Freeing Your Spirit

The highest compact we can make with our fellow is – “Let there be truth between us two forevermore.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Creative Evolution in the relational/spiritual aspect of human life is all about freeing your spirit to express its True Nature in relation to the world. Mechanical behavior in the social realm is primarily driven by the biological imperative to be important, to be needed by others, or at least to be close to folks who are. It manifests itself in an endless search for external validation of the self image created and projected by your mind.

It will be helpful here to include a quick aside for those who are already familiar with some form of Integral Theory. If this is your first exposure to things integral, feel free to skip this paragraph. It may have struck you as odd that we correlate the spiritual with the internal-collective (interpersonal/relational) aspect — LL quadrant — of the individual, which stands in opposition to many popular integral models. Certainly a case can be made that what is spiritual is inherently personal and should therefore correlate with the internal-individual (personal/subjective) aspect — UL quadrant; however, we find this designation problematic. In our estimation, if your concern is facilitating Creative Evolution in mind, body, and spirit, then subjective (UL quadrant) growth is primarily mental and involves dealing with projections of mind related to your self image. Growing or healing your “spirit,” however, is a relational process precisely because spirit is the thing that unites us.

We have said elsewhere that the mental realm is like the workshop in which your self image is carefully constructed. In the same sense, we conceptualize the relational realm as being like the focus group to which you pitch your ad campaign. Are they buying it? Are they seeing the picture you hope to present?

If not, you’re likely to return to the workshop and tinker a bit — to tell yourself some refined story about why they’re misinterpreting the signal and perhaps plan what you’ll do differently next time to send a better one. This is the nature of the mechanical back-and-forth between the personal/mental and relational/spiritual aspects of life — the mind constructs the picture, then the spirit shows you how that picture is reflected by others, at which point the mind tweaks the picture a bit, before it is again reflected back to you through spirit, and so on.

Figuring out where to start can be a bit of a “chicken or egg” dilemma, but we will say that spiritual development generally builds on the work of mental development. They of course enhance and inform each other simultaneously in a positive feedback loop, but we might say that personal/mental work is about learning not to deceive yourself, while relational/spiritual work is about learning not to deceive others. If this is the case, a certain amount of personal work would have to preclude serious relational work. That said, we will now present a more detailed picture of relational/spiritual development.

The Seeking Script

Seeking is the primary programmatic script in the relational aspect of life. We are seeking external validation of the mental images and stories we maintain about who we have been, who we are, and who we should be. What we are calling the seeking script may not always look like seeking, for we each have our own particular style; however, the underlying mechanism is always a drive to obtain validation. After all, we wouldn’t make our pitch to the focus group with the hopes they’ll say it sucks, right?

If we take a cue from psychoanalyst Karen Horney, we can define three basic plot-lines of this seeking script. She calls them interpersonal coping mechanisms or behavior trends. We each have access to all three behavior trends, and healthy people can navigate back and forth with relative ease when necessary. What tends to happen, however, is that you get comfortable behaving in a certain mode, and you begin to forget how and when to act in the others. When a particular mode of behavior turns into a mechanical default, you can become what is known in psychological circles as neurotic.


In this interpersonal mode, the man-machine seeks validation of its mental self image by actively moving against others. This mode of seeking helps a person corroborate his/her self image first by forcibly changing the minds of those who might poke holes in it, then by actively making fun of them, denigrating their intelligence, or worse, physically assaulting them. When this seeking script goes neurotic (pathological), we find the wife beaters, the mercilessly berating professors, and the schoolyard bullies.


In this interpersonal mode, the man-machine seeks validation of its mental self image by actively moving toward others. This mode of seeking helps a person corroborate his/her self image first by actively seeking out relationships with people who validate them, then by changing his/her own internal state in such a way that validation is guaranteed. When this seeking script goes neurotic, we find the girl who’s always looking for her next “charity case” boyfriend, the elementary school teacher who passes kids just because he can’t bear to see them or their parents disappointed, and the typical corporate “yes” man.


In this interpersonal mode, the man-machine seeks validation of its mental self image by actively moving away from others. This mode of seeking helps a person corroborate his/her self image first by simply keeping quiet in the midst of those who might not prop it up, then by physically withdrawing from their presence. When this script goes neurotic, we find the shy girl amongst the cheerleader clique, the all-night online gamer holed up in his apartment, and the perfectionist who fears no one else will get it right so she constantly “goes it alone.”

As noted these modes are reflexive strategies we use to externally validate what we internally believe to be true about ourselves. These strategies are definitely useful when engaged at the right times for the right reasons, but this can only happen when we are aware of what we are doing. Otherwise they manifest unconsciously and often pathologically, undermining Creative Evolution.  When they go pathological (neurotic), they can be seen as different flavors of a condition we call emotional fusion. This is a posture in which the emotional state of someone else becomes more important than your own emotional state. When you take take this posture, you lose touch with your own actual emotional state and engage in mechanical behaviors designed to get validation from others.

At this point we can say these three behavior modes are by nature dishonest. They mechanically look to manipulate authentic emotions and feelings in the presence of others. They repress the genuine felt experience in favor of some altered image you believe to be “better.” Setting up transformational friction against this impulsive behavior (Creative Evolution) in the relational realm requires the skill of honesty in relation to others, particularly when confronted with situations that publicly challenge or praise your personal/mental sense of self.

In order to make this idea of honesty as a skill to develop more practical, we will borrow a concept from family therapist Murray Bowen: Differentiation of Self. In Bowen’s clinical approach, “differentiation of self refers to one’s ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from that of the family.” In terms of relational growth in our Creative Evolution model, it refers to your ability to hold onto your sense of self in relation to others, particularly with those of great importance to you, and in situations of high stress or great euphoria.

The opposite of differentiation is manifest in the need for external validation, which, as we have pointed out, is the primary pathology in the relational/spiritual aspect of life — the seeking script. It can be argued quite convincingly that this aspect is the most important in the ultimate success of your development. After all, most of us spend most of our time in relation to others. It follows that this relational time might present you with the most opportunities for growth.

The posts we will present on this blog for relational/spiritual development will vary widely, from poetry and personal stories of our own relationships to descriptions of practical applications like “circle time” and the 3-2-1 Technique. Check the blog archives in relational work for more, and if there’s something specific you’d like to see, use the form below to send us your questions.