I’ve started formulating a framework for a transformative approach to both personal and planetary healing work. This framework is still in its early stages, but I’m feeling inspired to write about it, so I thought I’d share.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry titled “The Future Refused To Change.” This entry explored the dystopian future that has been set into motion by an interlocking network of social, economic, and political institutions. These institutions concentrate money and power into the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Climate change and other ecological disruptions are rendering our planet increasingly difficult to live on, while Big Business and Big Government are making our economy and society increasingly difficult to thrive in. If we take no action, our world will be reduced to a smouldering ruin by these institutions.
On what seemed like a separate tangent, I’ve also been exploring and reflecting on all of the ways in which individuals and groups fail to communicate and cooperate effectively with one another. Different people hold different perspectives on the nature of interpersonal relationships, social/economic/political structures, community development strategies, and reality itself. If their hearts and minds aren’t open to including the wisdom (and transcending the shortcomings) of multiple perspectives, then they end up simply fighting with each other.
As I was walking home tonight, it occurred to me that there is a healing response that speaks to both of these problems. There are seldom simple solutions, but I believe I’ve come up with a simple framework for our thoughts and actions that can lead us to discover many creative and effective solutions to our personal and planetary problems. That framework can be summed up in a single word:
A catalyst causes or accelerates a process of transformation by its very nature and presence in a situation. Catalysis has a very specific meaning in chemistry, but this technical definition serves as a metaphor for the quickening presence of individuals in communities and communities in societies. And just as a chemical reaction requires a balance of the right elements and conditions, personal and planetary catalysis requires a balance of the right elements and conditions.
On the level of interpersonal and group dynamics, one such balance is the golden mean between coddling and trolling.
Coddling is the process of inhibiting healthy development by enabling unhealthy behaviors. This is usually done out of a sense of compassion, with the coddler not wanting to challenge the individual or group because of the discomfort that is likely to result from such a challenge. But ultimately, coddling does not serve the coddled. It avoids short-term discomfort at the expense of long-term growth and evolution.
Trolling is the process of inhibiting healthy development by attacking healthy behaviors. This usually arises out of a sense of callousness, because the troll either doesn’t care about the other person’s feelings or is willing to trample on those feelings in a misguided effort to challenge the individual or group to learn and grow. But ultimately, trolling does not serve the trolled. It drives people further into their defenses without challenging them to release those defenses.
In the past, I’ve tended toward coddling over trolling. If an individual doesn’t want to talk about or act on difficult topics, I’ve tended to just accept the fact that they’re not ready to deal with anything that challenges their comfort level. No point in stirring up a bunch of unruly emotions if they’re not ready to process those emotions anyway, right? If a group doesn’t want to clarify its focus or change the way it operates, I’ve tended to just accept the fact that the group is dysfunctional and unwilling or unable to change. No need to have a long-winded debate about process or strategy if we’re just going to fall into the same old patterns anyway, right?
Coddling is much more socially acceptable than trolling. But that doesn’t make it any more conducive to individual or group development. When I coddle, the people and groups around me end up being stuck in dysfunctional patterns because I haven’t done enough to challenge these patterns. And I end up being stuck in dysfunctional patterns because I have to walk on eggshells around other people and wrestle with groups that writhe and flail like 10-headed hydras.
I’ve just about had my fill of coddling (and being coddled). But I don’t want to respond to this coddling tendency by swinging to the other extreme and becoming a troll. I want to respond by becoming a catalyst â€” acting with courage, and relating with love, and speaking my truth, in a way that will catalyze liberatory transformation in interpersonal relationships and group dynamics.
The challenge, though, is that each situation requires a different catalyst. A close friendship, a casual acquaintanceship, an informal community group, and a formal institutional setting, all fall in vastly different places on a continuum of self-expression. Polite behavior that is very productive in a formal setting can be very stifling in a close friendship, and expressive behavior that is very productive in a close friendship can be very disruptive in a formal setting.
In order to be a catalyst for liberatory transformation in all areas of our lives, we must develop different skill sets and explore different sides of ourselves, standing ready to shout loudly and proudly in one moment while listening quietly and speaking softly in another. We must learn when to offer tender comfort to the weary and when to offer relentless challenge to the complacent. In all of these cases, we must let our truth, our love, and our courage shine through in our every thought, word, and deed â€” but we must express these traits in a way that catalyzes positive transformation rather than coddling people when they need to be challenged or trolling people when they need to be comforted.
On a broader scale, this “catalyze” principle has the power to change the world.
In order to change the future of this planet â€” in order to avert the apocalypse by liberating ourselves from the destructive institutions that currently rule the world â€” we must catalyze institutional change at each and every level of the world stage. Just as individuals can catalyze change within small groups, small groups can catalyze change within larger social, economic, and political institutions.
Some of our institutions need to be challenged to evolve or dissolve. Others need to be supported in their growth and evolution. If we learn the difference between the two, we can serve as living catalysts, challenging oppressive institutions and supporting liberatory ones. Each of these institutions, in turn, serves as a catalyst for even deeper transformation in society at large, leading to the very sort of revolutionary shift in institutional structure and group consciousness that we need to liberate our planet from the forces of oppression and destruction that currently dominate the globe.
The time has come for each of us to be a catalyst for personal and planetary liberation and transformation!
Remember, a catalyst creates change by its very nature, and the change it creates does not exhaust or consume the catalyst. Instead, the catalyst sparks change all around itself simply by virtue of who or what it is, accelerating the process of transformation going on all around it and sticking around until that process is complete. In this way, even a lone individual can eventually make a difference in the global process of liberatory transformation â€” and a large group can work together to bring that process to completion in the blink of an eye!
So… catalyze individual and interpersonal transformation in your personal life. Catalyze a transformation of group dynamics in your community groups. Bring your presence and your energy to community groups that have the power to catalyze liberatory transformations in the social, economic, and political institutions that surround you.
Become a living catalyst of liberatory transformation! The world is a strange and complicated place, and it can be very hard at times to figure out how to do this. But if you set a positive intention to be a catalyst, and put enough time and energy into this intention, you will find a way.