Sunday, April 09, 2006

Don Beck & Ken Wilbur

This essay is included because it may promote even more integral ways of looking at Richard Bangs Collier's research. Scholars are encouraged to explore the work of both Don Beck and Ken Wilbur.

Human Capacities in the Integral Age

How Value Systems Shape Organizational Productivity,
National Prosperity and Global Transformation

Don Edward Beck, Ph. D.

The focus on the role of productivity in enhancing competitiveness, while generating wealth and cultural well-being, has shifted over time from the micro (personal, team and "circles") to the meso (organizational design and performance) and now the macro (large scale and complex systems). Likewise, the essential thinking around productivity matters has emerged through systemic, strategic, humanistic and now integral patterns and organizing paradigms. The "profound knowledge" as described by Dr. Edward Deming is just now becoming clear to many who applied only surface-level and tentative versions of his massive work. We now recognize that micro-scale solutions depend heavily on both meso-scale and macro-scale insights and that all three must be meshed in the whole-scale application.

This presentation will introduce the concept of Spiral Dynamics, a new, evolutionary framework that describes whole-systems thinking, details how value systems emerge in societies, and maps out a program for raising human capacities to deal with 21st Century complexities. The session will introduce the notion of Memetics, the scientific study of "DNA-like" codes and patterns that lie at the core of companies, cultures and countries. It will describe the role of Vital Signs Monitors in profiling human groupings, and a series of design formulas in crafting natural systems that align focus, function, form, fit, flow and future. Finally, it will demonstrate how to synchronize the spiral of technological complexity, business systems sophistication, and levels of human development.


Never before has the planet earth carried such a rich tapestry of human differences in the form of individuals and groups. The end of the Cold War brought the thawing of the bi-polar ice sheet that covered the entire planet as the deep ethnic cores began to bubble and boil once again. Decades of deconstructionism and egalitarianism in academic and popular cultural circles released the bent-up entities and interests that had been subdued by European-Western hierarchies of power and control. The microchip places an immense amount of influence in the choice making of single individuals. DNA analyses now make possible the specific identity of every person on the planet. Mass customization efforts are able to target each person, and even specify names on the inside of weekly magazines. It is as if the entire psychological history of our species from Day One is being replayed in real time and carried live on CNN. What an amazing time!

Likewise, we have been witnessing a significant amount of fragmentation in the work place and around issues germane to productivity. Our work force, in most environments, is much more diverse than before. The shift toward a global view has, likewise, introduced more complexity, not just in terms of different cultures, but also in the form of a myriad of value systems that work side-by-side or, within a whole constellation of teams and alliances. Yet, many of our approaches to productivity still tend to be monolithic in design and applied like a generic "cash wash" over people and work units that are spreading apart as if they had been purloined into space a Big Bang


Most people know the story of the "Six Blind Men and the Elephant." One discovered the tail, another the trunk, while the others felt the leg, side, tusk, and ear. Each was totally convinced he had discovered the "truth" based on the direct experience. Of course, each observer was "right" about the elephant, but only about a part; none was able to sense the whole. This can also be said about the various political, economic, religious, educational, child-rearing, and technological theories of our own day. This also includes the various listings of worldviews or Weltanschauungen, or the numerous psychological packages, leadership initiatives, or managerial mandates that continue to be popular, or have been discarded in societal dust bins. The various and often heated debates heard at the United Nations, or in national assembles, senates, and parliaments, will, likewise, reflect these different views of "the elephant." Rather than continue to pit the vast array of differences against one another in an adversarial manner, or suffer the consequences when the conflicts surface in the form of belligerence or warfare, might it not be useful to find a way to construct a synthesis that can explain why each emerged, where it is useful, and how it can contribute to the total Global Mesh?

Which of these views of the elephant-world best describe you?

The World is. . .*


a natural milieu where humans rely on instincts to stay alive


a magical place alive with spirit beings and mystical signs


a jungle where the strongest and most cunning survive


an ordered existence under the control of the ultimate truth


a market place full of possibilities and opportunities


a human habitat in which we share life's experiences


a chaotic organism forged by differences and change


an elegantly balanced system of interlocking-forces

*Question from The Values Test, NVC

This search for the cohesive elements that can hold so many fragmented parts together in a new, 21st Century alignment, and create the methodology and mechanisms for the continuation and enhancement of all human life on the planet as well as in corporate and work environments, will require an understanding of three essential components:

The Evolution of Value Systems. We will introduce here a new framework called Spiral Dynamics, a bio-psycho- social-spiritual conceptual system that describes how and when worldviews emerge, and how they form themselves into spirals of complexity. Each newly awakened Value System crafts its own unique work attitudes, organizational designs and specific perspectives on issues around productivity improvement

Historical Approaches to Productivity. Because Life Conditions change, new innovations are introduced into the workplace, and people themselves emerge into different priority "bottom-lines," we must rethink the whole matter of productivity itself, and what it will take to generate the high levels of behavior necessary to maintain the quality of our lives. We will track the shifts in thinking about productivity through a series of Value Systems, with an additional recognition that our own efforts have emerged through micro, meso, and now macro applications.

Productivity in the Integral Age. If, indeed, we are dealing with new levels of complexity and fragmentation, how should we conceptualize the role of productivity in enriching and enhancing the work place, or in educational systems, or in cultural and social domains, so that we meet the challenges that confront us in this newly emerging Integral Age?


Spiral Dynamics is based on the seminal work of the late Professor Clare W. Graves, Union College, New York. He described what he called "Levels of Psychological Existence" as an emerging pattern and priority of worldviews, value systems, and complex adaptive intelligences that arise in response to Life Conditions. Thus, human nature is not finite. We are not frozen into types or traits. Cultures are not static entities, forever trapped in Flatland. As Graves explained it:

Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower- order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man's existential problems change.

The human Spiral, then, consists of a coiled string of worldviews, each the product of its times and conditions. Yet, when a new worldview emerges, the older systems do not disappear. Rather, they remain subsumed in the total flow and not only add texture to the more complex ways of living, but remain "on call" in case the problems that awakened them to service reappear. So, there are systems within us, miniature worldviews each of which is calibrated for different problems of existence. Each new worldview is born out of chaos, in a nonlinear fashion, so there is no straight arrow of time back into history. Each worldview is a platform with its own unique paradigm and instructional codes for organizing society. Like a DNA script, the unique adaptive themes at each level will express themselves in terms of life-styles, economic, political, religious, and educational systems, and views of sex, marriage, working, the environment, and sports.

In our recent work we have fused the Graves Technology with the fledging science of memetics, noting that each of the worldviews is in fact a "valuesMEME", a coding mechanism that inculcates every aspect of society. Graves work identified eight distinct worldviews or vMEMES, with the ninth on the horizon. Yet, all of the previously awakened systems still exist. These deep level tectonic-like psychological plates create surface level tensions as we ratchet through time.




Color Code

Popular Name


Cultural manifestations and personal displays

Level 8




collective individualism; cosmic spirituality; earth changes

Level 7




natural systems; self-principle; multiple realities; knowledge

Level 6




egalitarian; feelings; authentic; sharing; caring; community

Level 5




materialistic; consumerism; success; image; status; growth

Level 4




meaning; discipline; traditions; morality; rules; lives for later

Level 3




gratification; glitz; conquest; action; impulsive; lives for now

Level 2




rites; rituals; taboos; super- stitions; tribes; folk ways & lore

Level 1




food; water; procreation; warmth; protection; stays alive

Here's the key idea. Different societies, cultures and subcultures, as well as entire nations are at different levels of psycho-cultural emergence, as displayed within these evolutionary levels of complexity. They have different centers of gravity. The previously awakened levels do not disappear. Rather, they stay active within the worldview stacks, thus impacting the nature and form of the more complex systems. Like the Russian dolls, there are systems within systems within systems. So, many of the same issues we confront on the West Bank (Red to Blue) can be found in South Central Los Angeles. One can experience the animistic (Purple) worldview on Bourbon Street as well as in Zaire. Matters brought before city council in Minneapolis (Orange to Green to Yellow) are not unlike the debates in front of governing bodies in the Netherlands. Countries and cultures are mosaics of multiple vMEME codes.

Third World societies are dealing, for the most part, with issues within the Level 1 through Level 3 zone, thus higher rates of violence and poverty. Staying alive, finding safety, and dealing with feudal age conditions matter most. Second World societies are characterized by authoritarian (Blue) one-party states, whether from the right or the left. Makes no difference. So called First World nations and groupings have achieved high levels of affluence, with lower birth rates, and more expansive use of technology. While centered in the strategic, free-market driven, and individual liberty focused perspective -- all traits of the Level 5 (Orange) worldview -- new vMEMETICS (Green, Yellow, and Turquoise) are emerging in the "post-modern" age. Yet, we have no language for anything beyond First World, believing that is the final state, the "end of history." Further, there is a serious question as to whether the billions of people who are now exiting Second and Third World life styles can anticipate the same level of affluence as they see on First World (Orange) television screens. Now that expectations have been raised by visiting "Paree," how do we expect to "keep them down on the farm?"

Different worldviews or vMEMES fight wars
or engage in conflict but for different reasons.


Political Form

Deepest motivation and "bottom line" justification for aggressive behavior


Survival Clans

to keep a place in the survival niche, as in the movie The Quest for Fire


Ethnic Tribes

to protect the myths, ancestral traditions, rights of kinship, and sacred places.


Feudal Empires

to dominate, gain the spoils, and earn the right to rape, pillage, and plunder.


Ancient Nations

to protect borders, homelands, hearth, preserve way of life, defend "holy" cause.


Corporate States

to advance economic spheres of influence, or access to raw materials and markets.


Value Communities

to punish those who commit "crimes against humanity" and protect the victims.

Many people who knew both Edward Deming and Clare W. Graves have remarked that the two men had a great deal in common, both in terms of their respective worldviews and their approaches to social change and transformation. Deming spoke of "Profound Knowledge" while Graves' described what he called "The emergent, cyclical, double helix model of adult bio-psycho-social development." The two men were of similar age, stature, temperament, and style. Graves had the greatest respect for Deming's work and it is unfortunate that they never met. They were both "giants" in their own respective domains.


If one were to engage some of the sophisticated data-mining technology with a colony of Web Crawlers to detect every use of the term "productivity" over the last fifty years, there would be a clear pattern to the clusters they would reveal. Productivity itself has gone through its very own evolutionary process as it passes through the micro, meso, and macro stages. One can also see how the various initiatives have moved along the vMemetic trajectory as we have sought, in each of the Value Systems, to construct what we thought at the time would be the major advance in job performance, efficiency and effectiveness, and the overall quality of our respective work styles.


Some of the initial attempts at productivity improvement focused specifically on logical thinking, statistical measurement, connecting-the-dots, and enhancing systems as they existed at the time. These efforts stayed within job functions, organizational groupings, and served to plan the work and work the plans within the established set of givens, authority, and responsibility. BLUE ZONE PRODUCTIVITY initiatives spawned such innovations as the early version of Quality Circles, Total Product Quality (TPG) projects, and other efforts. This emphasis also resulted in the creative contributions of Larry Miles at General Electric and what became known as Value Engineering. VE practitioners were asked to scan and monitor large capital contracts that had already been finalized to search for ways to cut costs, avoid duplication, and elaborate on designs which had already been set in concrete. It is ironic that the very first psychologist who Larry Miles sought out for advice was Professor Clare W. Graves, who was on the Union College faculty just a few miles from GE's headquarters


As BLUE ZONE PRODUCTIVITY efforts matured, it occurred to many in the field that something was indeed missing. All of the intelligent and highly motivated efforts to make substantial improvements in the quality and flow of work were blocked by the nature of the organization itself. The Quality Circles groups lacked the mandate to cross over functional, departmental, and even geographic lines. Those people who participated were often rewarded by a pat on the back but little more. The improvements they designed and implemented benefited the pay-checks of top level executives but not their own. They were asked, even commanded, to "work harder and smarter," but soon discovered they would not benefit from the fruits of their labors.

ORANGE ZONE PRODUCTIVITY shifted in the direction of strategy with the massive re-engineering exercises, the entry of microchip technology that made possible instant communication across all of the barriers, and the onset of interest in aligning the entire enterprise to the "bottom-lines." Governmental entities shifted from seniority-based compensation to a preoccupation with merit awards and putting professions into competitive postures. The idea, of course, was that these innovations would enhance the capacity to squeeze costs, fine-tune efforts, and see to it that every expenditure of funds, every effort on the part of everybody, would all translated in one way or another to "the bottom-line." VE moved to what was called Value Management as scapulae were put to costs at the front end of contracts rather than be locked into the big decisions that impacted, often in a negative way, the little decisions. Unless the large flywheels were aligned to "strategy," the smaller flywheels would continue to spin whether they produced positive results or not.


Michael Hammer and his colleagues who were well known for the entire re-engineering movement, had to make the major confession after "down-sizing," brutalizing, and ripping apart many traditional systems, that they had totally ignored the importance of people in their activities. Big surprise. Those with the Orange vMeme virus in their minds see nothing beyond profit, perks, and privilege. It became apparent to many that people, indeed, were critical to any long-term and effective effort that could sustain itself over time. A great amount of historical knowledge was lost in companies because of both the imposition of meritocracies and the assumption that systems – business, technological, and strategic – would, by themselves, produce the results that everybody designed. They did not. They could not.

At this stage a large segment of productivity thinking became focused on people – their competencies, feelings, experiences, Humanistic work site needs, and even personal preferences with regard to such "fringe benefits" as athletic facilities, nurseries for children, partner privileges, and similar sensitivities. Without question the enterprise became a happier and healthier place as diversity programs stressed the value in human differences, and community-based projects afforded an opportunity for everybody to participate in social responsibility schemes.

We also witnessed, in the GREEN ZONE, the emergence of self-managed work teams, fully capable of functioning virtually on their own. Trust-building exercises were introduced. Off-site meetings by the groups were encouraged. Expansive career development tracks were funded. Barriers in the organizational structure were lowered as rank system were discouraged, both in external displays and in personal relationships. Everybody was on a first name basis.


The celebrated and romantic Age of Aquarius ended forever with the crash of the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. The Age of Fragmentation was at its high water mark, its zenith following the end of the Cold War. Many of these identical issues are, likewise, appearing in corporate suites, on shop floors, in trading centers, and in business schools – from Harvard, Stanford, and the London Business School to smaller educational/training programs literally around the world. Witness, now, the rise of The Integral Age. The intent here will be to discuss the ramifications of this new epoch to the general area of productivity, with a focus on redesign rather than fine-tuning, on transformation rather than reformation or renewal, and on open, flow-state dynamical systems rather than closed-in, boxed-in, and rigid, final-state models and methodologies. Here are several of the basic assumptions and processes that implement the Integral perspective.


Actually, the Integral Age is based on the 7th and 8th Level Value Systems, the YELLOW and TURQUOISE ZONES in terms of the Spiral Dynamics' conceptual system. The approaches to productivity in these zones tend to favor the macro or whole-systems scale perspectives. If these are "set right" at the very beginning, many of the micro and meso issues and concerns will naturally follow suit. This will of necessity unblock the constraints that have prevented the productivity measures in the BLUE, ORANGE, and GREEN domains from actually producing the results they desired. I worked for a number of years with Middelburg Steel & Alloys company in the Eastern Transvaal in South Africa. This heavy-industry organization was light years ahead of others in that productivity efforts, and even safety-measures, were built into the design of the total system rather than imposed as separate items over the entire structure, operating codes, and output requirements. Everything connected to everything else. All the decision-makers were involved in all of the developmental programs. The requirements for productivity improvement, safety regulation, and even diversity development were featured on the evaluation forms for everybody. The company was saturated with innovative versions of Value Engineering/Value Management, and it extended from the executive suite to the shop floor, and across all functions. This company and its executives and staff played a major and defining role in the entire South African transformation out of apartheid, as these principles were applied in the Middelburg community and even into the National Peace Accord.

Natural Systems Designs have a number of distinguishing characteristics:

They identify the underlying vMEME codes operating in the overall culture, the critical priority sets in key decision-structures and which are essential in different work flows, as well as the overarching set-points, flywheels, or deep cultural assumptions that macromanage the whole. This is all mapped out as underground currents on which the enterprise must be constructed.

They skillfully align the core elements – focus, function, form, fit, flow, fulfillment and future – in the design of the features that, when properly set in motion, generate high levels of productivity while, in addition, meeting the four essential "bottom-lines" that every enterprise should now pursue – purpose, profit, people and planet.

They design the appropriate levels in, as reflected in the three Spirals: Degrees of Complexity in the Technology Spiral; Levels of Sophistication in the Business/Systems Spiral; and Levels of Emergence in the Individual and Cultural Spiral. Unless there is synchronization in the three Spirals, tension and stress will result. If the technology is too complicated for the business systems to handle, or the business (motivation, communication, compensation, information, etc) is either too complex or too simplistic for the work force, there is serious trouble ahead. There must be balance across all three Spirals, so that the "well-oiled machine" or the "finely-tuned" Flow-State can function with minimal energy lost and maximum productivity.

They focus more on the codes, maps, equations, and scenarios than on prescriptions, patterns, and policies. For example, the following equation is repeated over and over again:

How should WHO lead/manage/motivate/inspire WHOM to do WHAT, with WHICH people living WHERE?


Ken Wilber has created a powerful, imaginative, and practical template to overlay on any situation to identify the specific needs and capacities of individuals and groups, and

calibrate the precise developmental or growth-related packages that fit each unique situation.

The "All Levels" piece of his framework can be explained in terms of the eight vMEME or worldview layers and levels of complexity. The "All Quadrants" component consists of:

IT - Individual Brain & Organism.

I - Individual Self & Consciousness

ITS - Collective Social System and Environment

WE - Collective Culture and WorldView.

Efforts which select a single Q, or operate on a mismatched L, could make things worse. Large scale efforts, such as cultural upliftment, must be All Q and All L. The same holds for developmental schemes in organizations. Too often we rely on a single Quadrant, such as the Upper Left, in enhancing people's personal insights, skills and states of mind – but then send them back to their same former Lower Left webs of culture that are hostile to these new perspectives and behaviors. Or, we place people in jobs and functions but fail to align the compensation or management systems (Lower Right) that support the behaviors we expect. No doubt you can offer many examples of this problem.

The design and implementation of successful All Quadrants/All Levels initiatives requires a new generation of decision-making formulas and processes. While each of the vMEMES has evolved its own form of problem resolution, the Yellow-Integral and Turquoise-Holistic worldviews contain the intelligences to macromanage the whole human Spiral.


Ichak Adizes, in his corporate lifecycle framework, has devised what he calls CAPI – the Coalescing of Authority, Power, and Influence – so that all sit at the same table in sorting out complex issues. (See After studying thousands of companies from all over the world over decades, he has been able to identify the different managerial codes that are operative at different life-cycle stages as the entity deals with its problems of existence. The codes – P-production, A-administration, E-entrepreneurial and expansionist thinking, and I-integrative – vary at the different stages. The organization will always have problems; the only question is what kinds of problems will it have, what are their dimensions, and what will be required to handle those specific circumstances.

Huge gaps in productivity occur whenever the entity is out-of-phase with its specific location on the corporate life cycle. Short-term, quick-fix, or cosmetic "solutions" only make things worse. The entire entity must be involved in creating trust, designing the appropriate structure, finding the right people, and implementing the congruent systems. The Adizes Methodology is, without question, the most powerful framework that I have come across for managing complex business and cultural streams.


As humans, we exist in a wash of bacteria, viruses, genes, and memes. All four appear to be impacted by nonlinear events, and possess the capacity to literally re-engineer their respective codes in order to adapt to changing conditions in the milieu. The Vital Signs Monitor is designed to track the life forces that influence our human experiences. Consider an operations-type room, with floor to ceiling video screens, where the critical indicators are displayed and overlaid on top of each other. Such a Monitor could register the pulse of aggregates of people, both at macro and micro levels, to search for the deepest trends, major vMEME conflicts in the making, serious sink-holes in development projects, and the general health and well-being of global people. This technology could provide globally focused decision-makers with the necessary information to translate into knowledge, then formulate actions.

Such a technology is being developed by John Petersen and his Arlington Institute, located in Arlington, Virginia. The intent of the Vital Signs Monitor, displayed within the Institute's Fusion Center, is to track vMEMETIC flows and Stages of Change within the American society. (See Likewise, a number of innovative companies are seeing the wisdom of creating their own internal VSM to collect all of the critical indicators, and display them at a single place and time so that everyone can see everything. Conoco, for example, a global energy company, has created what is called Dashboard, a company-wide project and initiative designed to craft such a data clearinghouse that takes and monitors the "pulse" of the company and its external world(s). They may well be writing the textbook for this technology.

Finally, we are now constructing a method for assessing the core Value Systems in entire cultures and societies so that we can detect major tension zones, stress points, and early evidence of major changes on the horizon.

Cometh the Time; Cometh the Thinking.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Scholar's Paper Example: Frank Morris


Frank Morris

Humor is a very vital characteristic of the human psyche. I was curious as to how humor plays a part in the field of Pleneurethics. I chose to compare and contrast two research articles whose topics delve into the subject of what humor is and how it effects human interaction.

I found two articles. The first article is A Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability by author Jason S. Wrench and James C. McCroskey. The second article is titled, Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions by authors, Dawn T. Robinson and Lynn Smith-Lovin.

The main points of Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability deal with the positive benefits of humor, the way humor is communicated, how humor “strikes” us, and the excitability of humor. The definition of humor is also attempted.

Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions tries to define humor. It tries to show how humor is a status builder, how humor can bring people together, and how humor can relieve tension and stress. Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions ask the questions, who uses humor, who laughs at humor, what gender is most likely to use humor, when where, how and why. In addition, does humor beget humor? How does gender grouping affect humor? Who participates in humor? How does the interruption factor affect the use of humor? How does time effect the use of humor – when does it happen in a group? What is the success rate of humor, does humor feed on itself, and who is the target of said humor. How does humor bond people within a group.

In Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability, the positive benefits of humor are multi fold. Humor can and does relieve stress. It not only dissipates stressful situations but also helps us to cope with our own stress. Humor can be utilized in dealing with family problems. Humor can help us see or set a positive spin on matters. It helps us not to take ourselves too seriously. Humorous people are generally found more popular than people who are not humorous are. People like people who can make them laugh. Being liked by fellow humans usually relates into higher self-esteem and thus a better mental attitude towards life. Hopefully this will equate into better mental health and in how people treat other people.

Humor is in our genetics; you’re born with a funny bone. Humor can be learned somewhat but to be truly humorous it has to be an inborn trait. Communication (which humor is a subdivision of) is neurobiologically driven. “…genetic codes have been linked to the traits of impulsiveness, openness, conservatism, hostility and intelligence.” (Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability) All these traits are found in humor and / or drive humor to be utilized.

How humor plays out to us when we hear it is predicted in a large part to our DNA. Humor is a commonality that binds most of mankind together. “Humor and laughter are both a psychological and physiological response pattern that activates the entire cortex, sending waves of positive and negative polarization through both hemispheres.” (Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability) So humor and laughter exercises both sides of the brain. It is probably one of the few incidents that allow the left and right sides of the brain to function together at the same time experiencing the same thing all at once.

Definition of humor in article Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability is “…humor is like obscenity, you know it when you see it.” This seems to me to be the best definition I have come across. Humor is just too broad of a subject to be pinned down with a narrow explanation. Even though it is hard to define humor it is not hard to “see” what bad humor is. Most people have distinct lines drawn in their minds on what kind of humor they are willing to accept. In this day and age the erosion of what society will accept as humor has changed. What once use to be reserved for the locker room or the pool hall is now flaunted on prime time television. Humor and obscenity seem to have merged into one.

Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions agrees with Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability. Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions conclusion on a definition is, “Like beauty, most people believe that they know it (humor) when they see (hear) it.” Humor is a perception, you can’t pin it down with a thumbtack definition. One man’s humor is another man’s misery depending on their perception of the humor at hand.

How and why do people use humor as a status builder within a group? According to Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions when in a group of strangers, humor is more likely to build a hierarchy within the group than to build group cohesion. This agrees with one of the positive aspect that Temperamental Understanding of Humor Communication and Exhilaratability points out. People who can use humor successfully and use it more often usually find themselves at the upper end of the status chain within the group where they employ said humor. Is it the humor that promotes their self-confidence or is it their self-confidence that propels them to employ humor in their communication? This is a question neither article asks nor answers.

Getting a Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions talks about how humor helps to define reality and helps to define one’s self. Humor helps us to “see” reality from a less serious side. A reflection of silliness helps our perspective of the issue come into a focus we might not of considered. Humor helps to define one’s self – if you can’t laugh at yourself, how can you freely laugh at something else. Humor can be used as a control by its power to connect people to other people. It can also be used to exclude people from a group. Humor is neither good nor evil, but it is a tool. The intent or motive of the one welding the tool of humor depicts its moral outcome.

Who uses humor and when do they use it? Men use humor more frequently than women do in mixed gender groups. Women, in a group of their own, will use humor more freely and it is noted that when they do so the subject of choice is men in general. One area where humor has taken a somewhat negative approach is in all of the “stupid guy” commercials now on TV. Are these just funny or are they an attempt to degrade men in general. Women’s humor is mainly used to build a bonding between them. Men’s humor is mainly used to build hierarchy and status within the group. Men use humor more often than women do. Men also have a higher degree of success (getting a laugh) than women do.

Humor (successful humor) does beget more humor. The more successful a person is at using humor the more likely they will continue using it.

People who are of higher status within a group also tend to disagree with other people more often and use humor so as not to offend others or to damage their status within the group.

Humor is more frequent but not quite as successful in the beginning of a group discussion. In the middle of the time frame humor is less likely to happen or to be as successful. At the end of the time frame is usually when humor will happen more frequently and with a higher success rate.

Humor promotes positive emotional responses. Positive emotional response helps to build group cohesion. Positive emotions lead to increased group commitment to each other. Humor helps to decrease resistance to influence and helps to equalize relations. Humor helps people to have effective ties to a group.

When I came across the two articles that I choose, their subject matter intrigued me. When I read them, I did so with the thought of maybe they could help explain to me why humor effects people the way it does and how humor is used to its advantage in peoples lives.

Humor can be used to build up one’s status within a group. Until I read about it, I didn’t realize that it could be so. I think humor is best used to relieve tension in a group and to build camaraderie.

Why do I care about humor? It is a big part of who/what I am, I think it is a big part of who and what most people are. Life should be fun. Even in the darkest days of your life that you may find yourself in, humor can help not just lighten the load, but to illuminate your soul. Have you ever commented on someone and said, “boy he/she has a personality like a dead fish.” What you perceive in that person is a lack of humor. Humor makes or breaks a person’s personality. Humor has an effect on a person’s ability to be personable. People with a “good” sense of humor are more approachable than people who are not.

Sarcasm is the dark side of humor. Sarcasm means, “to rip the flesh” (The American Heritage Dictionary 623), it is verbally whipping someone, just as a real whip leaves scares on ones back, sarcasm leaves scares on ones psyche. Down through the ages humor has been and unfortunately will continue to be used against the betterment of humankind. Humor in and of its self is neither good nor bad. It is what the human spirit uses it for that determines its purpose.

Ethics of the mind, outside of the mind ethics does not exist and neither does humor. No other species on earth exercises ethics nor do they exercise humor. Humans alone share this quality. Humor can be exercised for good or for evil that is or choice our moral dilemma.


Wrench, Jason S. and James C. McCroskey. “A Temperamental Understanding of Humor communication and Exhilaratability.” Communication Quarterly Spring 2001: v49 i2 142-160, Web: Expanded Academic ASAP, InfoTrac, Tacoma Community College. Lib., Tacoma, WA 18 Feb. 2003.

Robinson, Dawn T. and Lynn Smith-Lovin. “Getting A Laugh: Gender, Status, and Humor in Task Discussions.” Social Forces, Sept 2001 v80 il 123-161. Expanded Academic ASAP, InfoTrac, Tacoma Community College. Lib., Tacoma, WA 18 Feb. 2003.

Scholar's Paper Example: Nancy Godfrey


By Nancy Godfrey

Final Draft

Depression is one of the most frequently diagnosed conditions in the United States today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.8 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year have a depressive disorder.[1] Those staggering statistics should cause us to question what is behind this pervasive condition. Though the cause of depression is unknown, many theories suggest possible causes. There is some thought among the scientific community that depression may have a genetic basis. So far studies have only hinted that bipolar disorder, which does have a depressive component, can be linked to a different genetic makeup. Other causes are thought to be low self-esteem or hormonal disorders. It is not entirely clear whether these factors are causes or simply an early stage of the illness. What is clear is that those who suffer from depression often have altered structures within the brain.

Physical changes are also sometimes associated with depression, though it should be noted that depression associated with illness is difficult to determine cause and effect. The one cause of depression that all scientists and researchers seem to agree upon is stress. That stress can take many forms such as illness, traumatic experience, financial hardship, or relationship difficulty. Even desirable stress is thought to trigger depression in some cases. The combination of biological and environmental factors is thought to be involved in the onset of depression. This is one area where the principles of Pleneurethics may have profound impact on the magnitude and prevention of depression.[2]

Some types of depression run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited. This seems to be the case with bipolar disorder. Studies of families in which members of each generation develop bipolar disorder found that those with the illness have a somewhat different genetic makeup than those who do not get ill. However, the reverse is not true: Not everybody with the genetic makeup that causes vulnerability to bipolar disorder will have the illness. Apparently additional factors, possibly stresses at home, work, or school, are involved in its onset.

In some families, major depression also seems to occur generation after generation. However, it can also occur in people who have no family history of depression. Whether inherited or not, major depressive disorder is often associated with changes in brain structures or brain function. People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition or an early form of the illness is not clear.

In recent years, researchers have shown that physical changes in the body can be accompanied by mental changes as well. Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and hormonal disorders can cause depressive illness, making the sick person apathetic and unwilling to care for his or her physical needs, thus prolonging the recovery period. Also, a serious loss, difficult relationship, financial problem, or any stressful (unwelcome or even desired) change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. Very often, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of a depressive disorder. Only mild stresses, or none typically precipitates later episodes of depressive illness at all.[3]

Treatment choice will depend on the outcome of evaluation. There are a variety of antidepressant medications and psychotherapies that can be used to treat depressive disorders. Some people with milder forms may do well with psychotherapy alone. People with moderate to severe depression are typically treated with medication. Most do best with combined treatment: medication to gain relatively quick symptom relief and psychotherapy to learn more effective ways to deal with life's problems, including depression. Depending on the patient's diagnosis and severity of symptoms, the therapist may prescribe medication and/or one of the several forms of psychotherapy that have proven effective for depression. These treatments are the standard for most forms of depression.

In the past few years, much interest has risen in the use of herbs in the treatment of both depression and anxiety. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), an herb used extensively in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in Europe, has recently aroused interest in the United States. St. John's Wort, an attractive bushy, low-growing plant covered with yellow flowers in summer, has been used for centuries in many folk and herbal remedies. Today in Germany, Hypericum is used in the treatment of depression more than any other antidepressant. However, the scientific studies that have been conducted on its use have been short-term and have used several different doses.

Because of the widespread interest in St. John's Wort, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a 3-year study, sponsored by three NIH components-the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the Office of Dietary Supplements. The study was designed to include 336 patients with major depression of moderate severity, randomly assigned to an 8-week trial with one-third of patients receiving a uniform dose of St. John's Wort, another third sertraline, a selective seratonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) commonly prescribed for depression, and the final third a placebo (a pill that looks exactly like the SSRI and the St. John's Wort, but has no active ingredients). At the end of the first phase of the study, participants were measured on two scales, one for depression and one for overall functioning. There was no significant difference in rate of response for depression, but the scale for overall functioning was better for the antidepressant than for either St. John's Wort or placebo. While this study did not support the use of St. John's Wort in the treatment of major depression, ongoing NIH-supported research is examining a possible role for St. John's Wort in the treatment of milder forms of depression.[4]

The Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory on February 10, 2000. It stated that St. John's Wort appears to affect an important metabolic pathway that is used by many drugs prescribed to treat conditions such as AIDS, heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and rejection of transplants.[5] Some other herbal supplements frequently used that have not been evaluated in large-scale clinical trials are ephedra, gingko biloba, Echinacea, and ginseng. It is possible that these have not been tested because they are not controlled by the FDA, nor are they owned by a specific pharmaceutical company, therefore the interest in their study is limited.[6]

Many forms of psychotherapy, including some short-term (10-20 week) therapies, can help depressed individuals. "Talking" therapies help patients gain insight into and resolve their problems through verbal exchange with the therapist, sometimes combined with "homework" assignments between sessions. "Behavioral" therapists help patients learn how to obtain more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions and how to unlearn the behavioral patterns that contribute to or result from their depression.

Two short-term psychotherapies that research has shown helpful for some forms of depression are: interpersonal and cognitive/behavioral therapies. Interpersonal therapists focus on the patient's disturbed personal relationships that both cause and exacerbate (or increase) the depression. Cognitive/behavioral therapists help patients to change the negative styles of thinking and behaving often associated with depression. These treatments begin to take into account the individual’s power to influence their condition and recognize the value of right-mindedness and right living, two principles of Pleneurethics.[7]

Psychodynamic therapies, which are sometimes used to treat depressed persons, focus on resolving the patient's conflicted feelings. These therapies are often reserved until the depressive symptoms are significantly improved. In general, severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require medication (or ECT under special conditions) along with, or preceding, psychotherapy for the best outcome. These recommended treatments are followed by a brief list of self-help means of getting over depression, but individual ownership of healing is almost an afterthought to the medical therapies.

In light of the many possible causes of depression, it is surprising that treatment options are so limited. The primary treatment of choice in the United States is medication. Antidepressants represent one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs on the market. Psychotherapy is thought to be an important adjunct to drug therapy, but often it is not utilized by primary care providers who most often treat mild to moderate depression among patients. Sadly, it is our culture to seek instant satisfaction and quick fixes to problems. The unfortunate result is that the cause and prevention of depression often goes unaddressed. Even the NIMH pays nominal attention to measures the individual can take to deal with a depressive episode.

In the search for effective treatment of this potentially debilitating condition, science has overlooked one of the most powerful tools available to us: the human brain. Though the primary focus in the medical community is on the chemical imbalance thought to cause depression, almost no attention is given to the idea that depression may be caused by a life imbalance.

The principles of Pleneurethics stress that it is imperative to strengthen and preserve the neural system. This principle may be applied to depression through its prevention. One of the preventative measures that is always mentioned, but seldom emphasized is stress reduction. Ian Wickramasekera, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School states, “Many people who have stress-related pain aren’t even aware of what they’re fearful or angry about.”[8] He claims, “Half of the patients doctors see for various common body aches are actually expressing psychological distress.” He attributes most of that pain to stress. According to Richard Laliberte in the same article, “The source of stress-related pain lies in the brain…”[9] It is logical that if stress causes physical pain and physical pain can cause psychological distress, stress relief should in turn ease any psychological distress. Because Pleneurethics is considered “any corrective force applied to body or mind to restore neurological sufficiency”, stress reduction is an integral part of incorporating Pleneurethics into everyday life.[10]

One cultural phenomenon that seems to contribute to stress is increased reliance on prepackaged foods and decreased exercise. Prepackaged foods and fast foods tend to contain higher fat, higher calorie items, which are now thought to be one of the primary culprits in the rising rate of obesity. As our nation becomes more obese, we also become more sedentary. The effect could be an increase in rates of depression due to changes in hormone levels, decreased blood flow, decreased levels of the amino-acid L-5 Hydroxytryptophan (a neurotransmitter which increases seratonin levels) and reduced amounts of endorphins that are produced during exercise. Recent studies have shown the rate of obesity and sedentism among U.S. citizens to be growing at an exponential rate.[11] The effects of obesity are well known on the body, but we may tend to overlook the underlying stress, low self-esteem, lack of healthy human interaction and dependence on medical solutions for depression that obesity may cause. Pleneurethics relies on the integration of physical, mental and spiritual balance.[12]

The reduction of stress is one concrete way that the physical and spiritual forces can greatly affect mental status. The imbalance that we suffer from ignoring our spiritual needs for peace, the physical needs for exercise and rest manifests itself in depression in some cases. Exercise and proper nutrition are ways of promoting chemical pathways to the brain, encouraging healing Delta sleep patterns and increasing blood flow to organs. These processes support brain activity and are embedded in the Pleneurethics principle of protecting the brain and enhancing its supporting mechanisms. There is an underlying fear among much of the public that depression is a biological condition that must be treated using medication. Pharmaceutical companies play on this fear by using advertisements and generalized symptoms for diagnosis to promote the use of their product.

The very nature of depression causes uncertainty, questioning one’s own judgment and a desire to know that a solution may be readily at hand. Some sufferers of depression have described wanting a cure so desperately that they are willing to submit themselves to trials of medications they do not understand. In an interview with a current antidepressant user she admitted, “I was hesitant to start medication. I waited for years before surrendering to it. I always felt that I was smart enough that I should not have to take it (medication) to get better. One day I finally broke into tears and couldn’t stop. That is when I realized I couldn’t figure out how to fix it myself. My doctor suggested I take antidepressants and I have been on them since. Sometimes I feel like I am not myself anymore, but I am too afraid of getting that bad again to stop. Depression is like a hole that keeps caving in on you. Just when you think you have reached the top, the walls fall in and you give up and look for someone or something to lift you out.” Name withheld.

That sense of desperation often leads independent, intelligent people to rely on a solution that does not involve them. By using medication as a quick fix, people remove themselves from the process of healing and thereby may negate any responsibility they owe to their own well-being. That is a dangerous prospect when you consider that most depression sufferers will experience at least two relapses during their lifetime. The use of medication does not give people the tools they need to battle the condition, prepare for its return or remain healthy.

A recent article on WebMD asks a question that one studying Pleneurethics might. “Is it possible for psychiatry and religious/spiritual beliefs to coexist, or even to be entwined?”[13] There may appear to be an obvious answer, most of the medical community treats the mind, body and spirit as separate entities. In some cases, medical professionals find themselves at a loss to explain phenomenon that appears to point directly to this connection. In an attempt to remember that we are connected to our spirit by mind and body the article some scientific research has been done to examine this concept. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that “spiritual practices may indeed exert a positive influence on a person's health and well being, including those experiencing mental health problems.”[14] Though this may seem a positive step, there are those in the clergy as well as psychiatry who question the intertwining of the two. Some in the psychotherapy field believe that religion may be the cause of some mental illness. In spite of this disagreement, groups are forming around the country that utilizes prayer or meditation as a tool to treat and prevent further episodes of depression. This recognition of us as spiritual beings is one step along the Pleneurethics path.

Another Pleneurethics principle that has close ties to spirituality is ethics. It is not surprising that in a nation as cynical as ours tends to be, we give short shrift to ethical issues. We see CEO’s, sports icons, heads of state and even religious leaders embroiled in ethical controversy. As individuals trying to live in a society that places value on power, position and possessions, it is difficult to find our own ethical boundaries. Events take place daily that may call into use our ethics. Things as simple as taking a day of sick leave to play golf or cutting off another driver to get a parking space may become ethical roadblocks. Though these things may seem trivial, they can add up, much in the way plaques build up in an artery. Eventually the pressure of each unresolved ethical issue can cause a moral attack. The weight of living unethically is often unseen. It exists subversively in our subconscious, depleting our energy to contribute to others. Once we stop giving to the world beyond ourselves, we cease to have a purpose. That leaves a space that the universe must fill. Often, it is filled with self-loathing, guilt and eventually depression. To avoid oversimplification, living unethically may not lead to any of these things. The point is that by living ethically, we free that portion of our mind that would tend to build up stress over such issues. Ethics is an individual issue, as well as a global one. Living within the boundaries of your personal belief system may alleviate some of the potential pitfalls of allowing yourself to yield to outside pressures. Richard Bach wrote, “Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.”[15] By maintaining a strong sense of self, spirituality and ethics, depression brought on by regrettable decisions can be mitigated. Knowing that you always act in a way that you believe is ethical allows self-respect and dignity that can fade in times of impending depression. [16]

Depression can be a problem of chemical imbalance or life imbalance. It is a state in which your impression of the world and your place in it is distorted. Though this distortion may be real or perceived, the effect is very real on the lives of depression sufferers. Depression can cause doubt about every decision, inflate every emotion and call into question one’s own worth. Because of the very nature of the condition, utilizing Pleneurethics principles may promote a state of awareness that reduces the consuming doubt and potential for self-loathing that accompanies many depressions. This concept is gradually gaining support among the scientific community.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently held a conference between top scientists and the Dalai Lama to study Buddhism and its relation to the way the brain functions. The conference, sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute explored the tendency to equate objects with happiness and self worth. The Mind and Life Institute also examines the link between Buddhist practices and the ability to intentionally manipulate basic physiological processes, and to catalyze psychological and biological healing effects.[17]

Author of the book Destructive Emotions, Daniel Goleman, PhD said in a recent interview, “The dogma in neuroscience was that the brain…was unchanged by life experiences.”[18] Recently science has begun to challenge that long-held belief. David Lykken, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota is author of the book Happiness: The Surprising Ways We Can Make the Most of What Nature Gives Us. In a recent interview he addressed the issue of our ability to create happiness and actually change the brain. He said, “Happiness is genetically influenced but not genetically fixed…the brain’s structure can be modified through practice.”[19] This concept is slowly gaining strength. It gives credibility to the principle of Pleneurethics that thoughts can change the actual structure of the brain. This gives way to the simple conclusion that practicing right-mindedness and ethical thought and action provide neural sufficiency and can actually change the internal structures of the brain.[20]

The utilization of Pleneurethics principles could help prevent episodes of depression and heal those already suffering with depression. By understanding the need for support of the brain and its systems, we can conclude that Pleneurethics principles may offer solutions to those who seek to prevent depression in their lives. Caring for our bodies, hearts and minds could be the most powerful tool for healing and prevention of this debilitating condition.

[1] National Institute of Mental Health. Publication No. 01-4584. Updated: January 01, 2001.

[2] Richard Bangs Collier. Pleneurethics: A New Concept of Healing. Vol. II, Second Ed. p. 86

[3] National Institute of Mental Health. Publication No. 02-3561. Printed 2000, Reprinted September 2002. - ptdep4

[4] National Institute of Health. Study Shows St. John's Wort Ineffective for Major Depression of Moderate Severity Embargoed for release: Tuesday, April 9, 2002. 4 p.m.

[5] National Institute of Mental Health. Updated: January 12, 2001

[6] National Institute of Mental Health. Updated: January 12, 2001

[7] Richard Bangs Collier. Pleneurethics: A New Concept of Healing. Vol II. Second Ed. (p. 159-180)

[8] Shape Magazine. “Is stress making you ache?” Richard Laliberte. (p. 152)

[9] Ibid. (p. 152).

[10] Pleneurethics Journal. (Vol. II, Chapter 1, p5).

[12] Richard Bangs Collier. Pleneurethics. Vol. V. (p. 91-93).

[13] WebMD. “Mental Health and Spiritual Wealth”. Roxanne Nelson. WebMD Medical News Archive. 28, 2000.

[14] Ibid. p. 4.

[15] Richard Bach. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. 1977.

[16] Richard Bangs Collier. Essential Pleneurethic. Second Ed. (p. 118-130)

[18] O Magazine. “Looking for Happiness in All the Right Places”. Mark Matousek. (March, 2004. p192-195).

[19] Ibid. p. 195.

[20] Richard Bangs Collier. Essential Pleneurethic. Second Ed. (p. 86).


Richard Bach. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Delacorte Press.New York, 1977.

Richard Bangs Collier. Pleneurethics: A New Concept of Healing. Vol. II, Second Ed. Ed. John Terrey.


Richard Bangs Collier. Essential Pleneurethic. Second Ed. Ed. Donald C. Emmons, PhD, Ralph D.

Shoub, PhD.

Richard Bangs Collier. Pleneurethic. Volume V.

Mind and Life Institute. (December 1, 2004)

National Institute of Health. “Study Shows St. John's Wort Ineffective for Major Depression of Moderate Severity” (June 6, 2003).

National Institute of Mental Health. Publication No. 01-4584. Updated: January 01, 2001. (March 15, 2003)

National Institute of Mental Health. Publication No. 02-3561. Printed 2000, Reprinted September 2002. (March 18, 2003)

National Institute of Mental Health. Updated: January

12, 2001(July 24, 2003).

O Magazine. “Looking for Happiness in All the Right Places”. Mark Matousek. (March, 2004. p192-195).

Pleneurethics Journal. (Vol. II, Chapter 1, p5).

Shape Magazine. “Is Stress Making You Ache?” Richard Laliberte. (p. 152)

WebMD. “Mental Health and Spiritual Wealth”. Roxanne Nelson. WebMD Medical News Archive. Aug. 28, 2000