There is little doubt that life requires energy and in life we each are free to canalize our energy as we choose. As the saying goes it is not what happens in life so much as what you do with what happens that makes all the difference.
Most have experienced the energy associated with a wide range of emotions/feelings from guilt, anger and fear to compassion, joy, and love. And probably we know people, or know of people, where it seems that their life is lived in just a few of emotional states. Some seemingly are forever angry and fearful and some are unceasingly compassionate and joyful. We’ve also experienced the influence of another’s energy upon us: those embodying negative energy can depress or drain our energy while those exhibiting positive energy can be vivifying.
Appropriate Use of Energy Fields
However, both negative and positive emotions can be beneficial when used appropriately. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist George Vaillant, M.D. notes that negative emotions are essential for individual survival—the fight or flight response—and as such are all about ‘me’ in the moment. Whereas positive emotions extend concern beyond the boundaries of one’s own skin and beyond the immediate moment since they enable flexible, integrative and creative patterns of thought and behavior.
In Power vs Force David Hawkins explains and calibrates the levels of energy (i.e. consciousness) ranging from negative attractors (i.e. energy fields) to positive attractors that are significant determinants of behavior. The attractor levels ranging from negative energy to increasingly more positive energy, in non-linear progression are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality/non-attachment, willingness/engagement, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment. Courage, the middle energy field in the progression, is the point where a person’s behavior begins to be initiated from within and thus reflects the foundation for the expression of one’s own power. Up to this point the energy fields (shame to pride) represent levels of response to outside forces and beyond this point represent increasing levels of self-awareness. Moreover, as one’s energy is canalized by or is given purpose through increasing self-awareness greater human potential is actualized.
Commonly Employed Attractors
However for most people employed by an organization, and subordinated within its system of management, the energy field leveraged in one’s work-life can be an obstacle to realizing one’s potential. Even though most in management desire to have engaged employees the systems and processes they put in practice can be obstacles to what is desired. For example, those in management seeking to control the focus of people’s attention and behavior can create a context wherein the satisfaction of one’s needs is conditional, what is essentially management by negative attractors.
Commonly found in use within most organizations is the fear-desire-pride triad. This triad underlies most of management’s fear-based methods (e.g. annual performance appraisal, merit system, incentive system/pay-for-performance, management-by-results/MBO, reward/punishment system and accountability system) for forcing people’s actions/behaviors to align with the strategy and goals of the organization and/or the desires of one’s manager.
The practitioners of these methods might argue that they are not using fear but rather they are merely offering the possibility for reward, recognition and promotion in exchange for behavior leading to desired results. It is simply a quid pro quo transaction, a purely economic transaction—if you do this then you get that.
What is conveniently glossed over or denied is that offering a reward is synonymous to a threat of punishment, of not getting what is offered as reward/incentive or worse getting fired—if you don’t do this you won’t get that (or you will get what you don’t want). So reward and punishment are inseparably different sides of the same coin! The same energy field is in play whether one is forced to either seek reward or to avoid punishment. Whether the carrot or the stick, force is in play.
By influencing behavior through the use of force one turns attention toward things of extrinsic value and away from intrinsic human potential. Invariably inherent potential is inhibited from emerging. Moreover, given the ephemeral nature of things of outer value, causing people to act in pursuit of them promotes attachment to the material things in one’s life (e.g. possessions, position, thoughts).
The desire for such things is unending. How much recognition or reward is enough? How much reward will satiate the desire for more reward? What gain—material or positional—will quell the desire and make one proud enough? The point is, the cravings initiated by fear, desire and pride are insatiable—the ego can never have enough.
So why is this a bad thing? After all it keeps everyone busily moving toward a goal that can’t be meet once and for all—it keeps us working hard. Isn’t this the thinking underlying our economic system, that the pursuit of self-interest and unlimited material gain will keep people industrious? Doesn’t this provide just what management wants, busy hardworking people?
Although employing the fear-desire-pride triad does in deed cause people to react, such behavior does not represent genuinely engaged action. This triad facilitates a way of being—of canalizing energy—leading to increasingly greater attachment to thoughts and things. Moreover, not only does it keep people running on the wheel—so much effort yet so little progress—it leads to intense selfish behavior (a.k.a. greed).
So the more one focuses on fear, the more intense the feeling of fear becomes and the more it begins to control behavior and limit the choices a person is able to perceive. In effect, by holding fear centrally in mind—as the attractor of one’s energy—people limit their ability to perceive (and interpret) anything without the constraints that fear imposes. Acting out of fear, people tend to think and frame things in either/or terms making the full range of possibilities imperceptible. In fact, people can become blinded by their fears. No wonder change is so often resisted! Moreover people with fear haven’t the courage to think anew as fear obstructs self initiated meaningful behavior, self-determination and self-efficacy (i.e. psychological empowerment).
George Vaillant asserts that human beings are hardwired for positive emotions and that these emotions are essential for the survival of humankind, which is beyond individual survival. The implication being that in life, we each need to progress toward more positive fields of energy and to canalize our energy into greater levels of self-awareness thus realizing the power of being human. In other words, the more positive the energy fields the more genuinely engaged and universally caring people will become. But, the more we employ negative attractors the more people will be caught up and stuck in a vicious and selfish cycle leaving them unable to freely exercise their capabilities.
Positive Energy Triad
A more humanly productive triad to employ is courage-neutrality-willingness (a.k.a self-initiation-non-attachment-engagement). As previously mentioned courage is the beginning of self-initiated behavior, of intrinsically motivated action. Being courageous implies exercising one’s will in order to face fear without allowing it to dictate what happens next. This is the beginning of truly humanly productive behavior and the pathway to increasing levels of awareness.
Therefore facilitating others through the positive energy fields requires eliminating the use of extrinsic factors to cause others to act. It means enabling others to realize the power they themselves have while recognizing that outside forces do not (and should not) dictate their behavior. Again as the saying goes it is not what happens in life so much as what you do with what happens—this is the difference that makes all the difference!
Neutrality according to David Hawkins is the energy field where “release from the positionality that typifies lower levels” occurs. At this level people are free from attachment to material outcomes or identification with labels and the associated either/or thinking that limits perspective and stifles creativity. In other words, fear, desire and pride no longer compel people to defend or prove anything or to frame issues in us-against-them terms, which minimizes cooperative behavior. Moreover the non-attachment that underlies neutrality affords people the confidence and flexibility of mind to entertain ideas—even those challenging to their own thoughts—and to do so in collaborative relationship with others.
Willingness is the energy field wherein open-mindedness opens up even further through reflective thinking and a widening concern for others. At this level, according to Hawkins, people are “willing to face inner issues and don’t have major learning blocks.” When people are willing and able to think reflectively they afford themselves the opportunity to develop and bring to the world more of the potential that lies within them—everyone benefits. Not inhibited by fear, desire and pride, such people welcome productive feedback that makes them true learners—truly engaged—in life. Furthermore the collaboration and learning that this energy field affords enables the work performed to be high quality work.
Leaderships Facilitates Power
Once a leader ceases viewing people as means to their ends and begins understanding people as ends in themselves, then he/she will be able to see the value in changing the triad upon which his/her approach to leading rests. As argued in a previous post, to truly lead one must cease appraising performance and begin facilitating performance! Changing one’s operative triad is necessary for a judge of performance to become a facilitator for enabling potential and improving performance.
Changing one’s operative triad requires a major change in the level of consciousness through which life is ordered. Quoting Joseph Campbell, “when we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” Isn’t this the journey all leaders must take for themselves to be humanly productive and to enable the potential and power of others to spring forth?
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