Psychological Adaptive Mechanisms – Thomas P. Beresford 2012

Forgiveness is a form of gratitude. When we fo...

Forgiveness is a form of gratitude. When we forgive others, we show them the mercy that we have often received and been thankful for. (Photo credit: symphony of love)

Preface xv

“When we do engage psychological adaptive mechanisms, however, the availability of compassion – that human attribute by which we share the feelings of others – now appears to me accessible to us only when active psychological adaptation occurs at the Mature Domain level. At the same time, it appears likely that we are capable of some level of compassion during times in which active psychological adaptive response is not engaged, when waking consciousness enjoys relative calm.  Is this true? Are we more capable of human compassion when we are not threatened? And when we are threatened, do only Mature Domain adaptive mechanisms allow us to share in the feelings of others?”

“In a related question, do the adaptive responses of the individual generalize into the adaptive responses of the group? For all of our history, human beings have adapted to the circumstances of their lives both as individuals and in groups.  Formulated as group adaptations, some appear to have caused widespread destruction and loss of life:  witness the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century that brought death on massive scales in different parts of the world.  By contrast, other group adaptations have brought humanity its democratic forms of government, the world’s best art and literature, and a setting in which the liberty of the human spirit has informed the education of generations of free people.  How do psychological adaptive mechanisms apply to groups?  What explains the wide variations in group adaptive behaviours? And what role to the Mature Domain mechanisms play in providing for compassion in groups of human beings, as contrasted to the three other Domains?”

” For another point of learning, I find it possible to conclude that the innate psychological makeup of human beings pushes each of us toward increasing maturity of psychological adaptive mechanisms rather than the reverse.  This can be countered by the biological failure of the body’s functions that mediate adaptation – including those of the brain. It can be slowed by the lack of social and interpersonal environments needed to support natural psychological development toward Mature Domain adaptation mechanisms.  It can be reversed, temporarily or perhaps permanently in some cases, when overwhelmed by acute or constant stresses that can drive psychological adaptation downward toward immaturity.  How best can the basic psychological functions involved in work, play and relationships with others maximize the individual momentum toward Mature Domain adaptation styles? How does compassion make itself known in this process, and when and how can we maximize the human ability to connect with the thoughts and feelings of others?”

“When Loe Tolstoy asserted in War and Peace that ‘to understand everything is to forgive everything’ (Tolstoy, 1994, p. 111), he too appeared to be talking about human adaptation and human compassion.”

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