04 February 2011

Service & Re-creation

The subject of re-creation has come up several times in the past week.  Perhaps the simplest form of re-creation is a kind of pain management process.  In this process one addresses some symptomatic condition, such as a headache, by 're-creating' the symptom.  Typically the presenting symptoms will dissolve.  This is not a panacea of some sort.  It is at one level a simple, practice-able, learnable technique.  As is often the case with such techné, we can miss the greater implications of the thing 'working' at all.  30% effectiveness of placebos seems like this to me.  

I will describe the technique briefly, though living in the land of California as I currently do, I have not usually been the one bringing this up.  It is a fairly socialized practice here it seems.  (It will perhaps be wise to refrain from further comment on that.)  

The very first piece of process is an examination of whether or not I am willing to have the symptoms go away.  I have a headache, it would seem like the answer to that question of my willingness is self evident.  Not always.  Perhaps I am getting something out of the headache in a way that its disappearance would be worse than its presence, should it disappear.  It is important to note that this about my willingness, not my insistence, or even expectation.  In the case of a headache this may not seem so critical, but begin to imagine that the process described can be applied to *any* symptomatic phenomena.  The ecology of my relationship to the presence of the symptoms becomes very important.  Let me give you a specific example.

Some years ago I learned a similar process for 'curing' allergies.  I will not go into the details of that process here and now, but it is structurally similar to what we are considering.  The process has a 85% success rate in hospitals.  Again, not a magical, mechanistic panacea of predictability, but interesting.  This is based on an actual case and conversation.  The 'client' was allergic to cats.  In the process the allergic response is understood as a kind of pattern and re-patterned, by the client.  In this process we checked on the ecology toward the end of the process, after it was already clear to the client that something was changing for them.  

The ecology of something in this sense has to do with considering the implications and consequences of success or failure, given the larger systems of which we might understand the symptoms to be a part.  In this case the question is; 'Imagine that you no longer have allergies in that way.  What are the possible consequences of that, if any?'  It may be necessary to engage a bit of narrative in order to understand this.  In this particular narrative what emerged is that the client lived in a house with three other people and had no sense of privacy.  The client had a special cat free room and no one else was allowed in this room.  Pretty good, huh?  

The conversation at that point is not about the allergies, but about strategies for 'privacy', or the prior values associated with forms of privacy, that do not require the patterning and all the symptomatic presentation of allergies to cats.  This in itself does not 'get rid' of the pattern called cat allergies, but you could see how it is possible that no amount of 're-pattering' is going to necessarily have any meaningful effect when this is in place.  Additionally, the re-pattering *can* be successful and then what?  Not having considered it, what steps will the client now have to take in order to insure their privacy and what they value about that?  This is an example of solving a problem from and within the current set of lived assumptions potentially amplifying the 'problem', though the form may change.  Perhaps the client has an investment in the failure of the process altogether.  Perhaps they have to now do something more extreme to insure their privacy.  In this case it became clear to the client that he could simply speak with the other members of his family, now that he was clear what he wanted to talk about.

We are talking about 're-creation,' but we are also talking about the proper place of techné in change process, which was a question asked in response to my first post.   We are talking about this from a particular point of view (mine as it so happens... all apologies for that).  What we will be asking about is the relationship of the effectiveness or failure of such techné to the larger questions of learning and service.  

What often happens in the case of successful and skillful application of technique is that we become identified with the utility of the technique.  Perhaps we make our living from the application of such knowledge.  The technique and the prescriptive intended result of the technique become not only descriptive of the action, but also become the context for the action itself.  Perhaps this even fits together with a larger ideology and identity.  Of course, mastering a technique of some sort is challenging in and of itself and might even take many years.  In such an endeavor the context for the technique often becomes fixed or deleted.  This may even be necessary in the process of mastery in some particular case.  What are the consequences of that, if any?  In one sense this means that our attention has become fixed on and as the formal component or even efficient aspect of what is occurring.  We become attached to those aspects, with respect to some intended outcome.  This is a basic structure for the generation of suffering.  This can happen in even the most benevolent seeming undertakings, including those that are meant to address suffering.  I sometimes think about the Steinbeck story "Flight".

Let's look at re-creation.  The process is simple.  We have touched upon ecology and understanding the systems in which the symptoms live for us.  Now perhaps we can look at the structure of the symptoms themselves.  In this particular case this is done metaphorically.  The use of metaphor allows us to work with our attention in a way that might not otherwise be available.  In one sense, we describe the headache.  Where exactly is it?  If it were a color, what color would it be?  Does it have a specific shape?  If the headache were liquid how much would it be as volume?  Does it seem heavy or light?  How much would you say it weighs?  Etc.  Then we might want to check and see if it is persistent or changing in nature, as it seems to us. Often in this process, the symptoms will change or seem to change. Often just this much, without a lot of context has the effect of 'dissolving' the headache.  It often just goes away and we can notice that it goes away.

I want to look into all that a bit.  First, it is interesting to notice how we are in the moment of something like that happening, when it does not fit with our model of the world.  Secondly, I want to begin to look into something about what is happening, without being to insistent about that.  Thirdly, I was thinking it might be useful to take these sorts of models I am suggesting and put them in the context of a dialogue or an intersubjective domain.  From there we could, but I will not since this will already be too much, consider the nature of what we are talking about here at a systems level and beyond.

I used to sometimes do these sorts of processes in professional client settings, not for the purpose of dissolving some symptom or other, but to begin to demonstrate and explore the dynamics at play in this and the implications of those dynamics on our world view and processes of change.  I remember very clearly being in a kind of quonset hut office in the middle of the U.S. with a bunch of operational leaders for a large utility company.  We were exploring some questions about change.  I demonstrated this process with a woman who in fact had a headache.  You could see her change.  Her coloring (circulation), muscle tone, breathing, eyes, posture... all this changed in a moment.  Her headache was gone.  Now for me, this seems more or less simple and normal.  I am not making some weird claim about that.  I am just saying that for me, headaches can go away and go away like that... through something about such a shift in our attention or consciousness.  For her, and everyone else in the room, apparently this was far from normal and so far outside their world view that they really struggled to explain it.  Apparently, about the only way that their world view could account for this thing that should not have been able to happen was to consider it the work of the devil.  Literally.  They did not tell me this initially.  I had to talk to them for a while, in order to understand what had happened for them.  It was not about the headache.  

This is really important to notice, from my point of view.  This is a very immediate example of what Kuhn is talking about with paradigms and such.  I had 'done' all the inquiry about the headache going away and the consequences of that.  Even so, it is very difficult for someone to understand that the consequence of learning and change is often that they come into direct contact with the enacted and constructed nature of their world view, and therefore have to make fundamental choices about that, which they might rather not have to make.  I will often tell people about this now.  As far as I can tell no amount of understanding really makes a difference to that moment.  The quality of 'container' in that moment can make a huge amount of difference, but the conceptual knowledge of it prior to the moment is more or less useless, though it still must be explored, from my point of view.  The prior exploration is one of the things that sets the context for such a moment itself as a moment in which we might learn something together.  Otherwise, what we will do is simply fit the phenomena that does not fit our previously held world view into that world view (e.g. as the work of the devil) or delete it altogether.  The prior exploration not only creates the possibility of accountability, but also of compassion and discovery.

The information they received in that moment is that things may not quite be hooked up the way they imagine.  We don't really know, but it has opened the question in a very immediate way.  If you are reading this, please just take a moment and notice if, and how, you might be applying your own mental models, world view, etc. to explain things about a process such as I am describing.  How are you having it make sense to you, or perhaps dismissing it?  What is your structural model for something like this?  What is your causal model?  Do you have an energetic or emotional model?  Are you making the description of such a process fit with what you already know?  I am not suggesting that it does not fit.  I am asking if you are aware of the activity to make it fit or perhaps dismiss it, etc.  

One way in which I frequently work has to do with revealing something about the habitual relationship to causality and structures of attention, thought, etc. This is not done in some proscriptive or prescriptive way.  Of course our own models 'work' or we would not be here having the conversation, from a certain point of view.  We might be sneezing all the time, but we have our privacy.  It is more about a kind of expansion or possible enrichment.  The model any one of us has does not exactly 'go away' in that sort of change process.  The field of what is animated and our participation in that might change in some way.

In the particular case where something happens outside of our model of causality, if we can even sense that, we might generally relate to it as miraculous, magical, or random, in order to make it fit with our typically narrowed models of causality. Our enacted models of causality are 'narrowed', not because we are lesser or failing in some way.  We narrow our attention to manifest as 'point of view' with very specific enacted models of cause, and all the structures of that, in order to: be functional, efficient, procreate, survive, prosper, obtain or attain this or that which we view as outside of us, missing and necessary.  This is not insane.  What becomes problematic is when we then get attached to this actively narrowed view as if it were isomorphic with reality and insist on that, even in the presence of 'information' that might at least ask us to question that assertion.  

In the moment that our headache 'magically' disappears we are suddenly face to face with the production and enactment of our own world view.  This is a moment of crisis, in the truest sense. It is a moment of re-cognition; re-creation.  The choices we have made, inherited or accepted become visible to us.  In the metaphor of my friend Robert it is a moment of proprioception, in which parts of us that have been actively held apart come into contact with one another and we are aware of ourselves in this.  We re-cognize the enactment of our own model or metaphor, just as we re-cognize our hand.  How are we in this moment?  We might be amused, angered, confused, excited or any number of ways.  Perhaps we turn away, or engage in the moment as a moment in which our survival is threatened.  Perhaps we do not wish to see where the strings are attached or deal with the implications of that seeing.  In this moment, context or container becomes very important.  Such a moment can occur as a crack in our reality as we understand it.  It is a kind of light shining into our carefully constructed and maintained point of view.

This, from my own limited point of view, is more like what the real meaning of techné in a 'change' process is about.  This has a lot of thorny aspects to it (as if all those other things I have been rambling on about don't).  From my point of view those are best explored by a disposition of active engagement and creativity, rather than me or someone expounding endlessly on the matter... and I have already expounded a fair amount, without actually coming directly to the subject of recreation, for which I apologize.  I should say that it was not necessary to flee the midwest quonset hut, pursued by people with torches.  We had created a sufficient capacity for reflection together such that we were able to work with the question without having to apply a kind of moralistic or reductionist framework of explanation and without having to apply such frameworks to the act of applying such frameworks.  That is, it was not necessary for me to be the devil, and it was not necessary for anyone to negate their own world view in some way.  The nature of the inquiry is very different than that.  One possible way to consider this is that the 'scale' or quality of the shared consciousness could meaningfully provide a kind of context for the moment of a crack in our produced reality.  Sometimes we try to substitute for this with structures of control, dependencies, ideas of things like trust.  That substitution often seems a kind of structure of suffering to me.  Something like that at least.

Perhaps now we could take something about this 'headache' process and all the implications and situate it in a sort of dialogue practice.  On the surface such a process or technique is very simple, not unlike the headache process.  As we might be able see from the consideration of the headache process it might be useful to consider aspects of the context and implications.  Let's take a very simple form of such practice.

Consider our headache example and remember that is possible that the container or context may become very important.  Another time it might be good to explore more about what that means.  For now perhaps we can take that as given, since I am not actually asking you to do this. Imagine two people.  One person speaks on a topic.  I find the area of complaint a useful topic.  That is, one person picks a specific complaint and begins to talk about that.  They tell the story of that complaint.  The other person listens and repeats back to them what they said.  What could be simpler?  In practice several things happen.

I would like to consider this together in the context of service.  The person who is repeating back what was said is performing a service.  Initially, this activity of simply saying back what was said can seem incredibly stupid to us.  We do not feel useful.  We are not helping, etc.  What is the experience of the person who is speaking their complaint?  Of course we cannot really say, without asking them, but it is often the case that many things happen.  They feel heard.  Aspects of the complaint, or the 'grip' such a complaint may have on them lightens or dissolves altogether.  What happens and why is it happening?  What is the structure of this?  How can we understand it as service, when we do not seem to be helping in any way?

I am not sure that I can get at all those questions or that it would be entirely useful to do so.  I do feel it is important to ask them and I can share something of my point of view, such as it is.  Let's look at what happens to me when I am the person repeating back what has been said; saying what I heard.  The basic form is something like: "Just a moment, could I make sure I am understanding/hearing you?  This is what I heard: [What they said].  Am I getting it?  Is there more?  Did I miss anything or change anything?"  In some cases even all the things about 'did I understand', surrounding what they said are not needed or useful.  Again, that depends on the container.

When I am listening to them, what is happening?  Am I simply listening.  Usually the answer is no.  I am judging all sorts of things about what they are saying.  I am coming up with all sorts of answers to their apparent problem.  I am immediately generating a thousand, thousand associations.  I am notincing that I am doing all that and making all sorts of judgments and association about that as well. When I repeat back what I have heard, do I include all that?  If I include *any* of that, why am I doing so?  It is not that I am neutral or some perfect reflecting pool; far from it.  Instead I am having the sometimes initially excruciating experience of watching the activity of my own ego furiously at work.  We might not think of this pressing, immediate need to add our wisdom, understanding, content, solutions, stories, help, etc. to what they are saying as ego.  Please consider this for yourself.  Why are you adding any of that?  What does it feel like if you do not? Why does it feel that way to you?

In most cases, when we first start such a practice we add all sorts of things without even knowing we are adding them.  The activity is invisible to us.  Perhaps the person who is speaking some complaint says back to you: "no, I didn't say that," or "you missed this", etc.  Soon you are in an argument about what they said!  The ego activity, which is an activity that creates separation, is often assumed and so invisible to us.  It is a kind of deep structure of mental models in general.  In the act of re-creation or re-cognition we are probably not magically egoless.  What can happen for us as the *listener* is that something about the immediate and apparently necessary activity we call ego is 'suspended'.  It is suspended in the sense that we become proprioceptively aware of it.  We are not treating this activity itself as something separate. It is suspended in the sense that we are not simply animating it.

The popularized injunction of 'karma yoga' is to "recognize the obligation to act, while having no expectation of return."  This is a basis for service.  If I enter into such an act of re-cognition, or re-creation, with the intent of something particular happening, with a mind that is pre-divided, it is probably not going to work out well.  Even suspending such intent with the intent that it will work out some way is probably not going to turn out well.  In this simple case we are considering a complaint that is spoken.  We re-create that complaint, fully, with no expectation of anything in any way.  Is this even possible?  Often no, it is not.  To insist on that as how I must be, also does not work out well.  It is possible to notice something about where I do have expectation of return.  It is possible to notice the arising urge to act.  Though we are speaking about it formally, the re-creation is not simply a formal or technichal manuever. Again, the context or container is important for this.  

One of the basic things that happens in such a process, whether dialogue, headache, or extrapolated more broadly (say, to the enactment of 7 billion people on a planet), is that we ourselves need to come to a moment of simple re-cognition without the need for any change what so ever, in any way what so ever.  This is layered and seemingly impossible in some cases.  What is possible?  Perhaps it is not absolutely possible for us without simply insisting on some ideology that says it should be possible.  That is itself a kind of insistence on change.  We must find where that moment of possible re-cognition, or re-creation, is for us in each moment.  We are not re-cognizing how it 'should' be.  We are re-creating something that 'is', as such.  It is possible to resist what is, but the consequences can be pretty dire.  We can medicate our headache.  This is an innocent enough example, and I am not making some ideological proclamation about it.  What is the basic structure of the assumptions involved in that though?  If we extrapolated it to an enacted world view, what might we see?

I am suggesting that because of suspending and making visible something about the enactment of our point of view and ego in such processes that they constitute a kind of service.  I know I am not suggesting this altogether clearly or very well. What I do hope is that I have talked about this 'process' in a way that more or less makes it thoroughly useless as a technique, and that you can get a sense of that.  I do not mean to be writing an instructional manual on the practical technique of re-reation and hope that I have not, or that if you wish to use this in that way you understand that it is likely to fail, as such. I also hope that it is clear how to enter into such a process (beyond headaches, allergies, and complaints) with that 'useless' disposition and something about why one might wish to do so.  There is a lot left unsaid in what I have suggested about containers and context.  There is a lot unsaid about what happens in the moment of 'suspension', re-cognition, or re-creation.  I will say that I consider all of the things talked about above as a kind of participation in a creative act. It is meaningful to me come to such process as re-creative; the re-cognition of, rather than the doing of, even in the doing of...

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