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Liebert for Greenbelt

Changing Life Patterns : Adult Development in Spiritual Direction by Elizabeth Liebert [ISBN 0-8091-3296-6]

Conformist stage.

Major characteristic is the importance of belonging. Reality is made by the groups to which you belong. You conform in order to be able to have an identity. Friends are people you do things with. Rules are important, as are authority figures. You want to do God's will, but someone has to tell you what it is. God's will understood in behavioural rather than attitudinal or motivational terms. You see things in black & white. Your world is governed by 'shoulds' & 'oughts', so you are often very hard on yourself. May have difficulty with sexuality and anger. Strong sense of shame. Denial of negative feelings. Base your views of others on stereotypes. Don't easily make allowances for individual differences. Do not have a strong inner life. Rely on what you see on the outside for making judgements about yourself & others. As you don't know how to look inside yourself, you have difficulty distinguishing among your feelings. Will see a spiritual director as an authority/expert who provides correct answers / better ways of proceeding. Present as 'nice
people' who do things right, and don't break the rules. Yet may have malignant or thoughtless prejudices to 'out' groups.

Conscientious stage.

When the conformist stage doesn't work any more people are moving to the next stage. The conscientious stage is one of growing self confidence. You respond more to personal values rather than group ones. Rules are not absolute. Individuals are different. You can now claim a personal vision. Authority relocated within oneself. You take greater interest in your relationships. You experience ambiguity and questioning about many things. Simple views of the world become impossible. This is the time for tossing overboard so much of the baggage accumulated as conformists: even God. If confusion and grief over lost certainties become too great, it may >> paralysis. May feel like 'leaving home'. This stage lacks the clarity of the previous one, and so spiritual direction can be a real help, providing a sounding board as you find & redefine your own identity. You are aware of the inner movements of your interior life, but that does not mean that you can interpret them correctly. Discernment becomes very important. Rules are self chosen and internalised. Self discernment is now possible. You understand the motivation behind your assumptions. You are more willing to work with God rather than trying to save yourself. God is now a personal God. 'My God' and not the God of parents/church etc. Prayer can now be truly affective. You can be more objective about relationships. There is a greater capacity for intimacy, and more responsibility & communication in these relationships. You learn from your relationships because you hold them up like a mirror to see yourself more clearly. Conscientious people are people who care, but this usually means care for others not themselves. Self care is something you still need to learn. Being in greater touch with the self can also lead to a certain self centeredness. Having claimed your inner authority can also mean an excessive self confidence in your own judgements and insights. 'I have prayed about it and I have decided….' other input is foreclosed. You may experience difficulty fitting your newly claimed self into the larger, ever changing world. You may become cynical and alienating. When other people or groups don't treat you as the unique individual you know yourself to be you may find this very hard. You expect others to accommodate your newly forged self-identity.

Interindividual stage.

Rare to meet people at this stage before mid-life. These people are free enough to be themselves and let others be themselves. They have a high degree of social awareness. Some never move into this stage, their highest level of development may have some characteristics of this transition but be lacking in others. You are tolerant of yourself when you learn to live with your inner conflicts because you can tolerate the existence of opposites. Not all problems are solvable. You are very creative when it comes to the pursuit of the spiritual life, because you can handle complexity, paradox and the difference between your inner and outer lives. Integration now means that process and development are not a goal, but rather a way of life. Recognising the legitimacy of perspectives other than one's own >> interdependence with those whose values/goals may be antithetical. Because you do not approach others with your own agenda you can achieve a greater intimacy with them. Your goal is achieving harmony among groups and within yourself, to transcend the differences between yourself and others. These people are the great reconcilers. You can tolerate ambiguity. You are world-conscious people. You are not afraid of any of your feelings, you are comfortable with them. There is a generosity of spirit in 'Interindividuals'. Your criteria for acting are not simply those of requirements from church, society or family, but from your own inner life. You have a broader understanding of yourself and the world around you. Since you have come to terms with yourself in a realistic way, you are able to be more compassionate and kind to yourself. Ambiguities in your inner life are accepted as part of being human. Self care springs from the realisation that it is only the healthy person who can help the other. Because there is greater freedom within their inner world, elements from the unconscious emerge more readily. As a result you may be dealing with many so-called negative feelings. Previously ignored needs may surface which need to be integrated. Images of God are vague but the intimacy with God is more available. God now free to be God. What images you do find amenable may be those of your own creation. The images will be more felt than imagined. Doing your own spiritual direction is part of being at this level. You allow yourself to be guided by your unconscious world. You need a companion as you deal with the fact that you must live in sinful structures and institutions which are at variance with your ideals. Will see spiritual director as a co-pilgrim who walks alongside, sharing the challenges & delights of the journey. You are more interested in the process than in arriving Perhaps you need to learn to die to yourself when you accept the autonomy of others, when you build relationships which are truly mutual and intimate, and when you confront the sinful structures in which they find your life entwined.

Henry Morgan