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EAP Publication - 20
Stuart B. Hill
McGill University, Macdonald Campus,
Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Québec,
A normative approach for developing a value system that enables individuals and societies to reach their potential, experience joy, self-realization and fulfillment, and be sustainable, may be derived by studying the functioning of stressed and unstressed natural big-ecological systems (biology and ecology) and human systems (human physiology, and behaviour). Only as individuals resolve past stresses through discharge and reorganize previously misstored information, are they able to fully see the implications for their own behaviour of the way in which the natural world functions, and be capable of acting on this information responsibly. Introduction
If I stand back and look as objectively as I can at the earth, what I see are populations made up predominantly of stressed, malfunctioning humans against a background of predominantly stressed, malfunctioning ecosystems. Also I see that most people are unaware of the severity of this situation, and most of those who have both recognized it and are responding to it are doing so in inappropriate ways. In particular, they are reaching for powerful solutions that can be focused on the symptoms of the problems. Examples include nuclear power for our energy greed, novel chemicals to kill pests and pathogens, and irradiation and chemotherapy for cancers. Such solutions not only postpone dealing with causes, but also create further problems because of their broad negative Impact on human systems and ecosystems. The dominant long-term response to these impacts is degeneration. This can be recognized from the cellular to the societal and biosphere levels, from individuals to institutions.
The picture is not entirely gloomy, for there is also a growing number of people who recognize and feel uncomfortable with this situation, and who are taking responsible action to change it. In the process, these pioneers are developing an alternative model for living. m is "paradigm shift" is taking place not only within the natural sciences, but also within the behaviourial and social sciences, politics and religion. Although those involved are often unaware of the parallel changes taking place within other areas of endeavour, a common thrust can be recognized within these various "revolutions". This comprises a struggle to realize, and live according to, our own fundamental nature. It is part of a continuing search for answers to the age old question, what is human?" While we are still at an early stage in this process of transformation, there are indications that we are reaching a threshold beyond which change will be rapid.
As is often characteristic of such early stages of transition, there is also a large number of people who have reacted to their discomfort by pushing harder in the same directions that have proved unsuccessful in the past. Examples include efforts to create jobs and increase material wealth based on non-renewable resource inputs and environmentally disruptive and socially oppressive practices. Similarly, efforts to maintain peace through an acceleration of the arms race can also only lead to further problems and cannot be maintained over the long-term. Eventually the inappropriateness of such short-term measures will be recognized and they will cease to be supported.
What we are witnessing is a transition from the perception of humans as separate from the earth to humans as part of the earth, indeed as part of the cosmos.
A necessary first step to integrating ourselves into the biosphere is to understand how natural ecosystems and human systems function.
Natural ecosystems are characterized by the existence of numerous associations between organisms and their living and non-living environment. Most of these associations are finely tuned, having evolved over millions of years. With respect to the efficient functioning of ecosystems, most associations can readily be seen to be beneficial. Such ecosystems, particularly those approaching the climax stage within a succession, exhibit a high degree of complexity, both in teems of number of species and types of interactions. Nutrient flows are cyclical. -there are constraints of form and function, which if disregarded lead to disruptions and inefficiencies in the system. Waste is minimal, and what may appear as waste can usually be seen, after further study ,to serve a long-term "survival" function. Change is non-linear and characterized by relatively sudden responses as thresholds are reached. Natural selection operates against unsustainable processes. -There is an economy of nature that may be seen as homeostatic feedback, self-maintaining, self-regulating and optimizing mechanisms. There is, in summary, a "natural order" and a "wisdom of nature". While this is also evident in human systems, it is often masked in industrialized societies by the tendency to rely on external solutions to solve internal problems. This is resource consumptive, environmentally disruptive and it prevents us from developing our full human potential, which consequently most people are unfamiliar with.
Humans are naturally spontaneous, joyful, intelligent, completely aware of and responsive to their environment and capable of fully expressing their feelings. In this state they will tend to integrate into the natural ecosystem, described above, and function with other humans in a cooperative and responsible way. Humans continue to develop and grow in wisdom, knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Their specific physical and emotional state at any moment is determined by the interaction between three sources of information, genetic, past experience and present environment.
The characteristic processes of natural ecosystems, described above, have parallel representation within human systems. Homeostatic mechanisms are particularly well developed. Humans are unlike other organisms, however, in being spontaneous, and it is this spontaneity that is the key to all our "higher" qualities.
There is a parallel between events occurring at different levels of organization within human systems, from the subcellular to the world population level; change at one level affecting processes at all other levels, although some of those effects may be considerably delayed. In addition to this "vertical" flow of information, there is an equally significant "horizontal" flow, It is very important to understand this process of information flow when considering stressed systems, as it explains the extensive impact of stressors in time and space.
Ecosystems became "stressed" when their natural structure and processes are changed in such a way that they are unable to fully recover from imposed stresses. Stressors may be physical, chemical or biological. Stress is common when resources and organisms are removed from or added to ecosystems, and when essential processes are changed. Such changes may be accompanied by resource depletions, accumulations of wastes, inefficiencies, dependencies on importation and exportation of species and materials for continued functioning, and simplifications of the system in time and space. Of increasing concern is the contamination of ecosystems with navel chemicals that have no counterpart in nature or with natural chemicals that normally only occur in small amounts. Over the long-term stressful events may lead to species reductions and extinctions, and the development of stress diseases and conditions among member populations.
Stressed ecosystems tend to take on the characteristics of an earlier stage in succession, becoming species poor, less efficient and less stable. As degenerative thresholds are reached it becomes increasingly difficult for ecosystems to recover from stresses. This is also true of human systems.
Like ecosystems, human systems become "stressed" when their natural structure and processes are changed in such a way that they are unable to fully recover from imposed stresses.
Humans may be stressed by physical, chemical, biological and emotional factors from conception onwards, and their impact is most accuse early in life and declines as the individual gets older. Unless parents have fully resolved or recovered from past stresses before the conception of their offspring, the effects of those stresses will inevitably be passed on to the next generation. In fact, it seems that in humans, and probably in other higher mammals, there is a dual inheritance from one generation to the next, of both genetic and unresolved stress information.
While the effects of "parental stressors" can take on many forms, perhaps the most insidious are the adaptive patterned behaviours that, on the one hand, protect children from their parents, and from other sources of environmental stress, but, on the other, limit spontaneity and so reduce their ability to fully express their humanness. Such results of unresolved emotional stresses are generally accompanied by losses of feeling, awareness and clear thinking and as "neurotic" behaviours. For example, many external acts of power (greed, oppression, inequity) are probably partly compensatory for internal feelings of powerlessness and fear that originated as parental stressors.
Equally important are the physiological and behaviourial responses to food, chemical and other environmental stressors. These are often recognizable as the adaptation - addiction - allergy syndrome with its associated non-specific epidemiological and emotional outcomes. For example, the introduction, within the first six months of life, of such common foods as cow's milk, wheat, corn, soy products, and cane sugar can, in genetically predisposed individuals, represent serious stressors. Similarly, the outgassings of plastics, synthetic fabrics and building materials, and leakages from gas and oil heating systems can stress sensitive individuals. The subsequent appearance of allergies, hyperactivity, learning disabilities and depression can often be traced back to such food and chemical stressors. However, sensitivity to physico-chemical stressors may be as much associated with accompanying emotional stresses as with the more readily identifiable physico-chemical factors themselves. It seems possible that the frustration expressed by a parent endeavouring to feed an unwilling child a food that is a potential mild stressor could transform it, through association, into a major stressor.
As indicated above, there is often a considerable lag between the causes and some of their effects Thus, we might expect unresolved emotional, food, chemical and other environmental stresses to contribute, later in life, to the development of various degenerative diseases and conditions. Such degenerative processes occur at all levels within human systems from the subcellular to the individual. Furthermore, the collective effects of individual internalization of stress and associated degeneration, which appears to be universal, are likely eventually to have local, national, and international outcomes.
Social institutions have not only adapted to the high incidence of unresolved stresses within human systems, but have even become dependent on them and often (knowingly or unknowingly) reward their development, e.g., aggression, sexism, adultism, racism, and all the other oppressive "-isms" that fuel our competitive systems of living.
It is understandable, with the high incidence of stress conditions within ecosystems and human systems, that efforts are being made to find effective, sustainable means for bringing about recovery.
The first priority is to identify the stressors and then reduce them to levels at which the ecosystem can recover. In most cases ecosystem recovery is analogous to the natural process of succession, during which species and biomass are added to the environment. This may occur naturally ever an extended time frame, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years, or more rapidly through human intervention. Such ecosystem restoration may involve the selective importation (or more rarely exportation) of species and resources. This is usually accompanied by structural changes that promote natural processes such as the cycling of essential elements. Success is partly determined by the degree to which the "restored" system ceases to be dependent on imposed importation, exportation and management. An important aim should be to help the establishment of a self-renewing, self-regulating, productive ecosystem that satisfies human needs but not human greeds. This cannot be fully achieved within ecosystems if not accompanied by parallel recovery programs within human systems.
Throughout human history, most attempts to solve human problems and promote recovery have focused on the sub-individual or supra-individual levels. me great advances in medicine have dealt with the former, and the various political, social and technological revolutions with the latter. These have both tended to fail over the long-term because the need for the individual to change has not been emphasized or even recognized. The lack of a grass-roots revolution for individual change largely explains the recurring failure, throughout history, of visionaries and charismatic and learned individuals to generate the changes necessary to achieve sustainable and widespread self-realization and fulfillment among the peoples of the world. As long as the past stresses carried by individuals remain unresolved, those individuals will continue, through their patterned behaviours, to sabotage efforts (including their own) to establish sustainable, fulfilling lifestyles. Their misdirected efforts will also tend to create further problems, both for themselves and for their environment. Individuals comprise the soil in which positive social change can take root, and without which sustained change is impossible.
Individuals may resolve past emotional stresses through discharge, ideally in the presence of one or more supportive humans. This usually involves the recall of stressful events and the release of associated emotions, e.g., crying, trembling, raging, chattering, laughing, etc. This is accompanied by clarification of ones thinking as misstored information is reexamined and reevaluated. m e dominant process taking place during such periods of discharge and reevaluation is the regaining of ones natural power to be human. While there is presently a vast array of techniques being promoted as the means for realizing one's human potential, those that are effective all seem to involve this basic process of discharge and reevaluation in the presence of one or more attentive, loving, non-critical human beings.
Physical and chemical stresses are less readily dealt with and may not be completely reversible. As with ecosystems, the first priority is to identify the stressors and reduce them to levels at which the individual can, at least, recover. This is likely to involve life-style changes that extend to diet, and the home, work and recreational environment, exercise, rest and various recuperative strategies. As mentioned above, physico-chemical stresses are often linked to emotional stresses, and recovery from these latter is sometimes accompanied by recovery from the physico-chemical stresses and by a decrease in sensitivity to subsequent exposures to them.
Only in the absence of stored stresses and patterned behaviours are individuals likely to be able to fully experience themselves and the world around them. Only individuals who have attained such awareness (or, at least, clarity concerning the material under consideration) are likely to be able to both recognize an appropriate value system and be able to take responsibility to act in ways consistent with those values. m e process of stress resolution is not something that should be carried out for a short period of time and then abandoned; rather it should be incorporated as part of one's daily experience.
The following list of contrasting "values", and statements that imply values, comprises my first attempt at identifying the difference between those values and conditions that seem to be symptomatic of unresolved past stresses and those that individuals, who have resolved or recovered from past stresses, might derive by examining natural and stressed ecosystems and human systems. The reader's responses to them should be checked against their own past stresses before pronouncing on them. Patterned responses that are not accompanied by new thinking should be regarded as evidence of adaptation to unresolved past stress, whereas a spontaneous, unique response accompanied by new thinking is more likely to characterize a state of awareness.
(CONTRASTED WITH THOSE PRESENT TRENDS THAT APPEAR TO BE SYMPTOMATIC OF THE INTERNALIZATION OF UNRESOLVED PAST STRESSES)
Sustainable, equitable access to resources according to unique, individual material, cultural and spiritual needs to optimize human growth, development and fulfillment
Freedom to share openness unregulated, exclusive access to resources; increase in production land profit/power) to m et mass manipulated expanding want. and thereby achieve economic growth, development, and "success (an addictive spiral), emphasis on material wants of average consumers [right to own and abuse; secrecy]
work and play (largely overlap) used for fulfillment, human development and psycho-social evolution (present and future); diverse careers [free; motivated; enthusiastic; committed; competent production for use; involves integration, balance, feedback, cooperation people and process. oriented]
play is spontaneous, creative, unique, facilitated and free or inexpensive (integrated)
work (a job; distinct from play) used to acquire acceptance, power, possessions and service. (incorporating diversionary short-term and promised/imagined, but rarely obtained, future rewards); linear, oaten specialized, careers [trapped; obligated; apathetic; only "involved"; under-achieving production for profit/power; involves growing consumption (and pollution), environmental and human domination, manipulation, exploitation and control; competition; [Institution and product oriented]
increasing emphasis on organized, prescribed, standardized, play and services (curative and diversionary), which are increasingly expensive [isolated]
increasing quality of life (awareness, joy, zest, purpose, fulfillment) [human, internal, qualitative priorities; sustainable]
increasing standard of living (G N P , affluence, material comfort and power) [material, external, qualitative priorities; unsustainable]
growth and development of "informal economy" (gifts, barter of skills and materials and psychological, social and renewable resource base; supportive of people and environments) [sustainable; S/RE (sane, humane, ecological) scenario; optimal]
growth and development of' "formal economy" ("jobs", money; non-renewable resource base; exploitive of people and environments) [unsustainable, HE (hyper-expansionist) scenario; maximal]
holistic, broad, interactive , heterogenistic [open, unlimited, comprehensive, changing, evolving
mechanistic, reductionist, narrowly "focused", specialized (discipline oriented), linear, homogenistic [closed, limited, fragmentary, unchanging, reactionary
internal and external access, integration of outer, objective, formal and environmental knowledge, and inner, subjective intuition and feeling (wisdom) [aware, open, free, clear, rational]
emphasis on external, formal, classroom, "objective", "machine" information; internal wisdom discounted [blind, closed, programmed, confused, irrational]
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(See under Recovery in Human Systems)
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