Rons Blog August 2018

Thus far 2018 has been a busy year for the Gem Journey in terms of the research project, a new set of video training modules and the on- going filming of a documentary dedicated to my work. I can’t help but be excited that ‘The Storyteller’ documentary will share the rich treasure of the Gem Journey  with the world. I’ve been told that the trailer should be ready for posting on my website in October.

In June, the Pukekohe Intermediate School project was completed. The University of Auckland Medical School, led by Professor Simon Denny MD, conducted a randomised control trial of the Gem Journey programme with all the Year 7 and 8 students from the school. Well over two hundred 11 and 12 year olds completed the journey while the other 200+ formed the control group. The trial results will be published soon. However, I can share with you the results from my personal survey, which I call The Ode’ to Research and am pleased that they reflect very similar outcomes from the two previous surveys which I have conducted at other schools. It looks like this:

Five questions: circle one: that best describe your Gem journey experience

1. It has inspired me to become my best self: 76/207-36%

2. It was pretty good, I learned some important lessons: 80/207-38%

3. It was just OK: 28/207 13%

4. I was bored and really didn’t learn much: 21/207 10%

5. It was a complete waste of time: 6/207 3%

I learned a great deal from this simple survey. The most impressive aspect to me is that the children (for the most part) really, really dug the journey.

I have now established that the Gem Journey group curriculum is best suited for Year 8 students (12/13 yrs.) and above. The material was definitely too difficult for the lower stream of Year 7 students.

I think the bottom 26% of responders would get far more from the curriculum if it was presented to them a couple of years down the academic track or perhaps presented individually by their parents.

During the latter part of 2018 I will be running another interesting group of Gem Journey sessions with four different Alternative Education providers and one community Activity Centre (Approximately 100 Students in all). Most of the AE students will be in the 14-16 year range. I imagine that they will present a real challenge because this population of students will be sceptical, reluctant and very ready to fire me.

2018 has been a wonderful year for re-establishing  the theoretical foundations of the Gem Journey. For the last three years I’ve renewed and re-energised my motivation to continue the Gem Journey.

Prior to 2015 I was, as the song says, ‘taking the posters down’ on my career and actively organising for my retirement, because the Gem Journey didn’t seem to be gaining any traction, it seemed no one was much interested in the Gem Journey except me.

And then, literally out of the clear blue sky, Vic Carson the Principal at Filmbuff Production expressed interest in what I was doing and tagged along with me for several groups. With each group experience Vic became more enthusiastic, asking why this wonderful process wasn’t used everywhere. I had no real good answer for his question.

Vic then made a statement which reenergized me to the max. “Ron the world needs to know about the Gem Journey and I’m going to tell them.” And the very cool thing is he is actually doing just that.

In fact in September Vic and crew are filming the back story with me at Creative Alternatives in central California. They are also filming two of my foster sons and their families and filming the original co-therapists who helped identify the elements of self, in the very room where it was created. I’m pumped about the doco…real ‘full circle’ stuff!

I arrived in New Zealand in 1991 and not being the rich American abroad I, like a lot of my fellow immigrants had to work and work hard to keep up with the responsibilities of supporting a family with three children.

So I did the expected, I got stuck in and worked. And for the next 28 years did thousands of group sessions to literally thousands of clients, and remarkably without a single formal complaint. For those who know the nature of public mental health work, that grandiose statement will have meaning.

During my time of renewed determination (last three years) I have pondered where the

Gem Journey work sits in the scheme of mental health theory and how the Gem Journey process sits with other mental health (pyscho-educational) practices.

The Eight Elements of Self Theory

I theorise that humans have eight distinct elements that make us unique. The Eight Elements of self encapsulate the essence of humans, our whole self: these elements rule over the realms of our Body, our Time, and our Mind.

The Gem Journey is the model/curriculum for teaching children how to achieve their best self. I have embedded the eight elements of self within the context of the Gem Journey.

In a similar way to each stage of Erik Erickson’s Theory of PsychoSocial Development, each of my eight elements presents a dilemma that must be understood and the solutions the Gem Journey provides applied in order to achieve a healthy identity.

I hypothesise that if one learns each of the models and rules and apply them to daily living they result in the achievement of identity, the ideal self, actualization, your best self or however you choose to frame or name a healthy congruence in life.

I believe the Gem Journey sits on the shoulders of the past theorists. I chose to focus my limited and admittedly quite shallow research on the following theorists: Rodgers, Freud, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, Glasser, and Piaget. From the theories of each of these great thinkers I formed much of how I view human development.

However at the end of my review I concluded that they (collective they) do not provide clear answers to life’s big question, the answer to the question I believe sincere seekers, including myself, and almost everyone else consciously or unconsciously are looking for…which is:

How does one achieve this illusive stage or state of identity, idealized self, Actualization? To become one’s best self?

And I, in a flash of humble insight realised that my Eight Elements of Self Theory when coupled with the Gem Journey (how to) takes present day best practice thinking, on the concept of self and personality formulation, on to the next level of learning and understanding because the Gem Journey answers the question: How to?

My theory of self is complete and forms the heart of the Gem journey curriculum. Embedded within the context of the Journey are lessons that teach each element’s dilemma and provides the solution to mastering each vital component of self in an articulated, systematic and understandable manner.

Freud describes the endogenous struggles that all of us experience; the tension between the opposing forces of Id vs Super ego.

Rogers also describes the dynamic of the human inner struggle, his congruent vs incongruent behaviour in the quest for the idealised self. (*note @ end)

Erickson’s life cycle stages are so accurate from womb to tomb. Erickson nailed our stages of developmental life. The dilemma of the pivotal ‘Identity’ stage (adolescence) is Identity vs Role diffusion in life. Either a person achieves this ultimate state of self or is destined to a life of role diffusion / confusion.

William Glasser theorises that our personality is made up of five basic needs: power, survival, love/ belonging, freedom, and fun and that all of our behaviour is striving to meet those needs. I also greatly appreciated his Eight steps Counselling Model. Especially his confrontational step where the client is asked if what they are doing about their identified problem is working. Glasser taught me that if your behaviour is not in line with your goals you will not succeed. (My ‘Mountain model’)

The list goes on, certainly Maslow and his hierarchy of needs pyramid, where self-actualization sits at the top, was a huge insight. Piaget’s four stages of Cognitive development are brilliant and Kohlberg’s theory of moral development all contributed to the fertile soil that my Eight Elements grew from.

These are all truly great thinkers, theorists and practitioners and I have greatly admired them throughout my career, yet, none of the greats lay out a learnable segue or practical process for achieving their definition of best self. To my way of thinking their work is descriptive yet vague on the actual ‘how to’…

The Gem Journey gives you the how to.

From living with, and observing the children at Creative Alternatives, I was able to identify the Eight Elements of Self that collectively make up the whole person. Each element has a dilemma that must be mastered if one is to achieve the ‘mystical level’ of identity achievement.

The Children we cared for at Creative Alternatives demonstrated the need for mastery of the eight elements. They showed me through their behaviours, and the real life consequences they were living through, which of the elements must be addressed.

Because this group of society’s marginalised children were so explosive, with extremely poor impulse control, anger was the first element of self that needed to be faced.

It became incumbent to teach these children, many the product of the third generation of children having children, how to live and the control of their anger was the first great task that needed to be mastered.

This self taught and impulsive emotional defence must be mastered because left unchecked it pervades every component of self, rendering it impossible to achieve identity. Anger undermines our ability to empathise with others and it will chase all our potential supporters away.

Therefore, anger was the first element that needed to be addressed and it’s solution embedded within the Gem Journey.

The following is a brief description of all the models and rules that one must master in order to achieve your life’s best self. In the past we have tried to teach our children how to behave. It is time we teach our children how to live!

Element 1: Anger

Mastery Model: Commanding the Stand-alone moment.                                                                        

The emotion of anger was the proponent issue of self that must be addressed. Each of the eight elements is independent however every element is also very much interdependent on the others. For example if anger is left unchecked it will influence every other aspect of self.

The Gem Journey teaches how to master and manage anger by teaching the creation of a moment in time, a moment of calm reflection that I call the Stand Alone moment. And the first element’s solution is how to be in Command of your Stand-alone moment.

This is a largely unknown instant (It is largely unknown because I made it up) that offers a wonderful opportunity: to decide, unhindered, what to do next. People must cultivate the ability to access this space within the context of their thinking behaviour.

As the ‘around the campfire’ conversation for Chapter 3, The Spider’s Web explains that the stand alone time is the space or moment in time between being Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak. (The vital pause between recognition and response)

The steps of anger mastery are:

1. Creating a new personal behaviour: recognising the opportunity to use this ‘grace moment’ in time to choose the right response. Quick to listen is the first step: at the moment of comprehension, the ‘get it’ moment, one must go into the ‘command the moment’ procedure:

2. The next step is crucial, upon processing a confronting spoken word or alarming thought, start purposeful breathing. Seek emotional clarity with each deep breath.

3. In this ‘grace moment’ in time, while deep breathing, the task is to seek understanding and clarity by asking yourself: “what should I do?” (Not ‘what do I want to do?’)

4. Then the doing what you should do is the action step. This is the step that fills in the void between hearing and doing, the deep breathing space. Commanding this moment of time allows you to get things right and avoid anger escalation.

5. Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. This halts impulsivity. Either get it right in your Stand-alone moment, or light up like a Christmas tree and be angry for an Hour.

It is impossible to become enraged while breathing deeply and purposefully for clarity. When you apply the Command over your Stand-alone Moment procedure, you master anger. It is 100% effective-100% of the time.

In an instant of time you can accomplish mastery of the model. Your right response is most often compliance, just to take out the trash (To do the thing you don’t feel like doing) however at other decision points in time the proper response might be to flee! ‘Haul ass!’ Commanding your Stand-alone time, and doing the right, thing gives you powerful options and adds real flexibility to decisions. 

Element 2: Mind

Mastery Model: Honesty + Forgiveness model

The children I worked with at Creative Alternatives had crippling thoughts which dominated their cognitive process. These thoughts indeed did cripple them emotionally. Actually who wouldn’t be crippled having experienced what they experienced while still a vulnerable child?

Society’s children view the world as a very scary place. They came to live with us at Creative Alternatives having experienced; multiple placement failures, multiple well-meaning interventionists, unspeakable abuse; sexual, physical, neglect, etc, all contributing to their inner theme of hopelessness, the feeling of not truly belonging anywhere or to anyone.

These are just a small sampling of the horrible crippling thoughts that destroy hope and future by chronically fuelling the inner pool of anger. From these beautiful, damaged children I learned that they believed there was no hope, no future. Their persistent internal dialogue said: “My life isn’t fair and never will be. I want whatever I can get and I must get it now”.

These debilitating thoughts were themes I heard often expressed by the children at Creative Alternatives, thoughts that make the thinker an emotional cripple for life. These children, without effective intervention, were simply fulfilling their negative self-prophecies.

If these persistent loops of negative thought, these ‘cripplers’ were not identified, and solutions they could understand applied, these children were destined for dysfunction. (Role diffusion/confusion)

The next element of self that had to be mastered was the Mind because it is the thoughts which generate the emotion of anger. We first had to put out the fire of anger but then we needed to remove the fuel for the fire.

The model for mastery of the mind is: Honesty + Forgiveness. Revealed around the campfire, following Chapter 5, The Quicksands of Denial, this model requires that each person takes the deep journey to true self, the state of honesty.

The story positions the listener in a most awesome way. When I get into telling the story, listeners go into an ‘altered state’ of consciousness; a pure state of attention that is void of the usual suspects, (anger, denial, projection, blame and any other outside issues) children in this ‘story mode’ listen intently, listening to learn.

The story sets up the lesson. The Boy is stuck in quicksand (For 3 days) and the Frogman tells him, “to ‘stay stuck’ I have time,” The powerful paradox of staying stuck coupled with the Boys knowledge that he could remain in the quicksand forever, just like the old people in Fouliica’s dungeon (Chapter 2) forever, create the natural pressure for the boy to take to process seriously.

“It’s your anger and behaviours’ that are keeping you stuck”, explains the Frogman. Finally the boy takes the deep journey to self, to the place where the crippling thoughts reside.

He identifies the themes, opinions, conclusions and memories, the lies he/she believes; the thought that fuel his anger, sadness, inferiority, jealousy, meanness, despondence, hopelessness and sense of being lost.

He then trusts and applies the power of Forgiveness. True forgiveness is revolutionary, radical, when true forgiveness is applied and practiced the action results in immediate and total resolution.

Forgiveness is Not repressing or suppressing issues but reaching a point in time and space were you recognise that these crippling thought are cyclic and keep you constantly irritated, anxious or desperate. Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense, it is reaching a point where you can remember without getting angry. It is reaching a state of self where you realise that that particular crippler is not worth thinking about because you know where the thought takes you and you no longer want to go there. So at recognition you stand alone, capture the thought and delete it, redirecting your thinking to topics that makes you smile.(*More on Mind Triage in next segment).

Please note the training modules are far more comprehensive than this brief topical description. You can find more on the concept of True forgiveness, its power, and finality in the training module.

Element 3: Heart

Mastery Model:  Mind Triage

Premise: “Every thought creates a feeling therefore it is important to keep guard over your thoughts.”

“Let not your heart be troubled” – Sunny side vs Shady side.

Thinking about what you think about! ‘Know your self’- Socrates

Now, if agree that one can only process, or only consider, one stream of thinking at a time, why not Make it a positive one and keep your thinking mentally healthy?

The children I worked with in California were constantly subject to mood swings caused by their minds focusing on the ‘poor me’ themes/shady side of the street thoughts, that suddenly dominated their mind time.

Like an experienced triage nurse dominates the emergency waiting room, so you too should dominate the realm in which your mind dwells.

The Steps of the Mind Triage model are:

1. First of all learn how to think about what you think about. This leads to you being able to keep guard over your thoughts by taking control of your thinking.

2. Make every thought your captive. They are your thoughts for you to do with as you will.

3. Identify/triage and direct ‘shady side of the street’ thoughts: the thoughts that make you: sad, angry, jealous, bitter, inferior, wanting revenge etc. Every thought has a married feeling. These thoughts produce the negative feelings of anger, envy and contribute to feeling down. Often, following these kinds of thoughts results in payback behaviours and feeling angry for an hour. These are the thoughts to edit out of one’s habit of thinking. Take charge and direct them to the sunny side of the street.

4. If the thought is one you’ve already resolved through forgiveness, remember that true forgiveness is resolution. It’s a done deal. Then because the thoughts are yours, capture that thought (Block it) before it produces the downward spiral of ‘poor me’ thinking. Then delete it. Does this sound like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT? Thought Triaging has been a component of the Gem Journey long before CBT and Mindfulness became the industry buzzwords they are today.

5. Instantly shift your thinking to the sunny side of the street-thoughts that make yousmile. Reflect

6. The mind triage model of mastery is an ongoing mastery requiring daily cultivation and application.  This is the intuitive process of creating a positive thinking habit.

It is time to teach our children skills to keep their thinking healthy. The Mind Triage model is the method, if applied.

The next element of self that must be addressed is how we relate to and treat others. How do other see us?

Element 4: The Mirror

How Then should we live?

Mastery Model: The Golden Rule.

Treating others the way you like to be treated is so simple many consider this ancient axiom trite. However it is absolutely, not so…

This Mastery Rule requires you to take yet another wonderful inward journey to self. The key journey question is: how do I like to be treated/ how do I like others to treat me? To Master the Golden Rule one first needs to self-generate this question; what do I really like from others and/or conversely what sort of behaviours do I detest?

What behaviour from others makes me: sad, angry, jealous, inferior, miserable, self-doubting, upset, depressed? Namely reflecting on and analysing the behaviour of others that causes you to spend negative mind time.

Behaviours that cause negative ‘cognitive lingering’ and endogenous thinking where you become stuck, dwelling on ‘shady side’ of thestreet themes. These are the thoughts, themes, opinions etc., that fuel mind behaviours like anger, self-deprecation, jealousy, envy, feeling sorry for self.

Knowing what you like and don’t like forms the foundations for your very own set of Golden Rules. The Golden Rule of behaviour is self-developed. The Golden Rule is easy to remember and easy to implement but its meaning is unique to you because it’s your rule of action– your rule of behaving in the real world.

Ease to remember because it’s your rule, you discovered the set of behaviours you prefer, you designed it. The wonderful outcome from mastering the Golden Rule is that you will be greatly liked. You will be a very cool person, one people are drawn to….

Element 5: The Mountain

Self-esteem is an essential Element of identity

Mastery Model: The Mountain (Accomplishment generates motivation)

In Chapter 11, Splendora, The Source of all Good Decisions commands the boy to “Move all your behaviour in line with your goal” And the word he gives is COURAGE.

The children at Creative Alternatives boasted incessantly regarding what they were going to do. However they rarely accomplished any of what they expressed. Seeing this tendency in them highlighted the next model of self that needed to be addressed.

Self-esteem is earned. Pats on the head with grandiose declarations of how wonderful you are, are just fluff. As are trophies for fourth place or ribbons for participation, they are ok and cool I guess, however don’t be fooled, they do not build true self esteem.

I think self-esteem and a healthy self-image comes only through personal accomplishments and the ability to get things done. Knowing through experience that we are capable gives us confidence to embrace the next challenge – but this needs to be taught.

The steps of the Mountain model are:

1. Move all your behaviours in line with your goal.

2. Use Courage to face each of the internal and hurdles that hinder you .

‘All your behaviours’ refers to three of the four aspect of behaviour: thinking, feeling and doing. (The fourth aspect is your physical body responses and they will follow once the others are in line)

To accomplish complex goals children need to be taught to develop flow charts and ‘to do’ lists and essential organisational skills.

Courage is the master stroke! Courage involves willing one’s self to overcome laxity, procrastination, less important tasks, distractions and even inner fears etc. Children must cultivate the ability to do what needs to be done in a timely, wholehearted and excellent way.

Element 6: The Choice Rule

Do what you should do-even if you don’t feel like it. Do it anyway!

Mastery Model: Choice

This mastery is so simple, many will discount it and miss it. Sad! However if you can train this Rule into the psychology of your clients, students, sons or daughters until it becomes their habit of decision making behaviour, you will have equipped them with a necessary element of self.

When a youngster knows the rule and applies it out of habit they will feel great about their present decisions and confident about their abilities in the future on their great adventure of life.

One of the great correlations of life is the connection between decisions and feelings: consistently making good decisions creates positive self-esteem.  

Element 7: The Cactus

Mastery Model: The Cactus Rule

The moment you realise you have left the right path and are headed for trouble, command your Stand-alone moment, pausing, deep breathing for clarity then “Haul ass!”

To be master of your ship, author of your life book, you need to understand the concept of logical consequences. The avoidance of trouble is a very important aspect of achieving ones best self.

In Chapter 16, Worm’s Wolves, The Gem Journey gives a wonderful eidetic picture of the flow chart of a bad decision. It starts with the individual for whatever reason: being hungry tired, sick, enters what I call, a ‘Me Moment’, a state of pure selfishness where everything is about me.

It becomes dominant and directive, the shady side of the street thinking emerges as a plethora of ‘poor me’ thoughts contribute to the decent towards trouble/cactus.

When we stubbornly leave the right path, the further we continue, the worse the consequences and the longer the recovery. All of us lose the plot from time to time however learning to recognise, and then halt the rapid decline, needs to be taught and encouraged.

Element 8: The Dance

Strive to make your life successful rather than just striving to be a success. Knowing the difference is paramount.

Mastery Model: The Ten Tenets

In Chapter 18, The Wilderness, the Traveller gives the boy a list of principles for life:

  • Be kind to everyone and everything
  • Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry
  • Honour your Mother & father
  • Your body is your gift
  • Have fun
  • Learn to enjoy physical work
  • Your yes’s should to yes and your no’s should be no
  • Forgive
  • Control your body time and mind
  • Search for the way

Mastery Model: Showing the way

I know the time is right! It is high time we start teaching our children how to live. Mastering the dance of life is the key to happiness. And I believe it is our mandate as adults to guide, direct and influence our children in the way they should go.

Teaching our children that they can design a wonderful lifestyle full of fun, contribution to the needs of others, a life of fulfilment and significance

Using the ten tenants as a general model gives some guidance in the parenting and education of our children.

Teaching your students/children to be kind is a tenant to happiness. Training them to command their Stand-alone time creates a self-disciplined adult. Giving meaning and importance to the honouring of parents and adults in general is an essential behaviour of an actualised adult.

Teach your children to respect and care for their bodies. You only get one body, so treat it right.

Guiding your children to have passion and a love of fun (fun=recreation= to re-create) is essential to healthy balanced living. Adults need to have fun as much as children do so modelling healthy outdoor activities is paramount to living a balanced life.

A life of fun creates enjoyable contrasts, with lots of fun and also lots of ‘get stuck in’ work. This is a sign that you are living a very successful life.

Yes guiding your children in a lifestyle of contrasting and diverse activity, daily and weekly, is living your life successfully. Strive for a life style with a good balance of work and fun. Nature is so available and so healthy to interact with. It can be accessed by everyone, rich or poor.

Teaching the importance of living your life in a state of grace-a state of forgiveness is such a relaxed way to live life. Staying agenda free by being a quick forgiver is power living.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. FORGIVE wholeheartedly.

And finally, searching for the way is vital to health. The gem journey is NOT the way it merely introduces ‘on the way’ behaviours. If you seek you’ll….

If you teach your children these models and rules you will equip your children in the way they should go. Train up your children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart…Yes you can teach the acquisition of identity.

Now the Gem Journey is ready for use. I envisage parents will be highly motivated because they have a genetic disposition to prepare their children in much the same way as a lioness prepares her cubs for the Hunt.

For the many parents that are presently doing a great job of raising their children this journey sanctions and give language and structure to what you already have going on. Hopefully you discover the heaps of additional teaching points (see below) essential for healthy living that you can add to your repertoire.

I envisage that teachers and therapists will see how this curriculum creates such a wonderful opportunity to have life lasting influence. Knowing that many, many of your students will not get these lessons at home should motivate you. School offers yet another ideal environment with excellent time to really give your students something they can take with them forward.

As the research projects’ highlight, this curriculum fits terrifically into existing teaching disciplines.

I must also note that, as well as the Eight Elements, the Gem Journey has a plethora of other teaching themes that will further equip your children, to name a few:

  • Facing fear model
  • Model for personal crisis (Canyon of Sadness)
  • Too much too soon lesson: importance of delaying gratification
  • Making your puzzle look like the people you admire
  • Accurate depiction of the anger, lies and blame
  • Danger of expectations
  • How to listen effectively
  • Creative alternatives model

The Gem Journey Storytellers training modules are almost ready for general use. There are 18 training modules in total with 6 presently completed. The filming of the teaching footage is finished for the remaining 12 modules. They just require editing and the completion of their interactive portions.

Whakatika: Arise, Stand up, Start your Journey!

*Note – I appreciate much of Rogers’ contribution, however my view on feeling and right decisions is quite different.