On Adult Development

On Adult Development

In 2018 I wrote the article below, which has been published in a german magazine called ”OYA” Nr. 47. Authors having been featured before or who had written for the magazine before were asked to write something about what was essential to them. A few days ago I had written this piece which is now even more actual then 2018. Interestingly enough, I wrote that before I had read ”The Listening Society” by Hanzi Freinacht and before I had come across Otto Laskes Work on Dialectical Thought Forms and Social Emotional Stages in Adult Development and before I had come across Warm Data. 

This topic of adult development in forms where we do not look at as a society has since not left me and has brought me to Nora Batesons work and Otto Laskes work and has then brought me to Frændi. And this topic is why I go on tour through Europe now, in times of a global pandemic, to talk about this and to bring these practices into the communities I am part of.

Enjoy reading the slightly agitated kind of rant I wrote two years ago – and know that I found some practices that can lead us into a world where people who are dialectically and social-emotionally mature ”lead” us into desirable futures. You will find these practices described on our homepage under “Explorations” together with links to go deeper.

If you are interested in finding out about your own cognitive capacities for desirable futures and your own social-emotional maturity, feel free to contact us for an assessment that leads you across your developmental thresholds towards your next plateau of human maturity. You will find a button for this below. May we journey into desirable futures together as fraends.

For a psycho-active society!

”In mid-January (2018) one could hear on the radio that Donald Trump was, according to his medical officer, physically and mentally healthy and fit for the office of the US President. Being physically and mentally healthy is not enough in my opinion. I hear this report and I know perfectly well that at least half of the world’s population is absolutely clear on the fact that Donald Trump does not meet the corporeal requirements to exercise the office of US President for the good of at least the US people.

Yes. You read that right. I mean that he “does not meet the corporeal requirements”. Corporeality is a philosophical category of phenomenology that understands body, mind and soul as always influencing one another and not separated from one another. Corporeality is a fundamental and constitutive (creating) element of our experiences. The results of the research, which certifies Donald Trump’s fitness for the office he holds, apparently neglects relevant aspects of his corporeality such as dialectical cognitive capabilities, and social-emotional development. There seems to be no testing, measurement or certification at this level.

Rest assured, I am not calling Donald Trump stupid or mentally ill.

But for me it is about dialectical cognitive capacities, social-emotional maturity and the psyche/soul – that part of our corporeality that is completely hidden in educational institutions, unless it is the field they are working in. We have physical education, go swimming and jogging, we do brain jogging, sudokus, we pound our heads full of decontextualized knowledge … But apart from a bit of culture, that’s the institutional education we get until we ”grow up”. Emotional education, psychological knowledge, sociological knowledge, knowledge of the origin of and dealing with conflicts and relationship dynamics, conscious experience of the self and the inner worlds, the capacity to think dialectically and a healthy inner projection of ”the other” are hardly taught to children in school contexts. There is also a lack of space to gain experience.

Opening up inner spaces of experience is not particularly welcomed in “our” society. Meditation, autogenic training – that is being applied, whilst it is beneficial for our performance in a capitalist system. But people who seriously deal with their inner spaces and relate them to the »outside« – where do we get there? There’s nothing to be consumed in inner worlds! And what kind of illegal and dangerous things need to be taken in order to experience inner worlds?

Donald Trump’s assessment clearly shows what is missing: dialectical and social as well as a special kind of spiritual maturity – and the research into it. That is where our blind spot seems to be. Attention is paid to physical and mental fitness. In this domain there are trainings and self-measurement, but dialectical and social and psychic fitness? Have you heard of any of these before? »Remain physically and mentally active until old age!« – But dialectically or psycho – active? What could that mean?

There is this word “psychoactive” which refers to substances that affect the human psyche. These have been ingested from time immemorial in order to relate to what is in and around us in a non-day-to-day way, and are expertly used by people such as shamans or medicine people, whose job it is to help others navigate through the soul and spirit worlds. In the meantime, there are increasing numbers of studies that ascribe some currently illegal substances a curative effect for (among other things) mental illnesses. Some are considered by science as less dangerous as alcohol, nicotine and sugar.

Of course, psychoactive substances are by no means the only way to become social-emotionally and dialectically flexible and healthy. There are a wide variety of ways to gain other states of consciousness and insights into the connections between inner and outer worlds, starting with dance, music, poetry or other creative or imaginary methods, focussing on inner expression, from vision quests to therapeutic approaches such as gestalt therapy or methods from the field of body psychotherapy. However, these eke out a niche existence. We do not focus on this aspect of our corporeality in society as a whole. The result is an accumulation of psychological inadequacies and diseases that we could prevent if we brought these hidden dimensions of our corporeality transparently into society and made it an issue. People who go to therapy are (still) often picked on and often no longer taken seriously.

I wish that we as a society deal seriously with the topic – that we use current and existing research results as the basis for long overdue and necessary changes. How do we become more mature, ready to master soul storms, more empathetic people? How can we get to know ourselves and our patterns, our sensitivities, vulnerabilities and strengths so that we can become deliberate, co-creating members of the community?

If we are already testing how fit or capable we are in different areas, then please on a “holistic” level, without neglecting a relevant part of our being. In this way we can develop instruments that also confirm our completely correct perception that Donald Trump is not fit for the office he holds. In this way we can become capable of acting, instead of being psychologically reactive like four-year-olds blowing the consequences of our personal sensitivities and unresolved issues into the world.”

a capacity for desirable futures

a capacity for desirable futures

I stumbled over the term the first time when i attended a grief ritual held by Naf Tali in berlin in december 2018. When he said it, it hit home right away. We were 8 or maybe 10 people, coming together for the first time, to grieve together. I had had a tough year of deep climate despair, my divorce had happened 2017, i was 44 and still not at home in this world and i didn’t know any longer what to tell my little kids about the world they were growing up in. The backpack of things i had to let go and grieve for had grown enormously the years before and i was longing for this to be acknowledged and seen. And held.

And there we came together, being led into ritual, play, dance, closeness, openness to witness the other, to with-ness as Bayo Akomolafe puts it so beautifully. We were there to be held and to hold. To hold the grief of other people we didn’t even know. And there we were. A sudden village.

A sudden village

Our group will become a sudden village and a human laboratory as we use our own stories and interests to explore diverse methodologies which will help us imagine alternatives to our common challenges and provide opportunities for communal healing.

“It takes a village to raise a child” we say. But it also seems to take a village to hold grief, withness brokenness and heal traumatic experiences. I only really understand that since i listened to Nora Bateson speak about brokenness that’s within the interrelational space rather than attached to an individual.

My health is not my own. My health is the whole community’s, it belongs to the elderly, the youth, and even to the biome of organisms that live in my body and in the soil. This, is the opposite of everything that the last centuries of manufacturing, education and politics have forged into societal infrastructure and even the making of identity.(https://medium.com/@norabateson/my-health-is-not-my-own-ec824c463cb)

So, what about this sudden village?

What about this village at all? What’s in a village, that makes this term hit home so well? If i look at the healthy side of communities in functional villages, i find “it’s all there”. The food from the forests and fields around it, the craftsmanship from the people in the village, the care for each other, the feasts, the rituals, the deep knowing of each others stories, the genuine interest for the whole to thrive, the focus on a bigger “We-Space” than just on individual satisfaction, the taking care of the children and the elders, the stories, the fireplace, the home, the hugs, the solace, the warm smell of freshly baked bread. All it takes is there.

The word village is said to come from a protoindoeuropean root *weik- meaning “clan”. The clan is the tribe, the group of people that i belong to, that are part of me being at home somewhere, taken care of, sharing good and bad times, food and shelter, grief and joy. The people holding me accountable, forgiving me, knowing me, holding space for me when i reach my limits. My extended family unit, kin.

Where do we have that today?

Where do we have that tomorrow?

Our clans and tribes and families are spread out, scattered, all over the place. We live in neighborhoods that are not necessarily bound by above qualities of a rather romantic idea of a village. We do not necessarily share these qualities within our extended family units. And still we long for nothing more than that. If we’re lucky we have a few friends or a group of likeminded souls that we can lean into, or we have a therapist, or maybe our partner is holding this space for us. But quite often, especially the realms of brokenness we hold whithin our chests and dreams stay unaddressed. Unheld. Un-withnessed.

How can they be addressed, when they are so deeply engrained into our colonial “connective tissue” (term in this context from Nora Bateson/Gregory Bateson) that we perceive the brokenness as normal and unspeakable? And, even worse, as individual? It’s like the incredible brokenness we live with the taboos in the money system. We take resources from the commons (the earth, water, soil, air, life, plant and animal people), we build things with and from them and then sell them, making money with the money we make from selling what is not ours in the first place, destroy our and other lifeforms habitats while doing so in a ruleset of a deeply flawed capitalist system that directs the flow of privilege and status and individual property always to the ones that have more than enough, literally destroying life on the planet trans-forming it into virtual non-matter “money” on virtual non-matter “bank accounts” — but these bank accounts are not to be talked about. Your debt is your individual problem, your wealth is your individual success, we don’t talk about money, you’re not supposed to know what your colleague “earns” while contributing to one of the biggest brokennesses we’ve ever collectively created.

Where is the village that can hold our grief? Where can we come together to withness what needs to be addressed but can’t be said?

A capacity for desirable futures

The times that lie ahead of us will need us to develop this capacity. The sudden village capacity. We will need to dream with strangers, grieve with neighbours, trust people we don’t know yet. We will need to hold space for people we just met. The scatteredness of our tribes and clans and families make it necessary that we come together with people we haven’t met before to process and witness the dying of the old and the birthing of the new on the very land we stand on. The melting of the in between into juice and soil, from which desirable futures may or may not emerge.

So let me try and define the sudden village and the capacities that go along with forming it:

“A sudden village is a group of people, who have not been a close group before, coming together for a rather short period of time to digest, process, grieve, mourn, learn together, hold space for each other and to perform actions and imaginations that bring life back into numbness, movement into stuckness and words into the unspoken silence in order to witness and perceive the brokenness in the interrelational space in between us.”

“The sudden village capacity describes a set of capabilities of a (human) being in a group that enables the group to form a sudden village. The set of capabilities contain being able or at least willing to

  • host myself well & take responsibility for my own and the groups wellbeing
  • be hosted by others
  • establish a genuine caring interest in (almost) every other human being
  • respect the space of the other without the need to stop their processes
  • experience my own triggers without acting them out
  • take active part in rituals that open spaces for exceptional emotions and feelings
  • “step out of my comfort zone to step into my comfort zone” (term from Jeroen Vermeer)
  • enjoy and allow physical contact through dance, embodiment, being comforted and/or held if people so wish and consent to
  • have the courage to show my own exceptional emotions without dodging or bypassing
  • trust myself, the group and the process to bring forth what can be processed at that time”

This is by far not complete and it does not mean that who cannot (yet) show up with these capabilities cannot be part of a sudden village. In fact, the less we are able to show up like this, the more important is a sudden village for us to be able to give our in-dividual brokenness into the communal space and have it become a dividual brokenness. I myself have grown exactly in and through these spaces and i have not always been able to show the above capabilities of the sudden village capacity. And i still bring brokenness. We all do. It’s in the interrelational space.

Let’s bring it on and in, so that we can see it. And heal.

The roots

Alexandra Robinson, Alma Omega Maegan Melissa, Jonathan Klodt, Jenny O’Hare & the Re-EDEN-ing family — Jeroen Vermeer, Jackie Thoms, Rainer von Leoprechting & the Fraendi family — Nora Bateson, Phoebe Tickell & the Warm Data and Cloughjordan family — Andreas Duda, Heike Pourian & the Precamp family — Ümit Konuray & the Leadership³ family — Mary Alice Arthur and the Art of Hosting family — Hilarion Petzold, Juergen Lemke and the Integrative Therapy — Pablo Schickinger and the Weltweite Initiative Family and again many, many more.

and to qoute Nora Bateson once again (and i really tried to link the fb post here, but fb wants to stay in fb):

Ideas are their stories, they are not naked.

Ideas are clothed in the experience and languaging of those that give voice to them. Ideas are made of relationships, they travel on and through relationships. They are not smooth bullets flying through the air, they are encounters aggregating between us, the land, our art, other ideas…

To separate ideas from the relationships in which you, or I find them is to strip them of their vitality.

Ideas are not just dangling, they are living in particular spices, brewed in their own sauce of our hurts, our glee, our unique searching.

This makes a big difference that makes a big difference.

We can say that it is impossible to trace the origin of an idea, and that is no doubt true.

But you know where you met, and that meeting is something not to be erased. The meaning of the idea to you is shared in the way you share it.