Heal Thyself: How to Repair Interpersonal and Cultural Injuries

Keith Witt Integral Live, Perspectives, Presentations, Psychology, Video, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 1 Comment

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The Buddha had it right with “life is suffering”! We all regularly feel injured by other people, our own interior struggles, cultural events, or random chance. Repairing these injuries is a big deal! Luckily, Integrally informed psychology can help us recognize and repair injuries. In this upcoming episode of Live with Dr. Keith we’ll talk about how we all become injured and the steps we often need to take for effective repair.

Injuries happen when intersubjectivity is wounded, leaving a subjective sense of threat and disconnection.

  • In relationships, the painful rupture in the intersubjectivity is experienced in the lower left as the other hurting us through malice or selfish/uncaring thought, action, or inaction. In the lower right we create and instinctively maintain conceptual structures explaining our lower left experience–with enough distortion to make our level of subjective injury feel proportionate to the level of objective wrongness.
  • Culturally, the injury is experienced in the lower left as cultural others behaving in immoral or unwise fashion in ways that hurt and outrage us. In the lower right we create and instinctively maintain conceptual structures explaining and justifying our lower left experiences–again with enough distortion to make our level of subjective injury and outrage feel proportionate to the level of objective wrongness.

Attribution theory is the study of how humans instinctively shift their impulses and beliefs in response to emotional and instinctual demands.

  • On the individual/interpersonal level, this means we amplify or numb emotions and distort beliefs to make our amplified emotions proportionate, and our destructive impulses to attack, flee, or submit seem like the right things to do.
  • On the cultural level this means objectifying groups in pejorative ways that justifies us avoiding, attacking, or dismissing them.
  • Both these responses are part of our instinctual social programming. When experiencing threat (often associated with otherness or difference, we have instincts to avoid or attack. For instance, areas with high parasite loads tend to be more authoritarian, have less travel, and have more fear of strangers–perhaps a genetically based social immune response. We can’t eliminate drives, but we can integrate them into more mature, world-centric consciousness where we unconsciously experience more and more people as related, or part of our tribe.

Time matters: The longer an injury continues, the deeper the separation and defensive conditioning.

  • Individually there are thresholds of intensity or durations where we temporarily execute the other psychologically–reject them as people. This is quicker, more intense, and more rigid (with more black and white hostile stories that resist influence), the less mature we are on the integration-of-defenses line of development. This is slower, more compassionate, and more flexible (more able to receive caring influence and be soothed into compassionate understanding) the more mature we are on the integration-of-defenses line.
  • Culturally, the longer the injury continues, the more we pathologize and dismiss despised other groups as less worthy human beings. Eventually the dismissal becomes part of the mythic structure underlying the amber aspects of the social structure leading to pathological nationalism, racism, sexism, and other forms of culturally sanctioned dismissal and oppression. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict and racism in America are examples.

Repair is taking a stand for cocreating a shared human intersubjectivity of compassion and connection–essentially a sense of shared humanity of me and other(s) as well-meaning but flawed human beings.

Repair on the local level usually involves:

  • Recognize there is a problem that requires repair.
  • Calm yourself down.
  • Get what the other is saying to his or her satisfaction.
  • Say what you agree is true and right about the other’s points.
  • Look for shared understanding. Combine your truths with his or hers in a way that feels right to you both. This starts as an internal dialectic where you see both sides and reach for shared truths, and progresses to an interpersonal dialectic where you both are collaboratively reaching for shared truths.
  • Make some progress.
  • Create warm contact.
  • Be prepared to be triggered again eventually. Most injuries in relationships arise out of relational defensive patterns that change slowly over time as they keep being enacted, even as people work to change them. Resolve to keep bringing the repair steps to bear in the face of provocations with a growth mindset of effort and progress being the gold standard.

Repair on the cultural level usually involves:

  • Recognize there is a problem that requires repair.
  • Calm yourself down.
  • Listen for the sense of injury and yearning in the other group’s position, combined with how it makes sense to their LL and LR sensibilities.
  • Recognize what you agree is true and right about the other’s points.
  • Look for shared understanding. Combine your truths with the cultural others in a way that potentially could feel right to you both. This starts as an internal dialectic where you see both sides and reach for shared truths, and progresses to a position of interpersonal dialectic where you both experience an intersubjectivity of shared truths and advocate for them.
  • Know your social responsibility to take a stand for progress, which always involves maintaining a sense of your shared humanity.
  • Be prepared to be triggered–reinjured–repetitively, and commit to long term progress in yourself. Resolve to keep bringing the repair steps to bear in the face of triggers and provocations.

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Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.

Comments

  1. Speaks wisdom to a deeply hurting world and inspires us to reach out to the wounded around us – thank you!

    And profound thanks for providing downloadable versions, which help to ingrain the training through repeated listening while on the move.

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