Separating Ambition And Greed

Ambition and greed are often thought of as the same thing.

They are not easy concepts for highly sensitive people and can be a source of pain and unhappiness.

Greed does Not Work For Highly Sensitive People

Greed does not work as a life strategy for most highly sensitive people. Part of the reason is physical because it requires a lot of energy directed toward personal gain. Another reason is our natures. We see the dehumanizing side of greed and the destruction of animals and natural resources that is required to sustain greediness. A third reason is that it is our nature to reflect before we act.

We take in so much information that we have a high need to process what we take in and understand it before we leap to conclusions or take action. It helps us to be in integrity with ourselves. Our natures and natural processing style slows us down which means that we cannot do greed very well.

The Effect Of Structural Greed On Highly Sensitive People

Structural greed which is what capitalism is has a significant social effect. Whenever a culture structures itself to achieve an objective it then elevates the values that support it. When a culture is oriented toward making money, then greed becomes a positive value in the culture. Those who manifest the desired value advance in the culture and those who do not fall behind at least in economic terms.

That would not be so bad if social safety nets existed.  Unfortunately, in greed-based societies, they often do not, which means that you either participate in the money-focused structure or you struggle to survive. Many highly sensitive people struggle to survive.

Greed Energy Is Different From Ambition Energy

Greed and ambition are very different energies. Greedy energy is built on fear of not having enough or being enough. Greed is a grabby energy and has a competitive social view. Greed is short sighted. It seek to maximize short term pleasure. Greed energy is hoarding since you can never be certain about survival in a competitive world. Greed is a lonely world view. Each person under its spell is essentially on his/her own.

Ambition is a very different energy. Ambition is for something or someone. Ambition requires some kind of improvement because all ambition seeks some kind of benefit. You cannot be short sighted and be successfully ambitious because ambition requires a long term effort to become fulfilled. As a result, ambition develops a different set of abilities.

The Benefits Of Embracing Ambition

Ambition is a way for us to release our natural positivity into the world. It is a way to take our place and to serve the evolution of the world. Where greed is primarily grabby, to be ambitious we need to take stock of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses to identify our unique potential contribution to the world.

Ambition requires that we develop ourselves and work at turning our raw potential into something that becomes useful to ourselves and others. It requires sustained effort and commitment in a particular direction over time. Ambition is an enhancing energy. It creates something new and therefore is a part of our evolution. Greed is depleting. Ambition adds.

Ambition For HSPs

Ambition can be embraced by highly sensitive people. Naturally we have to choose to direct it in a way that works with our values, however, it is a wonderful way for us to work with all the insights we gain from being highly sensitive and direct them in a way that offers something new and beneficial to the world.

Ambition in health, the arts, and other humanistically oriented disciplines lets us work slowly to develop our ideas and lets us be who we are. As numerous researchers have found, it takes a long time to become good at anything. 10,000 hours, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, and discussed in this recent article in the New Yorker, is a requirement to realize significant ambitions.

The more complex our world the greater our need for people who are ambitious enough to tackle subjects that require ambitious commitments of time and energy. Being ambitious is a great way for highly sensitive people to put their natural depth to work and also a great way to turn our ruminating into something positive. Ambition is not about greed; it is about serving the larger good. As a result, it is perfectly suited to the highly sensitive among us.

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.

Is Poverty A Fault?

Do you ever feel that it is wrong to be poor?

Do you sometimes feel that to be poor is a mark of failure?

Several days ago I read an article by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed In America, that challenges the common views in the United States about wealth and poverty.

She demonstrates how poverty evolved from being a condition of someone’s life to a cultural idea.  The change in our definition of poverty grew out of a book published the 1960’s and written by Michael Harrington. It was titled:  The Other America.

The book asserts that the poor are different from everyone else and interprets poverty to be a result of a flawed character. In other words

  • it is wrong not to be wealthy
  • it is a fault to live modestly
  • if you are not greedy there is something wrong with you
  • circumstances do not result in poverty; it is an innate condition coming from poor internal controls and profligate habits.

It is interesting that this book was published at the time that many individuals in economic minorities were entering the economic life of the country. Blacks, hispanics, and women were moving from dependent roles to full economic citizenship just as poverty and wealth were being redefined!

The “wealth is good” mindset served a number of purposes:

  1. it made an economic safety net the problem of the individual rather than the community. So any safety net was an act of generosity not a matter of responsibility or good citizenship.
  2. it immediately diminished any individual or groups who were not wealthy.
  3. each individual had to take care of their own safety net, which creates a hoarding mentality.
  4. as our population exploded, supply and demand created rising prices.  In order to take proper care of yourself, you needed more and more success in order to afford the best care – health care etc.
  5. individuals became more attached to careers to survive in this climate which reduced their investments in family and community.
  6. increased attachment to short-term financial concerns reduced loyalty to long-term sustainability concerns  – all in the interest of survival.

The “survival of the wealthiest” culture is a culture of stinginess.  It rewards those who pay the least and charge the most.  It is tailor made for a society with a burgeoning population and few safety nets.

When wealth became “normal” for our culture, it was a way of thinking that supported American exceptionalism and the material demands of our economic machine. All societies create a story that supports its intent, and our current society is no different.

As our environment collapses under the weight of our unrealistic identity, we need to start asking some questions.
  • are we only an economy or are we really a culture?
  • is generosity towards our fellow man really more expensive that a destructively consuming society?
  • how can the local community create a resource smart society
  • is snobbery our highest value?  How about health and well-being?

Perhaps the most important question we can ask is how do we create a cultural story that is worthy of our long term attention that honors each individual and the wonderful earth we inhabit?

How To Beat Triumphalism And Heal Emotional Wounds

Emotional wounds are very difficult to heal. They are even harder for highly sensitive people to recover from.

Have you ever wondered why that is?

What Happens To Emotional Wounds?

What is an emotional wound? An emotional wound is damage to our spirit and therefore our life force. It is an attack on our heart and soul. When we have an emotional wound it becomes part of our body and psychic system and stays there until healed.

For highly sensitive people the healing process is longer than for others. We get hurt more often, we see the hurt in the world around us and can be overwhelmed by the damage being done. We can feel wounded and helpless. Our bodies can become littered with unhealed emotional wounds which can make it very difficult for us to function.

As it is, we are already challenged by our sensitivity and stress levels so if we are harmed with emotional wounds, our health and well-being can be in serious trouble.

Do You Reinjure Yourself?

Emotional healing can be more difficult because we reinjure ourselves. Reinjury can happen with our intending it. The biggest cause of our reinjury and our greatest potential for healing comes from understanding the systemic nature of reinjury.

I appreciate the need for acountability and responsibility, however, we cannot heal unless we know what we are up against so that we can take constructive action. What we are up against is an approach to life called triumphalism.

What Is Triumphalism?

According to Wikipedia

Triumphalism is the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, religion, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others. Triumphalism is not an articulated doctrine but rather a term that is used to characterize certain attitudes or belief systems by parties…

Triumphalism, then, is a group attitude shared by the individuals involved. Because of its social nature, it can be the basis of the group’s identity. Nationalistic, patriotic, religious and other groups often subscribe to triumphalism.

Triumphalist groups act to conquer others. Conquest is one of their primary missions.

If you examine modern cultural discourse, much of it has to do with conquest. Even those sectors of society that we think of as helping us like health care us conquest as their model:

  • conquering the common cold,
  • conquering various diseases
  • conquering old age

are all ways of speaking and talking about health. It’s all about an adversary that we are trying to subdue.

Triumphalist thinking about health care is evident in the media. Look at the television show House. Every show is a triumph against another health adversary – almost killing the patient.

How Triumphalism Hurts Us

Triumphalism is systemic therefore we encounter it every day in one form or another:

  • in other people
  • in social settings
  • at work
  • even in our families if that is how they think.

Unfortunately we are not having a public discourse on triumphalism, so it can be very difficult to get a handle on. When we discuss problems they tend to be thought of as individual problems. By personalizing problems in a triumphalist system, we put the burden of compliance on the person while expecting them to support a triumphalist system that can only hurt them. We essentially have stacked the deck against the individual without being really honest about it.

In a triumphalist system, your value is dependent on your contribution to sustaining that system. If you do not subscribe to triumphalist thinking then you perceived value automatically goes down. That can be very frightening in a world with few safety nets.

Triumphalism shows up in our daily interactions with others. It is the source of snobbery and one upsmanship because triumphalism pits one against the other. If you are not into competitive social engagement and most HSPs are not, then you may feel very out of sync with your world. Because you are!

How To Heal Those Emotional Wounds

Healing emotional wounds take time but here are some tips to heal from triumphalism and take your life back:

  1. take stock of your life and how many wounds may have come from triumphalist thinking and behavior that caused you to feel devalued or worse
  2. take stock of how much triumphalist thinking is a part of your life through
    • work
    • family
    • friends
    • activities
  3. recognize that you may need to make some changes to reduce the incidence of triumphalist events and people in your life.
  4. list where you have more collaborative relationships and see if you can develop more.
  5. if your work environment supports you, terrific! If not look at how you can use your current skills in a more creative or collaborative environment and consider starting a process of job change.
  6. see if those who have harmed you are in the triumphalist camp and whether you can let go of the negative experience. If you see that behavior as unacceptable to you and one that you are phasing out of your life, your constructive action can help make it easier to forgive and let go.
  7. develop strong self care routines. Nothing defeats triumphalism like great self care. Take great care of yourself is actually a revolutionary act.

You Can Heal

By treating triumphalism as an impersonal and mistaken approach to living, you can take back your life, honor your past, and elevate your needs for healing and quality of life. Depersonalizing the hurtful behavior helps you pull your energy in so that you are not available for further destructive interactions. You will be freeing yourself for more positive relationships and pursuits. You will also be freeing yourself to develop your creative potential.

HSPs have suffered for a long time from the dark side of triumphalism.

We deserve better and should give ourselves the better lives we deserve.

Is The Quick Fix Killing Us?


Is the quick fix killing us?

Until the capitalistic system emerged which harnessed nature to satisfy unmet human needs, the history of the human race had been a history of poverty and misery. Our current economic system came into being to solve the problem of poverty and now it seems to be returning us to poverty.  It is worth understanding why.

At the risk of stating the obvious, our environmental condition is dire, and our institutions, infrastructure, educational system and social system all need serious overhaul.  We have less than 40-80 years of topsoil left.  How are we going to feed ourselves, let alone the rest of the world? The side effects of relying on unrestrained markets for our economic well-being are destroying us.

The primary value of capitalism is growth, not health. So tradeoffs are made compromising our health in order to promote growth. This compromise occurs in all areas of life: health, infrastructure, social safety nets, environment etc. Capitalism is a short-sighted system.

Take health for example. Although we have health care in the United States, health is not a value that we promote.  Many of us work ridiculous hours under exceptionally stressful conditions never knowing when we will lose our jobs and homes, hanging on by a thread hoping to survive.  We eat too much processed food that is a prescription for illness. We medicate ourselves to keep going because often we are afraid not to or don’t know what else to do. Taking care of our health is hopping on a treadmill, popping vitamins and supplements.  If it isn’t a quick fix it’s probably not on our agenda.

The Quick Fix Is Pervasive

Unfortunately our society handles everything this way.  Where in our society do we approach our lives in a way to support our long-term health and well-being? Where do we or can we opt for something other than the quick fix? We are so used to the pendulum of crisis and the quick fix that we are often stuck and unable to find other options. We have become a society living off one quick fix after another, without the ability to stop and question the wisdom or consequences of this approach. Our society is like a runaway train.

The quick fix problem did not happen overnight.  In fairness, when capitalism came into being the human lifespan was short: 30-40 years.  Needs were dire, and natural resources plentiful compared to the number of people on the planet. Wikipedia estimates that the human population around 1805, close to the beginning of capitalism, was 1 billion and reached 2 billion in 1920. It took another 20 years to reach 3 billion and since then the human population has exploded.

So there are legitimate reasons for the quick fix problems we are facing.  It is difficult to keep up in a world of 7 billion people.  Dealing with the needs of 7 billion people does not leave a lot of time for long term strategy.  At an individual level it is a little bit easier, but at a systemic level, it is more challenging because one crisis after another will consume time and other resources. In the end, it sucks us all in at one time or another. Over time, all parts of our cultural ecology start to see wear and tear due to the depletion of resources and lack of maintenance.

It does not help that our capitalistic system in its race for the sale demands that everything occurs at breakneck speed.  If you are not fast, you are toast!  No wonder so many people are stressed, exhausted and depressed. Speed is not known for creating wise decisions or long-term thinking.

Since we support this system that creates solutions for our needs, we have been opting to sacrifice many resources to sustain it: our health, families, communities, and environment. We have sacrificed so much that the entire human and natural ecology is at the point of collapse.

There is a way out of this quick fix mess, a way to get off the runaway train, but it will take a new way of thinking.  It will take a holistic perspective, long-term strategies and a willingness to give up the short term quick fix for the long term benefit of all. HSPs are perfectly suited for this new way of being and will have a lot to do with leading us to a new way of life.

Why Is Generosity So Difficult?

Generosity is something we all want and often struggle with.

Why is that?

Ambivalence About Generosity

We tend to respond to generosity with warmth, happiness and joy. We also naturally respond to stinginess with repulsion, hurt and fear. Of course negative experiences can cause us to have more complicated feelings.

However we need to function in the world and with each other so we develop coping strategies. One such strategy that is culturally supported is the positivity movement which encourages positive thinking as a way to be in the world. Unfortunately positivity has come to be perceived as a way of not being real. Perhaps it is our own need for supportive connection that causes us to demand positivity and reject negativity. We can lose a lot in the process.

Generosity is loaded with ideas about power, what it means to be a good person, our survival needs, or needs to be respected and valued. It is an important factor in issues of discrimination and injustice.

It is also something that feels good. We all know the feeling of pleasure we get from being generous. It is the best part of the holiday season that we celebrate each year. Yet if one person gives more than another or has more than another, that largesses may feel uncomfortable.

Generosity And Vulnerability

Everything we do can remind us of our vulnerability. We are especially affected by our relationships. Our yearning for connection can be thwarted in many ways:

  • rejection can cause us to pull back from others
  • our competitive society which thrives on comparisons may be a factor in our feelings of being vulnerable with others
  • we may react to macho values of stoicism and be embarrassed by our vulnerability
  • we may see vulnerability as a weakness and be treated that way by others.

If we have experienced any shaming in our early years we are unlikely to be comfortable with generosity.

Generosity And Nature

One of the wonderful things about nature is that its existence is an act of generosity towards us that rewards us over and over just by being in it. One of the best parts of life for many people is being in nature or with animals in nature or as pets. It is one place where our generosity can express itself with little interference from intrusive thoughts about power, injustice and exploitation.

With animals in particular we are able to feel our kindred relationship with another species and have it be a warm and nurturing experience. Our generosity often comes naturally. With humans not so much.

Why Generosity Is So Important

Without the ability to be generous we are not truly free. We are shut down, and our energy is turned into ourselves in a way that is painful. It is really important that we find a way to enter our generosity in a constructive way so that we can experience the connection and joy that we yearn for.

I personally think that to increase the generosity and joy in our lives we need to go slowly and look for ways to safely increase our positive experiences of generosity and positive social connection. It helps to take baby steps and even write in a journal about our experiences. It is important in creating connection to be mindful of the vulnerability of others and seek ways to help others have less fear around connection.

Generosity is the expression of our own natural goodness and gratitude for what we have. The more we express it the better our lives can become.


The End Of Economic Man

Who is economic man?

Economic man is a human creation, an identity we invented to serve a specific purpose.

Economic Man And The Age Of Enlightenment

Many people think that with the Enlightenment we invented freedom. That is a myth. What we really invented was what I call “economic man” or the identity suited to the Industrial Age.

According to Wikipedia, The Age Of Enlightenment

was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition,[1] intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state.

Religions ruled the world until the emergence of science during the Age of Enlightenment .  Science became the antidote to superstition and religious abuses of power from those religious systems and the basis and justification for economic and political changes.

These changes were not just political changes. Our ways of learning and knowing were undergoing a revolution because we had new ways of discovering and evaluating information through scientific process. The scientific process created a way for us to formalize trial and error which led to new methods of making goods which in turn made improvements in our standard of living. The contribution to human life of this age has been substantial.

Why We Changed

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, human needs were largely unmet, living standards miserable and life spans short. So we developed manufacturing capabilities to meet out needs. Since the needs were high and life spans short, we use short-term strategies to create support for this new system so that it could meet the needs of so many more people.

What we created was

  • scientific methods to help us develop tools and materials
  • capitalism
  • consumption
  • money as an indicator of status
  • more participatory political systems

Enter Economic Man.

Who Is Economic Man?

Economic man is the human being empowered to

  • negotiate and manipulate
  • bend the living systems of the world
  • to use nature to support human life
  • be opportunistic
  • work for himself and his own desires.

Economic man is about the trade. Economic man is about performance. Economic man is entrepreneurial. Economic man is not humanitarian although many living standards have improved because of economic man’s emergence.

The High Cost Of Opportunism

Where life before the Enlightenment was regulated by religious systems, the Enlightenment developed human social structures to support opportunism. It was a value that could foster innovation, create many products and solve many material problems.

Opportunism has a strong energy and people feel empowered when they are opportunistic. There is a catch, however. Opportunism is not creativity. It is not necessarily a life affirming value. It is often adversarial, and too frequently rewards those who get the better of others, fostering inequity and unhappiness.

Opportunistic societies place little value on friendship so they only satisfy some of our needs, and not our deepest needs. Opportunism is relentless. When it become a lifestyle it is a bottomless pit, an addiction. When it becomes a society’s dominant value, it creates inner conflict because it pits external values against the deeper more humanitarian needs of the individual. This inner conflict can be destructive and take a lot of energy.

Although winning can be fun, sustained winning is an energy drain and consumer of resources. At some point everyone becomes exhausted. This is where we find ourselves today – drained by too much opportunism and too many claims on our fragile resources. The costs now outweigh the benefits.

You could say that the Enlightenment has been too successful. We now live longer, have more and there are more of us.

So perhaps we can give thanks that we are being given the opportunity to wake up and find more important treasures worthy of pursuing in life: friendship, nature, our creative and spiritual sides. For HSPs the change couldn’t be more welcome.

A Holiday Wish

It has been a strange holiday season this year.  Perhaps because of the mercury retrograde or perhaps because of all the change in the air. For me, it has been a season of thinking, this time about appreciation.  No, not the why don’t they appreciate me whine.  Something different.

I was thinking about our current messed-up state here in the United States, and I was remembering that back in the 50’s and 60’s there was an idea that we were entering a new age of leisure, that we had such sophisticated machines and they would do everything for us. We had it made. Whatever our demands were they would be satisfied.

That thinking has stayed with us for at least a half century.  It inspired an IBM ad not too long ago about an on-demand world. Just snap your fingers and it will be done.  In just snapping our fingers, we have also closed our eyes to what it takes to deliver on our demands, and what it costs us and our environment to do so.  Our natural empathetic natures became unnecessary, unwanted and even in the way.

The cost has been much higher than we imagine. Our on-demand world has cost us a grounded relationship with process: natural process, manufacturing process, all process.  It means that we have lost relationship, the art of working things through, and the ability to know how to direct ourselves in response to the dynamics of living. Our desires and demands have made all of that irrelevant?

Our disengagement from our world behind the shield of entertainment doesn’t protect us from reality.  Pushing a button is not wisdom in action. Our disengagement means that we do not know what to appreciate or why.  We have delegated our lives and without the experience of living in process how do we begin to take them back?

There is one group of people who does not have the luxury of acquiescing to the current system.  Our humble and creative HSP’s are more engaged with process than any other group.  We take in everything and have to deal with it and are often alone in doing so.

Highly sensitive people have a capacity for appreciation that is exceptional.  All the processing of sensory information, thoughts, feelings and experiences gives us a library of information for working with a dynamic world. HSP’s are the people who can lead us back to a groundedness with our world.

It is my wish for HSP’s this holiday that they take a moment to appreciate themselves, as the stars in the tree that hold the light we need to bring us to a new communal understanding.  You are truly special and worthy of very high regard. Please celebrate your gifts to the world in this holiday season.