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Collectively unblocking “Thumos”

I was recently struck by Peter Limberg's writing about his recent offering, “Beyond Self-Discipline: Thumos Bootcamp Edition”.

Peter writes:

“This is a boot camp where you show off your virtue, or to use more normie language: where you will launch something. This could be a podcast, a blog, or even launching yourself out of a job via a resignation letter. It could be small or large, but it will be customized to where you are at in your life right now. We are all sitting on one of those “one day” projects that bring us both aliveness and fear when we think about them. We cannot afford “one day” thinking anymore. Now is the time to show off your virtue.”

To facilitate this, Peter advises

“a simple thumos regimen to be followed. This will consist of …

  • Waking up early
  • A daily cold shower
  • A daily breathwork session
  • Working out each day
  • Your best diet, with some kind of intermittent fasting as a strong recommendation
  • A “Hard No,” aka committing to NOT do at least one thing you’d rather stop doing”

This sounds like a good challenge for many people, and the fact that his approach is helpful to many is testified to by several testimonials. So far, so good!

Why am I not going to do sign up, then? Essentially, because I want to “wait for the right one for me” to use a well-worn phrase. And, to me, the right one won't be just a different list, or a different combination of practices that are likely to help. I'm holding on, not just to the idea that these things have to be done alongside (nice phrase) “friendships of virtue” — a bit like the old Quaker idea of being “friends in the truth” — but that the regimen that most effectively unlocks an individual's blocks is likely to be different for each individual, simply due to their complex individuality.

I've experienced something like this directly, as well as read about this in the psychotherapy literature, for so many years now. Every well-meaning psycho-therapeutic approach works with some people, and it doesn't seem to depend on what the therapist does, as much as the relationship, the rapport, the trust, between client and therapist. The ‘faith’, if you like.

Rather, in my perspective, honour the complexity of the individual by recognising that pre-packaged therapies are less likely to offer the “requisite variety”. Not only that, but as many of us experience in relationships, one other person is quite unlikely to offer the requisite variety to handle and transform the really stubborn, entrenched patterns that are holding us back from “showing off our virtue”.

Then, I move on to noting that a well-connected group – one that is, to use Ria's words, “truly present together” – just has more variety, more capacity, more ability, more subtlety, more … whatever, than an individual. Practicing being “truly present together” is, naturally, what Collective Presencing is all about. Which brings me on to where I would like to take this forward from Peter.

Each one of us has direct experience of practices that have helped us in some way. Each one of us has second-hand experience of practices that others close to us have said are helpful to them. But, notoriously, we cannot be clear about exactly what would help unblock ourselves. Maybe for you it would be Peter's regimen as above. Or maybe something quite different. But the stubborn, resistant patterns in ourselves often want to surreptitiously strive for their own survival, by sabotaging any effective attempts to get round them. The more one is trained in psychology and therapeutic techniques, the more subtle one's defences can be.

So, whereas achievement can reasonably (if limitedly) thought of as self-authored, to my mind, therapy cannot be so, at least not for the vast majority (and, to think of it, everyone I can recall coming across personally).

Now, I haven't studied in any depth approaches such as group therapy, family therapy, process work or worldwork. But it is at least clear that in a densely-connected complex system, sometimes a small input can result in a complete change of direction. So, it seems to me, except for the most gifted (and lucky?) therapists, discerning where to give that little nudge may be little more than trial and error.

But personally I do want to get away from approaches based on one supposedly insightful person, and move towards an approach based on collective insight. Furthermore, Peter's scenario may not be dealing with closely-coupled psycho-social systems. Friendships of virtue aren't normally day-to-day friendships (though they could be). So how about this, as a step further? This is what I see as a step forward. …

  1. Find a group of people who want to do this together. Maybe around 6 people.
  2. Together, make a common list of all (regular) practices that each one has experienced as helpful, or seen as helpful in others. Talk these over until everyone has a reasonably clear idea of what is involved in each one.
  3. Focusing on every individual in the group, in turn,
    1. Let the individual tell about their ambitions, blockages, hopes, fears, desires for growth and change, or however it is best described from their perspective.
    2. Allow open, honest questions for the others better to understand what is being expressed.
    3. Choose from the list which practices the individual thinks might help, which ones are less likely to help, and which can be dismissed as unable to help.
    4. At the same time, in parallel, let the other group members use their own intuition to guess which practices may help the focal person.
    5. Compare. Pay particular attention to practices that others tend to guess may help, but the individual dismisses.
  4. When each have had their turn, everyone can go away and practice in their everyday lives.
  5. Maybe some people will ask for help with the practices that they feel resistant to; this may come best from someone who is not part of a presenting troublesome pattern.
  6. That is likely to move things a little. Repeat as desired …

My guess is that it is mainly through this kind of collective surfacing of blind spots that persistent and troublesome personal patterns can be brought up to awareness and therefore unlocked. And if this kind of unlocking could happen for everyone in a small group, what joy, what love would emerge, would be present, would be realised, in that group!

Now, for sure, you might get lucky, and it may be that one of Peter's exercises actually reveals your own blocking blind spot. Also likely, it seems to me, is that if, unconsciously, there is some likelihood of one of those practices challenging a blind spot, you will find a reason not to participate. Like me, maybe ;-)

To me, this seems like another aspect of relating in collectivity.

d/2022-07-22.txt · Last modified: 2022-07-31 16:07 by simongrant