Four “Required” Conditions for Creative Interchange (CI) – Part III

CI CONDITION FOR RENEWING APPRECIATION – CONDITION B

Appreciation

The conditions for creative interchange, like its characteristics, can be distinguished but not separated. One aspect of awareness is a generalized “feeling’’ of worth or worthiness. This feeling may be a sense of wellness and vitality at the physical level, a peaceful and positive orientation toward life at the psychological level, compassion at the social level and joy at the spiritual level. Like awareness, this feeling is all pervasive and inclusive. It is the source of our experience and feeling worthiness and intrinsic worth. As we become less aware so does our feeling of intrinsic worth. This sets up a craving in our body, a longing in our heart and a striving or addiction in our brains to recover our “original experience” of wholeness, fullness, wellness and worthiness.

We are born aware and largely nonjudgmental with a capacity to observe and make distinctions in our physical surroundings and social environment. Early on, and some argue even prior to birth, awareness starts to be “conditioned” into conscious perception. This is a movement from awareness toward consciousness, from observing to perceiving. Observation allows distinctions, while perception separates and divides them into differences. Those differences are further differentiated into beneficial and/or harmful, agree/disagree, inclusion/exclusion good/bad, and right/wrong. Perception is essential for adapting and surviving in the everyday world. It establishes preferences, assigns meaning and develops values.

Appreciation comes from the Latin appretiare, to appraise. In a fraction of a second, interpretation, evaluation and decision transform awareness and observation into conscious perception. “Both/and” awareness is repackaged into “either/or” consciousness. This is a movement from “pre-box” thinking into “in-the-box” thinking. The way we appreciate erects barriers and provides boundaries that determine what is safe to be included and what could be harmful and needs to be excluded. We include what we value and exclude what we devalue. Our preferences polarize differences. Both/and and either/or become both/and or either/or. In short, “and” morphs into “or.” Good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative, beneficial or harmful are polarized. It is perceived to be one or the other, not both. This shift, this split has numerous consequences, both positive and negative.

We assume if someone or something is good she/he/it cannot be bad at the same time. You must be one or the other, not both. In reality the opposite is true. Any idea or situation can be perceived as positive and negative. The word appreciation is associated in most instances with our preferences and what we perceive to be positive. This blinds us to the unanticipated, the unforeseen consequences and the collateral damage that can result from looking only at our preferences. An unintended consequence of this way of thinking is that we become more conscious at the expense of remaining both aware and conscious. We place a greater appreciation on being conscious, rather than, remaining aware and conscious.

Observing and perceiving, awareness and consciousness, feeling and emoting, responding and reacting can coexist and be integrated creatively. Such coexistence can be seen in small children. The emergence of consciousness or “me” as distinct from “I” are not mutually exclusive. Wieman said in Man’s Ultimate Commitment,

“One of the supreme endowments of [humankind] is that we can be conscious of [our self] and pass judgment on [our] own worth. But appreciative understanding of unique individuality is at a minimum in most social relations. Hence one is driven to protect [one’s] self-esteem (italics mine) against wrong evaluations, which others make of the self. I may reject their evaluations, but to protect my own sense of personal worth (italics mine) in the face of them, I am led to judge myself in ways equally mistaken.”

Wieman’s distinction between self-worth and self-esteem is critical. Awareness of self-worth is felt from within, while self-esteem is experienced as coming from ourside-in, from others. Wieman continues,

“It is a vital moral necessity to achieve some degree of correctness in one’s evaluation of one’s self. The common moral predicament is that one cannot do this in the face of all the misunderstandings and wrong judgments about oneself. Our evaluation of our self is distorted. This leads to false pictures not only of me but of others, of social conditions and causes, of ideas and standards, of [my] deeds, because these all must be fitted into the patterns by which I protect my self-esteem.”

As a response to this dilemma Wieman states,

“In this condition there is one thing which an individual can do which can deliver [her/him] from much of its [destructive consequences] and enable them to [become] more nearly right than they otherwise can be. [We] can [become aware and] admit freely and fully that [we are] in this predicament.”

In short,

“When we [are aware and] know that [our] evaluations are distorted by unconscious processes operating in [our] own person, [we] are partially liberated from them. An error which one knows to be an error is already on the way to correction. When [we] recognize this moral predicament as [our] own, [we] can examine [our] judgments critically and seek out situations in which more reliable [experiences and] intuitions can break through [our] ego system.” This “breakthrough” is enabled when conscious perception (italics mine) is enriched with nonjudgmental observation.”

Of primary concern is our excessive identification with “me-consciousness” to the point we become unconscious and unaware of “I-awareness.” Awareness opens us to our transcendent “intuition”, while attachment to the “ego system” or “me-consciousness” keeps us protective of current interpretations, ways of thinking, meanings, values and beliefs. Perception is driven to validate current understanding and belief. Our “ego system,” or created self becomes increasingly unaware of our creative self. The ideal condition for CI is a creative integrating of the creative and created self, of intuition and interpretation, becoming and being, self-worth and self-esteem, feeling and emotion and responding and reacting.

Self-Appreciation

Self-appreciation involves being aware and accepting our intrinsic worth. Intrinsic worth is not something to be earned or merited. It is not something derived from the outside. It does not increase, nor can it be diminished. No one can give us intrinsic worth and no one can take it away. It is the “felt quality” of awareness and of life itself. It is not something to be earned, but something to which we “awaken.” A person does not have more or less intrinsic worth. What they can have is awareness and consciousness of its presence. Intrinsic worth is something core to what it means to be human. At the level of the creative self we are the same and at the level of our created self we are unique.

With the onset of a created self, a self-concept or image emerges based on external feedback and conditioning. Our self-concept is predicated on the notion that self-esteem is derived from acceptance, approval, accolades and applause from others. It is internalized and becomes the criteria for how we judge our worth. Our esteem is based on the assumption that worth must be earned, and is rooted in the assessments provided by others. Unfortunately, as we become conscious and focused on our extrinsic worth we do so at the expense of being aware of our intrinsic worth. Extrinsic worth is based on the assumption that worth can be given, earned and merited and can be withheld and taken away, it is in fact self-esteem. This sets up a goal to gain approval and avoid rejection. Intrinsic worth and extrinsic esteem are perceived to be mutually exclusive.

Instead of both/and our worth becomes either/or. We’re worthwhile if we “get it right” and we are unworthy if we “get it wrong.” Our worth becomes conditional. So for most of us life is reduced to getting everything right and risking rejection in just about everything we think, feel and do. The potential hurt we experience with self-rejection becomes a constant threat and an ongoing source of stress. This threat serves to focus our attention on avoiding rejection and sets up a continual striving to gain extrinsic value from others. In the process of continual striving for extrinsic self-esteem we become less aware of our intrinsic worth. Much of what we do is to gain esteem and avoid rejection. This incessant drive for self-esteem and avoidance of rejection is the basis for most of our addictions, compulsions, obsessions and phobias.

Other Appreciation

Other appreciation involves accepting the intrinsic worth and extrinsic esteem of others. They, like our selves, are intrinsically worthwhile human beings. Their intrinsic worth does not increase or diminish. Their intrinsic worth cannot be earned or merited. They have an original creative self and a unique created self. Their creative self observes like our own and their created self perceives from their unique perspective and experience as does ours. At the intrinsic level we are alike. The same life force and awareness flows through us all. This life force is in fact the Creative Interchange process that flows through us all (cf. ‘Flow’). At the extrinsic level no two of us are alike. We are all similar and alike and we are all distinct and unique. If we identify only with our created self we focus primarily on our differences. When we are aware and identify with our intrinsic creative self we are free to focus on our mutual similarities, as well as, our unique differences.

A required condition of creative interchange is our commitment to be aware and conscious of our worth and the worth of others. If we devalue, for any reason, ourselves and/or others the CI process is compromised. CI requires mutual intrinsic respect and a commitment to creating ways to make any extrinsic differences mutually supportive and inclusive. A consequence of such respect is the intent to listen and appreciatively understand another’s perspective from their frame of reference and not from our own preferences, values, meanings and beliefs. When we have the intent to understand others authentically and appreciatively we foster the CI process. It is the concerted effort to be empathic and to simply observe others as they are not as we are. It is being aware of what we are thinking, feeling and/or emoting, interpreting and/or reacting to what we perceive.

Appreciation, in such a context, means perceiving both the positive and the negative in ideas, perspectives and situations. It is the ability to think and evaluate in “either/or” AND in “both/and” possibilities. Only by looking at the full-spectrum of positive and negative aspects of an idea, person, thing or situation can you achieve authentic appreciative understanding. “Me-consciousness” “splits” differences into opposites, paradoxes and polarities. Polarization means the opposites are seen as exclusive, rather than, potentially inclusive. CI is inclusive except in those instances where inclusion of an idea, thing or person(s) will obstruct on-going integration and transformational change.

Situation Appreciation

Situational appreciation applies “both/and” observation, perception and cognition with full-spectrum evaluation and interpretation to situations and events. It assumes there are varying degrees of accuracy and inaccuracy in all perceptions and evaluations. It accepts that all interpretations are subject to error and correction. Situational appreciation is related to the notion of scientific objectivity. Its aim is to reduce bias in one’s perception, thinking and behavior. It seeks the “facts or truth” about “reality” in any given situation.

Four “Required” Conditions for Creative Interchange (CI) – Part II

The CI Condition for Renewing Authenticity – Condition A

Awareness

We were born with our Creative Self and we are conditioned into a created self. Our Creative Self enters the world aware. That awareness is conditioned into a conscious created-self. They are not two “separate selves.” They are two aspects of the same self. Unfortunately, in the conditioning process most of us end up being conscious of and identifying with the conscious aspect of our Creative Self. In short, we become conscious at the expense of remaining aware of our awareness.

Awareness is non-dual, nonjudgmental, nonlinear and non-striving. It involves transcendence, freedom, openness and trust. The feeling quality is one of calm, peace, joy and what many in eastern culture call ananda, “bliss.” It is not unfamiliar to young children, though it is virtually impossible to put into words such an experience. It has been referred to as an “oceanic feeling,” egoless-ness, peak experience, in the zone and the list goes on. More everyday words are awe and wonder.

Mystics and contemplatives have described it in many ways, in many languages, at many times and places. Nevertheless, it remains somewhat of an enigma for many in both western and eastern culture. Awareness does not lend itself to words, concepts, explanations and/or definitions. The next pages are an attempt to catch that concept into writing. The most common and popular word for it in modern parlance is “mindfulness” although; the word has many different meanings for different people.

The human infant is born authentic, aware, trusting and open. One of the key elements of this trust and openness is the capacity to observe. Observing can be distinguished from perceiving, but not separated from it. Perception includes observing, but adds conscious subject-object divisions, positive-negative judgments, linear either/or reasoning and striving for different meanings as we adapt to the world and its survival requirements. Observing remains non-subject/object, nonjudgmental, nonlinear and non-striving.

As we grow older and develop, part of our adapting to the world, perception becomes dominant and we focus more on being conscious at the expense of being aware. The adaptive conditioning process tends to dictate our intentions and consequently where we focus our attention. Parents, teachers, peers and society in general expect and demand that we focus our attention on how, what, and who will provide acceptance applause and praise. This is both a positive AND a negative process. In helping the child adapt the tendency has been to do so at the expense of the child remaining aware of the distinction between awareness and consciousness. I refer to this distinction as I-awareness and me-consciousness. “I,” the Creative-Self, observes while “me,” the created adaptive-self, perceives. We are capable of both observing and perceiving. Nevertheless, we are conditioned to identify primarily with me-consciousness, rather than I-awareness.

The distinction can now be made between honesty, which is a function of the conscious created self and the authenticity of the aware Creative-Self. Awareness is also being aware of being conscious, thus includes consciousness. Consciousness is seldom conscious of being aware. In other words, when the created self is honest it is only honest from the perspective of the conditioned created-self. The created self remains relatively unaware of the Creative-Self.

The integrity of the created-self is consistent up to a certain point. Because awareness includes consciousness the Creative-Self can include both the contents of consciousness and the observations and awareness of the Creative-Self. This additional quality forms the basis for authenticity. Authenticity is both “I” AND “me.” creative-self_created-self2

It can be stated that the Creative-Self can be aware of being aware AND of “me” being conscious. Consciousness, on the other hand, is seldom conscious of “I” being aware of “me” being conscious. That is why someone can be honest without being totally authentic. Being conscious is only part of the story.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness or “I-awareness” becomes evident when we learn to observe our thinking, feeling, believing, valuing and behaving without judging. The simple act of observing is metacognitive and can make our thinking, interpreting, judging, deciding and perceiving intentional, as well as, focus our attention. Self-awareness allows us to transcend normal “me-consciousness” with its internal chatter or as some like to call it, our “monkey mind.”

Self-awareness observes how we interpret, anticipate and react toward a person, situation or event. The majority of us have grown unaware of our capacity to observe. We focus attention on what and how we are saying, feeling, and doing things, rather than, noticing how and where we are focusing our attention. We identify with and become our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviors and are unaware that we can also observe ourselves being the “identifier.” Excess identification with our thoughts, emotions and actions is deceptive. It is paramount that we remember that being aware and conscious is part of who we are. We have the capacity to observe where and to what degree we focus our attention.

There is another distinction worth noting. That is the distinction between feeling and emoting. Our culture is preoccupied with emotion these days. I relate the term feeling to touch, to a tactile or physical sensation. An example of this would be when someone feels his or her interest in something or someone is rising. Feelings, like joy and peace, fall into this category as well. Emotion, which gets most of the hype these days, comes from the Latin ex- out of; away from; on the outside + movēre, to move. There is a great deal of “drama” associated with emotional states. Emotion is a reaction to someone or situation in which there is a strong positive or negative affinity or attachment.

Self-awareness can be focused outward on what we are expressing, saying and doing and it can be focused inward on thinking, feeling and even on awareness itself. It is one thing to be aware of what’s in our consciousness and quite another to become aware of being aware. As mentioned previously, awareness and consciousness are two aspects of the same thing. Awareness is free from and transcends the limitations of our mental models. To transcend means literally to “pass beyond the limits.” Our mental model or mindset imposes limits by filtering data and information through presuppositions interpretation, meanings, values and beliefs. These filters limit and shape our perception. Awareness passes beyond these limits.

The word transcend comes from the Latin trāns– meaning across, beyond, through, to cross over + scandere, to climb; to leap and to jump. Awareness moves, climbs and leaps beyond our everyday presuppositions, meanings, understanding, beliefs and values. It is not bound by our intentions, strivings and judgments. It is the realm of intuition and the creative self. integrated creatively the creative and created self become mutually supportive and transformational. Consciousness is informed by awareness and interpretation is augmented by intuition. It is only when we have over identified with our created self and become unaware of our creative self, or even fearful of it, that creative interchange is obstructed.

There is a third characteristic of awareness, which moves beyond the focus of this discussion. As stated above, awareness can be focused on our outer world and/or the internal dialogue or conscious self-talk of our inner world. The mystics talk about a third focus that is beyond or transcends both our outer and inner psychological worlds. It is often referred to as spiritual. This is a journey into the depths of awareness itself. The attention is focused intentionally on awareness. This is the world of contemplatives, meditators, mystics, yogi’s, and the likes. It is only mentioned here to indicate that such a dimension is part of our ancient traditions.

Other awareness

What was discussed in self-awareness can be applied to others as well. It is important to be aware that we perceive others, more than, observe them. This means we are likely to perceive others as we are and not observe them as they are. This interferes we our ability to be empathic and achieve appreciative understanding of another’s frame-of-reference or mental model. Being aware of others keeps us more “objective” and authentic as we share our perspectives and listen to theirs. The more aware we are of the interpretations we are making, meanings we’re assigning and projecting and the conclusions we are drawing the more accurate our understanding of their intentions, words and behvior will be.

It is critical that we not attribute motives and/or intentions to others. We must be acutely aware of our tendencies to lose focus and stop “paying” attention to what and how others are communicating. We must listen and be aware of the difference between what they intend and how we interpret, evaluate and react. Sustained attention is difficult and requires discipline. The monkey mind provides an endless array of distractions in a matter of seconds. Most people are in the habit of following their monkey mind distractions and remain unaware that they are no longer seeing or hearing what is being said and is happening. They are no longer present to the conversation.

Situational awareness

The distinction of observing and not simply perceiving events, circumstances and situations is an extension of self and other awareness. Observing distinctions without immediately interpreting and evaluating them is difficult. It is imperative to be objective in contrast to stereotyping and projecting. The more we observe the greater the probability we will respond and not automatically react to our interpretations based on potentially erroneous assumptions and generalizations.

Respond comes from the Latin spondēre, to make a solemn promise, to pledge. Reactions are primarily habitual and unconscious, while responses include reflection and choices. Reactions are on autopilot; responses involve choices that are consistent with one’s values, promises and commitments. Responses originate in our authenticity. Reactions result from our conditioned habit patterns.

In the case of creative interchange responding originates from an intention to “see” and “hear” what actually is being communicated prior to any interpreting, assigning of meaning and/or evaluating what, if anything, is happening. Reacting is a “knee jerk” action with little or no conscious intention involved. It is initiated simply by an habitual emotional pattern.

 

The Ultimate HIDDEN Cost(s) of Doing Any Business

My studies in human behavior began 66 years ago. For the last 50 of those years I’ve worked with individuals, teams, families and organizations in the context of creative interchange (CI). CI was a name, given by my teacher, mentor and friend, Dr. Henry Nelson Wieman, to describe the process of human development and transformation. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally could read a book reporting similar findings to my own work and research. It provided vital information detailing the inseparability of personal and organizational development, growth and transformation. That book is “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.

I shared the book with some long time colleagues and friends and they agreed it came the closest to documenting that when the required conditions for CI are present, individuals and organizations develop and thrive. Since the mid 1940’s business has had access to information on how to develop corporate cultures that could promote individual well being and organizational profitability. Unfortunately, most of the information was ignored, rejected or was confined and used to increase efficiency, effectiveness and from the 1970’s on also creativity and innovation.

The business focus was on getting people to adjust and adapt to existing business systems, functions, processes and practices. Training was designed to equip workers to be competent, motivated, compliant, cooperative, and productive. Much of the “human side of the enterprise” was based on rewards and punishments. In short, a human being was a means to an end, most often a financial one. Management was about controlling and directing human activity and assuming most people were innately lazy and not motivated to work or do what the organization wanted or needed done. Corporate cultures were not designed to involve people, let alone develop them. Personal growth was to take place elsewhere. In those early days I heard over and over again the phrase, “The office is not a mental health center or hospital”.

Over the decades people were taught and learned, as best they could, to divide themselves into a work-self and a not-at-work-self. They learned to be “politically correct,” say and do what others wanted them to say and do whether it was true or not. In short, they learned how to masquerade. What many failed to understand, including business leaders and managers, was that such a daily life came with a high expenditure of “energy” and a hidden financial price tag. Hiding one’s emotions and thinking produced hidden costs. Enter the new book by Kegan and Lahey who say on page 1:

   In an ordinary organization, most people are doing a second job no one is paying them for. In businesses large and small; in government agencies, schools, and hospitals; in for-profits and not-for-profits and in any country in the world, most people are spending time and energy covering up [all italics mine] their weaknesses, managing other people’s impressions of them, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics, and hiding their inadequacies, hiding their uncertainties, hiding their limitations. Hiding.

   We regard this as the single biggest loss of resources that organizations suffer every day. Is anything more valuable to a company than the way its people spend their energies? The total cost of this waste is simple to state and staggering to contemplate: it prevents organizations, and the people who work in them, from reaching their full potential.

It is no longer a matter of how to “fix” everyone, to “fit” the business. It’s transforming everyone to transform the business for the benefit of everyone. I believe CI is the human transformation process and the required conditions for its operation have become now a business imperative. It is not enough to hire people with certain technical competencies. It is knowing how to develop a corporate culture that sustains those required conditions for personal and organizational transformation. Today’s business competencies will not be tomorrow’s. It’s no longer just about change management. It’s about a deliberate continuing transformation of everyone in the organization. As Edward Deming, the quality guru, put it over two decades ago, “To transform an organization, you must have transformed people.”

People are transformational by nature. Early childhood development and formal education, in an effort to control what a child learns, have had an adverse impact on that transformational nature. Such conditioning undermined the required conditions for CI and compromised the continuing transformative growth of individuals and the organizations they serve. The cost of this lost potential, as stated by Kegan and Lahey above, is “staggering.” From a business point of view, any serious effort to get rid of these “hidden costs” can and will more than pay for itself. In the past, as long as the majority of businesses had the same hidden costs there was little or no incentive to reduce them. As more businesses are discovering the competitive advantage of eliminating these costs the odds of surviving, let alone thriving, will change drastically and quickly.

Experiencing one’s creative interchange is a prerequisite for helping others discover and recover it within themselves. CI isn’t found in books nor can it be driven from the outside. It must be experienced within oneself. It is about becoming who you really are. The cost is worth it personally and organizationally and your transformative nature won’t be hidden anymore.

Four “Required” Conditions for Creative Interchange (CI) – Part I

Introduction: The Process and Conditions

According to Wieman, the creative interchange process is innate and can expand and transform the human mind indefinitely. Every child, when conditions are favorable, has the capacity to engage, to a greater or lesser degree, in creative interchange. These conditions facilitate the four characteristics of the CI process discussed in the previous section. These four conditions include; 1) awareness/ trust to foster authentic interacting, 2) curiosity/valuation to foster appreciative understanding, 3) playfulness/creativity a to foster creative integrating and 4) tenacity/commitment to foster continual transforming. These are characteristics of healthy infants and small children from day 1 to approximately 7 to 9 years of age.

Unfortunately, these intrinsic conditions undergo modification and are compromised through a number of conditioning tactics introduced in early childhood by parents, peers, formal educators, media and a myriad of other social and cultural interactions. When these conditions are compromised the CI process is inhibited and/or obstructed and the on-going transformation is retarded. Just what and how this happens will be discussed in a later segment.

“Healthy” infants are aware, vigilant and alert to the world around them. They trust and wonder, are open to adventure, are curious and explore, experiment and discover. There is a thrust to expand the edges of their world. It is associated with the senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. It’s a period of noticing and observing. It is a time of playful fascination, flexibility, fluidity and flow. It is coupled with preferences and satisfaction, mistakes and failures, tenacity and learning. These conditions are an integral part of the CI process. As Wieman pointed out, it’s a time of expanding the range or what we can know, appreciate, imagine and control.

Nevertheless, such openness sooner or later meets with lesser or greater degrees of resistance and rejection by parents and others who take part in preparing us for adulthood. The innate conditions that support and sustain CI are gradually re-conditioned to insure that the child can and will function “appropriately” within the prescribed conditions required for membership in a family, group and community. The child is taught to confine their intrinsic nature by conforming to the extrinsic requirements of group membership. They learn to avoid rejection and being ostracized. It is a struggle between an internal locus of control and the internalization of an external locus of control.

The child’s innate original-creative-self is conditioned to become a culturally acceptable adapted-created-self. This is the precise point at which a very important distinction can and must be made. It is the distinction between “I-awareness” of the creative-self and the developing “me-consciousness” of the created-self. Self-awareness and self-consciousness are two aspects or qualities of the same thing. Awareness and consciousness can be differentiated, but not separated. The child’s innate awareness undergoes social conditioning and increasingly becomes conscious. The failure to make this distinction becomes a problem when the child identifies primarily, if not exclusively, with her/his me-consciousness at the expense of being self-aware. Conditioning tends to favor consciousness over awareness.

Awareness is alertness, a noticing, watchfulness, and wakefulness. Aware comes from the Indo-European wer- meaning watch out for, to guard, to respect, and feel awe for. Our word consciousness is derived from the Latin conscious: com, to share, together + scire, to know, to separate one thing from another. Its Indo-European root is skei– to cut, split, splitter, to slice. Our word science comes from the same root. Many people use awareness and consciousness interchangeably, I prefer to keep the distinction in order to be able to discuss differences between the creative and created self.

A further distinction between awareness and consciousness, suggests that awareness involves observing while consciousness involves perceiving. These two functions can be distinguished, but not separated. Observing, as used here, means, to be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention. It means to notice. Our word, observe comes from the Latin, ob-, over + servare– to keep, watch; see, to oversee. The Indo-European root ser1 means to protect, to preserve. Science champions the idea of being a “good observer.” This originally meant that we were “to protect” our observations, experiments, data and conclusions from excessive subjectivity, bias and preconceived ideas. The awareness aspect of CI is simply observing and noticing without bias, prejudice and/or stereotyping. In short, it is nonjudgmental.

Consciousness, on the other hand, perceives. Perception is a characteristic of awareness. It is awareness plus the intention to understand, to apprehend and give meaning to what is being observed. Our word perception comes from the Latin, per– meaning; to, or by each + capere, to seize. The Indo-European root kap means, to grasp, to have, hold and that which binds. Perception is an active stance in relationship to what is being seen, heard, touched, etc. Awareness is observing without “intending” to do anything with the observation. Consciousness is about making sense and providing meaning, about adapting and understanding what is being perceived. Creative interchange is optimized when there is an integration of observing (creative-self) and perceiving (created self). When this condition is present awareness and consciousness can be mutually supportive.

A child, under normal circumstances comes into the world aware. Through conditioning and domestication the child becomes less aware as they become more conscious. Awareness is a fundamental condition of CI. Consciousness involves preferences, which can foster or obstruct CI. There are four primary conditions, present in children that are inseparable from the CI process. All of these conditions are compromised to greater of lesser degrees in the process of becoming an adult. The following is a closer look at each of the conditions.

 

The Creative Interchange Process – Part I

It’s paramount to understand the creative interchange process before focusing on the required conditions and helpful behaviors for its operation in transforming the human mind. Henry Nelson Wieman defined the process in the introduction of his 1958 book, “Man’s Ultimate Commitment (MUC).” He said, “ By creativity I do not mean creative work, science, technology, social organization or any other area of human achievement. … But I shall be examining … the creative transformation of the individual in the wholeness of his being ….” He continues, “Creative transformation of the individual is distinguished from every other kind of change by four characteristics. These four are not the only features pertaining to it, for creativity is very complex and in its depth fades into mystery.”

Elsewhere, Henry Nelson Wieman makes a distinction between an original creative self and a conditioned created self. The created self is a construct within the original creative self and authors much of the creative work, science, technology, arts and what is usually referred to as creativity. In another section we will discuss how excessive identification with the created self leads to what many call the false or ego self. The focus here is on the creative process that creates and transforms the created self. Wieman identified and named this process creative interchange. Creative interchange is what expands indefinitely the human conscious mind.

H.N. Wieman did not presume to have the final understanding of what creative interchange is nor how it transforms the mind. He said, “Creativity is an expanding of the range and diversity of what the individual can know, evaluate, [imagine] and control [from the inside out].” In the closing paragraphs of MUC he concludes “… creative and transforming power …means two things: (1) [an] interchange which creates appreciative understanding of unique individuality and (2) integration within each individual of what [they] get from others this way, thus creating [their] own personality in power, knowledge, and capacity to appreciate more profoundly diverse individuals, peoples, and things.”

In summary, creative interchange operates when individuals authentically interact and appreciatively understand one another’s’ unique perspectives and creatively integrate those perspectives in a way that transforms their own mind and behavior. The more individuals, groups or organizations engage in creative interchange the more they will undergo continual transformation. It is our opinion that the more we learn about the required conditions who foster this creative interchange, the more we can experience continuing transformation of our minds and gain greater control of our lives.

The four characteristics of Creative Interchange are:

  1. Authentic Interacting
  2. Appreciative Understanding
  3. Creative Integrating
  4. Continual Transforming

To symbolize the Creative Interchange Process we’ve chosen the ‘official’ symbol for the concept infinity: the Lemniscate, since Creative Interchange is infinite.

1

In the next paragraphs of this section “The Creative Interchange Process” we will present those characteristics and their interrelating.

First Aspect of Creative Interchange

The Left Side of the Lemniscate

Characteristic 1: Authentic Interacting

2

For many people authenticity and honesty mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. As it relates to creative interchange, honesty means that one’s motives, values and beliefs are aligned and congruent with one’s existing mental model, their words and behavior. Authenticity includes another condition of greater self-awareness. The condition of awareness will be taken up in a later section (concerning the required conditions for Creative Interchange).

Authenticity has different meanings for different people. As it relates to creative interchange, it means that one’s intentions, values and beliefs match and conform to and are congruent with one’s words and actions. What is being expressed is worthy of trust, can be relied upon, as being the best that person understands to be factual and true at the moment. There is no intent to deceive, manipulate or give misinformation. Hypocrisy and dishonesty are antithetical to authentic interacting. It is both a matter of integrity and humility: ‘What you hear and what you see, so what you get, is what there really is’.

Authenticity requires courage, the courage to be open and transparent. It is based on an individual’s non-judgmental felt sense and awareness of her/his intrinsic self-worth. Such awareness tends to be the exception in most cultures of the world; especially in most organizational cultures. In other words it is the awareness of self, others and the world as seen through non-judgmental observation based on one’s intrinsic worth. 

Characteristic 2: Appreciative Understanding

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Appreciation, like authenticity, lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Appreciation as used here involves accurate assessment and critical judgment. There is an effort to perceive a whole range of facts and values, both positive and negative. It is a “both/and’ appreciation that any idea, person, event or situation has positive and negative aspects.

As it pertains to others it means ‘seeing’ (observing) them as they are and not ‘perceiving’ them as we are. It includes what is commonly referred to as empathy. This is the capacity to enter the frame-of-reference or perspective of another and understand their assumptions, beliefs, values and reasoning. One must place value on ‘observing’ others as they are in order to move beyond identifying differences without the ability to reconcile them toward mutual growth and transformation.

Henry Nelson Wieman talked about what he called our “valuing consciousness”. For him a value is a “goal-seeking activity.” Values initiate intention and direction and result in action. We seek and pursue what we value. Any change in our valuing consciousness has behavioral implications and consequences.

This means that in living Creative Interchange we have to be both, curious regarding the frame-of-reference of the other and embrace and engage the ambiguity this generates. Since what we see “through the eyes of the other”, when we observe them as they are, is often different form who we are, we can learn from the differences, rather than, polarizing them.

So the first aspect of creative interchange (the left side of the Lemniscate) has two characteristics, 1) authentic interacting that results in 2) appreciative understanding of what is unique and original in the thinking and perspectives others. This is more than our conventional communication or information exchange. It involves sharing both information and its context. The characteristics of authentic interacting and appreciative understanding are reciprocal and can be mutually supportive when we don’t polarize them.

Interrelating characteristics 1 and 2

(Divergent Thinking)

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Authentic interacting and appreciative understanding are distinct but not separate. This interrelating is pictured by the smaller vertical Lemniscate within the larger horizontal Lemniscate.

The more authentic our interacting the more appreciative we can become with others and ourselves. Conversely, the more we understand and appreciate others and ourselves, the more trusting, authentic, open, curious, and empathic we are capable of becoming in our actions, as we increase tolerance for uncertainty, ambiguity and differences.

These characteristics are not sequential. The more trusting and open we are in sharing our intentions and knowledge the more opportunity there is for appreciative understanding. The more we are appreciatively understood the more willing we are to trust and remain open to authentically interacting and sharing the best we know. We become more transparent in our sharing and receptive to experiencing others as they are. Authenticity fosters appreciation and curiosity while appreciation fosters and supports greater authenticity and openness. Characteristics 1 and 2 form the basis for divergent thinking. They support new possibilities for transformation.

It is important to introduce an additional distinction, but not separation, Dr. Wieman alluded to is between what he called the creative self and the created self or adaptive self. The created self is the self that develops as a result of our “ social conditioning.” This includes parenting, formal education, peer involvement and all forms of life experience. The created self is the one that most of us identify with and come to believe is our only or true self. It is our conscious self. This will be discussed in greater detail in a following section where we develop the required “conditions” for the creative interchange process.

The created self has both stable and developmental qualities. It includes our current mental model or mindset and our openness and predisposition to grow and develop. As we become conscious of the differences in the perspectives of others we must become open and permeable to growth and development. The initial experience of such differences involves ambiguity and uncertainty. If we are to undergo transformational change as a result of encountering and appreciating these differences we must be willing let go of the way we are and open to discovering and inventing new ways of being.

When a person becomes attached to an existing way of being and has identified with it, the prospect of letting go is often experienced as threatening. This is a critical juncture point in determining to what extent the person will be resistant to change. This requires moving beyond our current way of being, our created self, and being open to our creative self. The creative interchange process requires people share authentically and appreciatively their differences. Most people have difficulty managing differences. They are conditioned to make judgments that polarize them into agree/disagree, like/dislike, right/wrong and good/evil. This will be examined in depth later in a section on the Vicious Circle.

Summary

Being

Creative Interchange is being authentic and appreciative. It is sharing with integrity and humility and appreciating others as they are, by observing and being empathic.