Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power

Mon, 17 Jan 2005

Values and framing

George Lakoff says that in contradicting and interrupting political attitudes and tendencies it is vital to get your values straight. And to use them in framing how we speak about what matters to us. So I thought I'd dig around and see if I could sharpen up what I reckon to be my 'values'. I mean an intelligent person would know what their values are, would have them on the tips of their tongues, wouldn't they? So here goes.

As a therapist it seems to me insufficient to have only an adequate body of knowledge and practice. I feel that it is essential to also have a meta model of what life is about, or to put it more accurately, what is ultimately of value, what is sacred? For me what is ultimately sacred is life itself. Being alive is so astonishly improbable, so remarkable, that as a human value, certainly my human value, it gets a triple underline. What immediately follows from this is that honouring life in all its forms means putting a very high value on the sacred, or as some people would call it spirituality. See 'When to kill an old dog' for some earlier discussion of spirituality.

As I shuffled the pack of thoughts and images that coalesce into the list of what matters to me, what counts, what moves and touches me, next came reflexivity. Reflexivity means 'knowing that we know', it means knowing how we do ourselves, including being aware of the likely extent to which we are unconscious of ourselves. In practice it means sustaining a continuing inquiry into the hows and whys of human existence, the processes of daily life. As I see it, reflexivity is the irreducible core value of psychologizing. And so psychologizing is an intimate partner of the sacred/spirituality, with reflexivity as a bridge between them.

If, however haphazardly and intermittently I am engaged in reflexivity about myself and the world around me, then I can hardly fail to notice the extent to which power is a part of the hows and whys of daily life that I mentioned above. 'Power over', 'power with', 'power from within', to use Starhawk's definition. And so far as we are aware of how we use, abuse, or lose the power we have due to us, we will be aware of its antithesis, love—actively seeking the flourishing of others, and being open to their efforts to support our flourishing.

What does this mean on the day, in the street? Reflexivity, the sacredness of life, and love are presently my core values, the values at the head of the list. These are the values that I try to live from, that you get here if you visit, as you presently are doing, or if you work with me as a practitioner.

To madly mix metaphors, values are spectacles through which we see the world, a compass by which we orient ourselves, a sign post that reminds us of the direction we are choosing to move in, and when they are connected to feeling and emotion they tell us what matters. As an example of what I mean by reflexivity, sometime soon I intend stepping back to make a review of the whole of this inquiry, at which point I guess I'll return to these notions.