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.

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