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Hi Buddy

From the Astin reading

Do the following exercise in the reading: “Think of something that you desire, but that you are not currently intending to pursue. What beliefs about goodness, importance, and possibility are involved in 1) your desire, and 2) your current lack of intention to pursue it?”

Answer the question 200-400 words.

Buddy please before you start let me know wat you will write about? And for word document just response to the students for just 3 sentences.

Copyright 2007. Information Age Publishing.
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
Up to this point we have limited our discussion of consciousness primarily
to the individual: what you or I or any other person experiences “inside
the head” during our waking hours. But since we are all social beings, the
reality of living is that each conscious individual is necessarily part of
some larger grouping—partners, spouses, friends, relatives, coworkers,
family, team, club, organization, company, neighborhood, community—
comprising two or more conscious beings. Since most of us belong to several such groups, a good deal of our conscious experience is shaped by
our contacts with other group members. Our consciousness can also be
substantially affected by the manner in which we experience the many
other “unaffiliated” people we encounter in our daily lives. Indeed, it is
probably no exaggeration to say that the quality of your life is determined in large part by your relationships with other people. For this
reason, the main goals of this chapter are to encourage you to reflect on
your typical ways of relating to others and to provide you with some tools
for clarifying and understanding your relationships with the important
people in your life.
As we saw briefly in the initial discussion of feeling states (chapter 5),
there are certain types of feelings that are uniquely connected with your
interactions with other people. In this chapter we will discuss these different states in some detail and explore the different types of beliefs about
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174 A. W. ASTIN
others that can cause you to experience many of these “interpersonal” feelings. Following this we will suggest some exercises that can help you to get
a clearer picture of your emotional relationships with significant people in
your life. Next, in a section titled, “Getting to Know You,” we will pay special attention to how your beliefs can affect the way you experience people
you do not know well or people you are meeting for the first time. We will
conclude the chapter with a discussion of an age-old dilemma: how to reconcile the “conflicting” needs of the individual and the community.
The dictionary analysis identified more than 150 terms that can used to
describe how you feel toward others. These terms can, in turn, be organized into 39 different “interpersonal” feeling states. Like most of the
other feeling states already discussed, many of these interpersonal feelings can be paired together as “positive” and “negative” polar opposites
of each other. However, in the case of interpersonal feelings, the negative
feeling states substantially outnumber the positive states (25 to 14). Let us
now examine these interpersonal states under three general headings:
feelings of “relatedness,” “comparative” feelings, and “reactive” feelings.
Feelings of Relatedness
Many important aspects of your conscious experience are shaped by
the emotional relationships that you have with others. What are the emotional connections that you have with other people in your life? How close
do you feel toward your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers? How
do you typically relate to strangers?
Probably the most fundamental of all such relatedness feelings are the
polar opposites, loving and hating. Since love and hate are both complex
feelings, they can assume several different forms. In the case of loving
feelings, there are at least three different versions: romantic love, nonromantic love, and caring. For example, when you experience a feeling of
romantic love in relation to your spouse or partner, you might say that
you feel “in love with,” romantic, adoring, smitten, infatuated with, or
enamoured. Such feelings of romantic love are also often connected with
sexual feelings. (Since sexual feelings are not necessarily interpersonal
and are almost always accompanied by physical sensations, they have
already been discussed under “physical” feelings in chapter 6.) On the
other hand, if your loving feeling is nonromantic, it might be captured by
words such as like, fond of, cherish, or affectionate. You can, of course,
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 175
experience both romantic and nonromantic loving feelings toward the
same person. (Since the word “love” has a number of different meanings
and can be an emotionally loaded term, some people are uncomfortable
using it to describe their feelings in friendships that are nonromantic and
non-sexual; for such people the preferred term is usually “like.”) Finally,
caring refers to the way you feel when you are inclined to act on your loving feelings. Variations on feeling caring toward another person would
include feeling kind, warm, nurturing, tender, protective, maternal, or
fatherly toward that person. Note that you often combine these different
types of loving feelings, since you usually “like” or feel “loving” toward
those you “care about,” and vise versa.
The negative or polar opposite feeling to loving is, of course, hating.
Alternative ways to describe hateful feelings would be to say that you feel
hostile or antagonistic toward the other person or that you have feelings
of malice, enmity, dislike, animosity, or loathing toward that person.
Closely related to hatefulness is to feel “angry” or “mad” at someone, a
“bodily” feeling state that was also discussed earlier in chapter 6. Whereas
angry feelings arise rapidly in your awareness and tend to last for a relatively short time, hate tends to be much longer lasting. Indeed, it is possible to carry hateful feelings toward particular people over a period of
many years. These long-lasting feelings of hatred can be directed at particular individuals, but they also often involve groups, as evidenced in
places such as Northern Ireland, Africa, and the Middle East, not to mention our own country (e.g., the infamous “Hatfield-McCoy” rivalry). Figure 9.1 shows the “enriched” love-hate continuum.
It should be noted that caring also has another negative polar opposite, feeling vengeful, which will be discussed below under “reactive” feelings. In a sense, “vengefulness is to hate as caring is to love,” since
feelings of caring and vengefulness both incline you to take action in relation to the other person; in the case of caring, the feeling is associated
with wanting to help, while with vengefulness the feeling is associated
with wanting to hurt the other person.
It goes without saying that these two bipolar continua of feelings—loving/hating and caring/vengeful—are closely related. That is, you will find
it much easier to feel caring toward someone else if you also love or like
them, and you are much more likely to feel vengeful toward another person if you also feel hateful toward that person.
How do your beliefs relate to feelings of love and hate? As already suggested earlier in Chapter 2, most if not all of your negative feelings
about other people are based on your beliefs. In the case of hate, you
usually feel hateful toward someone because you believe either that they
have hurt or harmed you in some way or that they represent some kind of
threat to you (i.e., that they might do harm to you.) In the latter case,
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176 A. W. ASTIN
Loving (romantic)
(in love with, infatuated,
smitten, adoring, enamoured)
Liking (nonromantic loving)
(fond of, cherish,
hostile, malice,
Caring (warm, nurturing, tender,
protective, motherly, fatherly)
Figure 9.1.
The “enriched” love-hate continuum.
there is usually also an element of fear involved—which is why many psychologists contend that feelings of anger or hate are often based on fear.
While this helps to explain why fear is often regarded as one of our most
primitive and basic feeling states, it should also be noted that fear is also
based on beliefs, that is, the belief that something or someone can or will
do you harm. Similarly, feeling hurt—another emotion that can generate
feelings of hatred—is based on a belief that someone has rejected you or
otherwise done you harm.
In the case of positive interpersonal feelings such as loving or liking,
the role of beliefs is not as clear. While it could be argued that you could
come to like or love somebody because you believe that they are beautiful
or good or because you believe that they have treated you well, it is usually
much more difficult in any individual instance to trace the emergence of
such positive feelings to particular beliefs. Most people, for example, do
not like or love everyone whom they see as either good or beautiful, and
most people do not necessarily love or like another person merely
because they believe that person has treated them well. Romantic love, in
particular, is very difficult to “explain” on the basis of particular beliefs.
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 177
Think of a person for whom you have recently felt loving feelings.
(a) Write down at least two related beliefs that you hold about that
person. Repeat the exercise with two other people: (b) one for
whom you have recently felt caring and (c) one for whom you felt
hateful or vengeful.
Even though love and hate probably receive more attention in psychology and in literature than do most other feelings of relatedness, there are
a great many much more subtle relatedness feelings that govern most of
our emotional relationships with others. Like loving and hating, many of
these more subtle feelings can be viewed as either “positive” or “negative.” On the positive side, these subtle feelings of relatedness can take at
least three different forms: connectedness, trust, and empathy. When you
feel connected to another person—a good friend, for example—you
might say that you “feel a strong connection” or “have rapport” with that
person. Other ways to describe such a feeling would be to say that you feel
like minded, related to, in tune with, allied with or identified with, or feel
a kinship with that person. A milder version of positive connectedness
would be to feel friendly or “neighborly” toward the other person. It is
important to note that when you feel both strongly connected and loving
toward someone else, several other feelings are likely to arise: intimacy,
trust, vulnerability, and possibly sexuality.
On the negative (disconnectedness) end of this continuum there are
two different types of feelings that we shall call “passive” and “active” disconnectedness, respectively. When you feel passively disconnected from
others—that is, when you believe that it is not something that you have
chosen to do—you might say that you feel alone, lonely, forlorn, left out,
ignored, excluded, or like an outcast, a pariah, or an outsider. This feeling
of passive disconnectedness can occur in relation to another person, but it
most often arises in relation a group: “They make me feel like an outsider.” When you feel actively disconnected—that is, when you believe
that the disconnection is something you have chosen to do—you might
say that you feel aloof, distant, isolated, separated, or alienated: “I’ve distanced myself from them.” Note that while passive disconnectedness suggests a feeling of helplessness—“Those people don’t connect with or care
about me”—, active disconnectedness is to a certain extent a matter of
choice: “I’ve disconnected myself from those people (that person).”
A close cousin of connectedness is trust. Here again we have a bipolar
continuum with trusting at the positive end and suspicious at the negative
end. Alternatives to trusting someone else would be to “believe in,” “rely
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178 A. W. ASTIN
on,” or “have faith in” them. There are even more variations on being suspicious of another person: you can also feel guarded, leery, defensive, distrustful, doubtful, unsure of, mistrustful, or “on guard” when you are
around them. When it comes to your relationships with others, these negative feelings are extremely important, not only because of how they affect
the way you treat other people, but also because of how their behavior
toward you is affected. Obviously, people will tend to treat you one way if
you trust them, and quite differently if you are suspicious of them.
A third subtle feeling state that is closely related to connectedness and
trust is empathy. Empathy basically has to do with putting yourself mentally and emotionally in the other person’s place, imagining how it would
be to be feeling and thinking what the other person is feeling and thinking. In addition to feeling empathic toward another person, you could
also feel “compassionate” or “understanding of ” that person. On the
negative (nonempathic) end of the empathy continuum is intolerance.
Besides feeling that you have “no tolerance for” someone else’s views or
actions, you could also feel “unsympathetic” toward them, “offended” by
them, or that you have “no use for” them. (Terms like “judgemental” and
“self-righteous” might also apply, but you would ordinarily use these
terms to label or judge another person’s feelings or behavior rather than
to describe your own feelings.) And just like suspicion and trust, empathy
and intolerance are feelings that others are likely to “pick up on.”
These three continua of subtle relatedness feeling states are obviously
related, since you are better able to trust someone or to feel empathic if
you also feel connected to them, and you are more likely to feel defensive
or intolerant toward another person if you also feel disconnected or distant. These same three continua, in turn, are also related to the “lovinghating” and “caring-vengeful” continua. That is, if you have feelings of
love or caring toward another person, it is much easier to establish rapport and trust and to feel empathic. At the same time, feeling disconnected from someone else or feeling suspicious or intolerant of them
Complete the following sentence:
“I feel an emotional distance between myself and______________.”
(b) Think of at least two other feelings that you have toward this
person or group.
(c) When was the last time you felt really alone, like an outsider,
like you did not belong? Can you think of any beliefs about yourself that might be associated with this feeling?
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 179
makes it easier to feel hateful or revengeful. In other words, when you are
experiencing any one of these positive or negative feelings toward
another person, it is easy to “slip” into one of the related feelings.
We will conclude this discussion of “relatedness” feelings by considering two additional states that, at first glance, do not appear to be particularly associated with each other: jealousy and dependency. They are,
however, closely connected. Another feature of these two unique feelings
is that it is difficult to find alternative terms for them. While jealousy can
be used to mean “envious” (see below), the sense in which it is used here
involves feelings of possessiveness directed at someone whose affections
and loyalty are extremely important to you (that “someone” is frequently
a spouse or lover, but he or she could also be a close relative,1 friend, or
even a child). This feeling of “jealous possessiveness” is often accompanied by a feeling of insecurity or uncertainty about the other person’s
affections or loyalty toward you. The feeling of jealousy is thus based on
the belief that you are in competition with other people or with other circumstances in that person’s life (their work or hobbies, for example). This
belief (which may in turn be based on negative beliefs about your own
attractiveness or desirability) gives rise to the fear that you might “lose”
the affections or loyalty of that person to someone or something else.
Typical situations when such feelings are particularly likely to arise are
when a partner, lover, child, or close friend (a) has strong positive feelings
toward people other than you or (b) invests a lot of time and energy in
pursuits—job, hobby, and so forth, —that do not involve you.
Since jealousy is frequently associated with fears that arise from negative beliefs about your own adequacy or attractiveness, jealous feelings are
particularly likely to appear in your consciousness when you believe that
the person in question might be sexually or emotionally interested in
someone else. Jealousy is thus an especially potent feeling when it is associated with sexual feelings (see chapter 6) and with two negative feelings
that also carry “high energy”: fear and anger. The power of jealousy, of
course, is reflected in the large number of assaults and homicides involving spouses and lovers that are committed every year.
The final “relatedness” feeling state is dependency. This is a very
subtle feeling that may be difficult for many people to recognize and
label. Thus, while you might be able to look back on your relationship
with someone else and say that you acted in a “dependent” fashion, can
you describe what is it like to feel dependent? Other than a feeling of
“attachment to” or the feeling of “being able to rely on” another person, I was not able to find other words for describing such a feeling.
Another way to look at a feeling of dependency is that, much like jealousy, it may involve feelings of possessiveness and insecurity that are
associated with a belief that you would “not be able to get along with-
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180 A. W. ASTIN
(a) Complete the following sentences:
“I really feel connected…”
“Jealousy and possessiveness…
“I have little tolerance for…”
(b) What beliefs do you associate with your answers?
out” the other person and a consequent fear of “losing” that person.2
In this sense, feelings of dependency can often be accompanied by feelings of jealousy.
“Comparative” Feelings
How often do you compare yourself with others? How often do you
judge others in terms of your own characteristics? There are at least two
different continua of feeling states that can come into play when you evaluate someone else’s experiences or qualities in relation to yourself. The
first continuum—admiration versus envy—applies to a situation where
you believe that another person has something that you lack but that you
value highly or that you might want for yourself: “I wish I had his money
and good looks.” “I’d sure like to be as successful as he is?” The “positive”
end of this continuum comes into play when you respond to the person
with feelings of admiration. Variations on admiration would include
“looking up to” the other person or holding her or him in “high esteem.”
An extreme form of admiration would be “worshiping” or “idolizing” the
other person. [It is important not to confuse “idolizing”—which is a feeling that you can have toward someone you admire a great deal—and “idealizing,” which is a judgement we make when a person seems unable to
see fault in (“idealizes”) someone else.]
Closely related to admiration is a feeling of respect. While not necessarily a “comparative” feeling (it might also be listed under “connectedness”), respect is included here because it frequently accompanies
admiration. The main differences are that (a) respect, in contrast to admiration, does not necessarily involve qualities that you would like to have or
emulate and (b) while respect usually accompanies admiration, you can
respect someone but not necessarily admire them: “I respect the sincerity
of her religious faith.” The opposite end of the continuum of respect is, of
course, disrespect.
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 181
The “negative” pole of the admiration continuum includes two somewhat different types of feelings: inferiority and envy. You feel envious or
inferior when the other person’s experiences, personal qualities, or possessions that you might want for yourself cause you distress or discomfort.
Alternatives to feeling inferior would include feeling inadequate or
incompetent. About the only other word that might describe envious feelings is “jealousy.” This word suggests not merely a sense of envy, but also a
sense of resentment as well: “It really bugs me that he’s so much more successful than I am.” (In the preceeding section we also used “jealousy” to
describe a very different kind of feeling having to do with possessiveness).
In short, while feelings of admiration, as well as feelings of envy and
inferiority, can all arise in response to a belief that someone else has
something that you lack and would like to have, admiration is usually
accompanied by a feeling of respect, while inferiority is usually accompanied by a feeling of discomfort and envy by a feeling of resentment.
The second “comparative” continuum applies when someone else has
experiences or personal qualities that you would not want for yourself. In
this case the “positive” response would be to feel sympathetic: “I’m sure
glad I’m not married to his wife!” Variations on sympathy would be to
“feel compassion for” or “commiserate with” the other person. A more
extreme version of sympathy, perhaps bordering on criticism, would be to
“pity” or “feel sorry for” the other person. The “negative” end of the sympathy continuum would be to feel disdainful toward the other person:
“When it comes to men, she sure has a knack for picking losers.” Besides
feeling disdainful you might also feel contemptious or scornful or “tolerate” or “put up with” the other person.
An interesting aspect of these “comparative” feeling states is that our
language has words to describe both the positive and negative feeling
states that can arise whenever you believe that the other person has
something that you lack– admiration versus a sense of inferiority or
envy– but there are few words, if any, to describe positive feelings that
might arise when the roles are reversed. That is, when you believe that
you possess something desirable that the other person lacks, the only
words for describing how you might feel in such a situation appear to
be negative: to feel superior, smug, or haughty or “look down on” or
feel that the other person is “beneath” you. If you do not feel this way
(”superior”) in such a situation, is there any other way you can feel
about it? Perhaps the closest approximation to an alternative would be
to feel “blessed,” “privileged,” “favored,” “lucky,” or “fortunate.” Such
feelings would acknowledge that you enjoy certain things that the other
person lacks, but do not “put down” the other person in the process.
Indeed, since feeling “blessed” or “privileged” does not really require a
relative judgement, you can feel this way without comparing yourself to
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182 A. W. ASTIN
Complete the following sentences:
• “The people I most admire…”
• (What beliefs about goodness are implied in your answer?)
• “Sometimes I envy people who…”
• “I feel fortunate that I…”
(What beliefs about yourself are implied these last two answers?)
others. In short, this discussion suggests still another bipolar feeling
continuum: privileged versus superior.
Once again, we find direct parallels between these “comparative” feelings and the other interpersonal feeling states already discussed. For
example, if there is someone you know who has qualities that you lack but
would like to have for yourself, it is much easier to have feelings of admiration or respect toward them if you also like, trust or feel identified with
them. By contrast, you are much more likely to feel disrespectful, envious,
or inferior if you also feel hateful toward, or distant from, them. Similarly,
if you believe that you are privileged because you have some positive quality that another person lacks, you will be less likely to feel superior or disdainful if you like or feel connected to that person.
“Reactive” Feelings
There are several different types of interpersonal feeling states that can
arise in reaction either to what others say or do (”other-oriented” reactions) or to what you do in relation to them (”self-oriented” reactions). Let
us start with other-oriented reactions. Many of the feeling states already
described also arise as reactions to others, but so far we have discussed
only one such state, vengeful feelings that you can experience when you
feel that someone has done you wrong and you want to retaliate.
In addition to feeling vengeful, you might also feel vindictive or
revengeful. (Milder versions of feelings of vindictiveness or vengefulness
would include feeling indignant, sore, or resentful, which will be discussed
below under “reactive” feelings.) When it comes to reacting to how others
behave toward you, there are basically two other sets of bipolar feelings:
those that can arise when you believe someone has been “nice” to you or
“done you a favor,” and those that can arise when you believe you have
been wronged or harmed (feelings of “victimization”). Let us now look
more closely at each of these two sets of other-oriented reactions.
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 183
When you believe that someone has been nice to you or has done you a
favor, you can experience at least four different kinds of emotional
responses. Positive responses would be to feel either appreciative or
charmed. Negative responses would be to feel either obliged or suffocated. If your reaction is to feel appreciative, you could also say you feel
thankful or grateful:” I really appreciate what he did for me.” Variations
on feeling charmed would include feeling flattered and spoiled or, at the
extreme, enchanted, enthralled, and enraptured: “I felt very flattered by
all his compliments.” On the other hand, if you feel obligated because
you believe that the favors someone has done for you are either overdone
or undeserved, you could also say that you feel “indebted to” or
“beholden to” that person. Finally, if you believe that the positive attentions of someone else are excessive, you might feel suffocated or possibly
“smothered.” (Another possible reaction to someone else’s excessive
praise or attention is to feel embarrassed, a response which is discussed
below under “self-oriented” reactions.)
There is an equally diverse set of feelings that you might have when
you believe that someone else has mistreated you or harmed you. As you
might expect, almost all of your possible emotional reactions in such a situation are negative. In addition to feeling vengeful, which we have
already discussed, you might feel resentful, hurt, unloved, threatened,
taken advantage of, or frustrated. As mentioned earlier in this chapter,
feeling resentful is a “milder” version of feeling vengeful. Also, resentfulness does not necessarily include the notion of retaliating against or
harming the other person that characterizes vengefulness. Variations on
feeling resentful would include feeling “indignant” or “sore.” Among the
many variations on feeling hurt would be to feel “let down,” “crestfallen,”
“wounded,” or “heartbroken.” In addition to feeling unloved, you could
also feel “rejected,” “uncared for,” or “unlovable.” If you feel threatened
by someone, you might also say you feel “insecure” or “vulnerable.” Alternatives to feeling that someone has taken advantage of you would be to
feel “violated,” “offended,” “victimized,” “oppressed,” “ripped off,” or
“gypped.” Variations on feeling frustrated would be to feel “thwarted” or
Other than empathy, about the only positive emotional reaction that is
available to you when you believe that someone has mistreated you is to
feel forgiving. Alternatives to feeling forgiving would be to feel “generous,” “accepting,” “tolerant,” “understanding,” or “lenient” or possibly to
“condone” the other person’s actions. But how can you manage to feel
forgiving when you also believe the person has harmed or mistreated
you? Perhaps the surest path to forgiveness in such a situation is through
another interpersonal feeling state already discussed: empathy. The first
challenge in developing some empathy for the other person is to try to
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184 A. W. ASTIN
put yourself in his place: what was going on in that person’s consciousness
that would lead him to do what he did? What motivated him? What beliefs
and what feelings was he acting upon? If you were in his situation and felt
the way he did, is there any chance that you might have done the same
Several of these “reactive” feeling states appear to be mirror images of
each other. Thus, the opposite of feeling charmed or flattered would be to
feel hurt or rejected. Similarly, the opposite of feeling grateful or appreciative would be to feel that you have been taken advantage of or to feel
The converse of reacting to what others do in relation to you would be
to react emotionally to what you do in relation to others. About the only
“positive” feeling that you can experience under such circumstances is
proud—a reaction that can arise when you realize that you have done
something for others (you could also say you feel “satisfied”). On the negative side, these “self-oriented” reactions comprise at least four very
important feeling states: guilty, apologetic, embarrassed, and self-conscious. Certainly the longest-lasting of the three is guilt. Whereas embarrassment and self-consciousness are feelings that can come and go
relatively quickly (especially if you can remove yourself from the situation
that initially led you to have these feelings), guilt can persist for days at a
time and sometimes even for many years. Sometimes guilt can also lead
you to feel angry. Alternatives to feeling guilty would be to feel
“ashamed,” “regretful,” or “remorseful.” Feeling apologetic is, of course,
closely related to feeling guilty. The principal difference is that while both
feelings involve the belief that “I did wrong,” feeling apologetic also
implies that you want somehow to “admit it” and possibly to “make
amends.” Alternatives to feeling apologetic include feeling “sorry,” “contrite,” or “penitent.”
Embarrassment was mentioned above in connection with a situation
where you believe that someone’s else is lavishing praise or attention on
you that is undeserved or overdone: “I was embarrassed by all the nice
things she said.” However, there is another kind of situation where you
can feel embarrassed by something you did. While this form of embarrassment is closely related to guilt, one important difference is that
embarrassment usually occurs when you feel you have done something
inappropriate or wrong in the presence of, or with the knowledge of,
other people: “I made a fool of myself.” Moreover, embarrassment is typically a “milder” feeling than guilt and usually lasts for a much shorter
period. If you feel extremely embarrassed you might say you feel “humiliated” or “mortified.” While the word “sheepish” is also sometimes used to
describe embarrassment, it can also be used in the sense of “apologetic.”
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 185
The final feeling state in this group is self-consciousness. When you
feel this way you might also say you feel “bashful,” “shy,” “conspicuous,”
“exposed,” or “on the spot”: “I felt that everyone was looking at me” Selfconsciousness, of course, is closely related to feeling embarrassed or feeling apologetic, in the following sense: if you do something in the presence of others that you believe to be “wrong,” you are much more likely to
feel embarrassed or apologetic if you have also been feeling self-conscious. As a matter of fact, your feelings of embarrassment in such a situation will probably make you feel even more self-conscious! In other words:
self-consciousness intensifies embarrassment, and embarrassment
intensifies self-consciousness!
This taxonomy of feeling states that have to do with other people
makes it clear that the emotional or feeling side of human relations can be
extremely varied and complex. Figure 9.2 shows 39 of the different interpersonal states arrayed along a “positive-negative” continuum.
One very practical implication of this taxonomy is that you can use it as
a guide to a fuller understanding of your own emotional relationships
with the other people in your life. The taxonomy suggests, for example,
that if you want to understand the emotional aspects of your interpersonal relationships, there are at least three basic sets of questions that you
can ask yourself:
1. How do I relate to others? What kinds of feelings do I typically
direct toward them? How loving or caring am I? Do I feel a close
connection to them? How trusting of them am I? How much empathy do I have for them? How often do I feel suspicious, hateful, or
intolerant toward others? How often do I feel lonely and disconnected from others? And when it comes to the people I care most
about, how attached or dependent on them do I feel? Do their
affections for other people make me feel uncomfortable or jealous?
2. How do I compare myself to others? Do I admire and respect their
positive qualities, or do I tend to be envious of their talents and
success? Am I sympathetic to their faults, or do their limitations
and failures make me feel superior or disdainful?
3. How do I react to the way others treat me? When they do me
favors, do I feel appreciative, or does it make me feel uncomfortable or obligated? When they show me a lot of attention or love,
do I feel good, or do I feel suffocated? And when someone mistreats me, am I inclined to carry a grudge? Do people often take
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186 A. W. ASTIN
(feelings of relatedness)
(comparative feelings)
(reactive feelings: other-oriented)
taken advantage of
(reactive feelings: self-oriented)
Figure 9.2. Thirty-nine of the different interpersonal states arrayed along a
“positive-negative” continuum.
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 187
advantage of me? Are my feelings easily hurt? How easy is it for
me to forgive others for their mistakes? Finally, how do I react to
the way I treat other people? Do I frequently find myself apologizing or feeling guilty about my actions toward others? How
self-conscious am I in the presence of others? Am I easily embarrassed?
In this section I will suggest some simple exercises that you can do to
assess the affective relationships that you have with significant people in
your life. You might find it useful to use the exercise to assess your affective relationship with people such as the following:
Spouse or partner
Significant relative (parent, child, uncle, etc.)
Close friend
Professional colleague, coworker, boss, or subordinate
Service recipient(s) (client, student, patient, etc.)
Service provider (physician, lawyer, therapist, teacher, contractor,
• Neighbor
Using the Feeling Rating Form (Table 9.1), there are three basic exercises
that you can do:
1. How you feel toward the other person. In this basic exercise you
simply indicate how often you experience each of the feelings by
circling the appropriate number.
2. How the other person feels toward you. Here you record your
beliefs concerning how often the other person experiences each of
the 39 feelings in relation to you.
3. What the other person thinks about how you feel toward her or
him. This is the most complicated exercise, since it requires you to
record your beliefs concerning the other person’s beliefs about
your feelings: “She thinks I don’t love her.” The basic idea here is
to document any beliefs you might hold about the other person’s
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188 A. W. ASTIN
Table 9.1.
Self-Rated Interpersonal Feeling States
Date: ___/___/___
Time:_____a.m./p.m. (circle one)
Subjec person:_____________________________
Object person:______________________
How often does the subject person feel each of the following ways toward the object person? (Circle the
appropriate number for each feeling.)
All (or most)
of the time
Loving (romantice)
Loving (nonromantic)
In comparing herself/himself with the object person, how often does the subject feel:
How often does the subject person experience each of the ollowing feelings in reaction to what the object
person does?
Taken advanage of
Table continues on next page
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 189
Table 9.1.
Self-Rated Interpersonal Feeling States Continued
All (or most)
of the time
By combining ratings from #1 and #2 on the same chart, you can
see where (1) the two of you share common feelings toward each other,
and (2) there are discrepancies or imbalances in your mutual feelings.
By combining ratings from #1 and #3, you can identify areas where
your feelings might be misunderstood by the other person.
Most of us tend to think that our beliefs about other people and the feelings that we have toward them arise out of our experience with them: the
other person acts in certain ways or treats us in certain ways, and we
respond accordingly. However, it is highly likely that you and I have
already formed certain beliefs about different “types” of people that can
substantially affect the way we experience almost any person we come into
contact with. These beliefs, in turn, cause us to express certain feelings
toward others and to treat them in particular ways, even if they are complete strangers. Part of the challenge in “getting to know” another person
is thus to suspend some of these beliefs long enough to experience the
person as he or she really is.
When you meet somebody for the first time, how open are you to seeing them as they “really” are? If you consider yourself to be a fair-minded
person with a minimum of prejudices, you might answer, “I’m very open!
I don’t harbor a lot of preconceived notions about people.” But the fact of
the matter is that it is very difficult for any of us to view a new acquaintance with a completely “clean slate.” The problem here, as I have already
suggested, is our beliefs: most of us have developed an elaborate set of
beliefs having to do with the various conditions under which we might
first encounter someone we have never met before:
• groups to which the person belongs
• appearance/demeanor
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190 A. W. ASTIN
history/past behavior
interests/personal habits
role/relationship to you
meeting place/context
All of us harbor beliefs (and associated feelings) about each of these
things, and there are few of us, if any, who would be able to prevent these
beliefs from having al least some effect on how we perceive a new acquaintance and how we behave toward them. And it goes without saying that
the same argument would apply to how the other person perceives and
behaves toward us: their beliefs would condition the way that they experience us. In other words, how two complete strangers experience their
initial encounter will be substantially affected by the respective beliefs
that they bring to that encounter.
Let us now look a little more closely at the particular circumstances that
can affect the way you experience a person whom you are encountering
for the first time:
Group Membership
Some of our most powerful beliefs have to do with stereotypic traits
that we associate with groupings such as a person’s race, gender, age,
nationality, or political orientation:
“Many Asians…”
“Women are more inclined than men to…”
“Most old people…”
“The Irish…”
“Liberals can be counted on to…”
Other groupings about which you might also hold strong beliefs would
include the person’s family, religious affiliation, organizational memberships (American Civil Liberties Union, National Rifle Association, etc.),
and sexual orientation. There are not many of us who can honestly say
that we do not harbor at least some beliefs about such groupings, and
many of us hold very strong beliefs that condition the way we experience
someone who appears to belong to a particular group. Such preconceptions can be especially powerful when your beliefs are associated with
strong feelings. Here are some typical examples:
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 191
• If you encounter someone from your own group—whether he or
she be of the same race, sex, age, family, religion, nationality, or
political or sexual orientation—you may be more likely to feel connected, trusting, and empathic. Such feelings are especially likely to
arise if you are a member of a “minority” group. However, if you
happen to harbor negative beliefs about your own group, you may
instead feel suspicious or intolerant.
• If you encounter someone from a group that is different from the
one you belong to, and if you hold strong negative beliefs about
that group, a wide range of feelings can emerge: distant, disdainful,
superior, or even inferior. If you believe that members of the other
group harbor negative beliefs about your group, you might also feel
resentful, suspicious, hateful, or insecure. Finally, if you believe that
your group has been persecuted or victimized by the other group,
you might also feel guarded, threatened, fearful, hostile, or vengeful.
• If you believe that the group to which the other person belongs is
inferior to your own group, you might feel intolerant, disdainful, or
• If your encounter is with several people from a particular group
that is different from your own group—for example, you happen to
be the only man in a group of women, the only white person in a
group of African Americans, the only American in a group of Japanese, the only Democrat in a group of Republicans, or the only elderly person in a group of teenagers—you will also be likely to feel
self-conscious and possibly even afraid.
Clearly, if you bring any of these feelings into your initial encounter with
another person or group, it will change the way you experience them,
regardless of the “true” nature of that person or group.
(a) Complete the following sentences:
“Fat people…”
“Sexual attractiveness…”
“People who dress well…”
(2) Identify some of the beliefs that are implied in each of the completed sentences. What interpersonal feelings do you associate
with these beliefs?
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192 A. W. ASTIN
The fact that many of us believe that physical appearance is of great
importance is demonstrated in a variety of ways: the highly profitable cosmetics and fashion industries, the proliferation of diet books and diet systems, the rapidly expanding use of cosmetic surgery, and the burgeoning
business in body building and body sculpting equipment (as I write this
there seems to be a particular fixation on “abs”). No wonder, then, that
how someone looks when you first meet them can have such a powerful
effect on how you perceive them and how you act toward them.
While the particular beliefs that we harbor about physical appearance
or demeanor may vary considerably from person to person, the fact that
most of us believe that beauty and sexual attractiveness are very important
is underscored by our tendency to “notice” people who are physically very
attractive or sexual (recall from chapter 2 that our unconscious mind routinely directs our conscious attention toward anything that we believe to
be “important”). Such a widespread belief is not lost, of course, on the
advertising and entertainment industries, which try to insure that you’ll
pay attention to their products and productions by using models and
actors who appear to be very beautiful and very sexual.
In short, when you encounter another person who looks very attractive
or sexy to you, your experience of that person is likely to be colored by
any of several feelings that may arise: sexual, admiring, envious, or inferior.
Which feeling will arise, and how you will actually behave, depends, of
course, on your own unique set of beliefs about beauty, sexuality, and so
When you initially encounter someone who is very wealthy, powerful, or famous, (a) are you likely to “pay more attention” to them
than you would if they did not possess any of the qualities? If your
answer is “yes” or “probably,” why is this so? What beliefs would
cause you to treat them differently? (b) Is it likely that any of the
following interpersonal feelings might arise in your consciousness:
admiring, envious, angry, inferior, or in awe of? Any other feelings?
What beliefs might underlie these feelings? (c) If you think somebody has much less wealth, power, or status than you do, would this
affect how you relate to them? Would you be likely to feel superior,
disdainful, fortunate, or sympathetic? What beliefs might be
involved in such feelings?
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 193
(a) Complete the following sentences:
“The best thing about people who work in my field or profession…”
“The worst thing about people who work in my field or profession…”
(b) What beliefs about your field or profession are implied in your
Other aspects of personal appearance about which you might hold
beliefs that could influence the way you experience any stranger would
include their dress (how formal, how fashionable, how expensive, how tattered, etc.), grooming (hairstyle, makeup, cleanliness, etc.), stature,
weight, body type, and disabilities. Many of us have also formed beliefs
about people based upon how they speak—how low- or high-pitched their
voice is, whether they speak in a monotone or with a lot of inflection, and
whether they speak with an accent (southern, New York, Germanic,
French, Spanish, etc.). Once again, these beliefs can affect how we experience people when we first meet them.
It is important to realize that your beliefs about certain groups can
affect how you think about any group before you initially encounter a
member of that group. While the actual encounter may “surprise” you if it
does not confirm your beliefs, the fact that you have already formed
beliefs about that group increases the likelihood that you will “notice”
things about that person that confirm those beliefs, and “overlook” those
things that contradict them.
In a country like the United States, there are few people who have not
developed strong beliefs about issues such as wealth, power, and status. As
a consequence, when it comes to initial contacts between people, their relative social status, wealth, and power can have profound effects on how
they view each other and on the manner in which they relate to each
other. Although there are potentially important differences among these
three attributes, they are also mutually reinforcing: just as great wealth
can contribute to your status and power, so can power and status enhance
your wealth.
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194 A. W. ASTIN
A person’s job or occupation can also affect how you relate to them, in
part because so many of us tend to “define” ourselves—our sense of
“self ”—in terms of the work that we do. Thus, when two strangers meet at
a social gathering, it is almost assumed that one of the first pieces of
information that will be exchanged will concern “what do you do for a living?” Learning what the other person’s occupation is will almost certainly
affect the way you experience them, simply because there are so many
occupations about which people tend to hold stereotypic beliefs: used car
salesperson, police officer, politician, college professor, lawyer, physician,
school teacher, ballet dancer, rock musician, military officer, and so on. A
variety of feelings can be associated with these stereotypic beliefs: admiring, trusting, suspicious, curious, hateful, threatened, disdainful, and so on.
Since almost all of us have developed a comprehensive set of beliefs
about our own occupation, it is almost inevitable that you would relate in
a special way to someone who works at your profession. Upon meeting
such person, in contrast to someone from a different field, you would
probably be more inclined to feel connected, trusting, and empathic.
Closely related to occupation is a person’s level of education. In the
belief systems of many people, education is the equivalent of status. Thus,
some people with high levels of educational attainment may tend to feel
superior or disdainful toward people with less education, and some people
with less education are inclined to feel either admiring, inferior, or envious
in the presence of highly educated people. Indeed, when people find
themselves in a group whose educational level is very different from their
own, they might also be inclined to feel self-conscious.
History/Past Behavior
When you know some highly significant fact about another person’s
past, it is very difficult—at least in your initial encounter—to view them or
treat them like any other person. Again, this is because most of us have
developed strong beliefs about certain kinds of behavior or experience.
This is particularly true in the case of emotionally-loaded events that you
have personally experienced: a serious illness, loss of a close relative, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, having an abusive parent or
spouse, and so on. In such cases there is a good chance that you will manifest one or more of the following feelings: connected, caring, trusting, loving
(nonromantic), empathic, or sympathetic.
We have already discussed what can happen when you encounter someone who has attained high status of prestige (see the previous section),
and you can expect to experience similar feelings when you run into
someone who has been very successful or accomplished some remarkable
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 195
feat: admiring, and possibly envious, in awe, or inferior. But what kinds of
feelings might emerge if you know something negative or embarrassing
about the person’s past? Consider just a few of the possibilities that might
affect your feelings, for example, if the person:
has served time in prison
recently flunked out of school or college
has been a drug or alcohol abuser
has been married four or five times
is receiving public assistance
has been hospitalized for mental illness
has declared bankruptcy
was recently fired from his job
Few of us could honestly say that, upon encountering a person whom we
know to have done one or more of these things, we would not experience
at least some of the following feelings: suspicious, fearful, distant, unsympathetic, disdainful, fortunate, superior, or threatened or—under some conditions—empathic or sympathetic.
Interests/Personal Habits
Knowledge of a new acquaintance’s interests and personal habits can
affect the way you initially experience them in much the same way that
knowledge of their occupation can. This is particularly true when their
interests and habits are the same or similar to yours. Consider just some
of the many ways in which you might find a “match” between your and
the other person’s interests and habits:
• Hobbies (collecting, hunting, rock climbing, computers, body
building, etc.)
• Spectator sports (especially if you support the same team!)
• Musical/literary/artistic tastes
• Personal values
One again, knowing that you and the other person share such things
makes it likely that you will experience feelings such as the following: connected, trusting, and empathic.
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196 A. W. ASTIN
Role/Relationship to You
How you approach almost any interpersonal encounter, including the
feelings that you are likely to experience, will obviously be affected by the
respective roles that you and the other person play in relation to each
other. Among the more obvious relationships that can affect such encounters are familial (are you a parent, child, sibling, or other relation?), job or
work (are you a supervisor, subordinate, or coworker?), and friendship status (are you a close friend, casual friend, acquaintance, or adversary?).
When it comes to encounters with strangers or with people you do not
know very well, there is very often some kind of service involved. In such
situations, you can be either a service provider or service recipient. Consider how many different service relationships there are that can affect
how you are likely to feel toward the other person and the way you
approach the encounter (the provider is listed first and the recipient second):
doctor, health care provider/patient
postal or other public employee/citizen
telephone receptionist or operator/customer
tour guide/tourist
waiter, bartender, maitre d’/patron
police officer/citizen
you/stranger seeking help or advice
stranger/you, in search of help or advice
housekeeper, gardener, personal servant/homeowner
Most of us harbor beliefs about such relationships—what constitutes
“proper” conduct on the part of the two parties, how much respect and
consideration each party has a right to expect from the other, how much
“service” the provider should be prepared to render—that can substantially affect not only how you feel and act toward the other person, but
also how the other person feels about and treats you.
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 197
(a ) Pick one of the relationships listed on the previous page and
recall a recent encounter where you experienced one or more of
the following: anger, a good deal of frustration, or a feeling of having been taken advantage of. List some of your beliefs about
“proper” conduct that you feel were violated.
(b) Pick another one of the relationships and recall a recent
encounter when you felt one or more of the following: appreciative,
charmed, or flattered. List some of the beliefs that might have led
you to react in this way.
Meeting Place/Context
This final category covers a wide variety of situations under which you
might encounter a stranger or person you do not know well:
• the street or other public place
• social gathering (informal-formal, large-small, intimate-impersonal)
• professional consultation (private office, telephone, restaurant,
• bar or club
• sporting event
• office
• theater
• in transport (taxi, bus, train, plane, boat)
• your home
• other private home
Again, the beliefs that you hold about these different venues—including
what constitutes “normal” or “proper” conduct in each—can substantially
affect your feelings and the manner in which you approach the other person.
This somewhat detailed examination of the factors that can predispose
you to feel and act in certain ways when you initially encounter other people has been presented to underscore a very critical point about your rela-
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198 A. W. ASTIN
tionships with other people: Since much of your experience of new
people—including the feelings that you direct toward them and the
way that they react to you—is dependent on a complex web of beliefs
that you bring to the encounter, becoming more aware of these beliefs
and their associated feelings can help to make these encounters much
more positive and personally satisfying.
Before leaving the subject of “consciousness and community” I would like
to acknowledge one other set of interpersonal “feelings” that have enormous significance, not only for each of us personally, but also for our
communities, our nation, and the world at large: the sense that you “get
along,” or “don’t get along,” with another person. I put “feelings” in
quotes because “getting along” is not, strictly speaking, a “feeling” in the
same sense as love, hate, and caring are feelings. “Getting along” is, of
course, usually associated with positive interpersonal feelings such as liking and trust, just as not getting along is usually associated with negative
interpersonal feelings such as disliking and suspicion.
The challenge of getting along has to do not only with two individuals,
but also with (1) an individual and any larger group to which that individual belongs, and (2) any two groups. Indeed, many of our national and
world conflicts arise because various national, racial, cultural, or religious
groups or communities are not able to “get along” with each other. However, since in this book we are focusing on the consciousness of the individual, I would like to conclude this chapter with an essay that considers
the dilemma of the individual and the community: since any group or
community consists of individuals with different beliefs, feelings,
needs, desires, and talents, what has to happen in order for these individuals to “get along” with each other? What has to happen for the
group not just to survive, but to prosper? I offer this essay as possible
“food for thought” as you consider the many groups and communities of
which you are a member.
One of the major dilemmas confronting any community is how to reconcile the differing beliefs and needs of the individuals within that community. Another way of posing this question is to ask how a community or
group of individuals can collaborate effectively, in order to fulfill group
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 199
needs and aspirations, while simultaneously honoring and cultivating the
individuality and uniqueness of its members. This challenge is probably
inherent in any human collectivity, whether it be an individual family or
an entire nation. If you happen to be married or living with a partner,
your individual needs—for example, for love, sexual fulfillment, selfdevelopment and creative expression—have to be reconciled with a variety of “community” needs having to do with maintenance of the home,
child care, finances, and your partner’s need for love and sexual fulfillment. For larger collectivities of people, individual needs become more
diverse and group needs much more complex.
In the traditional marriage ceremony both partners pledge to “honor
and cherish” each other. Similarly, the U.S. Constitution guarantees each
citizen “liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” not to mention a variety of
“freedoms.” While it is easy for any group to say that it “celebrates” diversity and “honors” the uniqueness and individuality of each member, it is
quite another thing to make such claims work in practice. Is it really possible for people to collaborate on behalf of “community goals” without
completely sacrificing their individuality? Is it even possible that the collaborative effort can be strengthened and enhanced by the diversity of the
individuals who make up the community? What are your beliefs about
such matters?
In thinking about these questions I have tried to search for real-life
examples of successful community or group efforts that also value and celebrate individuality. The field of human endeavor that immediately came
to mind was music. Practically all forms of music, from rock to country to
jazz to classical, afford us an opportunity to see not only how collaboration and individualism can coexist, but also how these two values can be
mutually enhancing. It goes without saying that good ensemble music
requires collaboration. Yet, a successful musical ensemble does not merely
“honor” the individuality of its members; it requires it. The very essence
of beautiful music is that it simultaneously combines uniquely different
sounds. These sounds are diverse not only with respect to rhythm and
pitch but also with respect to the quality of sound produced by each different instrument or voice. Imagine how awful an ensemble would sound
if everybody always played or sang the same notes or played the same
instrument in exactly the same way. And even when we have people playing the same notes with the same instrument, as, for example, when the
violin section of a symphony orchestra plays in unison, the richness and
beauty of the overall sound depends in part upon the diversity of tones
produced by the different violinists. If every player in a violin section produced exactly the same quality of tone, the subjective effect would be boring, if not unpleasant.
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200 A. W. ASTIN
Practically every type of ensemble music can also “showcase” individual
virtuosity. In classical music the concerto form celebrates the virtuoso pianist or violinist, while grand opera celebrates vocal virtuosity. The individual virtuoso is, of course, supported by the larger ensemble—the full
chorus or full orchestra—as part of the “community effort.” In this case,
the “individualism” of the soloist is actually enhanced and enriched by
the addition of the accompanying ensemble. In that uniquely American
musical form that we call improvised jazz, we often find a more “democratic” showcasing of virtuosity, where each member of the jazz ensemble
in turn is afforded an opportunity to solo while the other members provide accompaniment.
Another way of using this music metaphor is to see any piece of music
as consisting of melody (what the individual creates) and harmony (what
the group or “community” of individuals creates). The musical effect of
an individual melodic line can be enhanced or enriched if it is “accompanied” by one or more other melodic lines that complement (“harmonize
with”) it. Similarly, we could say that the musical value or effect of the
“accompaniment” is enhanced by the presence of the “melody.” The key
element here is that the two or more melodies that create the unique
“harmonic effect” must be in some way different from each other (i.e.,
pitch, time, voice, instrument, or tone quality). Once again: the unique
beauty of ensemble music does not just “tolerate” such differences; it
requires them.
If we were to translate what I have just said about melody and harmony
into more general terms, we might argue as follows: the ideal community
is one that captializes on the diversity of its individual members, such
that the overall functioning of the community and the functioning of
the unique individuals within that community are mutually enhancing.
Does the metaphor of ensemble music provide us with any general
clues as to what individual members need to do in order to create such a
community? What are the personal beliefs and actions that are needed to
create a genuinely collaborative community that also celebrates the
uniqueness and individuality of each member? Some insight into this
question can be gained by examining just how it is that musical ensembles
are able to function effectively.
To begin with, there must be some agreement among the musicians as
to just what music is to be played, in what key, and at what tempo. Members of musical ensembles can and do debate and discuss such issues, but
in the absence of any agreement, there is little point in trying to create
ensemble music, since both the ensemble and the individual musicians
who comprise it will be unable to function effectively.
This basic agreement about goals, purposes, and a modus operandi is
clearly analogous to the shared values that we seek to discover in forging a
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 201
common purpose for any community: Why does the community exist?
What are its purposes? How should it function? Unless the members can
reach some consensus regarding the basic purposes of the community and
agree on how it should function, it will be very difficult to develop a viable
community. If we were to express this principle in the terms used in this
book, we might say that, if a community is to function effectively, its members need to develop a set of shared beliefs concerning its goals and purposes.
Not only must there be some shared understanding of what the group’s
purposes and mode of functioning will be, but each member must also
understand what his or her particular part or contribution will be. We can
call this the division of labor. These understandings are analogous, of
course, to the agreements that musicians must reach about what music is
to be played, what the proper tempo should be, and who will play which
instrument or sing which part.
Next we have the very important issue of competence. Unless the individual musicians have achieved a certain level of technical competence in
singing or playing their instruments, they can become a drag on the other
members and detract from the overall performance of the ensemble.
Individual competence in the functioning of groups and communities is
an issue that has received far too little attention from educators and social
scientists. Thus, while our educational system is designed to help you
acquire individual skills in reading, writing, computing, and speaking, it
provides very little formal training in listening, not to mention empathy,
tolerance, teamwork, mediation, leadership, and other “group skills” that
almost any community needs to collaborate effectively. Citizens can draw
only two conclusions from these skewed educational priorities: group/
community skills are either unimportant or unteachable (or both). Once
again we see the importance of beliefs: could it be that many citizens
avoid getting involved in collaborative efforts to improve their communities because they believe either (a) that they would not really be very good
at it, or (b) that positive change is impossible or impractical? Could it be
that citizens would value and enjoy becoming social change agents more
if they (a) understood more about how to function effectively in groups
and (b) believed that they could really make a contribution to strengthening the community? Clearly, most members of most organizations and
communities have had little formal opportunity to develop the critical
skills and attitudes that are needed to succeed in any collaborative effort.
In other words, if individual community members were more skilled at
collaboration and believed that such efforts could produce positive
change, perhaps they would find it far more appealing to become “leaders” or active participants in community improvement efforts.
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202 A. W. ASTIN
A close correlate of individual technical competence in a musical
ensemble is self-knowledge. Each musician must have a good understanding of his or her tastes, competencies, and limitations. Such self-knowledge is needed, first of all, to insure that the individual musician will
affiliate with an appropriate musical ensemble, one that would be enjoyable to play or sing with and one that can use the particular skills that the
musician has to offer. Self-knowledge also helps the musician either to
avoid tackling music that is too difficult or, if the ensemble decides to play
such music, to drop out or practice sufficiently to acquire the level of skill
needed to play the music competently. Again, to generalize the selfknowledge principle: if you are a member of an organization or community, it is important not only to know what knowledge and talents you can
contribute to the collective effort, but also to be able to acknowledge areas
where you lack the requisite knowledge and skill and, if necessary, to be
willing to exert the effort needed to acquire the needed competence in
these areas.
An equally important aspect of self-knowledge concerns your relevant
beliefs: How important to you personally is the success of the collaborative effort? Do you believe that the effort can succeed? Do you believe that
you and others possess the needed competence and dedication?
Knowledge of self, of course, is closely aligned with knowledge of others. Any competent musician knows that good ensemble work depends in
part on knowing each other’s skills and proclivities. Such knowledge is
important not only in deciding what music the ensemble should play but
also in enabling each musician to help other musicians play their parts
with maximum effectiveness. The parallel with communities in general is
obvious: knowing the values, passions, talents, skills, and limitations of
other members of the community is of critical importance in attempting
to define a common purpose that is achievable and to which all the members can commit themselves. Furthermore, each member can provide critical feedback to other members as a means of enhancing their selfknowledge.
One of the most important ingredients in an effectively functioning
musical ensemble is that the individual players or singers must listen to
each other. In some ways this is the most fundamental requirement of all.
Imagine how absurd a musical ensemble would sound if the players were
either unwilling to listen to each other or unable to hear each other. The
analogous requirement for communities in general would to be the willingness and ability of each member to understand and empathize with
other group members. As long as the members believe that the community is merely a forum for expressing their individual views, there is no
need to “listen” to each other. Unless community members are able and
willing to understand and listen to each other, it will be very difficult
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 203
either to forge a common purpose or to create any real sense of collaboration.
Another important characteristic of a good ensemble player is commitment. It takes a good of time and energy simply to put together a good
musical ensemble, and even more time and energy for the musicians to
get to know each other and to be able to perform their music in ways that
are satisfying to each member. The delays, disappointments, and frustrations that even top ensembles inevitably experience mean that the commitment of each member needs to be sufficiently strong to sustain the
group over time. The same is true, of course, for organizations and communities in general: Their long-term viability requires that the individual
members be sufficiently committed to the group’s basic goals and purposes to sustain it, especially during “hard times.”
Still another requirement of a good musical ensemble might be called
respect. Each ensemble player or singer intuitively realizes that every
other member of the ensemble performs a key role in creating the overall
community effort. Respect thus comes not only from understanding that
each performer contributes importantly to the whole, but also from the
realization that other performers have worked hard to acquire the technical competence needed to play their parts at a high level of excellence.
The parallels here for communities in general are obvious.
The final criterion for an effective musical ensemble is that each musician must have a sense of the whole. It is not enough just to know your
part and to play it well, but one must also have a sense of how the entire
ensemble sounds and of how the performance of each musician contributes to the whole. Similarly, in almost any kind of organization or community, it is important for each participant to have a “big picture” of what is
happening within that organization or community: How are we doing?
Are we clear about our common purpose? Are we making real progress
toward realizing that purpose?
It goes without saying that these nine criteria that have been abstracted
from the musical metaphor—shared values, division of labor, competence, self-knowledge, knowledge of other group members, the ability to
listen, commitment, respect, and a sense of the whole—are closely interdependent. Thus, your level of commitment to the group and your interest in listening to and understanding your group peers will be greater if
you have mutual respect for and understand each other and if you believe
that you and they share similar values. At the same time, to identify these
areas of shared or common values and to effect a meaningful division of
labor, you must first take the trouble to listen to and understand each
other. Finally, neither self-knowledge, shared values nor a willingness to
listen to each other will be sufficient to form an effective collaborative
effort unless you and your fellow community members are able and will-
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204 A. W. ASTIN
ing to acquire the knowledge and competencies that allows your community to sustain itself and prosper.
Perhaps the simplest way to see how you might apply these nine principles in your own interpersonal relationships is to paraphrase the discussion of each principle by substituting the name of some significant
relationship in your own life—marriage, partnership, friendship, and so
forth—for the word “community.” Let us illustrate how you could do this
by paraphrasing the above discussions of just two of the principles, listening and commitment, and for this particular example, let us assume that
you are married:
One of the most important ingredients in an effectively functioning marriage is
that the individual partners must listen to each other. In some ways this is the most
fundamental requirement of all. Imagine how absurd a marriage would be if the
partners were either unwilling to listen to each other or unable to hear each other.
The analogous requirement for partnerships in general would to be the willingness
and ability of both partners to understand and empathize with each other. As long
as either partner believes that the relationship exists primarily as a means for fulfilling his or her individual needs, there is no need to “listen” to or “hear” each
other. Unless both partners are able and willing to understand and listen to each
other and care about what the other thinks and feels, it will be very difficult either
to forge a common purpose or to create any real sense of collaboration.
Another important characteristic of a good marriage is commitment. It takes a
good deal of time and energy to create a good marriage, and even more time and
energy for the partners to get to know each other and to be able to live together in
ways that are satisfying to both of them. The delays, disappointments, hurts, and
frustrations that even the best marriages inevitably experience mean that the commitment of each partner needs to be sufficiently strong to sustain the marriage over
As an exercise, try paraphrasing these and some of the other paragraphs to fit your own real (or possible future) marriage, partnership, or
school or work environment. In relating to these different “communities,”
how well do you exemplify the nine principles?
The earliest instance of such a connection would be the “symbiosis” that
typically exists between an infant and its mother.
When two people feel this way about each other, we sometimes call it
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In chapter 1 it was suggested that your beliefs are like the “software” of
your mind, the elaborate set of rules that you have established for interpreting the events of your life and for making meaning out of your daily
experience. Your beliefs thus play a major role in shaping the contents of
your conscious mind, especially your feelings, intents, and desires. And
given that your daily behavior and the choices that you make in your life
are an expression of these feelings, intents, and desires, your beliefs literally create much of your life experience.
In this chapter we shall consider various approaches to identifying and
changing those beliefs that are not serving you well. Since part of the
challenge of changing any belief is to understand how you acquired it in
the first place, let us begin by taking a look at the process of belief acquisition.
While the question of how people acquire their beliefs is a highly complex
one, there are two fundamentally different ways in which you can acquire
beliefs. For simplicity I like to call these the “passive” and “active” ways of
forming beliefs. “Passive” belief acquisition occurs when you embrace
someone else’s beliefs either because you trust them or want to please
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206 A. W. ASTIN
them—to gain their love, acceptance, or approval—or because you fear
that they might reject you or punish you if you do not. In other words,
when you adopt beliefs passively, the content of the beliefs matters less
than the fact that “significant others” hold them (and may also want you
to embrace them). Indeed, the influence of these other people or groups
can be so great that you may sometimes adopt their beliefs even though
they might contradict some of your other beliefs. Since the passive
approach to acquiring beliefs is most characteristic of children, the “significant others” typically include parents, older siblings, teachers, clergy,
or other adults, as well as peers. Peers, however, represent a potentially
powerful source of passive belief acquisition at almost any age.
A common psychological mechanism for passive belief acquisition is
identification: you embrace the beliefs of significant others (especially
parents or other “role models”) because you identify with—want to be
like, want to emulate—them. This means of belief acquisition, which usually occurs unconsciously (i.e., without mindful awareness), is most common among children and adolescents, but it can occur at any age.
When you acquire beliefs “actively,” your personal assessment of the
content of the belief is of paramount importance: does it make sense to
you, is it consistent with your experience, does it seem “right?” In other
words, the active approach to acquiring beliefs derives from your need to
know, to comprehend, and to understand: you embrace a particular belief
because your experience, knowledge, reason, and intuition tells you that
the idea expressed in the belief is either true, good, or important. (In this
view, beliefs about “possibility” would fall under beliefs about “truth”).
Some of your beliefs, of course, are acquired both actively and passively, in the sense that you might be influenced simultaneously by your
identification with others (or need to please them) and by your desire to
know, comprehend, and understand. The tricky part of this, of course, is
that, even if you initially acquired a belief passively—say, because you
identified with a particular parent or peer—that belief will tend to
shape your experience so as to generate “evidence” that supports it. In
other words, just because your experience tells you that a particular
belief is “true” does not mean that you acquired that belief actively.
Beliefs About What is True
We tend to take most of our beliefs about “truth” for granted, by which
I mean that we usually do not subject them to critical scrutiny or otherwise question them. For certain types of beliefs about the physical world,
of course, there are indeed ways that you can “test” them. For example,
you can believe that the earth is flat, if you like, and some people appar-
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 207
ently still do. However, the physical sciences have provided us with rules
and procedures for testing beliefs about the nature of physical reality, and
in the case of this particular belief it can be shown to be false.
When in comes to beliefs about human nature and social organizations,
however, the physical scientists’ tools are of little use. This is not to say
that many social and behavioral scientists have not tried to formulate theories and deduce the “laws” of human nature and organizations, but simply that their formulations have not served to settle any of the controversy
about what we are “really” like as human beings. Some of these theories
have enjoyed considerable popularity at various times, but the popularity
of a theory probably says more about our shared belief systems than it
does about the “validity” of the theory itself.
When it comes to beliefs that you have acquired passively, beliefs about
what is true or what is possible can sometimes be challenged by your
everyday experience: a physical event that suggests that the belief may be
false. However, passively acquired beliefs about what is good—“never take
the Lord’s name in vain”—or what is important—“I should brush my
teeth after every meal”—are usually not subject to confirmation or refutation by means of “objective” information that you get through your five
senses. As a result, you may well find it difficult to question some of your
beliefs about goodness and importance, especially if they have been
acquired passively.
One reason why adolescence can often be a trying time for both children and their parents is that the adolescent child is being exposed to
beliefs that may contradict certain parental beliefs that the child has
acquired passively. The adolescent can be exposed to such conflicting
beliefs in a variety of ways—in school, by reading, from the media, and so
forth—but the most common source is the adolescent peer group.
Because the child also identifies with and wants the acceptance and
approval of peers, she passively embraces beliefs that are at variance with
parental beliefs.1 These belief conflicts, which can become especially
severe if the child acts on the contrary beliefs, are at the heart of what we
call “adolescent rebellion.”
The Chicken or the Egg?
A dilemma which has intrigued psychologists and philosophers alike is
the causal connection between belief and social “reality.” Are our beliefs
about human nature and society shaped by the society, or is the society a
manifestation of those beliefs? At first glance it might appear that we are
all like amateur scientists, observing objectively what the society is like
and formulating our beliefs accordingly. In other words, it might seem
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208 A. W. ASTIN
like our beliefs about the world around us are simply shaped by our
encounter with that world, that is, by our experience:
Experience → Belief
Upon closer examination, however, such an analysis turns out to be
greatly oversimplified. To begin with, our perceptions and understanding
of each encounter with a life event will be greatly affected by the concepts,
beliefs, and expectations that we bring to that encounter. Consider for a
moment the various opinions and other reactions that different people
are likely to have to a given movie, book, speech, painting, television
show, political candidate, parent, child, teacher, or new acquaintance.
Why would you and someone else react differently to the same person or
event? Because your mental “software”—your beliefs—is different. Further, the fact that your reactions to a person are shaped by your particular
beliefs means that that person’s subsequent reactions to you are also likely
to be affected by these same beliefs. But there is more. Not only are your
reactions to a given person or event likely to differ from someone else’s as
a function of your beliefs, but your beliefs will also ultimately influence
which person or event you are likely to come into contact with. A person
who believes that competitive sports are a waste of time is not likely to
attend sporting events or to attract or hang out with sports-minded people, a person who harbors strongly conservative beliefs is not likely to
attract or hang out with leftists, and so on. In short, much of your experience is shaped by your beliefs:
Belief → Experience
How, then, can you go about the process of understanding how you
acquired particular beliefs? How can you determine whether you believe
something simply because your experience has led you “objectively” to
that conclusion, rather than because you wanted to please others or to
gain their approval? Following are some questions you might want to ask
yourself in order resolve such questions:
• Who else in my life holds the same belief? If “significant others”
in your life—parents, spouse, peers, close friends, or other people
or groups with which you identify—share the same belief, then
what is the possibility that you have embraced this belief in part
because you identify with them or want their approval and acceptance?
• Do I agree with these same people on most other things? One
way to assess the degree to which you may have acquired certain
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 209
beliefs passively—to secure the love, approval, acceptance, and so
forth, of significant others and/or because you identify with
them—is to assess your own willingness to disagree with these
same people or groups. The more you tend to embrace a similar
package of beliefs, and the greater your reluctance to take positions that might be contrary to the beliefs of these significant others, the greater the likelihood that you have acquired at some of
these beliefs passively.
• What evidence do I have from my experience that supports the
belief? Can you cite any contrary evidence?
• Can I remember when I first acquired the belief? Can you remember a time when you did not hold the belief? How aware were you of
the “evidence” (cited in the previous question) before you acquired
the belief? (If you have held the belief for as long as you can
remember, then there is a very good chance you acquired it passively.)
One way to begin the process of belief change is first to take an inventory of some of your core beliefs. I have found it convenient to categorize beliefs in terms of the “concept” (see chapter 2) that the belief
focuses on:
Beliefs about yourself: “I’m a hard worker.”
Beliefs about others: “My boss has a bad temper.”
Beliefs about groups: “Employees should always respect their boss.”
Beliefs about things: “My company is a terrible place to work.”
Beliefs about activities: “The work I do is not really very important.”
• Beliefs about past events: “My boss really treated me badly.”
• Beliefs about future events: “I’m not going to last long in this job.”
• Beliefs about abstract concepts: “Loyalty is the most important virtue.”
By using these eight general categories, you can take any subject—your
work, your school, yourself, or some other important person in your life—
and write down some of your core beliefs in each category. In conducting
this exercise, keep in mind the following two principles:
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210 A. W. ASTIN
• Any belief or set of beliefs that consistently causes you to experience negative feelings, or to behave in ways that you later regret,
are dysfunctional beliefs;
• Any core belief that is highly critical or derogatory, that focuses
on what you or others should not do, or that limits your sense of
what is possible, is a potentially dysfunctional belief.
Some of the exercises presented in the previous five chapters (5-9) were
designed to help you identify such beliefs. The challenge posed by dysfunctional beliefs is, of course, threefold: (1) to identify beliefs that are
potentially dysfunctional, (3) to assess critically the effect that they are
having on your feelings, behavior, and life experience; and (3), for beliefs
that are found to be dysfunctional, to find ways either to minimize their
negative effect on your life, to abandon (or suspend) them, or to replace
them with beliefs that are less dysfunctional. These can all be formidable
There are many different strategies available for getting in touch with
your dysfunctional beliefs. In this section we will discuss how you can
employ some of these strategies as a first step toward suspending or
replacing some of the beliefs that are presently not serving you well.
Beliefs About What is True and What is Possible
At first glance, the idea of changing or suspending any of your beliefs
about “truth” presents an insurmountable dilemma: if something is
“true,” how can you bring yourself not to believe it? With a little reflection, however, it becomes clear that there are very few dysfunctional
beliefs about “what’s true” that cannot be successfully challenged.
Your beliefs about truth or “reality” are of three major kinds: Memories
of “what happened” in your past, assertions about what is currently true
in the present moment, and beliefs about future “truths.” This latter
group includes (a) your expectations about what is going to happen and
(b) your beliefs about what is possible. When it comes to memories, most
of us are aware that they are subject to a considerable amount of error.
Take, for example, the common case where you cannot be sure that an
early childhood memory is something you actually experienced or something you have merely been told about by your parents. Indeed, since
your memories are necessarily present constructions or representations
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Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World 211
(re-present!) of “past” events, there is no way to be sure that any memory
is accurate or completely “true.”
But what about the present? The fact that your “current” reality is in a
continuous state of flux means that any belief about what is “true” in the
present moment is also subject to error or distortion. Many beliefs
about the present, of course, can be safely assumed to be virtually error
free, especially those that have to do with the physical world: “It’s cold in
Antarctica,” “the earth is round,” and so on. Many other beliefs about the
present—while theoretically subject to error—must necessarily be
assumed to be true simply to allow you to get through an ordinary day:
“The bus or train I take to work today will not crash,” “the building I work
in will not collapse,” and so on. And the “truth” of such beliefs can readily
be demonstrated in your daily experience.2 There is, however, a very
large group of dysfunctional beliefs that you might embrace about current
“truths” that could be much more open to dispute, but which nevertheless
have very important effects on your conscious experience and behavior.
Take the following five examples:
Bad luck seems to follow me wherever I go.
People are always taking advantage of me.
I am not an attractive person.
He is completely insensitive to other people’s feelings.
People are basically selfish.
The reason why such beliefs tend to be dysfunctional is that they limit
and therefore distort your experience in ways that are likely to “confirm”
the beliefs. Let us see how this might work with the same five negative
1. You will tend to disempower yourself by (a) attributing most of
your problems and difficulties to “bad luck” rather than to the
choices you make; and (b) avoiding situations and choices that
might bring you “good luck.”
2. Your interpersonal relationships will suffer because you will find it
difficult to trust other people.
3. The social/sexual/romantic aspects of your life will suffer because
you will tend to (a) put little effort into grooming and personal
appearance (“What’s the use?”); and (b) misinterpret—and therefore not be open or responsive to—the positive overtures of others
who may be attracted to you.
4. Your relationships with that person will suffer because you will tend
to (a) focus on anything he does that suggests “insensitivity” and
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212 A. W. ASTIN
misinterpret (or ignore) the things he does that are not consistent
with this belief; and (c) elicit negative feelings from him because of
the negative belief that you bring to your contacts with him.
5. Your experience of others and of yourself will become distorted
because will tend to (a) focus your attention on the “selfish” things
you and they you do and misinterpret (or ignore) acts of generosity
or selflessness; and (…
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