What would the world be like if people had a tendency to witness experience, rather than label and judge it?
What if politicians made decisions with deep empathy, tolerance, and compassion for beings at all stages of development and all manifestations of life?
What if the people writing our textbooks operated within an expansive time frame that included all past and future in the universe?
How would your life be different if you were utterly comfortable with not knowing who you are, accepting youself and reality as is in a non-controlling way? What if you had a deep tolerance of the continually changing experience of moment to moment reality?
This world exists. It is, in fact the world we are starting to create. These descriptions are culled from a summary of research published in a recent Ph.D dissertation by Barrett Brown, describing characteristics shared by real people studied with the utmost scientific diligence. These people are leaders in the field of sustainability, and while they represent less than 1% of the population in the United States, that number continues to grow, perhaps even exponentially.
Some call them Ironists, while others talk about the “Unitive” Action Logic. No matter what you call them, the fact is that this existence is an inherent capacity of humans that we can all unlock. There is no easy way. Making a habit out of this way of thinking takes years a disciplined meditation, journaling, psychotherapeutic self inquiry, coaching, and more; every individual’s path has been different. Yet if you ever get down about our future or worried about the fate of our species and our planet, take a quick peek at what’s in store for us (Full PDF):
“Ironists can be perceived by others as aloof and insufficiently engaged in the concerns
and goals of a common humanity. Ironically, they deeply care about the essential dilemma of
the human condition and work for justice, fairness, and benevolence towards all. More than
any other action logic, they feel tolerance, compassion, and an affiliation with all forms of
life. Unseen to their critics, Ironists often serve as catalysts in the development of others. By
knowing themselves as embedded in a creative ground, they embody and transmit a deeper
security of being than is possible through a rationally-generated self-identity. They offer to
others an example, or a template, of being what they are, without excuses. This challenges the
conventional preconceptions of others about what it means to be a mature adult (Cook-
Greuter, 1999, 2005).”
“The central goal of an Ironist is to be. Content with simply being, Ironists assume a
non-controlling relationship to consciousness and are non-evaluative in their focus. They
engage the moment with an integrative witnessing, noticing the flow of experience and
passing of states of mind (Cook-Greuter, 1994, 1999). Ironists effortlessly hold multiple
perspectives and can shift across various states of awareness with ease. Unlike any earlier
action logic, they can remain consistently aware of their thoughts, feelings, behavior,
perceptions, and states of alertness (Cook-Greuter, 1999). ”
For Ironists, inner conflicts and competing external demands need not be resolved or
denied; they are simply part of the ever-changing flux of being and need only be witnessed.
As a result, Ironists are not driven to be one way or another, or accomplish a certain state.
They let go of the unattainable and hold a non-attached, impersonal stance. Yet rather than
leading to passivity, this stance enables a stronger, more direct and powerful engagement
when action is needed. This openness enables access to a truth that is imminent in the
universe yet cannot be grasped with only rationality (Cook-Greuter, 1999, 2005).
Links to Barrett’s dissertation:
- Cook-Greuter, S. R. (1994). Rare forms of self-understanding in mature adults. In M. & Cook-Greuter Miller, S. (Ed.), Transcendence and mature thought in adulthood (pp.199-146). New York: Praeger.
- Cook-Greuter, S. R. (1999). Postautonomous ego development: A study of its nature and measurement. Dissertation Abstracts International, 60 06B(UMI No. 993312),
- Cook-Greuter, S. R. (2005). Ego development: Nine levels of increasing embrace. Unpublished manuscript.