Widening circles of care, and beliefs

In writing the previous post, I thought again of the relationship between widening circles of care, compassion & concern, and beliefs.

Many developmental psychology models use a framework of ego- (individual) to ethno- (group) to world- (universal) to kosmocentric embraces in terms of our views (cognitive) and compassion (heart, empathy).

And in terms of beliefs, these reflect changes in (a) the content of the belief, and (b) how tightly it is held.

At earlier stages, there is more fear, a stronger sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, a more narrow, exclusive and immediate concern about ourselves and our group, and less concern about (and awareness of) the wider reaching and longer term impacts of our actions and decisions on ourselves and others. Our beliefs tells us we have to look out for ourselves and our own, that others are less important, that what is good for us may not be good for them and the other way around, that life is hostile, that people are looking for ways to take advantage of me, and so on.

At later stages, there is less fear, a reduced sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, and a wider embrace which includes awareness of and concern with far reaching and longer term impacts. Our beliefs tells us that all of life is interconnected, one seamless system, that our own life and well-being is intimately connected with that of the larger life system, that we are all in it together, that all life has inherent value, and so on.

Similarly, at the earlier stages, our beliefs tend to be held tightly and take an either/or form, excluding the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the belief. I am right, you are wrong. The mind/heart is generally more closed. The mind is less receptive, making others wrong. And the heart is less receptive, allowing for less empathy and even for dehumanizing the Others.

At later stages, the beliefs are held far more lightly and in a both/and context, with a receptivity to and interest in the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the initial story. The mind/heart is more open and receptive, acknowledging the validity in views expressed by others, and with a natural empathy for others, finding in ourselves what we see in them.

Most (all?) of us can find each of these in our lives, even in our daily lives, cycling from one to another in different situations and depending on what is triggered in us. And it can be helpful to recognize where we are coming from and what is going on, and also know a few ways to explore it further, allowing knots to untie over time.

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