Mind and Body Metamorphosis: Conditioning Techniques for Personal Transformation

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Despite the pretense, Linus falls in love for the first time in his life, resigns as CEO, and runs away with Sabrina to Paris. Love has completely transformed him from a cold, greedy businessman into a warm, enlightened individual. People who make kindness a habit have significantly lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Making an effort to help others can lead to decreased levels of anxiety in individuals who normally avoid social situations. Being kind and even witnessing kindness have also been found to increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with lower blood pressure, more sound sleep, and reduced cravings for drugs such as alcohol and cocaine.

Loving others lights up the motivation and reward circuits of the limbic system in the brain Esch and Stefano, Research also reveals that people who routinely show acts of love live longer compared to people who perform fewer loving actions Vaillant, We can only remain open and receptive to the ride that awaits us. As we have noted, our departure on the journey can be jarring — we often experience an accident, illness, transgression, death, divorce, or disaster.

The best we can do is fasten our seatbelts and trust that the darkness of our lot will eventually transform into lightness. But we cannot remain passive. During the journey we must be diligent in doing our part to secure allies and mentors, and to take actions that cultivate strengths such as resilience, courage, and resourcefulness Williams, After being transformed ourselves, we feel the obligation to transform others in the role of mentor.

Bronk and Riches call this process heroism-guided purpose. Several unexplored issues involving heroic transformation deserve more thorough treatment than we can devote to them here. These issues focus on education, religion, gender, inclusive transcendence, and barriers to transformation. We give brief attention to these topics below. On July 16, , legendary President of South Africa Nelson Mandela delivered a speech in support of the Mindset Network, a non-profit organization designed to improve educational opportunities for children of all ages. Are these claims true? We believe it is a mistake and perhaps even dangerous to equate education with transformation.

Consider, for example, the link between education and crime. Some studies suggest that education mitigates crime Buonanno and Leonida, ; Machin et al. Bergen and Pandey report that the vast majority of terrorists who perform violent acts are college educated. For example, all 12 men involved in the World Trade Center attack had a college education. The lead pilot, Mohamed Atta, was college-educated, and the operational planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, studied engineering in North Carolina. The chilling masked figure on many ISIS beheading videos was Mohammed Emwazi, who had a college degree in computer programming.

Nelson Mandela was no doubt correct about education improving the quality of life for communities operating near subsistence levels. Our claim is that education is insufficient for meeting higher level needs of esteem and for cultivating social belongingness, self-transcendence, union with the world, and self-actualization. In short, education is a beginning step toward transformation but falls short in fully producing a truly awakened individual.

As noted earlier, James described the psychological consequences of religious conversion as including feelings of peace, the ability to see clearly, the sense of union with all of humanity, a feeling of newness, the experience of happiness, the desire for generosity, and the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself. In his studies of initiation rituals worldwide, Rohr observed that non-western cultures throughout history have been more likely to require males to participate in these rites of passage as compared to females.

Underlying this gender difference is the widespread belief that young males require initiation rituals to transform them into men, whereas young females tend to be naturally capable of transforming into womanhood without formal rituals. Differences in biology and culturally assigned gender roles have been posited to explain this difference Rohr, ; Formica, For women, transformation is corporeal. Women personally undergo biological transformations in processes such as menstruation, pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. Throughout most of human history, women have also been assigned culturally mandated activities involving transformation.

For example, child-rearing traditionally involved women transforming children into adults. Moreover, most human cultures have historically assigned women the task of preparing food for the family, during which women transformed wheat into bread and cream into butter. If, as we have argued, transformation involves promoting unity and adopting a sociocentric mindset, then women may be agents of transformation.

Throughout history, men have built things, fixed things, and defended us from things Rohr, — all in the service of satisfying lower level needs. True transformation, however, occurs at higher levels where women may have the advantage. In her review of research on gender differences in leadership effectiveness, Hoyt found convincing evidence that women may be more transformative as political leaders.


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Compared to men, women leaders are more likely to improve standards of living, education, and healthcare. They enjoy more success in peace negotiations and are more likely to reach across party lines. Women more so than men are likely to adopt democratic and participatory styles of leadership. Moreover, women are more likely to follow ethical guidelines, engage in philanthropy, and promote the welfare of women, children, and families. With all their accomplishments as leaders, women may also show more humility than men Fumham et al. Over years ago, the Tao Te Ching offered this wise description of women as humble, transformative leaders:.

Central to the phenomenon of transformation is the principle of transcend and include Wilber, Higher stages of transformation do not discard the values of the lower stages; they include them. An illustration of this idea can be found in our musings about our childhood baseball heroes, Willie Mays for George Goethals and Willie Stargell for Scott Allison. We both freely admit that our taste in heroes has evolved and matured since the s and s, yet if you ask us if that means that Mays and Stargell are no longer our heroes, we will quickly tell you that they remain our heroes to this very day.

Maintaining this preference exemplifies the principle of transcend and include. Transformation to a higher level of consciousness always transcends but also includes the lower levels Rohr, b. This does not mean that we equate Mays and Stargell with Gandhi and Mandela. It means that we appreciate their heroic influence on us during a crucial time in our development.

What is Wrong with Gregor?

There are implications of this principle for gender roles. Male- oriented activities of making, fixing, and protecting must be transcended by female-oriented activities of inclusion, participation, and harmony. But with transcendence must come inclusion, as we cannot expect to survive as a society without always leaving room for those so-called male activities.

Recent research has revealed that adopting a heroic self-concept can at times produce significant psychological maladjustment Shahar, ; Israeli et al. From this perspective, a heroic self-representation may develop when people experience personal threat, stress, and challenge, either in themselves or in others to whom they are close. These heroic self-representations can assume the form as the self-as-savior , the self-as-conqueror , or heroic identification.

When confronting these psychological challenges, people may identify with the ideal heroic image of the person who can conquer any difficult obstacle or who can heroically remove those obstacles for suffering others. The consequences of taking on this role of a hero can be significant increases in perceived stress, self-criticism, lack of a sense of coherence, general psychopathology, maternal overprotection, dissociative depersonalization and absorption, transliminality, PTSD severity, and attachment anxiety.

Shahar and Israeli et al. Moreover, participants who viewed themselves as self-as-savior showed an increased anxious mood under high levels of perceived-stress related to the missile attacks. Israeli et al. We believe that the research reported by Shahar and Israeli et al.

See a Problem?

Future research might productively be directed toward further establishing the circumstances under which adopting a heroic self-representation yields favorable versus unfavorable consequences for people. We now turn to factors that can stand in the way of people undergoing a positive transformative experience in life. It would behoove the world to understand why so many people are stuck and what can be done to nudge more of us along the transformative journey.


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  8. Earlier we reviewed activities that promote transformation, and one might argue that any barriers to change are merely the inverse of these promotional activities. While there may be some truth in this idea, it is also true that some barriers are less intuitive or obvious than one might suspect.

    Mind And Body Metamorphosis: Conditioning Techniques For Personal Transformation

    A major source of arrested development is the problem of self-ignorance. A recurring theme in psychological research is that people are unaware of much of their own psychological functioning Nisbett and Wilson, ; Wegner, ; Bargh and Morsella, ; Alicke, Early psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Adler, and Horney were the first to point to the destructive effects of behaving unconsciously. Jung described the shadow as the dark, unknown aspects of our personalities that prevent us from transforming into our full potential.

    A second barrier is found in impoverished environments that deny people opportunities for transformation. Heroic potential may be suppressed when individuals are afflicted by poverty or safety concerns that hinder their ability to progress upward in the hierarchy toward higher-level goals. Resolving this problem is easy in theory but extremely difficult in practice, as most world societies either lack the will or the means to eliminate poverty. Safety and security needs become paramount to the traumatized individual, rendering higher level needs unimportant.

    The good news is that most people can show great progress in recovering from the deleterious effects of trauma.

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    This healing is the basis of the hopeful phenomenon of post-traumatic growth Rendon, Individuals who have been harmed and who derive their entire personal identity from being wronged by someone else, or by society, may find it difficult to grow and transcend their victimhood. We are not making the claim that there are no legitimate victims; there most certainly are people who have been harmed and have real grievances. Our argument is that adopting a strong and permanent victim identity is a sure way of avoiding growth and moving beyond the pain of having been harmed.

    A highly unfortunate consequence of harboring a victim mindset is the need to scapegoat. People tend to reason that if someone has harmed them, then that perpetrator must be punished. There is no doubt that scapegoating others has been the primary cause of most violence and warfare throughout human history. Until people learn to take individual responsibility for their lives and for their anger, the deadly duo of victimhood and scapegoating will continue to work in concert to thwart heroic transformation.

    Another barrier to transformation lies in the absence of good mentorship. Social sources of wisdom, inspiration, and change are critical elements of the hero monomyth as described by Campbell These social sources appear in the form of friends, mentors, peers, and allies, all of whom represent rich and essential sources of transformation. There are times, moreover, when people encounter the wrong mentor whose advice does more harm than good.

    Related to this problem is the prevalence of narcissism. The narcissist assigns blame for his problems to others, leading the him to believe that other people need to change rather than the narcissist himself. Those classified as low in psychological flexibility have been shown to experience less growth and development Kashdan and Rottenberg, To help people overcome inflexibility, Hayes et al. Psychological flexibility can be achieved through six core ACT processes, several of which sound like mindful pathways to Buddhist enlightenment.

    The six elements of ACT are acceptance, cognitive defusion, presence, seeing the self in context, values, and committed action. All of these processes reflect positive psychological and spiritual skills that enable people to grow and evolve into healthy adaptive human beings.

    The Metamorphosis

    They also resemble Franco et al. As did James, we suspect that many people spend their entire lives resisting change, denying the need for it, and suffering as a result of avoiding it. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. The transformed hero exemplifies the zenith of human development. The wisdom of writers and philosophers, from Homer in BCE to Phil Zimbardo today, informs us that we are all called to lead a heroic life.

    Yet most people are unaware of this fact, or they face impediments that impede the realization of their heroic potential. We hope that this article represents progress toward shedding light on why transformation is elusive and what can be done to promote it. All authors contributed equally to the development and expression of the ideas in this article.

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