Monday, July 24, 2017

Are We In A Growth Stage, Or Are We Merely Coming Apart At Our Seams?

My small “zone of peace,” at New Horizons, feels like a port of sanity these days, in a world gone crazy with conflict and upheaval. You, as a reader of this blog might not realize it -- and yet you might -- just how profound – and – welcoming it is to have safe, secure places, these days, where people are not coming apart at the seams, polarizing in this era of stormy weather. No matter how bright the sunshine looks outdoors. 

In reading my recent articles, you might think it is otherwise here, at New Horizons; stormy weather for our organization.  Just like many other places these days.

To be sure, recent announcements, related to our board activities, have garnered an inordinate number of emails and comments (see “Comments” section at bottom of this article for example) suggesting readers are feeling concern over our recent happenings. However, this is rather than the sense of growth and expansiveness actually taking place for us.

Without doubt, we, at New Horizons, are going through some growing pains. A simple review of our past year of programs and projects, as written in articles for this site, will tell you that, in a heartbeat.  Nearly everything we had been developing and working on for the past ten years plus has now practically ground to a halt, waiting for the chaos of our present day society and politics to settle down. 

Almost no one cares to overcome polarization these days, or make violence obsolete. As important agendas for social movements these days per se, there is simply little fit! No, indeed!

I can hardly wrap my mind around the shifting we are presently experiencing here, paralleling what is happening around us in society and politics. It is that HUGE! It’s almost as if we are now living on another planet; and a warring one at that.

These are the days of our coming apart. Not the time for unity, it seems.

Whoever intimated that growth and change come easily hasn’t raised any teenagers. That stage is all about identity. With no holds barred, this phase of development is more often a tsunami rather than any smooth sailing.  However, when mature people face an updating of their lives and relationships to one another, things do tend to proceed more easily. 

That’s how things are these days at New Horizons; we are in a crisis of self-defining brought about by our collective intentions to weather the storms now confronting our country – and – therefore us. But we have long-held, reliable principles we’ve been practicing for more than forty years, at New Horizons, that are seeing us through the choppy waters now. At the top of the list and the bottom line of it all, of course is dialogue, not debate which we are truly adept at. How sweet it is! 

I have never before experienced the personal being so closely entwined with the political. But here it is! Maybe that’s good, maybe not. Nonetheless, mature and seasoned, as is my wonderful board of directors, grown now from three members to six, we are, daily, drawing from the lessons we have offered you, over the years, and coming through the bumpy places change is bringing us, relatively effortlessly, given the scope of what is happening.

Having raised two biological children of my own and helped to round out the growing pains of countless others as a psychotherapist, I have become accustomed to the signs, the conflicts and the pain of working through the years of identity crisis that come naturally out of the thrust and the striving to reach maturity. 

The crisis of one’s seeking to discover and hold intact one’s identity is grounded in struggling to find wholeness. The process is a rocky road at best. In many respects the time seems to begin in adolescence. Yet it’s coming actually began at birth, when first we separated from our mothers. The entire process, in some regards, lasts, once consciously recognized, often volatilely at adolescence, throughout the rest of one’s entire life.

There is no easy way to go through this process, known in psychological terms as individuation.  Wikipedia describes "individuation" as the expressing of how a thing is identified as an individual thing that "is not something else. This includes how an individual person is held to be distinct from other elements in the world and how a person is distinct from other persons.”

Today we are seeing, more and more, that a Republican is quite distinct from a Democrat, a Liberal is different than a Conservative. Actually, in the world of my own, personal mind, I hadn’t paid too much attention to these labels insofar as they related to me, until now. I had adopted the Democratic voting position, along with its apparent values, because that was how it had always been done in my family.

With Barak Obama in office, I found that this designation on my voter registration was too limiting, so I had switched to being a registered Independent. By the time our recent presidential election campaign had ended, along with its attendant, highly charged and conflicted outcome, I no longer “felt myself” completely in alignment with that designation either. Still it is the best I can presently find. So I have no intention of reassigning myself further. I am truly enjoying, at this point, individuating politically. 

This means affirming who I am, with my own unique view of the world, not identifying with one ideology or another! In all of this shifting, for you and I, as well as those around us, is the issue of self-definition

Contemplating this state of affairs takes me back to my psychological heritage as a Transactional Analyst (TA). With TA as an organizing base I have looked at myself and my place in the world around me with the notion of having a personal life script, as TA holds that we all do. Script formation is based on the individual clarifying their personal answers to several basic existential questions –
  • Who am I?
  • Who are you?
  • What’s everybody doing here?
  • And, what am I to do, as me, with people like you, in a place like this?
These are questions each one of us must answer as we develop from childhood through to adulthood and beyond into our waning years. These are questions a society can also be charged to answer, collectively, as the collective is but a representation of the individual, multiplied many times over. Societies, too, have scripts, cultural scripts.

At this point, New Horizons is now beginning to re-define itself. I, too, am, deeply involved in that process, personally. Parallel to this, our society is in midst of a redefinition. As with adolescents and the adults around them, growing pains are often manifest in chaos. A coming apart at the seams is what this growing-up phase can seem like. With mature decision-making along the way, however, eventually all, generally, will turn out well, with the gift of many lessons accrued to look back upon from these growing pain.

Our present and societal and political upheaval, thus, also brings us to consider -- 
  • Who am I in terms of my place in this society?
  • Who are you in terms of your place here?
  • What’s everybody to do here, now, in this society?
  • And, what am I to do, now, in a place like this – and – at this time?
I bet you are wondering about these things, yourself, these days. Give yourself time and patience to sort the answers to these questions out – and – find your peace in the midst of chaos.

Perhaps this is where the United States of America is now -- in the midst of growing pains

If so, it is reasonable to fear not. 

But hold on to your hat!


  1. wow.... That was powerful. Gives me alot to conteemplate. Thank you Steve S.

  2. Thanks for continuing the discussion I am offering here. I believe we all have a lot to think about. That is why we MUST keep talking to one another, especially in groups such as our Coffee House Conversations format.

    We MUST take the time to keep a dialogue ongoing in our lives with both people who are like minded and those who are diverse.

    Only in this way can we keep ourselves reaching for the higher truths and fuller realities that will enable us to make good decisions, especially now when we are being challenged on so many levels.

    I have several groups where I can have this kind of expansive exchange. They mean the world to me in these troubled times.