Friday, January 30, 2009

Arrested Development

The feeling is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more superficial one.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Years ago I read this book about God, written by a Christian theologian. I forget now what the over all focus of the book was, but I do remember throwing the book at a wall after reading about how the author believed that feelings and emotions came with the Fall of Man—when Adam ate the forbidden fruit. To his way of thinking, God is a Spock-like Vulcan. This may explain a lot about why some Christians suffer from severe cases of Arrested Development: rather than working on developing emotional maturity, they are determined to simply kill all emotions.

Come on man … Jesus wept at the gravesite of his friend, Lazarus. Were those tears signs of a depraved nature or weakness of character or an appropriate response to what had happened? +

In preparing to audition for the School of Music at Samford University as a piano major, my instructor, Thom Cooper, had me working on a piece composed by Rachmaninoff. After finally being allowed to play the entire piece without interruption – get your palms up; no, no, no, your fingering is all wrong there; etc. – Mr. Cooper told me that while my playing was technically “adequate,” it lacked emotion: “the piano is to be an extension of your soul, Monte.”

That next week I came in all prepared to play with heart and soul. The problem, however, was that, at 17-years old, I had as yet to learn the difference between being dramatic and playing with heart. Anyway, when I had struck the final chord, I could hear Mr Cooper muttering, “No, no, no …”

Me: What do you mean, ‘No, no, no …’ You told me to play with feeling. I did! That’s how I feel it.

Mr Cooper: (Laughing hysterically) THAN YOU ARE FEELING ALL WRONG! +

I wonder how many children grow up hearing this, grow up believing that their feelings are all wrong, bad, evil, or ________. (Fill-in-the-blank with something pejorative.)

Or what of the parent that, rather than ascertaining the child’s talents, capacities, and such, he, instead, cajoles and presses the child toward endeavors that are actually contrary to his physical and psychological makeup, leaving the child frustrated, angry, and bewildered, which, in turn, brings on a parental harangue about bucking-up and ignoring those stupid or, at least, irrelevant emotions.

So what do children treated like this do? Many of them simply begin shutting their feelings down, choosing to be numb. After all, their experience of consciousness is predominately one of pain. Why? Because, rather than teaching children to identify, accept (not the same as “approving”) and then discharge their feelings, they are simply told by the words and demeanor of the adults in their worlds to ignore, to suppress, and to subdue them, communicating a kind of disdain for emotional responses of any kind: especially so-called negative emotions.

Sure enough, early on in life we need to learn certain disciplines. For example, I hated math, which to my mom and dad was absolute heresy. No matter how loudly I yelled or bitterly I wept over homework, there was no way my parents were going to let me get away with not learning my lessons. Got it. Monte needs to learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide. However, for my parents, given that my emotional reactions were irrational, immature and, ultimately, irrelevant, they were to be ignored. What did Monte learn? Ignore your emotions, do what you are told regardless of what you feel. Good lesson? Sure, on some level ... However, the main lesson I learned was that, most of the time, emotions were either irrelevant, stupid or evil; so if you can’t turn ‘em off at least ignore them, choosing to be unconscious and unaware. And this is not a Good Lesson.

I think, rather than ignoring our feelings we need to identify and analyze them. Most of the time this only requires a few moments. Some of the questions we might ask ourselves:

What do I need here?
What do I want?
What am I feeling about the various choices of behaviors I am considering?
How do my present feelings align with my core beliefs, values and goals for my life?
What am I feeling about my observations?
What am I feeling about what I am feeling? Why?
How am I appraising what I am observing?
Are these emotional responses appropriate or inappropriate, healthy or unhealthy, mature or immature … and how do I know?
In this specific context, what weight should I place on the information my emotions are conveying to me?

Being raised as a Fundamentalist Christian, my psychological model was a jumble of conflicting principles masquerading as biblical Truths. For example, to many of those members of my Tribe, emotions are packed with sin, while the brain/intellect is God’s direct path for Objective Truth.


Our theology may assert that the whole person is tainted by sin, but our actual practice asserts that this only applies to our physical senses, NOT to our brains. Trust your intellect: distrust your emotions. God only reveals Himself through the intellect: our emotions are the Devil’s playground. Etc.

Is it any wonder

That so many Christians live their entire faith out of their heads?
That love for God and others is thought to be solely about intellect and will power?
That many of us see “thinking” (Good Guy) and “feeling” (Bad Guy) as perpetual adversaries, when in fact they are not?
That all too often when we speak of the redemption of the Whole Person in Christ, we only think in terms of beating down or denying our five senses and our emotions?

Question: What if God reveals Himself through all of our senses, through our brains and our emotions?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Validation: You (Yes, YOU) Are Great!

Pretty cool short film (16.23) on the power of validation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Minding Success

Do you crave success? Are you always using words like “achievement,” “triumph,” “victory” and “accomplishment”? Do these concepts

Excite every fiber of your being?

Keep you awake at night?

Do you look at the Players in your world and say to yourself, “Look-out. Here I come!” If so, then you will want to be Minding Success. How do you do this?

Pay Attention!

Pay attention to where the market place is and where it is headed.
Pay attention to the geeks in R & D.

Pay attention to how others perceive you.
Pay attention to feedback from your co-workers.

Pay attention to feedback from your customers.
Pay attention to your skill level.

Pay attention to your competitors.
Pay attention to insiders, people in the know, the Powers That Be.

Pay attention to outsiders, outcasts, those about whom most everyone else is saying,
“That idea/product will go no where.”
Pay attention to the perceived and the potential potholes, barriers and roadblocks ahead.

Pay attention to your health: physical, psychological, and spiritual.

Turn-up ALL Five of Your Senses!!

Turn up your sensory acuity.

Pay attention to all the information that is coming your way via your eyes, your ears, and your physical sensations (kenisthetics).

Listen for nuances in the voices of others: nuances that can change the entire meaning of the words being spoken.

Watch for changes in skin tone and color, for dilation of eyes, for nervous twitches, for changes of posture—all of which are giving you important information.

Feel the energy of the person ... the room ... the deal. What is being communicated?

Visit a Ferrari show room: the aroma of Ferrari leather has been purposefully made into a scent that can be sprayed like a room freshener into the air. Wow.

Walk through the mall at Caesar’s Palace: the statues and water falls, the music and the colors and the gorgeous art all arranged to captivate the senses … and motivate you to stay and spend more money!

Go to a five-star restaurant. Notice the décor and the presentation of the food, listen to the music, smell the aromas, taste the food with its exquisite juxtapositions of seasonings … and listen to yourself as you drive back home. Wow.

Go thou and do likewise!

How do you look?
How do you feel to others? Do people gravitate to your energy?
How do you smell?
What about the sound of your voice? Pleasing? Captivating? Take some voice lessons.
What about the décor of your office or the packaging of your product? Is it…captivating? Does it thrill the senses?
CAPTIVATE all of the senses!

Maintain Laser-like Focus!!!

What is the outcome of this project?
What is the outcome of this conversation?
What are the outcomes for this particular leg of your career path?
What is the overall outcome of your career?
Before you set down in that meeting, what are the outcomes and how will you know when you have attained them?
What is the outcome of this particular investment, of that particular expenditure?
What results do you wish to achieve by Friday of this week?
What is the outcome of your day off, your holiday, or your time with loved ones?
What “impossible” things do you intend to accomplish by the end of your life?
What is the goal, the outcome, the results…what is the point of it all?
What do you want? What is missing? What are you going to do about it?

Assert Your Consciousness!!!!

Be mentally active, not passive.
Seek to look at the world around you with new eyes: constantly seek a fresh perspective.

Be aware of anything and everything that may affect your outcomes, your intentions, your actions, your values and your beliefs.
Face facts—especially ones that make you feel uncomfortable.

Learn from your mistakes.
Better yet, learn from the mistakes of others.

Expand the field of your awareness, internally and externally.
What might you be seeing that you are choosing not to see?

What is being said that you are choosing not to listen to?
What do you know that you are pretending not to know?

Stay awake.
Think, concentrate, ponder, consider, reflect …


Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Map is Not the Territory

Even though a map is an artifact, something made, it is not arbitrarily imposed on the land. It comes out of careful observation and accurate recording of what is actually there. It is required that maps be honest. And there is also this: maps are humble—they don’t pretend to substitute for the country itself. Studying the map doesn’t provide experience of the country. The purpose of the map is to show us the way into the country and prevent us from getting lost in our travels.
--From the Introduction of E Peterson’s newest book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

I first ran across the map as a metaphor back in the early 80s, through Alford Korzybski, the father of general semantics, who said "A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness".

Each of us has our own individualized maps that we use for getting through and around and over life. This explains why we often have the communication breakdowns that we do: I assume you are operating by my map—the authorized map of reality, of course—and you assume that I am using a copy of your map. This is where one of us—if there is to be any communication—decides to “see through the eyes of the other,” i.e. look at their map of "reality."

Our maps are made up of such things as our beliefs about God and spirituality, what we are to value, what is Right, what is Wrong, the nature of time and history, and etc. We then use our maps to help us decide the proper direction for our lives both on a day-to-day basis, and on a more global basis for structuring our life out into the future.

Our perception of reality is not reality itself but merely our version of reality: our “map.” The closer our maps approximate reality, the greater the potential for our arriving at our desired destinations.

The Map is Not the Territory
I believe that the quest for an “accurate recording of what is actually there” is a lifelong endeavor. Think about it: For eons, sailors had “honest” and “accurate maps” showing that the world was flat. Before the Industrial Revolution, the businessman’s map was totally centered on an agrarian-based understanding of the marketplace. Then there was the Information Revolution...and then the Digital Revolution … each requiring massive updating of people’s maps.

Clearly, updating maps is crucial to successfully navigating through life.

This is no less the case for People of Faith. While you believe you have an accurate map vis a vis your Holy Scriptures, your understanding of this “map” evolves, does it not?

This is one of the reasons why maps are “humble.” No map ever contains the entire reality of the territory covered. For the sake of convenience, many things are not on the map. Moreover, there are some “realities” I simply have not added to my map: I don’t see these yet, or possibly do not give certain realities the importance they deserve on the map, or whatever.

The Menu is Not the Food
This is another way of saying that the map is not the terrain. Words are not the experience of the words. God-followers know this. Having an accurate theology is not the same thing as having a life that demonstrates that theology. Having an intellectual understanding of the terrain I must traverse is not the same thing as making the journey.

Think of one of those restaurants where the menus have pictures of the food: the food never tastes as good as the picture suggests. (And you deserve this for going into a place that has such menus!) The picture of the food is not the food itself.

For example,

Understanding the word “love” is not the same thing as the experience of love itself. In fact, you have no real understanding of the word until you do live it.

If there is one glaring shortcoming of Christians in the West it is here: the intellectualizing of the Faith. We have great pictures: the color is sharp and the clarity is pristine. We take these photos and place them in albums with every picture in the proper order and placement. Yet, we are spiritually malnourished because all we have is pictures, with very little experience of actually “eating the food.”

Updating Maps
Returning to the metaphor of maps, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we really did seek to actually use our maps as a guide for how we lived out our lives, rather than as art work with which to decorate our brains? Is it possible that we would discover some of the terrain is altogether different from what we had “mapped out,” thus, requiring we update our maps?

I think one of the reasons we do not like to update our maps is that we do not like leaving our comfort zones. “This is the map that got me to where I am today. “ But the problem with this is that “today” is unlike ”tomorrow” and will, accordingly, demand an updated map.

Lincoln said that our greatest defeats follow our greatest victories. Is it possible that part of the reason for this is due to the fact that our greatest victories cause us to place an undeserving and unhealthy faith in “the map that led us to victory”? This is why I love the quote of Lew Platt (HP): “Whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future.” THIS is the mindset that will keep us from investing our maps with an authority they cannot bear.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Are YOU Listening for?

What do you listen for?

When people engage you in conversations, what are you primarily listening for: what is your attention focused upon?

For many people, the instant response is usually, “I dunno … I just listen.” Maybe. Maybe not. Given our history, our values, our beliefs, our desires, our fears, I think we more often than not are listening for something specific, although we are usually not aware of doing this.

Do you listen—

For what you judge to be error?
For areas of dis-agreement?
For information that may give you leverage and power over others?
For hot-spots/soft-spots that you can use to your advantage?
For proof this person—those people—cannot be trusted, loved, allowed into your world?
For what you dread?
For proof that life sucks?
For proof that life/people/work/GOD is as you fear?
For evidence that you are invisible, unworthy, a pain in the butt?
For the end of the sentence so you can jump in with what you have been saying to yourself while they were speaking?


Do you listen for specific needs/desires/dreams so as to become more fully aware of those whom you love or with whom you work?
Do you listen for new information or a perspective that challenges yours, so as to facilitate your growth as a human?
Do you listen so as to better understand?
Do you listen to the entire person with your entire person: not only hearing their spoken words, but the underlying intent and emotion of those words?

Do you listen actively? In other words, do people see by your demeanor that you are truly listening, and do you ask questions that clarify or help you delve deeper into the intent of what is being said?

Why is any of this important? I think it is important on a number of levels. One reason I think this is because what we listen for dictates what we will say. For example, if we typically are listening for what is “wrong” or for “error,” then our conversations will frequently center upon telling people where they are missing it, how their so-called facts are erroneous, and then demonstrating the truth of our own assertions. This isn’t necessarily a Bad Thing: however, it can wear on a long-term relationship, yes? Or if we are constantly looking for what we do not want, won’t we in fact find it? What if we, instead, looked for what we did value?

Do this for one week—

Think about what you usually are listening for: maybe it is in the above list, possibly not. Whatever it is, choose something different to focus on in your conversations. For example, if you usually listen for areas of disagreement, for one week listen for areas of agreement. Or, if you find yourself usually listening for errors or gaps in understanding, for one week listen for where people do have some understanding or knowledge. If you are listening for Why This Person Cannot Be Trusted, listen for Why This Person Can Be Trusted. And so forth.

Do you hear what I am suggesting here? Can you feel what I am after?

After a week of this, look back on your conversations and see what was different about your conversations.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2008

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Focused Awareness: To See or Not to See ... THAT is the Question

I use to know this guy who’s calibration skills were often off the charts: his ability to read people’s nonverbal communication was usually so spot on it was spooky. On the other hand, this skill juxtaposed with the fact that he so often was clueless as to his impact on others—how his words, attitudes, demeanor, and behavior affected those in his world—often left me scratching my head as to how such a glaring incongruity could exist in a person who is so utterly aware of what is going on his outer world.

The fact is, however, this incongruity is not all that uncommon. Some of us are incredibly self-aware while being oblivious to what is going on outside our own skin, while others are acutely aware of their outer world but clueless as to their inner worlds. Of course, tragically, there are also those who are utterly unaware of self or others!

I believe that one of the keys to successfully navigating through life toward our desired outcomes lies right here: the ability to maintain an appropriate degree of awareness of both self and others.

As I understand it, self-awareness is the focused attention upon our beliefs, values, attitudes, goals, emotional responses, and behaviors, along with a consistent reflection and analysis regarding their truthfulness and usefulness.

People who choose to ignore their inner processes are what my father called, “A train wreck looking for a place to happen.” It is not a matter of “If” the wreck is going to occur: only a matter of when and where it will occur.

External –awareness
This is the ability to calibrate what is going on around us: how others are responding to us (the immediate impact upon others regarding our way of being), and how effectively we are moving toward our intended goals—noting what the world around us is communicating to us about how successfully (or not) we are moving toward our intended outcomes.

Focusing our awareness upon both our inner and outer world, we
then ascertain how our present life is lining up with all these critical components of who we are, who we wish to become, and how we wish to move through our worlds.

Choose to ignore your values (your inner world), and you will fail to see opportunities for attaining or maintaining those values in your outer world.

Choose to ignore your wants/desires/goals, and you will fail to see opportunities for fulfilling them.

Choose to evade or deny how people are reacting or responding to you (your outer world), is a choice to no longer deal with reality which, in turn, will keep you from moving toward and attaining your goals and realizing your dreams.

Choosing to be blind to either world is the denial of personal responsibility and, therefore, the choice of playing the victim to either your inner or outer worlds. The Blind pretend to be victims of their emotions (seeing them as mysteries they can neither manage nor be responsible for) or victims of circumstances over which they have no control, or both.

While I may discover that I am wrong here, I believe that choosing to ignore either our inner or outer worlds will ultimately lead to an evasion of reality in both worlds, as a constant denial of reality anywhere ultimately leads to an ever increasing denial in every area of life. If you start out, say, with a value of helping others to be successful in life, and evade the outer world which is screaming with evidence that people are not getting this about you, you will either face this reality and change your way of being, or you will move the Real Value to that neurological filing cabinet where you keep all your Pseudo-values. Just an idea here, but it seems to me that this is self-defeating.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Where O Where?

Have been out of pocket for a few weeks: a tumultuous ending to a tumultuous year! While moving into new apartment (a stressful ordeal in the best of circumstances), I spilled water on my laptop. As "magical" as my Apple is, it could not fight off the Dark Forces of the Evil Water ... or was it my clumsiness? And no, I had not backed up most of my files. I lost pretty much everything: the most painful loss being my journals and photos. But yes, I learned my lesson and now have an 8 gigabyte memory stick.

May this New Year be far happier than the last!

Friday, January 2, 2009

United State of Pop

A Mashup of the Top 25 hits of 2008 into one coherent whole. Quite well done.