Category Archives: Spirituality

Destination: Where the Road is Going


Where is the Road Leading?

Uncertainty about what is ahead makes it hard to focus upon where the road is at today. Looking back at where the journey has been and remembering the safety found in memories of how things were comfortable, manageable, and predictable; there is a desire to go back to a place built in the castle of the mind.  Living in the memory of the past and feeling the uncertainty of the present leaves fear of where the road is going and what will be there when I arrive. A destination is too much to fathom, to fearful to embrace; a place that having no certainty and no familiar faces.  Looking forward to undefined potential reality which can be experienced the call of the destination is understood.  Feeling anxiety in the present experience controlled by idealism about the past holds potential captive bringing ambivalence feeding the hesitation to move forward and embrace the destination: where the road is going.

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The Ethics of Psychology and Christainity in Review of a Theoretical Orientation


The Influence of Theoretical Orientation, Vision, and Values     The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Does the way a theoretical orientation, conceptual vision, and underlying values are possessed have a potential to become an ethical dilemma for a practitioner? The simplest approach to an  answer is to consider how core values have impact decision making processes. Every practitioner is an individual holding  a set of value contained in an orientation that is a part of how decisions are made personally and professionally that express individual person-hood. An example of how personal values have an influence can be illustrated in the evangelical Christian value system which is a minority view among psychologists. For those who hold this point of view, it is reasonable to believe that beliefs held will encounter resistance from some traditional perspectives in the field of psychology.  This potential conflict is noted by Meyer (1988) who describes how psychology programs respond to Christian applicants:

Studies have shown that the religious population, particularly in the traditional institutional sense, is underrepresented in the profession of psychology (Malony, 1972; Ragan, Malony, & Beit-Hallahmi, 1976; Shafranske & Gorsuch, 1984). Gartner (1986) found evidence of an “antireligious prejudice” in admissions to doctoral programs in clinical psychology after sending mock applications to graduate programs (p. 486). What is apparent is that there may be a correlation between religious orientation and acceptance into graduate psychology programs.

If it is true that a bias exists against those who hold certain religious perspectives, a potential conflict may be present in the way candidates in the process of applying for graduate programs face disqualification which may indicate a larger issue of  general attitudes about religious issue in counseling setting.  What is apparent is that there is a noticeable gap in how religious orientation is viewed from traditionally held psychological perspective that may be affecting how the delivery of competent training is cited in this research. An a area of concern that is raised in how will those trained in an atmosphere of bias be adequately be considered competent to provide services to those who make up a a religious culture of clients when appropriate education, training, and ethical development is not represented.

There may be a mythology held by some in psychological education which minimizes religion as a non issue while maximizing scientific approaches as maximum intellectual truth.  The result informs an attitude that posits beliefs and values thought to be scientific as accepted principles for determining how religious people will be treated in matters related to faith.  As a result, the anti-religious sentiment represented establishes an ethical norm systematically imposed upon professional practice through training—educating of graduate students.

One way the disparity can be approached is by providing a reasonable approach to addressing religious issues. Then, determining what ethical issues and which principles may be relative to understanding the disparity. Identifying the philosophical assumptions is the foundation of understanding  for where the source of conflict is created.  Four key assumptions relating to ethical research are, ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological (2010, p. 4)

Both perspective have one fixed reality—ontological, possess an assumption about how truth is sourced—epistemology, emphasis upon certain values—axiology, and a rationale for how decisions are made—methodology. While both would claim to use a scientific approach that is based upon a particular empiricism, the source of conflict is a fundamentally different epistemology. When the question of where truth comes is asked for a Christian the answer is from God, or specifically what is known in a scientific study of theology about God.  For the secular theorist a philosophy of how truth is determined is either Kant’s formalistic rationalism, a utilitarian best case scenario, situational relativity, or contextual ethics.   One holds a Theo-centric epistemology while the other holds an anthropocentric-person, experience centered as a  locus of truth.  Therefore, what is reasonably assumed to be true and translated as a value is what each acts from.  In the same way that cultures differ in beliefs, mores’, and values, cultures, peoples, and races must be understood in context with ethically appropriate behaviors. The disparity that is seen in under-representation and bias among graduate schools indicate a potential ethical complexity and a potential for conflict in inadequate understanding, training, and representations to enable higher levels of competence.

Providing a rationale with support for the ethical conflict can be found within ethical codes prescribed by professional organizations.   Using a problem solving approach to resolve the potential conflict leads to B.1. Respecting Client Rights B.1.a. Multicultural/Diversity Considerations (2005, p. 7) and  2.01 Boundaries of Competence:

Psychologists provide services… within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience … [with] understanding of factors associated with age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status is essential for effective implementation of their services or research (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).

Based upon the principles expressed, the central question raised related to competency.  Is a therapist who was trained in an educational environment that is under-represented, described with a  bias against the culture of conservative religion, reasonably assumed to be competent and comply with the ethical code’s principle of competence?  If the answer is presumed to be negative, what is apparent is that there is an ethical dilemma and the counselor will be challenged to find ways to ethically,  professionally, and competently address a significantly represented cultural group who are underrepresented in multicultural training.

References

Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Amercan Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx

Ford, G. (2006). Ethical reasoning for mental health professionals. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: Sage Publications.

Meyer, M. (1988). Ethical principles of psychologists and religious diversity. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice , 19 (5), 486-488. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.19.5.486.

PhD Weekend experience SOSBS T2. (2010). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Capella University.

The ACA Code of Ethics. (2005). Retrieved October 1, 2009, from http://www.counseling.org: http://www.counseling.org

Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly


Out of Focus Picture

One of the great difficulties that leaders experience is the inability to change when it is necessary to stay vital and continue to experience success. One leadership principle that John Maxwell teaches in The Twenty One Laws of Leadership is that an organization cannot grow higher than the level of leadership at the top. He calls this the leadership lid. Does it seem like your organization is stuck; like someone has put a lid on the top and things have plateaued? It may be that the organization has grown as high as it can go because of the level of leadership it has. One of the reasons that organizations do not grow is because the leader has not been growing and as a result, both the leader and the organization are stuck in a complacent rut of ineffectiveness: everything is out of focus. Staying focused is difficult when you aim is off. One way to stay on track is by keeping a narrow focus. “…pressing towards the mark…” narrowing the focus to define what will be done. It is easy to look around and find someone to blame when things are not going well, but maybe the place to look is in the mirror and realize that when an organization is having difficulty that the answer may be that it is a leadership problem. One of the reasons we fall of track, so often, is that distractions, circumstances, and life change the center of our everyday world. The result is that organizations and leadership gets out of focus.

If there is one thing that will help leaders to continue to be successful, what would that be? People may have many different opinions, but the one defining truth is that leaders must continue to learn, grow, and develop their selves to maintain vitality. Learning to adapt to change is a requisite for leading in today’s leader. Talent Management Perspectives reports that, “Against the backdrop of an ever-changing global business environment and unstable economic conditions, it’s no longer sufficient for leaders to embrace the status-quo …”The organization has to lead change, rapid change. The environment is changing — someone’s inventing something before you expect it or something is collapsing in front of your eyes …’”It’s becoming much more important to deal with change and creativity and innovation and speed and nimbleness,” she said. “Those are part of producing the results; you have to pay attention to those factors”’ (http://talentmgt.com/talent.php?pt=a&aid=1310). It may be that leaders have a lot of information at their disposal, but knowing how to use the information and where to apply change in style, strategy, and innovation will define how leadership will be applied in the context of change.

Personal growth and development are indications of a leaders potential for success. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading. All leaders are learners because there is no growth without change and there is no change without being flexible. When a leader stops growing, he/she becomes inflexible. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of predispositions and attitudes toward having never done it that way before. If the attitude is maintained that, “I want to lead the way I used to lead, the way I’ve always led” is maintained, then yesterdays methods will only yield results in yesterday’s constructs. The attitudes and skills that brought you to this point in your leadership are not going to take you to the future. New problems require new solutions. New situations require new attitudes. New difficulties and new opportunities require new skills and new attitudes. What brought you this far and made you a success – that’s why success creates inability to manage new ideas and challenges, because the rules are forever changing.

The root behind resistance to change is fear. There are times when fear paralyzes forward movement: I don’t want to change because I’m afraid of loss–I’ve done it this way and I feel comfortable with it. Therefore what am I going to lose if I do ministry in a new way? The root is the fear of change. Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, or defending the status quo or striving simply to repeat the past because it worked last, it may be that there is a danger of terminal failure. What’s the key to overcoming this trap in leadership? The antithesis is to never stop developing. Never stop developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart, and what you bring to your leadership.

Skill brings success. You may be dedicated to what you are doing, but if development of the necessary skills is not occurring, the tools you have may not fit a new situation. A farming analogy might be: you can’t use a corn harvester on a wheat field, a cotton picker in an apple orchard. The tools that are used have to match the context, culture, organization, people that you are working within. Consequently, if learning stops then the axiom, that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then they get stuck there, kicks in and drives what will happen.

The Emptiness of a Life Without Meaning


Interstate 70 exit sign for Dayton Internation...
Where will the road go?

There is a preoccupation that people in America have with achieving happiness. Observing the economic downturn and the impact upon people’s lives every day drives home the message that many people today have the right to be unhappy. Everyone wants to know the sense of well-being known as happiness — feeling content, satisfied, and even joyful. Sometimes people feel they need to make a major life change to feel happy, but other times they might derive happiness from just appreciating everything they have and the people close to them. It may be that the path to happiness is to be found in being able to negotiate change in whatever happens to us in life. In the study of life-span development in psychology, there is a paradigm of truth that is taught that says that in each stage of life, we must be building the skills, abilities, and information base to effectively negotiate the changes in life. One of the factors of unhappiness in life is having unrealistic or false expectations of the future. In other words, if something that we believe and experience today is believed to be true for all of time and every season of life, we may be disappointed in the future.

Last week, I watched a special on television special that reported that, “on December 23, 2008, the General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, shut its doors. It was the last plant in the Dayton, Ohio, area to do so … [a] new reality for Moraine—one defined by hardship, resilience, and the end of an era” (http://www.good.is/post/picture-show-the-last-days-of-general-motors-in-moraine-ohio/). This story is the stark reminder of how fragile the American economy is and the impact that the shift from being an industrial economy to a service is having upon the American worker. Gary Smalley (1998) writes that this generation of Americans is the first to not to have the expectation that there life will be better than their parents (The soul search: a spiritual journey to authentic intimacy with God). One of the ways that what is happening in our world may be described is by the emptiness that many are experiencing … troubled by moments of emptiness … that raises the question: Is this it—is this all there is? The answer may be described by getting perspective. Can experiences with such a radical change be peaceful, and even welcome, if viewed with a different mind-set?

It is very true that the way we view life can leave us thinking that life is unfair as suffering the consequences of changes engulfs the experience of life. You can start connecting life to a meaningful existence when you think in a new way about the meaning of life. One of the developmental deficits that is experienced by people is the deception that life will always be as it is today. George Kelley stated that the constructs of life are continually being renegotiated. It is disappointing and detrimental to what life can be to always look through the same binoculars. Tunnel vision in the hopes of life is a subtle form of self-deception. The problem that is faced in self deception is that it becomes a self-defeating behavior that has to be maintained: “Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed it must be habitual and uninterrupted” (William Hazlitt). Breaking free from self-deception is not an easy or painless task, it requires an awareness that how life is understood must be thought of in new terms to bring new meaning to existence.

The problem is that when we deceive ourselves, it is to maintain a sense of control that results from the anxiety of loss of control and feeling of helpless—hopeless, coupled with vulnerability. The results of the deception; the empty feeling left behind and the bad decisions that always births disappointment. Getting out of the trap is the secret and stop interpreting life in terms of disappointment and feeling like a victim. It has been well said that we all have problems: The question is what are you going to do about it? After a reasonable amount of time of experiencing and feeling the pain of the moment, we have to, sorta “suck it up” and figure out what is going to bring meaning to this thing that we call life?

Erickson, who was famous for the Life Stages Theory teaches, that there is a crisis of identity in every stage of life. When there are developmental occurrences, such as tragedy, stressful events, or death, it triggers a new search for identity, meaning, and purpose for existence. If the skills have not been developed in previous stages of life to make the transition, then skills must be built in the here and now to enable continuity and understanding of how to transition and continue to grow. When that does not happen, then life goes on, but there is not the ability to build a bridge to personal spiritual growth and maturity. So what are you going to do? You can wallow in the mud of life or develop yourself to move on.

Accepting and understanding the transitions in life is critical to a dynamic life that continues to grow and develop. Adjustment to new times, seasons, things, and people is necessary if we do not want to be stuck in the mud. Is it change that is the issue or that it forces one to think different, act different, and feel different? Let change be your friend not your foe …. Happiness is a moving target, but meaning is the arrow.