Angry America Divided

There are many divisions of politics, lifestyle, and thought in our culture today including issues of, immigration, the economy, the environment, gun rights, abortion, gay rights, and race to name just a few. And we can feel in our bones the increasing levels of anger and fear of violence in the lives of many. The resulting polarization of perspectives is palpable here in the US and around the world - considering the uptick of terrorism and mass shootings.

It is quite easy to fall into pessimism and a sense of hopeless as we witness one negative news event after another. But what if all this anger and fear has a purpose. What if there is something way bigger happening that is moving humanity to a better place. What if all the disturbing dynamics are part and parcel of moving human culture to higher levels of complexity and consciousness? Let me offer one lens of human development as a way of understanding what is happening now in history.

One of the simplest human developmental models includes three major stages of development: egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric. Each of these three developmental structures has a basic way of understanding reality. Significantly, individuals identifying with each one of these different worldviews are quite critical and judgmental of those who hold the other two ways of seeing reality.

"ME"

The egocentric view is dominated by 'my' reality or perspective. Since one is primarily concerned with the self, this is sometimes called the "me" stage. Individuals who have this worldview present themselves to others believing "I'm right; I'm great". There is an emphasis variously on survival, accomplishment, and being seen. While holding the egocentric perspective individuals are able to only to see from their own point of view. All humans begin at this stage, however most adults grow beyond this worldview, although a percentage continue to operate out of this level of development. They may be good at disguising it, but essentially they see others as objects to be used for the benefit of themselves (narcissistic qualities). You may be thinking of someone you know who lives out of the egocentric worldview.

"US"

Fortunately, most of us develop at least a moderate bond with our mother or primary caretaker. This bond or attachment is the beginning of the ethnocentric phase or the "group stage" where identity expands from just the "self" and starts to also have concern for others, based perhaps on some shared values, family, ethnic group, common ideals (religion or politics), or nationality. The capacity to take the role of others-to put oneself in another's shoes and feel what it is like to be them (empathy) begins to develop and one's identity and primary concern expands from "me" to "us". The developmental movement to "us" having expanded from my "self" to my "group" is an important increase in complexity. However, individuals at the ethnocentric worldview tend to think their group is better than any other group and can feel threatened and angry by any suggestion otherwise. An "us" verses "them" mentality results.

"ALL of US"

When an individual makes a developmental shift from an ethnocentric "US" perspective to a world centric "ALL of US" worldview their primary concern and identity expands to include real caring for all of humanity. This increase in consciousness includes an understanding that, in addition to the amazing diversity of humans and cultures, there are also significant similarities and we all have much in common. All humans are considered to be equal and we are citizens of one planet. However, those who hold this worldview can become quite judgmental and mean if you don't agree with them. Imagine a discussion of global warming with someone in each of the stages of development.

Egocentric (ME) worldview: "I love driving my hummer. I can afford the gas; so why shouldn't I drive my hummer?"

Ethnocentric (US) worldview: "America needs to be energy independent. We need the extension of the keystone pipeline and we need to increase oil and gas production on federal lands".

World centric (ALL of US) worldview: "What we do here in the United States effects all people. We need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels".

And so it goes. It is not difficult to see how these three worldview tribes will have big differences and conflict on almost any issue - and the anger and polarization ensues. Contempt and hostility for those in the 'other' worldviews will not soon go away - but there is still hope.

There is strong evidence of a newly emerging worldview that takes as its foundation the necessity for the existence of all the previous worldviews and whose primary concern is to creatively build on the strengths of each, not trying to change anyone's worldview, but rather forming mechanism for a healthy expression of each developmental structure. A new worldview emerges when the previous worldviews no longer adequately solve new problems that are arising in the culture. This emerging more complex worldview has been called the Integral or Evolutionary worldview and:

  • provides a deeper and broader reality that embraces an inclusive, multiple perspective way of looking at and understanding personal and cultural and evolutionary development. It is a momentous leap in human consciousness because it recognizes the necessity for all previous worldview and works not to change other's worldviews but rather promote healthy expressions of each.

  • anticipates what more appropriate (healthy) solution comes next in the unfolding of the cultural evolutionary process. These new solutions are shifted away from today's polarizing and marginalizing, right or wrong, either/or, left or right partial choices toward more inclusive, comprehensive both/and solutions.

  • includes the most useful perspectives and values from all previous worldviews where contextually appropriate (healthy), while simultaneously pruning away contextually inappropriate (unhealthy) perspectives and values.

So the Integral worldview says: "What we do here in the United States effects all people, our planet, and its creator. We all need to work together to solve the worlds energy problems in creative ways which do not harm our world and each other."

*This article is not the intellectual property of Midwest Counselors. This article is posted in this blog as informational. Please visit the original post for more information.*

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