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Evolution, Compassion and The New Spiritualities Paul Gilbert PhD FBPsS Mental Health Research Unit Derby University and Mental Health Trust Kingsway Hospital.

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Presentation on theme: "Evolution, Compassion and The New Spiritualities Paul Gilbert PhD FBPsS Mental Health Research Unit Derby University and Mental Health Trust Kingsway Hospital."— Presentation transcript:

1 Evolution, Compassion and The New Spiritualities Paul Gilbert PhD FBPsS Mental Health Research Unit Derby University and Mental Health Trust Kingsway Hospital Derby compassionatemind.co.uk

2 New Spiritual Focus Alistair Hardy explored lived experiences Have you ever been aware of, or influenced by a power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday selfHave you ever been aware of, or influenced by a power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self Expansiveness - beyond the self or current reality Connectedness - peacefulness Environment and sensory cues Reorganises self-values

3 Religion and Spiritualities The word religion comes from the Latin religiere meaning to reconnect Religious schools and beliefs focus on forms of connectedness and meaning Forms of connectedness are shaped via innate mechanisms for understanding social roles God images shaped by socio-economic processes –e.g., help in warfare or nurture harvests.

4 What Shapes the forms for Religion and Spiritualities? Heath, Bell and Sternberg (2001) point out that to adopt a belief system, like a belief in witchcraft, God, or the power of compassion, the focus must be on something that is relevant to a person and have certain qualities and functions Public engagement Personal endorsement Nature of threat (physical, isolation, meaning, control)

5 Religion and spiritualities * Usually contains messages about types of threat and how to deal with them (e.g., have to develop a relationship with them to win them over) * Is transpersonal (affects others) * Must fit with the ecological needs of the group (e.g., developing beliefs in Gods of the sea are relevant to sea farers but not land locked peoples) * Guides social behaviours and informs rituals; it is emotionally textured, and it provides a sense of group coherence and belonging (believing in the same things)

6 Place in Historical and Cultural Contexts Soul Concepts –Relational (Single or Multiple Gods) Vadic tradition – Life as a journey - soul progresses/evolves via learning via trails -- re-incarnation Arabic tradition - World is where one is tested: Good go to heaven and bad are punished Greek/Roman - We are play things of the Gods: can aspire to join the elite – nice and unpleasant places after death Christianity - Introduces family and attachment psychology Pantheism God Consciousness pervades all - Material world (including humans) are patterns of its form

7 God AS….. God as beyond human reason and human understanding - the unknown (as in Aristotle) versus God as human-like with feelings, passions and desires - issue of projection vs empathy God as awakening via the consciousness of humans (as in Jung) versus God as already fully formed and conscious and in the process of revealing himself to us God as accessible only via deep mediation, intuition and mystical knowledge versus God who relies on science, reason and philosophy to reveal himself God as a personal and available deity with whom we can personally relate versus God as an impersonal, pantheistic force (as in Star Wars movies; or Buddha consciousness)

8 God as a Performer of Functions Social Regulator (social function) Law giver/judge Leader/protector Ultimate authority/power to reward/punish The more threatened groups feel the more submissive behaviour and obedience dominates the forms Personal Self/Object (personal function) FatherSootherSaviour Blade Runner – kill the creator Jung save us from what

9 Forms of Spirituality Relational Spiritualities Solutions to external threat – meaning and safeness Social mentalities/relational mind, dialogical Held in mind of a powerful other - protection Attachment, gratitude, submissive, appeasement devotion, group loyalty Forgiveness (de-shame), atonement, acceptance, love meaning, re-union, coming home Internal Spiritualities Solution to internal threats (unruly mind, attachment to desires) Mind training (mediation) meta- cognitive mind, non-dialogical Compassion - common humanity Enlightenment into the true nature of consciousness and free from the wheel of reincarnation

10 Evolution, Religion and Spiritualities

11 Darwin Darwins theories emerge in industrial age – influenced by both Malthus and economic thought -Species are transformed via the struggle for survival – not economic - but natural selection Whatever the cause may be of each slight difference in the offspring from their parents - and a cause for each must exist – it is the steady accumulation, through natural selection, of such differences, when beneficial to the individual, that gives rise to all the more important modifications of structure, by which the innumerable beings on the face of the earth are enabled to struggle with each other, and the best adapted to survive (1859/1979, p )

12 Innate and Acquired v) Genotype (v) Environment = (v) Phenotype (v) Genotype (v) Environment = (v) Phenotype Genotypes are potential competencies for - Examples: Language, attachment, defensive behaviours Phenotypes are the expressed or manifest traits/outputs that are observable or measurable Examples: Styles of language, attachment.

13 Evolution, religion and spiritualities Evolution theory cannot be used to prove the existence or non-existence of Gods or supernatural realms e.g., God as designer can set whole system up (e.g. the material universe) with laws that facilitates the emergence of forms We can use evolution theory and knowledge of our minds to study the emergence of forms and minds that try to understand the emergence of forms Our minds have evolved to cope with threats, acquire resources and reproduce – We have become meaning- making curious and seeking -- and we alone know that we will die and maybe cease to exist -

14 Self-Protection In species without attachment only 1-2% make it to adulthood to reproduce. Threats come from ecologies, food shortage, predation, injury, disease. At birth individuals must be able to go it alone be mobile and disperse Mind evolved with a range of special systems for self-defense that fuel raid onset emotions (fear, anger disgust) and behaviour [fight flight, submit expel].

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16 Self-vs-others protection In species without attachment only 1-2% make it to adulthood to reproduce. Threats come from ecologies, food shortage, predation, injury, disease. At birth individuals must be able to go it alone be mobile and disperse Attachment as looking after. Individuals obtain protection, food and care when ill. Seeking closeness rather than dispersion. Few offspring but high survival rate. Co-operative and mutual support when your prosperity impacts on mine

17 Overview of an Evolutionary Journey Attachment ThreatSafenessCompassion Mutual support Mutual support Self -Regulation Self -Regulation

18 Types of Affect Regulator Systems Incentive/resource focused Seeking and behaviour activating Dopamine (?) Affiliative focused Soothing/safeness Opiates (?) Threat-focused safety seeking Activating/inhibiting Serotonin (?) Anger, anxiety disgust Drive, excite, vitality Content, safe, connect

19 Evolution, Brain and Social Roles

20 Evolution and Social Roles Human Symbolic thought and self- identity, theory of mind, metacognition Mammalian Caring, group, alliance- building, play, status Reptilian Territory, aggression, sex, hunting

21 Four Evolved Processing Domains Threat vs safe: All animals must decide this in their domain of existence. Links to evolved, basic emotions of threat (anger, anxiety, disgust) and basic emotions of safeness and reward Role forming: mammals have specialised motivational and processing systems that are role-focused (e.g. for attachment, friendship, and sex, similarity) Human cognitive systems: language, use symbols, use meta- cognition, imagine/fantasise and inwardly model –access to… Self-regulating systems: Self-evaluation, self-identities and self-to-self relating

22 Biosocial Goal and Social Mentality Theory Animals must engage in various social tasks to secure their genes being represented in subsequent generations Evolution enables animals to communicate with each other and co-construct social roles for these tasks Evolution provides mechanisms (motives, emotions cognitive and behavior systems) for role creation and it is the organization of these elements that are key for competent social enactments The (human) organisation of social mentalities is choreographed via self-identity forming systems

23 Social Mentalities Goals require attention directing and processing systems that provide feedback for goal corrections Social mentalities are thus the psychological steering mechanisms for BioSocial Goals Social Mentalities choreograph and pattern emotions behaviours and cognitions according to how goal seeking has been successful, failed or punished In constant process of blending and internal co- regulating and give rise to States of Mind

24 Biosocial Goals and Social Mentalities Biosocial goals motivate movement towards co-creations Care seeking Goal to obtain inputs from others that enhance prosperity Care giving Goal is to engage with others that foster prosperity in the other Care giving Goal is to engage with others that foster prosperity in the other Cooperation Goal is to share, building reciprocal alliances, make a contribution and have a sense of belonging and connectedness with others Competing Obtain and defend resources and control conducive to prosperity SexualAttract and be attracted to others for sexual engagement

25 Social mentalities Are role focused and thus always include self-to-other and other-to-self -- we use each other for goal securing Seek to co-construct roles via interactional dances Pattern and choreograph social motives, emotions and fantasies Mature with the unfolding of developmental abilities Pattern and choreograph physiological activity Blend together or conflict as self-identities emerge

26 Self-Other Role Co-Creations Care-seekingCare-givingCo-operatingCompetingSexual Self As Needing seeking Providing alleviating Sharing belonging Power comparing Attracting attracted Other AS Providing alleviating Needing seeking Sharing belonging Power comparing Attracting attracted Innate motivational (seeking) systems with range of emotional and cognitive processing systems that link to a sense of self A Self As…… Monitoring Threat/safeness Availability access Distress in other empathy Similarity cheating Relative power talents abilities Attractiveness

27 Self-vs-others protection In species without attachment only 1-2% make it to adulthood to reproduce. Threats come from ecologies, food shortage, predation, injury, disease. At birth individuals must be able to go it alone be mobile and disperse Caring and Attachment as looking after. Individuals obtain protection, food and care when ill. Seeking closeness rather than dispersion. Few offspring but high survival rate. Co-operative and mutual support when your prosperity impacts on mine

28 Care eliciting This aspect of our nature is activated when we see ourselves in a state of need; a need that cannot (in the first instance) be satisfied by recourse to our own selves or human social relationships. When care eliciting motivates the religious relationship to God, God is constructed as a superior other, sometimes in the form of a parent (Father or Mother figure) to whom we turn for love, help and understanding. Our ideal is for unconditional love. There is a yearning for closeness, union, protection and rescue, and a fear of abandonment. We are rescued from the oblivion of death by the fact of God. The upside is that we may indeed find a way to create these feelings and satisfy our need for care and love; we open ourselves up to receive. In prayer we ask for things (love, knowledge, wisdom, strength etc.) The down side is that we can remain dependent on the external deity This aspect of our nature is activated when we see ourselves in a state of need; a need that cannot (in the first instance) be satisfied by recourse to our own selves or human social relationships. When care eliciting motivates the religious relationship to God, God is constructed as a superior other, sometimes in the form of a parent (Father or Mother figure) to whom we turn for love, help and understanding. Our ideal is for unconditional love. There is a yearning for closeness, union, protection and rescue, and a fear of abandonment. We are rescued from the oblivion of death by the fact of God. The upside is that we may indeed find a way to create these feelings and satisfy our need for care and love; we open ourselves up to receive. In prayer we ask for things (love, knowledge, wisdom, strength etc.) The down side is that we can remain dependent on the external deity.

29 Care-giving One cannot elicit love and investment from another unless the other is prepared to give it. So God is created as a limitless source of love, care and wisdom. The caring mentality also invites us to be caring to others; to develop our basic compassion for others and to utilise our altruistic strategies in relationships. We believe that God has our best interests at heart (is not indifferent) and wants to see us mature, grow and prosper, to come into a closer relationship with him/her.

30 Co-operation Here the relationship is seen more as a transaction; God gives us something in exchange for something, and we are aware of this trade. It is not unconditional love but love that is conditional - if you behave this way you are accepted, if you don't, you are not. Cooperation also tends towards the desire for conformity; that is religion is used to subdue intra-group conflicts and to harmonies values and beliefs. We are invited to think we are all the same, of one tribe and group, with one leader Jung, in his book Answer to Job, came up with the idea that God needs us as much as we need God

31 Competitive and rank-focused Beliefs and experiences of the spiritual are textured by complex hierarchical, leader-follower relationships. Then arises all the questions of the powers of the leader to ordain and order, to punish disobedience, to make special and offer prestige. The themes of inferior-superior, dominate-subordinate, shame and pride, weave their plots. Today the strife that arises as religions `compete' for the minds of people is enormous and some fear that religion will be used as a focus for yet more major wars. Sometimes people within such social structures are into crusades, to win converts to the armies of God. Often certain individuals will give themselves status and prestige, and there is a ladder or highly ranked structure to God, with the priests and popes etc. at the top.

32 God as experienced vai our social mentalities or archetypes We cannot experience the mind of the other directly but only through their emitted behaviours and our interpretation of those behaviours We will use archetypal forms to impose meaning and co- create roles Role enactments create powerful emotional experiences that can be interpreted in spiritual ways

33 Dark Side Often linked to feelings of threat and injustice – easily manipulated by leaders Revert to basic threat system solutions Strong in-group ties Needs for specialness (not common humanity) submission obedience – rigidity creates safeness (Cults) Spiritualities must therefore consider issues of social justice and the creation of safeness

34 Therapy We are all seekers, confronting fears and challenges of finding ourselves here So spirituality is often fundamental to mental health and not a decontextualised process We have yearnings for social connectedness, to be valued by others and for life to be meaningful These yearnings can lead us into practice and insights, compassion and healing – but also into dangers and destructiveness Spirituality can be explored in regard to basic human psychology and the nature of our short, and for many, harsh existence To feel safe and valued and loved changes our journey into the spiritual

35 Compassion Long history to the idea that compassion relates to the integration of various of our qualities of mind It is a way of seeing an experience the world It requires training It organise the brain into new patterns that give rise to certain types of experience It organise the brain into new patterns that give rise to certain types of experience

36 Definitions of Compassion Buddhist As loving kindness; open heartedness deep feeling and understanding of the suffering of others associated with a deep commitment and responsibility to try to alleviate it Develop the Perfections (Paramitas - to carry across –oceans of suffering to enlightenment) Generosity Ethical Behaviour Patience Concentration Effort Wisdom Compassion

37 Other Views of Compassion Definitions stretch back to Buddhism and Aristotle: suffering as non- trivial; non-deserved. and one can have empathy McKay & Fanning (1992) understanding, acceptance and forgiveness understanding, acceptance and forgiveness Neff (2003) Kindness-warmth Common humanity Mindfulness-Non-judgemental Gilbert (1989, 2000, 2005) A mental orientation that combines various, care focused qualities of mind and is dependent on those qualities

38 Components of compassion from the care giving mentality Compassion Sympathy EmpathyNon-judgement Care for well being Distress sensitive Distress tolerant Create opportunities for growth and change With Warmth

39 Compassion Practice Mindful compassion involves learning to direct ones attention in a nonjudgmental fashion in order train ones mind to organize itself via compassion and activate soothing system as a key affect regulator. It involves mindful practice of compassion focusing via attention, thinking, behaviour and feeling that involves: ProcessImageryGoals

40 Compassion Practice Insight, Practice and Development Process Therapeutic relationship, formulation, basic view of evolution and personhood Imagery From memory and fantasy Tasks/exercises Motivation, attention, thinking, behaviour and feelings Compassionate dialogues Compassionate letters/paintings/pictures/poetry

41 Compassion Focus Empathy and sympathy for ones own distress Awareness with out-judgement or blame De-shame and focus on common humanity Key focus is finding what is experienced as helpful, kind and supportive in this moment Having compassion for myself means I feel so much more at peace with myself. Knowing that it is a normal way of life to have compassion for myself and its not an abnormal way of thinking, but a very healthy way of thinking. It felt like I was training my mind to switch to this mode when I start to feel bad about myself or life situations were starting to get on top of me

42 Conclusion Compassion is a potential mind/brain organising system We can train our minds to develop its qualities It has healing properties – via soothing system It is a focus for a link between old-new spiritualities, psychotherapy and a way for organising social values

43 Biosocial Goals Social Mentalities and Interpersonal Schema Motivated role enactments (BSGs) Social Mentalities Emitted behaviours Responses of others Threatening or safe Role matching Interpersonal schemas Self As Other as e.,g. Attachment IWMs; Trust, Power, Agency, Identity

44 Self-to-other-to-self Evolution of cognitive systems for interpersonal behaviour Inter-subjectivity Theory of mind Self as object/subject Pretend, imagine fantasise RuminationMeta-cognition Type of role Co-constructed Role (mis)match Self Signal sensitive Other Multiple processing systems


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