When Conformity And Stewardship Collide

Do you ever feel that inner conflicts can’t be resolved?

Does your desire to belong and be accepted conflict with other desires?

Does your higher self ever feel left out?

Conflicts About Conformity

Conformity and stewardship: sometimes they work in harmony and other times they collide.

All societies create structures and norms that define daily life and the predominant mission of the society. Generally the predominant mission which is another way of saying values, is driven by some type of necessity.

Our earliest ancestors were hunter gatherers. When humans discovered how to grow crops, our ancestors shifted to a more agricultural way of life. It was certainly less life threatening than wrestling with dangerous animals to get food. However, food needed to be stored and then protected from other humans who preferred to steal rather than farm.

So a new way of life came into being that supported that agricultural economic system. This is goodness. Who wants to be wrestling with dinosaurs or other predators every day? However there is a down side.

How Structure Helps And Hurts Us

We create structures to support us, which is an example of stewardship, and then create the mindset and practices that support the structure, which is conformity.

Spiral Dynamics, the book by Chris Cowan and Don Beck, calls the situation that gives rise to a particular economic and social system as “life conditions.” This is the reality or real problems that drive the creation of a societal structure.

Once a particular structure with all of its institutions, rituals, mores and values is in place it become the “reality” for the people of that society. After some generations have passed, no one will remember the prior social structure. Daily life, purpose and problem solving all take place within the framework of the existing cultural dynamics, which will seem like life itself.

Cultures Have Life Cycles

There is a problem, though. Many people do not realize that like each one of us, a societal structure has a lifecycle. It comes into being to solve a problem, succeeds and then creates the conditions for a need for change which ushers in a new system with new values and purpose.

A perfect example is the current systemic change going on in the world. The existing system came into being to create a better life for human being though innovation and human initiative. It was created when people were few and resources were plentiful and has succeeded admirably in its mission. Now its success has sown the seeds of change because of our dwindling natural resources.

When To Conform And When Not To

Most individuals, when a society is in a advanced state like ours, try to solve the problems they are facing by using the tools of the existing system. So if the existing system used growth to solve problems, growth is the assumed solution, when in fact a new solution, new structure and new values are required. This is where conformity and stewardship collide.

When a system is in its prime, the society functions well, and conformity to the system makes sense and feels coherent. When it has passed its prime that is no longer the case. Stewardship at different stages of the system lifecycle has different requirements; sometimes conformity is good stewardship and sometimes not.

Conformity And HSPs

HSPs are very sensitive to the conflicts around them at any stage of the life cycle of a society. They will pick up a sense of where the society is in its development, and notice when the practices of a particular cultural structure have become more destructive than constructive.

Highly sensitive people can be the canaries in the coal mine. They are in touch with the present, but usually ahead of the prevailing mindset. It can make them appear to be ahead of their time when they are really very in touch with the present.

HSPs can be very useful to a society that wants to be smart about managing its change. We humans have not managed change well in the past. Valuing our sensitive geniuses could make it much easier to know when to conform or not, when to change, and when we are being good stewards. HSP’s are worth embracing for this reason.

For More Information: Dr. Clare Graves Site

The New Skill: Ecological Thinking


We humans have been running on left-brained, linear thinking for a long time. It has accomplished a lot but its limitations are evident also.

What Is Linear Thinking?

Linear thinking is thinking that is based on the idea of sequential events and therefore a line. Sequential events lead to a story, reasoning and narratives.

Linear thinking is very cause and effect. It’s objective is to create a kind of solidity. Because it connects everything in a line, it is very surface in what it treats as valid. Linear thinking pervades our culture:

  • are you in line
  • are you out of line
  • are you above the live
  • are you on the line
  • line up

Linear thinking is a way of measuring ourselves and each other. Linear thinking is at home with our inner critics.

Why Linear Thinking Fails

Linear thinking omits a lot of information from what it considers relevant. Natural cycles are ignored, denigrated and denied in the linear world. The linear world believes that through our efforts we can control the ups and down of life. Many years and untold effort have been dedicated to the goal of permanent positivity. Natural cycles do not recognize our yearning for a life with no pain or downside.

Linear thinking creates structures and systems that require the use of force to maintain. The structures themselves become what people depend on. It is a lot like putting a roller coaster ride in the middle of the ocean and expecting it to be safe.

Natural cycles operate in a natural process of give and take which creates a circular process of renewal. Linear thinking does not consider renewal as necessary. The need for renewal “takes away” from the goals of the linear system.

Cyclical Thinking

Where linear thinking is more structural, cyclical thinking is process oriented and aligned with natural cycles of life. Cyclical thinking takes into account physical limits, the need for physical and other forms of renewal, stages of the life cycle and the interdependency of living creatures and systems.

Cyclical thinking promotes a way of life aligned with nature. It supports a thoughtful adaptation of human to the reality of life processes. Cyclical thinking places humans in the web of life, not outside it and not over it.

What Is Ecological Thinking?

Ecological thinking is post linear thinking  It is flexible thinking which rejects fixed cultural structures that are not tied to the natural cycles of life.

Ecological thinking is the manifestation of wholeness in ourselves and the natural world, a result of embracing the interconnectedness of all life forms.

It’s a way of interacting with all of life that respects the limits and gifts of each life form. It respects the need for nourishment and renewal of all life. It embraces the complexity of the natural world which includes us as well as the natural intelligence and benevolence of the universe.

Ecological thinking sees life as a large web of beings which support each other and an endless process of living and renewal. It recognizes death as part of the process. Ecological thinking does not elevate one species over the others. Each species contributes to the whole so to protect one over another disturbs the web of life.

Ecological thinking recognizes the balancing mechanism that nature is and respects and supports it. By continually aligning with the need for rebalancing, humans can live in harmony with nature.

Ecological Thinking And HSPs

Ecological thinking is a natural way for highly sensitive people to live and think. It allows our pain to be part of the natural rebalancing process in our lives and lets our sensitivity serve the interdependent whole web of nature and life. It makes our sensitivity valuable to ourselves and others.

Ecological thinking and living restores HSPs to their rightful, respected place in human society.

Additional Reading:

Linear Thinking vs. Cyclical Thinking permacultureandsanity.com

Is Independence Real?

Independence and autonomy are cherished goals in many people’s lives.

I am all for standing on one’s own two feet. However, I notice more and more how autonomy and independence can become distorted.

Is Independence Real?

Here in the US, we are all about independence. So much so that we have little in the way of safety nets for the inevitable downside of life.

Independence is virtually a mandate, a matter of character rather than development.

Independence can also have many meanings. It can be interpreted as independence from want, the realities of life, aging, mistakes, and failures. Independence often suggests an idyllic experience of life, free from pain or any other concern. Under the character definition of independence. the more pain in your life, the greater your failure. It is personal, you know.

But it is not a real independence. None of us can escape mistakes, aging, ups and downs that are always a part of life. Why is it a sign of personal failure if we cannot?

The Failure Of The Independence Model

Independence can become an obsession. If any dependency is a fault, then revealing that you are not entirely self-contained can be a serious exposure of yourself and to yourself. In a world where perception has consequences, being perceived as needy or needing can cost you the respect of others.

It is one thing, however, to challenge excessive neediness and the lack of independence underneath it and another to base ideas about independence on false ideas about what it is.

Yes, There Are Limits

Our Western view of independence suggests that limits do not apply to us and that they should not. I guess limits are for other people. Perhaps for highly sensitive ones.

The denial of limits has serious consequences that actually limit our independence.

When we deny reality we limit our choices which result in our making decisions that can have ramifications. An easy way to see this is by looking at the example of denying our need for sleep because it is a limitation that we should have to put up with. If we do that enough, we can make serious mistakes, perhaps get into an accident, or become ill from the physical neglect. In essence, we have created new limitations because of the ones we denied.

It is a little like kicking the limitation can down the road. Except that often other people are harmed as a result.

The Effect Of Independence On Compassion

When we deny limits and the realities of life, we become less compassionate toward ourselves and others. We treat reality as a fault, as a mistake, or an imposition. We treat others in an adversarial manner as encroaching on our independence. It is a very rejecting attitude.

We also deny ourselves and others the necessary care that we need. Often we end up accumulating serious problems because of the neglect we inflict on ourselves and others. Without an acknowledgment of limits, we cannot really manage our own lives. In effect, we give up real independence for an illusion of independence.

Without the acknowledgment of real limits, we cannot have a conversation with anyone that is real. Without the acknowledgment of limits, we cannot really solve a problem. Real problem solving requires that we deal with reality.

What Is Real Independence?

I think real independence is freedom of choice based on reality.

It is the ability to take in all of the facts about present circumstances and take the course of action that makes the best sense to us.

it is the ability to act in our best interests based on real information.

It is the ability to be fully human  – warts and all.

It is the ability to work toward our goals in a way that is based on reality.

It is the ability to have real conversations, about real issues and work with others in a real way.

Being real is such a wonderful antidote to the “faux” world we live in today, divorced from nature and the reality of life. So much of the time, we are in a prison of illusions about what life “should” be like that we lose all contact with life. Whatever benefit we think our illusory life provides comes at the expense of real satisfaction.

Is it worth it?

Transitioning To A Heart Based World

We are in transition to a heart based world. The changes we are going through may seem imperceptible, but that are happening.

What does it mean to be transitioning to a heart centered world? What is it like to live in a heart centered world? What changes can we expect?

The End Of The Eighties Mantra

I remember in the 1980’s there was a saying that was very popular. It was “don’t leave anything on the table.” The idea was, of course, to grab as much as you could for yourself.

It is easy to condemn it because it is an awful attitude. It has created a country without safety nets and strong communities through greedy behavior when people need some security in their lives.

Of course it was more than that. Greed fits in nicely with ideas about American exceptionalism and puritanical ideas about work and morality. Greed can also feed our desire to feel productive and being busy “producing” can bring a kind of high.

Greed avoids the disdain for those who were poor, or who weren’t greedy.

The End Of An Era

All of the productivity and greed has run its course and landed us in hot water as we deal with all the collateral damage to our environment: human, animal and vegetable. And then there are the systemic issues.

Now we have to change and we are doing that. New movements have spread around the world on human rights, animal rights and protection of the environment.

Some wise thinkers have presaged this age by offering Conscious Capitalism as an antidote. It’s a start but may not be enough.

Fixing The Deeper Problem

There is a deeper problem at work. We have been living in a mind-centered human world. That means that we have believed and acted as if all factors in our world can be controlled and modified by using our minds. Our minds have been used to take care of our appetites which we have valued above all else. Interestingly, our mind have been so overused that the heads of newborns have been increasing over time.

However, the mind is reductionistic and analytical which means that it is not holistic – at least the linear left-sided brain is not – and that is the side of the brain that has been dominant. It reduces everything to its parts.

It also considers limits to be something that will inevitably bend to its will. We are finding out that there are limits to that way of thinking.

Why We Must Transition To A Heart Based World

Thinking of life as just a way to satisfy our appetites is a very limited way of thinking, and reduces our lives to materialistic ends. It is also destructive since our appetites can be limitless and we can do much harm in order to satisfy them.

Forcing people into materialistic lifestyles to survive may fatten some wallets but does little to enrich the world.

In order to create a world that is more sustainable, we have to become heart rather than mind-centered. We have to use our hearts to set limits to our appetites for our benefit, the benefit of our world and all of its life forms.

We really do not have an alternative, and certainly not a better one.

It’s Already Happening

Already we can see evidence of the change occurring:

  • the refusal to continue to allow animal abuse is one of the biggest movements leading the way to a more humane world. Perhaps it is because we can more easily agree that our animal friends deserve our compassion and love. In agreeing on this subject we are agreeing to compassion as a primary human and societal value. it is an important step.
  • the challenging of attitudes and behaviors toward women including rape cultures and sexual and economic exploitation. When we challenge the exploitation of one person, we challenge the exploitation of all. The welfare of women, one half of the world’s population, has been disregarded and devalued even as we have supported the improved living conditions of other groups. Sexism may be the last ism to go, but as it does a tremendous burden of pain and ill feeling will begin to lift as well.
  • the small house movement is growing. Our considerable building and engineering skills are being used to create wonderful livable homes that people can realistically afford without enslaving themselves to an economic system.
  • the internet is opening up education to billions of people so that knowledge is available to all. No longer will information be used as a way to disempower people.
  • In addition the education and personal development efforts of the past 50 years has made so many people strong, that now the people are ready for self government and are challenging top down, hierarchical governing systems. Expect government to become more organic and web-like in its structure.
  • the alternative health movements are picking up steam as more and more people are fed up with worrying about whether or not health care costs will bankrupt them.
  • the slow movement is working to reinvigorate local economies with local food and investment.
  • the commons movement is seeking to create a structure that will protect all that we share: earth, oceans, air and fresh water.

With all of the negative news it is sometimes hard to see how far we have come when we see how far we still have to go.

A New Way Of Life Awaits Us

We are going to be living very differently. The global economy will go. It will be replaced by local and regional economies designed to be resilient and self sustaining, We will be needing some global governance in order to protect all forms of life and all of our resources.

We will spend more time taking care of life’s necessities and the care of our environments and all the creatures they support. Life will be more grounded; we will be reconnected with our environments.

We will become very resource smart to learn to live well on fewer resources. Our time will become ours, not the banks and we will all be happier for it.

Many large institutions will fail as the age of small takes hold. But we need to clean house so in some ways the changes will also be a relief. We can no longer afford institutions that drain us rather than serve us.

I think we will rediscover the joy and beauty of our world, and that is a welcome development.

I am looking forward to a heart centered world. I am looking forward to a more human way of life. I am looking forward to people putting more friendship into our way of living. I think we will all be happier and sleep better.

The Wound Of Materialism

Materialism destroys our environment as this picture shows. It also destroys so much more.

It destroys our humanity.

Every society defines its purposes and priorities. There was a time when the material side of life was extremely lacking and improving the human standard of living was a necessary and important goal. So the Western world, starting in Europe, created an economic system to rectify an existing problem. So far all is well.

Unfortunately, at some point, the goals of society went beyond rectifying serious material deficits and needs. Culture became about materialism: wealth accumulation and fame. This change may have been one of the biggest mistakes we ever made.

All social systems have a stewardship responsibility in society. Stewardship involves considering the past, present, and future. Stewardship honors the broad need for quality of life and sustainability. Stewardship promotes the health of all living creatures and their institutions. It is transpersonal.

When wealth accumulation became the agenda, stewardship went out the window. It pitted one person against another because it was no longer OK to seek to have your real needs met, if you were not part of a wealth accumulation system, you essentially did not exist. Those who could advance the wealth agenda had their needs met over those who were less able to do so (or less interested).

So if it mattered to you that we do not harm the environment unnecessarily then you were not only unimportant but also considered dangerous to the wealth accumulation agenda. If you think getting a good night’s sleep matters then you are not available to work ridiculous hours to further the wealth accumulation agenda. If you think that compassion matters then you may be interfering with profits.

I have heard very intelligent people express a fear of being irrelevant, lost and unable to support themselves. This is not living. In many cases, it is not even surviving. This is, in fact, slavery. And we all know that slavery is very damaging to the essence of a human being or any living creature for that matter.

We are not here just to be used.  We are here to live and to be cherished, and our existing social and economic systems are failing us miserably.

The human race has been demoted to serve a wealth agenda. It is definitely time for change,

And it cannot come soon enough.

Embrace Stewardship Thinking!

What is stewardship?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, stewardship is

the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

There is a big difference between caring for something and caring for something entrusted to one’s care. Stewardship acknowledges that in care there is a community aspect, that we will impact someone else’s life with our care or lack thereof.

Stewardship is the antithesis of self-involvement. It requires involved engagement, willingness to meet all of nature and life on its own terms. As a result, stewardship is a way to make choices that serve everyone without being controlling, because you are making choices with a different objective. With stewardship, you seek the choice that serves everyone and all life forms. So you are making a choice not a demand which is what most forms of management are.

What Is Stewardship Thinking?

Stewardship thinking lets us bring the spirit of friendship and goodwill to the way we handle what is in front of us. It is a way of thinking that recognizes that choices have impact beyond immediate considerations. Its primary value is quality of life both in the short-term and long-term. It does not devalue the long-term to serve short-term considerations.

One of the wonderful things about stewardship thinking is that it respects our history and the contributions of our ancestors whose work has created the infrastructure that supports us. So stewardship thinking respects what it has taken for us to get this far and therefore does not unnecessarily sacrifice the future for present short-sightedness. Stewardship and stewardship thinking are the antithesis of exploitation.

The Relationship Between Stewardship And Values

By placing the values of friendship and goodwill above results, people who operate on a stewardship basis have a better chance of achieving positive outcomes:

  • because there is no adversity in stewardship, only the next step
  • because all life and life forms matter and support each other so decisions and choices need to do the same
  • because in creating a healthy present a healthy future becomes possible
  • because outcomes are the result of processes that are created to support values. Values are the first priority, everything stems from them.

Stewardship thinking sees the interdependence of all things, and so is not in a rush to do harm in any way, since to do so affects the quality of the interdependent web of life. It does not place humans at the center of the universe, it places us as one of many species on our planet. It does not make one life more important than another; it seeks to value all living creatures and looks for ways to positively affect the living of all creatures.

The Benefit Of Stewardship Thinking

There is no in and no out. Everything and all are in – as a result there are no games. There is no one to reject and no fear of rejection. Stewardship in seeking quality of life sets a high standard for decision-making.

Stewardship thinking is holistic so it has space for anyone to contribute to quality of life. Since we all benefit from anyone’s contribution to our well-being, all contributions can be welcome. Since all contributions are welcome and all living creatures matter the spirit of cooperation reigns and there is little need for one upmanship, and power plays.

Stewardship thinking gets rid of the fear that plagues most lives and replaces it with a natural feeling regard that makes everything simpler. If love, as many wise people say, is our natural state, stewardship thinking is our natural way of operating.

Two Different Freedoms

Freedom is an important subject. It is something that we all yearn for and seek in someway. Freedom is also the subject of idealogical and political mischievousness.

We can easily get bogged down and messed up on this subject.

What Is Freedom?

According to Dictionary, freedom is:

  • the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
  • exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
  • the power to determine action without restraint.
  • political or national independence.
  • personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.

Notice how often freedom is presented as freedom from. Only one item on the list the third is freedom to.

Many people think they are the same thing but actually they are not.

Understanding Freedom From

Freedom from, which means freedom from restraint, has been the most sought freedom of the human race.

Slavery has been used for centuries to harness the energy of people to serve the social and economic agendas of ruling classes. Slavery often became socially sanctioned when people, either individuals or groups, were conveniently labeled as bad or deficient. Slavery treats people as children to be controlled, contained and used. It has the additional effect of shifting the investment of social and economic resources to some and not others.

It usually prevents social and economic mobility. No one want to be on the short end of oppression.

What Is Freedom To?

Freedom to is the forward looking freedom. It is the freedom to make our dreams come true. Freedom to is freedom of choice and freedom of expression. It includes the freedom to invest our time where we think best and the freedom to be fully committed to what we are doing. When we feel free to, we feel whole and alive.

It is a wonderful feeling.

Freedom to is the adult freedom. It puts us in charge of our destinies. It is the freedom being discussed when people talk about life without limits. Freedom to has some requirements. It demands the investment of time and resources of all kinds into the personal development of an individual.

Important Differences In Freedom From And Freedom To

Freedom from activates in us a desire to escape. When we are primarily oriented toward freedom from we may develop an escapist way of life.

Although freedom from oppression is wonderful, that freedom does not automatically translate to a life we want to live. That desired life requires skills and effort. Freedom to requires the investment of time, energy and resources but also requires wisdom, patience and determination.

Those necessary personal attributes may not necessarily be apparent when suffering from restriction. Not realizing the personal demands of the freedom to life can lead people to disappointment when freedom does not provide instant rewards.

Social Impact Of Different Freedoms

When some people benefit from the investments to live a life of freedom to, then resentment will naturally occur in those who are not as supported.

However, there is a dark side to these freedoms:

  • freedom to can come at the expense of someone else.
  • lack of any restraint has negative implications. Being unrestricted can turn into greed.
  • freedom purchased on someone else’s back is not freedom but a sophisticated form of oppression.

Resolving The Difference Between The Two Freedoms

Oppression can only exist if some do the work of others. To resolve the difference between the two freedoms we need to:

  • acknowledge all the work that needs to be done in order to sustain us
  • acknowledge the support that each person needs in order to grow into their best self.

Only when we are totally honest about what we need to live and thrive can we create a cultural life that is fully life affirming for each person.

I think it would be a great idea!

Why Responsibility Is Not Enough

Have you ever noticed how the word responsibility gets thrown around a lot? Does it seem strange that in spite of that we have so many pressing problems in our world?

I think it is worth asking why that is.

Responsibility Is Not Stewardship

When we talk about responsibility we are usually referring to tasks:

  • you are responsible for certain tasks in your work.
  • you are responsible for your share of the work at home
  • you are responsible for your health
  • you are responsible for how you treat others.

Notice that all of these responsibilities have a predominantly task oriented short-term focus.

A short term focus is not intrinsically problematic unless that is all that is going on. What is interesting is that this kind of responsibility is very compartmentalized. Therefore it is very difficult to get a big picture perspective and we live with a kind of short-term tunnel vision. When people do not have perspective, they are usually reacting to their circumstances with all of  the negative implications that go with being reactive.

This short term responsibility structure doesn’t just apply to individuals. When individuals who operate this way create groups and organizations, they often create similar structures, institutions and cultures. When the word responsibility is used there is often an implied expectation that we support the status quo – the economic and cultural system that we live in and currently we have a short-term oriented one.

Supporting one’s culture can work some of the time; however, all cultural ecologies have a life cycle. When the system is not longer working and devolving, supporting it may be counterproductive and even self-destructive. It can also mean living in a state of continual crisis.

Why Responsibility Is Not Enough

When we focus on short term responsibilities we may think that we are doing the right thing, and in some ways we are. However there is a considerable downside:

  • we may organize ourselves around taking care of the latest issue or emergency
  • we may spend time being consumed by the emergencies of others.
  • we may chose easier activities which are faster to complete over activities that require more skill and sustained attention.
  • we are likely to ignore longer term maintenance tasks until they become the next emergency.
  • we become short-sighted and neglect important parts of life in favor of survival strategies

Good intentions can get us in a lot of trouble by making it difficult to set priorities in a way that supports us in a long-term and sustainable way.

Crises can take over our lives and prevent us from engaging in any sort of growth and development. We may think that we are doing the right thing by rising to the occasion when a problem presents itself for attention, and actually be shooting ourselves in the foot if we make this process a way of life. In fact, it can feel like we are digging our own grave.

We instinctively known when our way of life is not serving us. If that way of life is the norm, stepping outside of it to make new choices, can be difficult and require a lot of courage.

How Stewardship Helps

Stewardship is a different way of thinking about life. It brings short term and long term considerations together. It is an approach to living that lets us take care of life necessities and maintenance requirements and still have time for personal development. There is no conflict between the two.

Stewardship lets us see beyond current circumstances. It enlarges our responsibility to include our talents and the sustainability of the planet. Stewardship sees beyond the status quo in an ever changing world. Stewardship sees our environment as creating the conditions for our living experience. Our environment is therefore very important and critical to our well being, it is not just there to be consumed and exploited.

At a personal level, stewardship lets us pace ourselves. We can take the time to grow. We can take the time to take care of ourselves. We can align with the larger challenges of our time, do our part and not have the world on our shoulders. We are one of many stewards.

Stewardship is living in the spirit of friendship. It is HSP friendly. It is friendly to all people, in fact. and I think it is what we sorely need right now.

Can Contempt Be Cured?

Underneath all of the pain in the world is a fundamental mistake: the mistake of contempt.

What Is Contempt?

Contempt is an ugly feeling.  According to the Free Dictionary, contempt is:

1. The feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; scorn.
2. The state of being despised or dishonored: was held in contempt by his former friends.
3. Open disrespect or willful disobedience of the authority of a court of law or legislative body.
Contempt, therefore, is an expression of one’s values. For example, a person who is thin might have disrespect for someone who is heavier although heaviness is simply a different body type. People of one political identity or culture can have disrespect for people who are different.

The Social Nature Of Contempt

Contempt can have a strong hold on us because it is something we learn from interacting with others and something that we can experience our whole lives. Since we are all social creatures contempt can make our break our social experience in life. Those who are marginalized and treated with disrespect like highly sensitive people may never find a way to enjoy the social side of life because socializing carries too much pain.

When disrespect dominates the emotional landscape of our lives you may have to choose between being alone and putting up with what amounts to social and emotional abuse. Since this a choice no one wants to make or feel that they have to make it can create feelings of defeat, low self-esteem, and low competence. It can undermine self-confidence.

Contempt And Social Control

Contempt is an important instrument of social control. Contempt is a way to transmit social values to children without being explicit about it. Contempt helps define the behaviors and pursuits that will be socially rewarded or punished. Contempt is used to allow one a seat at the table of life or to exclude you.

Different social and cultural systems value different things and so they have disrespect for different behaviors. When living in an environment that is unsupportive, individuals will develop all sorts of strategies for finding a way to survive what is experienced as a hostile and even dangerous social climate. Some dysfunctional behavior is a way of coping with a toxic environment when someone feels trapped. How many people would have eating disorders if they were living in a kind and loving environment? How many people would use greed as a way to escape the feelings of being unworthy? to build large homes walled off from others? How many people would find purpose in consumerism if they had welcoming and loving communities to be a part of?

The Survival Value Of Contempt

Contempt is a social tool that creates cohesion. So if a group needs everyone to work on growing crops so that there is enough food, contempt, which is a form of emotional and social punishment,  can be a way to ensure that everyone complies. In early human societies getting compliance for survival tasks was a matter of life and death. Contempt for leaving the group, not doing one’s duty, and failure to fulfill one’s sex role tasks affected the ability of the group to survive. From this perspective, we can understand how disrespect was created and flourished in spite of its many harms.

The human race has survived and the survival value of disrespect has abated although one could say that its existence today is dangerous. People do not respond well to contempt. Furthermore, it has an extremely destructive effect.

The Destructive Consequences Of Contempt

Contempt elevates certain behaviors and roles, creates rewards and punishments which drive human investment, social norms and conformity. It creates adversity by turning some behaviors and people “good” and others “bad”. It means that there is something to prove if we are to be labeled “good”. It creates a fear-based world.

By demanding certain behaviors, it turns the judgment about us and our lives over to group norms which is very disempowering. It means that is we can be at risk if we work through our experiences and form conclusions that are different from social norms. Contempt is social insurance for the status quo. It is a defense against change in a world that is constantly changing.  It can make change for an individual and a society difficult.

Healing From Contempt

Highly sensitive people are less attached to social norms than others. It does not light them up. HSPs are nonetheless affected by issues around conformity and fear about being labeled, rejected or even abused. Those fears can make it hard to activate the best of ourselves in service to a healthier, more accepting world.

There are some things that can be done to take back your life from the influences of disrespect:

  • recognize that in reality there is nothing to prove. One way to get a handle on this is from nature. Animals are who they are. A mosquito does not have to prove itself with a giraffe or snake. They are different and serve different purposes. There is no issue and no contempt.
  • recognize that contempt messages may make you pull back from the world. This is natural and it is a good idea to accept this wounded part of yourself. Journaling about your feelings of rejection is a good way to release them. Making journaling a daily practice is a great way to heal your wounded self.
  • develop a “baby step” approach to moving forward in your life. When you do you are less likely to activate inherited disrespect messages and it is easier, as a result, to fully engage in moving forward. When you fully engage you do better work and then you automatically make it easier to avoid contempt messages.
  • remind yourself that disrespect is an old-fashioned social strategy that is not longer useful. Just because you inherited it does not mean that you have to continue it. The world and universe need your best.
  • excellent self-care changes the experience of contempt to one of self-cherishing.
  • create a positive self-statement like: I enjoy bringing my best to the unfolding of life. Simple but it puts you in a positive and contributing place which is the most rewarding place to be.

We all inherit the legacy of contempt and have to deal with it. Cherishing your life and what you have to give is the best way to be a part of the change in the world from self-rejection to self-acceptance. You deserve as much as everyone else to live in the spirit of self-friendship and joy!

Fabulous Reviews For The Emerging Sensitive!


The Emerging Sensitive is now available and getting wonderful reviews. Here are several from Amazon.

The Review Of The Emerging Sensitive By Ane Axford, Sensitive Leadership

“The Emerging Sensitive is an essential resource in supporting highly sensitive people in showing up in relevant ways, and not at a cost to them. It is full of great resources to help a spectrum of highly sensitive people in finding their place and bring their gifts to light.”
“The Emerging Sensitive is an essential resource in supporting highly sensitive people in showing up in relevant ways, and not at a cost to them. The culture we live in has created many challenges to sensitivity and those who are more highly sensitive. Connection has created pain and therefore avoidance for many highly sensitive people. The cost to being present has been the sensitive self. But, it is changing. It needs to change further. I believe our culture will change the more highly sensitive people can join in and offer themselves genuinely, without compromise. I believe strongly in changing the way we all use sensitivity, and this book is a solid contribution to that effort. It is full of great resources to help a spectrum of highly sensitive people in finding their place and bring their gifts to light.”

5 Star Review by Hilary Hawkes for Readers’ Favorite Of The Emerging Sensitive

Maria Hill’s book will be immensely useful and enlightening for anyone who knows or who suspects they may be HSP. The Emerging Sensitive draws on a wealth of well-researched information and it is written in a positive and empathetic style, with terms and theories explained. This will enable readers to begin to understand their innate traits, heal their past hurts, and learn how to function alongside others in a way that is authentic and true to themselves. I was fascinated by the author’s explanations of the way in which humans and the way our societies have been made up has evolved and changed and is changing still – and that movements away from materialistic and cultural systems to more egalitarian and inclusive societies will favor the contributions and abilities of HSPs. The sections on advice on self-care, developing self-assertion and turning sensitivities into assets are sensible, inspiring and doable, and should help HSPs begin to deal with the learned negative self-image, shame and lack of belief they may have spent their lives struggling with. Maria Hill understands the Highly Sensitive Person and the challenges they have always faced – and her hopeful book offers a way to heal emotionally and begin to become “who you were meant to be”. Recommended.

5 Star Review by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite Of The Emerging Sensitive

Your Place in the World is a self-help book written by Maria Hill. Hill discusses a subset of the population who she and others have defined as being highly sensitive people based on Dr. Elaine Aron’s DOES model. She then offers readers who feel they fit within the spectrum a number of ways to understand and function in the non-sensitive culture they find themselves in through the use of frameworks. Many Highly Sensitive persons may find difficulty fitting into the competitive world of business; however, Hill shows how our culture is slowly evolving into one in which the skills and enhanced perception of the Highly Sensitive person will be more in demand. She also discusses ways for such people to develop and apply their unique skills in today’s culture. The author provides a wealth of links, books, and other resources in her appendix.

Maria Hill’s non-fiction self-help book, The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide for Finding Your Place in the World, is a fascinating and well-researched work that will help Highly Sensitive people understand who and what they are, and how their abilities can make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. I recognized in myself some of the traits Hill discusses, and found I was finally able to understand why I seemed slow to process new information or make decisions compared to others, while being a relatively intelligent person. Hill’s work sometimes seems like a sociological or an anthropological treatise, but, at all times, her message is clearly and effectively communicated to the reader. I loved reading her analysis of the history of human culture and was heartened by the optimistic predictions she offers. Her appendix is outstanding and chock-full of resources and support. The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide for Finding Your Place in the World is most highly recommended.

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