics from this first “picture” on to the experiences I am having right now.   Our mind is like an analog computer constantly searching the data base for similarities to past hurts, threats and fears causing us to see and react to the present in similar ways we learned and reacted  to the past.

The good news is; when we become aware of this,  we are able to have choices in how we respond to what is presently happening.    When unaware, it is as if we are on  autopilot tending to create and recreate similar patterns from our past – resisting the role we are playing  in our current situations,  believing that what we are living is created outside of ourselves.  Feeling like a victim is a good example of this.

Psychologist Harvel Hendricks wrote;  “Everywhere I go and everywhere I may be, I see mommy and daddy and they see me!”  If we choose to stay unaware, we often recreate and carry into our relationships very similar dynamics as we experienced from our family of origin.  Cruel isn’t it?   We can fall deeper  into  self deception by making assumptions like:  he makes me feel this way or if I wasn’t married to her I would be happy.  Unfortunately while half of marriages end up in divorce; second marriages have around a 60%  plus divorce rate.  We often marry the same person as our ex – just different hair color eye color etc.  Same  person basically just different packaging.  If you think some magical other will make you happy, then guess what?  That “special” person may then become the cause of your unhappiness once the honeymoon is  over!   Just because you have a different partner doesn’t mean that you have learned to dance.

If there are some areas of your life in which you are feeling stuck or are not to your liking; here are some questions to consider.

Is what I am experiencing a familiar or recurring dynamic? 

When did  I first experience this ?

What other  recurring patterns I am experiencing or recreating in my life?

When and with who did these patterns start?

What is the story or belief about myself  that is behind my being stuck in these repetitive situations?

  What role did or am I  playing  in this or these relationships not being as healthy or supportive as I would like?  (Could be career  relationships as well.)

Answering these questions truthfully can be a great journal exercise and enlightening as well.

Once we become more aware and are responsible for our situations we have choices.  We are able to intentionally create and live more closely to our authentic self, needs and values.    If I realize I am attracted to needy people who will take advantage of my generosity;  and realize an unconscious need to create dependencies (rescuing) so I feel accepted;  I can make  better and healthier choices. I might want to consider; In what ways do I need rescuing?   It can be painful to recognize that I have set myself up – that  it why it is easier to blame others  for my conditions.  However, this won’t change anything except fuel  co- dependent or conflicted relationships. Co-dependency we can define as a  hostile dependency.   Often we stay in unhealthy relationships – painful as they are because they either fill an unconscious need; affirm a limiting belief about ourselves  or allow us to play a life script that we unconsciously living. (Like the good boy/girl  or caretaker)   The discomfort of this realization can be very painful but it can set one on the path to having needs met in conscious and healthier ways.   Awareness sets the stage in which  the healing can take place and helps identify what needs to be done to have  more fulfilling relationships as well as a meaningful career or vocation.

The list of ways we recreate our past can be exhausting :  Like a thermostat setting,  we often made up a stories about ourselves  based on  early prior experiences from our family of origin.  This “setting” is often unconscious and thus more powerful in directing us to experience  over and over again the emotionally charged core ideas  we adopted about who we are and what is real.  It could be words from an angry parent, a sibling or bullies from school that we accepted as true.   Being so young,  we simply didn’t know any better.

When our needs are not met or we feel we are not understood, are shamed, neglected, abused or abandoned or feel stuck ;  some of the more common, emotionally charged core ideas are:

I am: 

Not lovable

Good enough

Smart enough

Pretty or handsome enough

Deserving or capable

Can’t trust

Needing  to be perfect (to be accepted or acceptable) 

Something happened long ago ,  we made up a story;  something else happened,  and we made up an assumption about ourselves.    These stories we made up then “set” or became a part of our identity and the template in which we view the world. They became a part of “scripts” we started operating from.   Unknowingly, the thermostat became set – before we could be aware that the setting can be changed.   We took it for granted, co-created relationships, experiences, emotional states and engaged the world in ways that are congruent with these assumptions; constantly finding evidence for these self limiting beliefs and associated pain.   Believing is seeing.   Tony Robbins states  “The mind sees what the heart feels”.  Psychologist Eric Berne found, ” We act in ways to make others behave in order to justify how we  feel”.  Even if the feelings are unconscious.

Since the “outer” world conforms to our inner experience;  we often don’t challenge the stories we made up from these early experiences.    It is like shooting an arrow into a wall and then drawing a bulls eye around it.  We think that this is simply the way it is.

Our self esteem, self image and expectations align themselves to this reality that we have unwittingly co-created yet so often resist.   Otherwise highly intelligent, creative and talented people are stuck or trapped by these unconscious self limiting beliefs.   The outer world that is experienced on a daily basis mirrors these beliefs and the illusion appears as real.  How about that for magic!   You thought only magicians could make illusions appear as real.   You/ we have unconsciously been powerful magicians making illusions or delusions appear as real as the sky is blue.   Yorum Kaufman writes:  ‘”Our capacity for self deception is truly monumental”.   If you want to see what is going on in your inner world take a look at the outer and you will see a perfect match.

The encouraging news is: these made up stories based on interpretations from childhood pain can be adjusted.  We need to realize that as children and for that matter as teenagers we were “Ego Centric and Narcissistic”.  This means it is all about me.  The world revolves around me, the sun rises and sets because of me and the reason Dad drank or left or Mom hit me is because of me.  If these assumptions are not challenged they can become integrated into our identity, often suppressed or repressed because they are painful. Resulting fear and anxiety often comes from:  “I don’t want to feel the pain and hurt I am trying to block” or  “I am afraid I will be left or hurt again”.

Depending on the severity of the empathy deficits , emotional, or physical pain experienced:  Anger and rage simmer, (suppressed or repressed)  fester and can erupt and leak out in very destructive ways.  We can also become emotionally insulated and detached as well – so as not get hurt again.        We  perceive the world through these lenses of beliefs and or pain– focus on the data that supports these assumptions even when they are unconscious.  “Whether we know it or not we steer the ship of our experiences based on the prevailing beliefs of who we are and what is real”  (Fielding Institute) Almost like being on autopilot with faulty programming!

For example,  with mistrust the story usually is “You can’t trust anyone – they leave you!”  Or people take advantage (never mind that I have been training them to do so.)  To change these beliefs, first we need to be aware that they are there.  Our unconscious beliefs, attitudes and emotions can and often sabotage our prized endeavors. ( Jim Farr ) Once we are conscious and aware we have choices; for “what we are unaware of manifest itself as fate”  Carl Jung.  We need to do our work!

What to do about it

First, notice how the false self stories you may have adopted are playing out in your life.  Like a scientist and without judging,  observe  how your experiences may be a mirror for these emotionally charged self limiting beliefs.

What does fear make you do? What does fear keep you from doing?    Now imagine what your life will be like as you let go of any of these self limiting beliefs and fears.  What would you do? Who would you be with?     If you let go of fear, imagine what you could do!

When you are aware,  calm, self forgiving, accepting  and open; you are  less likely to be hostage to reliving the past and stories you’ve made up about who you are.   You are more able to live from your true self and create more affirming beliefs.   (If we make it all up.. why not make up something that works better?)     You are now ready to start answering  deeper questions like:  “Whose life have I been living?”;   How do I start living my life and answer the summons of  my soul?  How do I embark on my hero’s journey? What actions do I need to start taking.. Now!

Stages of Change by Peter Metzner

People don’t  fear change; it is losing  a sense of control that they resist” .  (T.Napier)

The truth will set you free – but it can be very painful and can challenge cherished belief’s.   “Moral certainty is the enemy of truth”.  (Unknown)  Black and white thinking, rigidity of beliefs, the need to be right can alleviate the anxiety that comes from ambiguity,  uncertainty and keep one from being open to the mystery of life. (James Hollis)

One of the major reasons we resist growth is because it is painful.

—The Greek god Aeschylus decreed that through suffering we come to wisdom.
—Without suffering, one can remain unconscious, infantile and dependent.

Yet many of our addictions, ideological attachments, and neurosis are flights from suffering.   (James Hollis)

  • —One in four North Americans identify with fundamentalist belief systems  seeking to unburden their journey with simplistic black and white thinking and the certainty of a leader or dogma.
  • —25 – 50% suffer from one type of addiction or another.
  • —The remainder have chosen to be neurotic – that is to defend against the wounding of life. (Hollis)

It takes commitment, intention and strength to take ownership and responsibility for our role in what is happening around us,  to claim our personal authority and intentionally go after what really matters.

Below are stages of change that occur when we have the courage and commitment  to take responsibility for our actions and behaviors.

Four Stages of Change

1) Unconscious Incompetency

2) Conscious Incompetency

3) Conscious Competency

4) Unconscious Competency

What we don’t know or are unaware of manifests itself as fate.” (Carl Jung)

“What we are unaware of eats our lunch” James Hollis

Those unsavory, immoral or incompetent aspects of ourselves that we try to repress, suppress or hide from often leech out in very destructive ways. When we are unaware of them  in ourselves,  (Visit my prior blog on our Shadow)   we see them in others (projection). In other words,  those parts of myself that I am unaware of; will come out and sabotage what I consciously want.    These shadowy aspects of myself will keep me from enjoying the success, relationships and happiness that is my birthright.   As long as I blame others or something outside of myself, and do not take responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and behaviors I will stay stuck.

Inadvertently,  the very conditions we resist and struggle against get reenacted over and over again. The names, the places,  the people may change but the themes repeat.. In other words, we are in the same play in a different setting;  with a different set of characters.

In these postings, we have built the case that we view the world through our emotional pain and wounds and wound others by and from our pain.   This is  “The wounded wounder” .   For example if someone feels unlovable;  he or she will act in unlovable ways and the treatment they get will then mirror and reinforce this paradigm.  In essence,  believing is seeing.   We  screen out data that doesn’t match our belief system or self image  and see those things will justify our thinking and feeling the way we do.   We can stay stuck in repetitive cycles for months, years, even a lifetime.  Causing and reliving the pain with the story we made up ourselves experienced many years ago.  Yet so desperately we flee from.  This is why we all need to do our inner work.  Carl Jung was asked in lecture; is there hope for the world?   His answer:  There is if enough people do their inner work.

When we take responsibility for our behaviors with their  impact on self and others;  we become freer and more empowered.  This is a major part of psychological maturity – owning our behaviors and the role we have played in co-creating  our life’s situations.  Whatever wounding or pain that  happened  in the past,  it is crucial to realize:  “I am not what happened to me I am who I chose to become”!  First though, we must become aware of the stories or judgements  we accepted from others about us, the ones we  made up about ourselves, the lies we may have bought into, the pain we are avoiding  and how self limiting beliefs are playing out in our lives. This can be a lifetime task.  However as Socrates wrote; “an unexamined life is a life not worth living”.   One needs commitment,  courage,   strength and humility to embark on this journey.  Once started, there is no turning back.

Stage two (Conscious Incompetency) is a doozy!   Sometimes it takes a failed relationship, job loss or crisis in the family to get to this stage of self awareness.  “When the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of changing, change occurs”.  (Anonymous)  My hope is; by you reading this, it will help get to this stage  before something “bad” happens of which you can no longer deny your role.   Once we can own our role in the dysfunction around us – we are now ready to grow and change.  As a life and leadership  coach, I cannot work with anyone unless they are willing to look at the role they have played in the situation they do not like.  If  you cannot own your role in your unhappiness and the unhappiness around you, please exit this blog  and make an appointment for therapy.  It is very difficult to change, grow and create a better life if  we “choose” not to take responsibility for our actions or inaction.  Unfortunately those  who need coaching or therapy  the most tend to resist it most strenuously. The crazy person is absolutely convinced that they are not crazy.  Everyone else is.  It is like someone throwing hand grenades and then saying look at all these explosions!  What a crazy world.  We do this collectively as well as individually (more on this later).     If you think you are crazy keep reading.  This will help you in the hunt to become sane.   It takes courage, security and ego strength to endure the humility,  discomfort, remorse  or pain in the realization of the role we play in impacting  everyone around us for better or worse. It is easier to blame the “other” for our pain or misery or lack of success than to take responsibility.  Shame, remorse and guilt play an important role in our growth especially when we can connect them to a wrong we have done that needs to be righted.  In every major wisdom tradition, humility is seen as necessary for a healthy relationship to the transcendent.  Most religions value humility above other qualities.    Humility is like chemotherapy to the inflated ego and is necessary for growth and healthy relationships.  Confucius wrote  ” humility is the solid foundation of all virtues”.  Wisdom is often considered a relative to humility.   It allows us to be open and non judgmental to our own flaws and thus non judgmental towards others.

When we are stuck in shame, or guilt, it is unproductive and keeps us from moving forward.  We recreate patterns of experience to reinforce these feelings and associated beliefs.    Unfortunately, taking the easy way out by evading responsibility keeps us stuck in  habitual ways of feeling thinking and behaving.    Self medication though alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviors like the internet, TV, video games, compulsive sex, work a holism,  etc.  are driven by negative emotions we are trying escape. The diversion works only temporarily and after the initial rush or euphoria the behavior brings,  anxiety, pain depression or boredom come back and will need to be medicated or diverted again.  The function of an addiction is to manage anxiety.  An addiction is simply anything you can’t stop doing.  Unfortunately this coping mechanism usually leads to a train wreck of dysfunctional or  failed relationships, physical & psychological depletion, greater pain to self and others,  a stagnant career or even derailment.

The good news is;   Once we gain knowledge and understanding of why we engage in self defeating and harmful behaviors, we can make a choice or intention to shift.  With knowledge and understanding, compassion to self and others,  pain and suffering  goes away.  Pain and suffering can teach us and be a guide to what needs to be addressed in our lives.  Rather than flee the pain;  insights are asking to be discovered. So: what we resist persists and can grow stronger.  What we face with courage and humility becomes manageable and less likely to drive us in self defeating ways.

Stage three.  (Conscious Competency) Are you are still reading?  Great!  At this stage you are ready to start trying out new behaviors, adopt healthier attitudes and beliefs that will serve you better. You have reached a milestone in psychological maturity.  That is you have accepted yourself.  Warts and all.    By accepting this complete package called you – pain, suffering, bad behaviors as well as your gifts and attributes, you are better able to accept others and have healthier and rewarding relationships. When you truly love yourself you no longer will allow others to treat you with disrespect or take advantage of you.  You will treat your self better.   When you have a healthy sense of yourself.  You will find yourself  less likely to judge, condemn and cripple others by  negativity and anger.  By letting go of  negative patterns and habits  and accepting others as they are; not how you want them to be;  transformation  takes place.  This allows you to create and impact the world and others around you intentionally rather than unconsciously.  Over 90% of conflicts would evaporate if we made an intention to listen more, give up the need to be right and start practicing  habits of the heart like empathy and compassion.  With negative energy dissipating and emotional healing taking place, a natural movement to personal  empowerment, a drive towards greater meaning and purpose, healthier and more fulfilling relationships seems to happen almost automatically.

Stage four (Unconscious Competency)   is like driving.   Remember the first time you were behind the wheel of the car?  It was awkward, uncomfortable and unnatural – maybe even a little fearful.  However, with practice and repetition your driving became so natural and effortless (for the most part) that you are now doing it almost automatically.

Most of our behaviors are automatic and habitual. The biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful or self defeating individuals are their habits.  Since we are slaves to our habits – why not be driven by good habits?   Research shows that it takes about 30 days to form a new habit. Commitment and intention lay the foundation for implementing new behaviors.   When we say: I will or I am or I intend to with conviction and stay with it – as time goes new positive and affirming behaviors become natural.

By forgiving those that hurt us;  we free ourselves.   When we  no longer hold someone else responsible for our condition in life – it allows us to move forward .   That doesn’t mean allowing anyone to hurt,  abuse or take advantage of us – Sometimes we have to find the right distance to love someone.. even if it is far way.  By forgiving those that caused us pain, forgiving and loving ourselves;  we are now better able to chart our own course and claim our personal authority.  One of the hardest yet most important things we can do is to find out what is right for us and go for it. (Carl Jung)  We are each on a hero’s journey.  If we avoid this summons we have missed the purpose of our being here.

Inner Security Strategies by Peter Metzner

Defense mechanism or Security Operations.  We all have them, and whether we know it or not,  they protect us against pain (Growth is often painful)  rather than deal with situations in healthy or responsible ways.

Projection: Of course you have heard of the “Pot calling the Kettle Black”?  Here is how projection works:

Whatever I don’t like or recognize in myself when I see it in you I will become angry!  The key to understanding projection is the emotional charge we feel in an encounter with someone else. What I don’t like (or what I do like) is usually a quality I have that I am not aware of or owning.  A quality like rudeness (which we don’t like to own) often gets projected onto to others. When we experience someone else being rude we get angry and upset.   It is almost like being in a hall of mirrors – the outer reality we see is  in many ways a reflection of the projection of our inner reality.  Almost like a movie projector projecting onto a a screen. In this case the screen is our lives.  So if deep down inside one feels unlovable,  he will act in a way to make others behave to justify how he (or she secretly feels).   He will then tend to make an assumption that people are:  not nice or mean spirited or can’t be trusted.   Thus perpetuate painful relationships at work or with friends or family.   It is like a being  magician  fooling  himself  into thinking the illusion of what is being experienced is real!

If one is not aware of being critical and judgmental;  then  interactions with someone who is perceived to have these qualities will often trigger anger and hurt.   The tendency to judge or treat others disrespect can be justified because they deserve it!    Remember there are compelling payoffs to this.  It feels good to believe we are superior or better than the person we judge. It gives a false sense of security and even power.   We don’t have to change or suffer the shame, guilt or remorse that comes along with the realization we have wronged someone or imprisoned them in our judgments about them.

This self defeating orientation though  keeps us stuck and prevents us from having the healthy and collaborative relationships we need to be healthy and generative in our work and life.   It is particularly hurtful when rigid principles or religious beliefs are held.   If I believe that I am good and right and my way is the only way – and you don’t believe what I believe you must be wrong, misguided, even evil.   My principles or faith can be used to justify to treating you badly,  judging you or with contempt.    For example if you think your significant other or employee is incompetent you can justify being contemptuous, controlling and blame them for shutting down, not being engaged or even depressed.

We project collectively as well as individually.  Starting a war, dominating others, performing ethnic cleansing or genocide is actually frighteningly easy.  All we need to do is demonize our enemy, make people afraid of them and smear those that don’t support us as unpatriotic. By making people afraid it is easier to control them and  discriminate against the “out”  groups.

It is one of the oldest tricks used in history  (If  history teaches us one thing we don’t learn from history) and easy. For example,  Hitler realized that a lie repeated often enough no matter how far removed from truth will be accepted as fact.    The Nazis projected onto the Jews the worst qualities that they could not face in themselves. They blamed the Jewish people for Germany’ problems; accusing them about wanting to take over the mass media, universities, the financial markets, the country even the world.  Even the German women!  All this described  the Nazi’s!   These beliefs laid the foundation for them to murder over six million people for the crime of being Jewish.    Then they did what they blamed the Jews for:   The Nazis  took over the banks, industry, controlled mass media, and higher education, started WWII and treated the German women like cows whose main purpose was to reproduce and be servile.

Psychologists’ have shown that the unspeakable atrocities that were committed by the Nazi’ s  is not only a German phenomena – we all have this  capacity as well. Witness the  ethnic cleansing of Rwanda, the Sudan and our own Native Americans (in a noble sounding term like Manifest destiny).  Indigenous peoples all over the world have been  under assault. ( Derrick Jenkins)  One day I hope that religions will all live up to the teachings of their prophets and be a source of healing the worlds pain rather than being a cause of it.  As so aptly put: Nobody know the age of man but everyone agrees he should know better. (unkown)   “Man’s capacity for self deception is truly monumental”. Yoram Kaufman.

An important key to being responsible and having a healthy relationship to self and others is to own your projections. So whenever you get angry or emotionally charged at someone during an encounter – ask yourself what part of me I am not owning?    Then notice how the energy of the encounter shifts.  You will be able to better see who that person is.

As Marion Woodman writes:  “To be psychologically free is to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for our own strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves, and therefore, able to love others”  It is up to each of to be more conscious, self aware and mindful of our impact on others.  Carl Jung was asked if there is hope for the world and he said ” There is hope – if enough people do their inner work”   For our outer world to be healed;  enough of us need to take this journey.  It all begins with a first step.

Dreams – Our Own Internal Compass by Peter Metzner

Dreams – Our Own Internal Compass
Peter Metzner
Jan 14,2011

What if you had a source of information that offered guidance and a commentary on whether you are on the right track – professionally or personally? Would you be interested?

I challenge you to deny skepticism for a brief moment and consider the possibility that within your dreams is an untapped, hidden source of self-knowledge.  Dreams simply tell us what we need to know but don’t in our waking lives. (Robert Johnson)

Unconscious emotions, motivations and beliefs drive the very behaviors that can sabotage the desired results of our prized endeavors. Dreams help us become aware of what are unaware of by providing insight into areas of our lives that need attention and showing ways in which healing or adaptation needs to take place. They give commentary as well as direction on personal and professional aspects of our lives – almost like the reins of a horse that correct us when we go off track.

A few years ago, I had a dream of being imprisoned in a desert surrounded by a brick wall and chain link fence guarded by a somewhat arrogant and surly middle-aged man. On the other side was beautiful lush country and hills. I didn’t realize it at the time; however, this dream was a metaphor of how I was trapping myself and keeping myself from being in the vibrant place I wanted to be.

Unfortunately, in our rational western thought, dreams are frequently discounted and commonly dismissed. What we do not readily understand, we fear or dismiss.  It seems few people choose to explore this world we visit every night.

Dreams have played a role in every major religion and have led to scientific discoveries and inventions:

The Talmud states, “A dream that has not been interpreted is like a letter unopened.”

Kekule’ was inspired to understand the molecular structure of Benzene by dreaming of a snake biting its tail. He admonished his colleagues, “Learn to dream!”

Einstein recounted that he first came up with the theory of relativity as an adolescent. He dreamed of being in a sled going down a hill faster and faster until it approached the speed of light. He even went as far to say, “That in many ways his scientific career could be seen as an extended meditation on that dream.”

Dreams speak to us through metaphor and symbols. They offer ways to reframe and look at problems from different perspectives and broaden our horizons of inquiry. The messages of dreams are individual and we each have our own unique way of understanding them.

In studying over 65,000 dreams, Maria Von Franz, who in her time was considered the foremost authority in psychoanalytic theory concluded that we dream of exactly what we need in each particular life situation. She also believed that dreams have an advantage over other techniques of self-knowledge in that they give us a dynamic, continuous self-diagnosis and can clarify momentary erroneous attitudes or reactions to situations.

Jungian analyst Robert Johnson advocates that we never dream of anything that is not useful or needed. Jung believed, “In sleep we awaken to who we are. We need to be connected to our dream life because dreams show us the maps to our psyches.”

In other words, dreams show us all that is psychologically real, but not conscious. Jung maintained that by rejecting our repressed unconscious self, we become destructive by projecting it onto others. This is referred to as our “shadow.”

It is not necessary to be an expert on dreams to make good use of them. If we pay attention, dreams will assist us in recognizing and owning  these unattractive aspects of ourselves. Thus we will be less likely to project them on to others. (More on this in future blogs)   They can also help us uncover our gifts, talents and abilities. By becoming more aware, we become architects of a richer life. We can discover our interconnections to others, our community and larger society and use these energies toward service. So, how can we use our dream life in useful and practical ways? Here are some tips to help find meaning in your dreams:

Most importantly, be open to them. Paying attention to dreams is like welcoming a friend. Once feeling welcome, this friend will become clearer, more detailed and frequent. Record your dreams in a dream journal that is by your bed. Sudden movements or starting your early morning routine can make them quickly disappear.

Write in the present tense. Date and title each dream and look for themes over time. Imagine being the character or characters in the dream. Why are they doing what they are doing? Ask what is the reason that this dream came to me? What is this dream asking of me? What part or parts of me is this dream showing? What feelings did I get? All can lead to valuable insights. Look at each dream symbol as potentially a part of your self. Your own associations with each person place or thing can give valuable insight into your own dynamics as well as a commentary of situations.

Realize that dreams have multiple meanings Each dream depicts elements of our personality and interior life. Could something in the dream such as a car or house be an analogy for the body? What creative or spiritual potential of you might the dream be about? Is it showing you some dimensions of yourself that you do not know about?

Join or start a dream circle. I have found that in groups where participants are in a trusting environment and can freely share insights of associations of dream symbols, powerful and often transforming insights can take place.

In these uncertain times, we have a tremendous need for visionary leadership and a recognition of our shared humanity.  The use of dreams can alert us to the bigger picture and what really matters. . With many of us facing difficult changes and complex decisions in this slippery economy and fragile world, we need to make more use of our whole minds and selves. We all can draw on sources of wisdom that may have been neglected.

We all dream and we all have the ability to use and develop our intuition. There is always a transmitter (our unconscious) sending out signals or information from within. It is worth paying attention to. Our minds have deep reservoirs of information, wealth and guidance just waiting to be tapped. All we need to do is pay attention to the symbols, sensations and images that come into our awareness.

If we are open to all our experiences, awake and asleep, our creative impulses will be stimulated and we can open otherwise closed attitudes, beliefs and opinions. The impact on our lives, decisions and others can be profound.

Peter Metzner, MA, MPA, CLC:
Peter incorporates dream work in his highly acclaimed life, leadership coaching and training programs. He works extensively with dreams where he teaches Psychology at Vance-Granville Community College, as well as Peace College in Raleigh, NC. He has researched and studied dreams through the Journey Through Wholeness, Triangle Jung Society, Robert Johnson, Barry Williams, Jeremy Taylor, John Ryan Haule and others. He has written articles on Leadership and Dream work and has given key note Presentations as well as workshops on dreams to organizations such as the Center For Creative Leadership, The National Wellness Organization and the NC Association of Business Coaches. He has also facilitated classes on Dreams for the Institute for Life Coach Training. Prior to creating Dynamic Change, Inc., he has served as Vice President of Client Relations and Program Development for The Leadership Trust and was employed by the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC