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Unit 9- Discussion B
Complete the Meaning Exercise p. 82
Discuss the following
- Do you see yourself as more communal or agentic, extrinsic or intrinsic?
- What characteristics speak to where you are at?
- Is this something that is related to your current age/stage? Do you think it is likely to change as you get older (and take on new roles, relationships, responsibilities etc?
Unit 10- Discussion A
After reading the new reading Read How Knowledge of Death Affects our LivingActions .Discuss an example of how a threat or challenge to your worldview (or the worldview of your group or nation) and your self-esteem has caused anxiety and a defensive reaction, whether personally, politically, or internationally.
Question #1: Describe the difficulty you bounced back from and explain how you exhibited resilience by successfully addressing it through exercising your strengths and abilities and/or by drawing upon what you have learned from past experience where you have overcome a difficulty in your life. After you describe your setback, then you should explain how you overcame it in a narrative format relating to at least two of the following:
- From the Big Five Personality exercise (R51) and on-line inventory, I drew on my strengths of perseverance and conscientiousness.
- From the VIA Character Strengths Inventory, I drew on my strengths of perseverance, hope and creativity
- From my emotional competencies (p. 57), I drew on adaptability, achievement drive, and adaptability.
- A past setback in my life was the failure to secure a large grant to develop an elaborate program for adults at the College. I regrouped and submitted another, smaller grant that resulted in the development of Adults in Transition, which has proven more lasting than what would have resulted from receiving the larger grant. This experience provided me with the confidence and a strategy to address the setback being addressed now.
Question #2: Describe the difficulty and explain how it functioned as a “transformative episode” through which you learned new lessons in life, gained new insights into yourself and others, and in the process have structured a more meaningful and purposeful life for yourself. After you describe your setback, then you should explain how you responded to it in a narrative format relating to at least two of the following:
- From the Narrative Growth Themes (p. 82) and from the related List of Needs (p. 45), I shifted away from a concern for achievement and moved more towards impacting others by nurturing (helping/teaching) them.
- This relates to the shift I experienced by moving from Extrinsic themes like status (and possibly fame and money) to more Intrinsic themes like personal growth and contributing to future generations.
- As far as Systems of Meaning, things like status and wealth have given way to fulfillment of potential. And while pursuit of knowledge remains a dominant part of what gives my life meaning, it is now more in the service of others within the context of the classroom.
Unit 9- Discussion B Complete the Meaning Exercise p. 82 Discuss the following Do you see yourself as more communal or agentic, extrinsic or intrinsic?What characteristics speak to where you are at?I
HOW KNOWLEDGE OF DEATH AFFECTS OUR LIVING DEATH: THE WORM AT THE CORE In their book The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life (2015) , psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski make the case that the knowledge of our inevitable demise has a profound effect on our behavior as individuals and as members of society. What these authors have done in their research is show the interconnection among fear of death, desire for self-esteem, and the need to proclaim the superiority of our own cultural group over all others. The theory that they have developed is known as Terror Management. 1 Note: There is another school of thought on this topic called the Meaning Maintenance Model, which asserts that death is not the only thing that triggers anxiety sufficient to challenge our self-esteem and worldviews–which they refer to as meaning frameworks (Beck, 2015; Webber, Zhang, Schimel, & Blatter, 2015). That said, these theorists would be in substantial agreement with the other points described below, based on The Worm at the Core . WORLDVIEWS AND SELF-ESTEEM Confronted with the reality of death, societies have developed a cultural response. “Our shared cultural worldviews— the beliefs we create to explain the nature of reality to ourselves—give us a sense of meaning, an account for the origin of the universe, a blueprint for valued conduct on earth, and the promise of immortality” (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pysczynski, 2015, p. 8). Within this context, the authors differentiate between literal and symbolic immortality, with the former tied in with some form of afterlife and the latter with the idea that a piece of ourselves lives on, whether through our family, our accomplishments, or just being part of a society that has permanence. Self-esteem, as discussed in an earlier section of the workbook, has to do with self-worth and includes the tacit dynamic of self-evaluation. Previously we discussed the connection between self-esteem and attachment theory, and saw the importance of developing trust during infancy and childhood. In our early years our parents provide us with the understanding that we are good and valued, but as we grow, society takes over this role. 1 Much of Terror Management Theory is grounded in the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, whose book The Denial of Death was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1974. And when this happens, the same benefits of safety and security that we felt in the presence of our parents are subsequently provided by society. Stated another way, being a valued member in an enduring society keeps our anxiety at bay. Our self-esteem and our society become enmeshed, and with it a sense of permanence that enables us to cope with death and related anxieties. The bottom line is that “psychological equanimity depends on maintaining the belief that one is a valuable contributor to a meaningful world” (p. 8). BUT BEWARE Being invested in maintaining the conviction that we are valued persons and are part of a meaningful culture can be comforting, but it can also lead to trouble—especially when those beliefs about self and society are challenged by others who hold different beliefs. This can happen at both individual and collective levels. If someone from a different religion or political party challenges one of our personal beliefs, it causes anxiety. It taps into our emotions. We can, literally, feel it in our gut. At the societal level, when another country challenges us, we experience similar anxiety, and that can lead to potentially dangerous collective responses, as the history of warfare has shown. And how do we respond when we are so challenged? We typically turn against the person or country that is challenging our beliefs and cultural worldview. We can’t let it stand that they might be right, because if they are, we might be wrong—which, in turn, threatens our self- esteem. The most common ways we have of dealing with this threat is to dehumanize or derogate (belittle) the source of the threat. At the national level we call our enemies immoral, savages and evil doers. History is full of examples of countries dehumanizing their foes: the most infamous being the Nazi portrayal of Jews as being like rats—less than human and therefore fair game for extinction. Exacerbating this tendency is the influence of “Heroic Nationalism.” Humans have a tendency to see their country as being unique and exceptional. Nationalism, as so often happens, “acquires a sacred dimension when group identity is strengthened by the sense of being ‘chosen people’ of distinctive character and origin who inhabit a hallowed homeland with a heroic history and limitless future” (p. 116). Viewing themselves as such, it is no wonder that countries are ever ready to march off to war against one another. On the personal level, research shows that when death anxiety is provoked, “Christians denigrate Jews, conservatives condemn liberals, Italians despise Germans…and people everywhere ridicule immigrants” (p. 132). Related to this, the authors make the case that throughout history men have denigrated and dominated women as a means to bolster their own sense of self-esteem. Likewise, this dynamic could be said to be present with racism, where one racial group sees itself as superior to another, boosting its self-esteem in the process. BETWEEN THE ROCK AND THE HARD PLACE The section of the workbook on morality and ethics addressed the topics of Individualism/autonomy vs. community /conformity , as well as relativism, moral objectivism, and absolutism . In the closing pages of The Worm at the Core, the authors address similar themes as they suggest that there are two general types of worldviews, which they describe as the rock and the hard place. They then weigh the benefits and pitfalls of each of these worldviews as a means to help us find a way to deal with our own existential anxiety. The rock is a black-and-white scheme of things, with explicit prescriptions for attaining literal and symbolic immortality. Unfortunately, many people who subscribe to rock views fervently proclaim their beliefs to be absolute truths, and they insist that they can unambiguously differentiate between good and evil. …The rock-type worldview tends to foster an us vs. them tribal mentality that, as we have seen, breeds hatred and inflames intergroup conflicts. The alternative to rock worldviews is the hard place : conceptions of life that accept ambiguity and acknowledge that all beliefs are held with some measure of uncertainty. Although adherents to the hard place take their beliefs and values seriously, they are open to other sides and refuse to claim the sole ownership of the truth. … So we are caught. The rock provides psychological security but takes a terrible toll on those victimized by angry and self-righteous crusades to rid the world of evil. The hard place yields perhaps a more compassionate view of the world but is less effective at buffering death anxiety. Somehow we need to fashion worldviews that yield psychological security, like the rock, but also promote tolerance and acceptance of ambiguity, like the hard place. (pp. 222-224)