I had lived thirty good years before enduring my first food poisoning — odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. I found myself completely incapacitated to erect the pillars of my daily life — too cognitively foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even meditate. The temporary disability soon elevated the assault on my mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. Even as I consoled myself with Nabokov’s exceptionally florid account of food poisoning, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me — somehow, a physical illness had completely colored my psychoemotional reality.
This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. Long before scientists began shedding light on how our minds and bodies actually affect one another, an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between the body and the emotions, or feelings, emerged and permeated our very language: We use “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms — fever, fatigue, nausea — and the psychological malaise, woven of emotions like sadness and apathy.
Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humors — blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm — in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. These beliefs are fossilized in our present language —melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.
And then French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes came along in the seventeenth century, taking it upon himself to eradicate the superstitions that fueled the religious wars of the era by planting the seed of rationalism. But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science — the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly ascertained and proven beyond doubt — severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.
For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo — setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off…
What can we learn by examining only the first and final shot of a film?
This video plays the opening and closing shots of 55 films side-by-side. Some of the opening shots are strikingly similar to the final shots, while others are vastly different–both serving a purpose in communicating various themes.
Some show progress, some show decline, and some are simply impactful images used to begin and end a film.
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Recently I worked with a team that had a particularly insecure leader. As I observed him in action, and talked to co-workers, it quickly became apparent that he lacked self-awareness. When he spoke to his team, people cringed at his not-so-subtle attempts at self-promotion. He was constantly trying to prove his success to others. But he had no idea people were experiencing him this way. He micro-managed people, blew up at employees over seemingly minor things, and generally created conflict wherever he went.
This leader exhibited many of the beliefs of a negative or insecure worldview. These beliefs are important because the most ineffective, “self-focused” leaders habitually demonstrated these beliefs in a recent large-scale study and book called Return on Character by Fred Kiel.
BELIEFS UNDERLYING NEGATIVITY
This negative worldview includes 11 beliefs that are rooted in emotional insecurity. The key underlying beliefs of this worldview can be grouped into three categories: self, others, and goals.
False Views of Self
– It’s not important to understand what drives me.
– Personal meaning is derived from proving my success to others.
False Views of Others
– People are generally untrustworthy, so you should closely monitor them and not show kindness.
– Creating conflict helps you get at the truth of a situation.
False Views of Goals
– It’s better to focus on the short-term than the long-term.
– It’s better to avoid change unless I am in control of it.
Implicit Relational Knowledge
These beliefs are rooted in a lack of basic trust, lack of self-awareness, and lack of a positive sense of self-worth, which lead a person to constantly seek approval through achievements (an understandable coping strategy that doesn’t work in the long run). They are deep-seated beliefs that represent what psychologists call “implicit relational knowledge.” This is a form of experiential knowledge about how relationships work that is stored in a gut level form of memory called implicit memory.
BELIEFS UNDERLYING POSITIVITY
The beliefs of a positive worldview are also deep-seated, but of a different order. The key beliefs of this worldview in the same three categories include the following:
Healthy View of Self
– Personal meaning is derived from growing and stretching my natural talents.
Healthy View of Others
– People are generally trustworthy.
– All people deserve the same respect, regardless of job status.
– Most people grow and change throughout their adult life (similar to what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset”).
– Everyone has core strengths that should be engaged.
– The best managers have good relationship skills.
Healthy View of Goals
– All businesses share a responsibility to contribute to the common good.
– Leaders generally desire to leave the world a better place.
Here is how Kiel summarizes:
“While many seem to associate a negative and pessimistic attitude regarding human nature, personal purpose, and organizational life with the savviness of success, that idea couldn’t be more wrong. The Virtuoso leaders in our study clearly illustrate that the most successful leaders focus on what’s right about the world around them.” (p. 72).
Negative or Positive? Which Worldview Do You Hold?
So, do you hold a positive or negative worldview? It’s probably not an either-or, but reflecting on the various beliefs in each worldview can help you determine where your strengths and growth areas are in terms of your core beliefs. And it turns out that your worldview, consisting of deep beliefs, shapes and drives your relationships and behavior, and ultimately your impact, whether through informal influence, or a formal leadership position.
FOUR WAYS TO FOSTER A POSITIVE LEADERSHIP WORLDVIEW
Here are four ways to foster a positive leadership worldview.
Become Aware of Your Filters and Develop New Lenses for Noticing the Positive.
The first thing you need to understand is that you don’t rationally choose these beliefs. As I mentioned above, they are implicit, meaning they develop and operate outside your conscious awareness. You can, however, proactively do things to change them and develop a more positive worldview. It starts with becoming aware that you have filters and then noticing them in action.
Notice that a lot of these beliefs Kiel uncovered are about people and how relationships work. Our relational filters are formed in early relationships with attachment figures and called “internal working models” in attachment theory.
Trust is the Key Relational Filter
The key relational filter here has to do with trust. If you find yourself habitually not trusting others at work in particular ways, it’s likely that important people in your life have not been trustworthy in these ways…
Todd W. Hall, PhD is Professor of Psychology, Director of the Institute for Research on Psychology and Spirituality, and Editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University, in the Los Angeles area. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Biola University, and a doctoral specialization in measurement and psychometrics from UCLA. Using his expertise in clinical psychology, spirituality, leadership, and organizational development, Dr. Hall helps leaders and organizations maximize their potential and effectiveness.
It was a perfect winter’s day in central Mexico. The skies were clear and the temperatures cool. As Dionisio and Paula Pulido labored side-by-side in their cornfield, they could never have imagined the horror about to erupt between them.
When Dionisio first heard the unusual rumblings, he glanced at the sunny skies and reassured his wife, “It must be thunder from a distant storm.” When they felt the first tremors, they laughed again and joked, “Who’s afraid of a little earthquake?”
It was a strategy that nearly cost them their lives.
Little did they know that deep beneath the unsuspecting couple a massive magma dome was slowly pushing a conduit of molten rock directly towards their farm. Only when the tremors became nearly constant and strong enough to cause nearby trees to sway did Dionisio and Paula suddenly realize something was seriously amiss. Transfixed by the movement of the trees, they looked up just in time to see the ground in front of them suddenly swell 10 feet in the air and crack open like an egg. Smoke and volcanic ash poured out of the crack with a hiss and the foul smell of sulfur. Dionisio and Paula ran for the local village Parícutin for help.
By the time they returned with their friends the next day the build up of ash and lava had created a giant cinder cone. Scientists rushed from around the world to witness the birth of the massive Volcán de Parícutin. In less than a year, the Pulido’s once tranquil cornfield towered 1,500 feet over the Mexican countryside burying two towns in a massive lava flow nearly ten miles in diameter.
It was a perfect summer day in Saint Tropez . The azure waters beckoned Kevin and Jeannie on the first morning of their Mediterranean honeymoon. Jeannie had always dreamed of spending the first week of her marriage on the French Riviera and the travel site made their romantic hotel look almost too-good-to-be-true. So it came as quite a shock when they quickly realized that the travel site had failed to mention that their hotel faced one of the most famous nude beaches in the world.
Kevin immediately suggested they find another location, but Jeannie was determined to live out her fantasy honeymoon. A little too determined, Kevin thought. Like rumblings of distant thunder out of clear blue sky, both lovers felt the unusual tremors in their relationship, but nothing could have prepared them for the volcano about to erupt between them.
Kevin’s own life story had prepared him for this very moment… or so he thought. He had grown up in a family that rarely spoke of negative emotions (even when it was obvious someone was hurting.) He had learned the value of striving to make a hurting person happy without directly engaging their pain. Kevin reassured himself, “She’s just uncomfortable with her own body.” So for the rest of the day, while they kept their clothes on (thank you!), Kevin carefully kept his eyes on Jeannie and never missed an opportunity to tell her how beautiful she was.
It was a strategy that nearly cost them their marriage.
Little did they know that deep beneath their relationship, the hidden story of Jeannie’s abuse at the hands of a neighbor (long repressed by Jeannie) had created a massive magma dome of pain that was slowly pushing a conduit of molten mistrust toward the unsuspecting couple. Without realizing it, Kevin had hit upon the exact strategy of flattery and professed affection Jeannie’s neighbor had used to lure her into abuse. As the day wore on, Jeannie strove to stifle a rising sense of inexplicable panic as she bristled at Kevin’s every affirming word and stiffened at his every touch.
It was only a matter of time before the eruption broke the surface. That night the lovemaking that had been so simple and easy the evening before suddenly felt like an unspeakable horror to Jeannie. When Kevin initiated a tender embrace, Jeannie’s soul cracked wide open as a decade of hissing ash and lava came pouring out.
Panicked and confused, Jeannie turned to her own pet strategy for surviving childhood. She had learned the value of being the perfect “good girl” in order to maintain order in her chaotic inner life. So she willed her way through the rest of the evening like the perfect Christian wife striving to cover up her lack of emotional participation.
Her strategy was nearly as damaging as Kevin’s. While he was incapable of addressing it, her dissociation was obvious to him. Fearing she was pulling away, Kevin began redoubling the very strategy that was driving Jeannie away until all hope of physical or emotional intimacy was lost.
By the end of their week in “paradise,” the build up of ash and lava had created a cinder cone over 1500 feet high between them. Within a year, Kevin and Jeannie’s once tranquil relationship was buried in a massive lava flow of pain and rejection neither ever saw coming.
How could they? It erupted from much too deep in their worldview for either of them to detect.
While we inherit much of our worldview from the macro-worldview of our parents, family, church and society there is more to us than the cultural patterns we’ve assimilated. Our highly individualized personality traits and life experiences foster a unique micro-worldview that often causes us to interpret events and make decisions very differently than anyone around us.
Even children who grow up in the same household often end up with radically different worldviews due to the differences in their birth order, family system, and personal experiences outside the home. Like the layers of a volcano, the Story of our life events, family system, and key relationships (Level 1) often lead to a highly personalized Value and Belief System (Level 2), which in turn gives rise to unique personal Strategies, Rules and Roles (Level 3) that erupt in our lives in our Behaviors and Actions (Level 1). (See, Casablanca and the Four Levels of Worldview.) 
In Kevin and Jeannie’s case, their Christian macro-worldview was no match for the more powerful and personal micro-worldviews formed in their childhood experiences. While both of their parents had strong marriages, and their church’s premarital classes and mentoring had taught them the Christian macro-worldview for building a healthy marriage, there were altogether different stories shaping their marriage.
Intellectually, Jeannie knew Kevin was not an abuser. In fact, she didn’t even consciously remember the abuse. Yet, emotionally, she knew something was wrong. Intellectually, Kevin knew that Jeannie wasn’t reacting to him. Emotionally, he couldn’t help feeling rejected.
Of course, this only increased Jeannie’s sense of self-hatred. She had built her life around being a “perfect Christian.” Now, she couldn’t even be a decent wife. And of course, Kevin had to ‘fix’ everything not by asking, “What’s wrong?”, but by desperately attempting to alter Jeannie’s emotions. The story, values and belief system, and strategies of their personal micro-worldview was short-circuiting their every attempt to live out the Christian marriage macro-worldview they professed. And Kevin and Jeannie are not alone.
While their eruption may be more extreme than others, it is a reality faced by nearly everyone on earth.
Gut Level Knowledge
As Kevin and Jeannie discovered on their volcanic honeymoon from hell, the story shaping our life at the micro-worldview level is primarily shaped by our earliest life experiences. The values and beliefs of micro-worldview are normally not the intentional and rational creeds of a macro-worldview, such as the deity of Christ, the tri-unity of God, the dignity and value of all human beings, etc. They are more the gut-level knowledge derived from our childhood and even our infancy.
Gut level knowledge is what psychologist Todd Hall calls Implicit Right Brain Knowledge. It is the nonlinear, nonverbal, and holistic emotional connections that reach back as far as the womb. They are realities so deeply programmed into our psyches that we just know that we know that we know they are true. (Even if, in fact, they are completely inaccurate.)
Gut level knowledge controls many of our actions and relationships because our right brain processes it automatically, immediately, and emotionally without our even having to think about it. It is not under the direct control of the intellectual value and belief system, which resides primarily in our more explicit and linear left brain.
For instance, if your mom affirmed you only for being pretty (versus being smart, talented, virtuous, or just for being you), you just know “in your gut” that your appearance is the source of your worth. Slowly and subconsciously you develop a life strategy maximizing your outward appearance, even if you keep telling yourself that looks don’t matter.
If your childhood featured an untrustworthy father figure, you just know “in your gut” that people (or at least men) can’t be trusted. You automatically react with mistrust in most encounters with men and therefore subconsciously develop a set of rules and roles to prevent you from ever having to trust father figures… including the God you profess faith in.
These unspoken and subconscious values and beliefs grow out of the gut-level knowledge of our unique life story and profoundly influence our outlook and our strategy of life. Jeannie’s conscious mind told her that Kevin was trustworthy, however the gut-level knowledge produced by her story of hidden abuse kept triggering alarms that Kevin was a dangerous intruder. It ruined their honeymoon and nearly ruined their marriage.
What’s worse, Jeannie had no idea why she was responding so negatively to Kevin’s loving advances. That’s the problem with gut-level knowledge. It is so powerful and deeply intertwined with our identity (even when it is wrong) that it is extremely difficulty to detect. Still, detecting it is possible… if you know where to look.
One helpful tool for exploring how our behavior is impacted by the hidden personal stories in our micro-worldview is the psychological discipline of Attachment Theory. Attachment theory traces how our childhood connection to our parents impacts our adult patterns of connecting to others. If children feel safe and secure with their parents they normally build strong bonds with them. And if they build strong bonds with their parents, odds are they are going to feel secure enough to build strong bonds with their friends, coworkers, and spouses as well.
If, on the other hand, something has short-circuited our bond with our parents (which is true of many if not most human beings), then we may struggle in our attachments to our friends, spouse, and children in similar ways: Anxious-Ambivalent, Dismissive-Avoidant, Fearful-Avoidant, Preoccupied-Codependent, Secure-Dependent, etc.
According to attachment theory, children grow into “secure” Connectors only if they develop a healthy view of both themselves and their primary attachment figures. In essence, children need to come out of their childhood with at least two stories functioning in their micro-worldview: 1) “It is safe to for me to autonomous,” and, 2) “It is safe of me to depend upon others.” If you are overly dependent and/or overly independent your value and belief system will inevitably lead to a life strategy subconsciously designed to protect yourself from further harm in line with these powerful internal realities. (Click here to take a Relationship Attachment Style Test.)
Counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich describe how “For fourteen years our marriage was stuck in the same old frustrating patterns. When we looked at our first lessons in love from our families, we immediately recognized the unseen forces governing how we loved.” Milan and Kay have since identified six types of relational patterns tied to the stories of our life: Avoiders, Pleasers, Vacillators, Controllers, Victims, and Connectors.
For instance, Avoiders like Kevin (above), grow up in families who rarely discussed personal problems or negative emotions. Their highest value becomes making others happy and situations peaceful. They therefore make unspoken rules for themselves to avoid conflict, get over things quickly, and never talk about their feelings (even and especially at the expense of honesty and problem solving.) Exploring which relational pattern dominates your life can be extremely helpful in discerning the various levels of your micro-worldview. (Click here to take the How We Love quiz and find out which style fits your worldview.)
Attachment to God
Psychologist Todd Hall takes attachment theory one-step deeper by using it to study the association between human attachment patterns and our attachment to God. He has identified various types of spiritual attachments functioning in the lives of professing Christians: Secure and Engaged, Distant yet Engaged, Anxious and Disengaged, Insecure and Disengaged, etc. (See, Five Spirituality Types and College Students.)
For instance, people who are Anxious and Disengagedin their God attachment are highly insecure in their connection to God and therefore moderately low in their spiritual engagement. According to Hall, these people need help “developing what attachment theory calls a secure base; that is, a deep, gut-level sense that God is consistently responsive to their emotional and relational needs.“
Other people grow up in families where they felt love and affection from their parents, but their sense of safety and security was somehow compromised due to factors beyond parental control, such as a childhood illness, an injury, a car accident, a house fire, civil unrest, non-parental abuse, parental unemployment, or military deployment, etc.
Such children grow up knowing “in their gut” that the rug can be pulled out from under them at any moment. If the child becomes convinced that that this reality is their fault (and most children normally do), they may develop a micro-worldview value and belief system wherein they have a positive view of God, but a negative view of themselves.
They become preoccupied by their fear that there is something wrong with them that caused God to reject them or they wouldn’t have had to endure this tragedy. And of course, they do everything within their power to develop a life strategy to prevent God from ever rejecting them again. They have a taste for intimacy with God due to their intimacy with their parent(s), but they are convinced that they need to “perform well” or something horrible may happen to them again.
This is the world Jeannie dwells in. Even though her mind has repressed the abuse to protect her soul (for now), she “knows” something is wrong with the world and that it is her fault. She strives to maintain a life of the “perfect” Christian, seeking God for intimacy all the while fearing that she will do something to cause her world to fall apart again. (To explore further, take The Spiritual Transformation Inventory.)
One final tool that often proves helpful in exploring our micro-worldview is known as the Enneagram. Derived from the Greek words ἐννέα (‘nine’) and γράμμα (‘written’ or ‘drawn’), the Enneagram catalogs nine basic personality types interrelated to each other by a drawing (See figure below). Spiritual directors such as Richard Rohr and Don Richard Riso use the Enneagram to marry modern Freudian conceptions of the Ego with the ancient Christian tradition of categorizing types of sin in order to better combat temptation (e.g. “The Logismoi” of Evagrius Ponticus, “The Seven Deadly Sins” of Gregory the Great, etc.) As such, it can greatly help people discover their core false beliefs and strategies.
Each enneagram “type” is marked by a root fear, which gives rise to a primary desire (Value), which in turn makes each type particularly susceptible to certain temptations (Strategies).
For instance, Type 2—Helpers, like Kevin, fear being unloved, and therefore build their value and belief system around being loved at all costs. Their great temptation is to develop a life strategy that either denies their own needs and/or manipulates others to give them the love they feel they’re missing.
Jeannie is a Type 3—Achiever. Achievers fear worthlessness above all else. They therefore build a value and belief system centered on “success” (however their family, peer group, teachers, coaches, and/or supervisors measure success). Their temptation is build a life strategy of driving themselves to always “be the best” in their chosen fields of achievement, and/or studiously avoiding situations where they might fail. For Jeannie, her Type 3–Achiever pattern focused achieving her idealized checklist for being a perfect Christian and a perfect wife.
Enneagram teachers disagree on the role of Story in the personality types. Some see our personality types as set at birth, so that a Three-Achiever will always end up living a Three-Achiever story. According to this view, the only question is how family/environmental factors determine which areas she will strive to achieve in: violin, cheerleading, football, business, politics, ministry, character, etc.
Other experts assert that our personality Type is often determined by family/environmental factors more in line with the predictions of attachment theory rather than hard-wired at birth. According to this view, someone becomes a Three-Achiever when their family gives them more affirmation for their successes than affection for their personhood.
It is easy to see both factors at work in Kevin and Jeannie’s micro-worldviews. Since there is no proven way to extricate these two approaches, it is probably helpful to consider both factors when exploring your own micro-worldview. Plus, to make things even more interesting (and personalized), most people have both a primary and a secondary Enneagram personality type–known as a wing–so there is a lot of room for exploration. (Click here to take a free Enneagram Test.)
The Healing Journey
Here’s the good news. The Pulidos survived their backyard volcano. Their near-death experience made them mini-celebrities in the scientific community and they lived to a ripe old age far from Parícutin. (Although Dionisio never did put in that fire pit Paula always wanted.)
Even more encouragingly, Kevin and Jeannie survived their honeymoon. In fact, their horrific experience was painful enough to get them to seek the kind of help most couples don’t realize they need until they’ve been married for years. Over time they were able to discern their hidden micro-worldviews, name their backyard volcano, and find healing.
Ten years later they are happily (if not perfectly) married and more madly (and honestly) in love than the day they said their vows. They live with their two children as far from the south of France (and all nude beaches) as they can possibly can.
How is such healing possible? Well, that will take another series of posts to come.
 What I am calling the ‘Story’ level of worldview here, is what philosopher James K. A. Smith refers to as the ‘pre-worldview’ level of ‘social Imaginary.’ “The social imaginary’ is an affective, noncognitive understanding of the world. It is described as an imaginary (rather than a theory) because it is fueled by the stuff of the imagination rather than the intellect: it is made up of, and embedded in, stories, narratives, myths, and icons. These visions capture our hearts and imaginations by “lining” our imagination, as it were— providing us with frameworks of “meaning” by which we make sense of our world and our calling in it. An irreducible understanding of the world resides in our intuitive, precognitive grasp of these stories. Desiring the Kingdom (Cultural Liturgies): Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Publishing Group, 2009), p. 68.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006) provides a marvelous example of the process of worldview change in the transformation arc of its main character, Andy (played by Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway).
Andy’s post-college ambition to become a hard journalist is thrown a serious curve when she unexpectedly lands a prestigious job as the #2 personal assistant to New York’s most powerful fashion magazine editor, Amanda Priestly (Academy Award winner Meryl Streep). Priestly, her right hand man (Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci), and her #1 personal assistant (Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt) create a workplace culture whose rule of lifechallenges and demeans Andy’s value and belief system.
Soon Andy accepts and then begins following the scriptsprovided by her new social environment. The fashion industry’s storyopens up new plausibility structures for Andy’s decision-making. Her drive to succeed subtly shifts from her original goal of hard journalism to pursuing the goals of Amanda Priestly. Her journey toward the dark side begins with a single dress. But will it forever dominate her destiny?
The embed codes are no longer available from Hulu, but here are the links to the clips.