“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Fowler's Stages of Faith (part 4 of 6)

We continue with James W. Fowler's Stages of Faith (1995), looking at faith development.

Today we look at an overview of Stage 4: Individuative-Reflective faith. Some bullet points about Stage 4 faith from Fowler.
-the late adolescent or adult must begin to take seriously the burden of resonsibility for his or her own commitments, lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes
-unavoidable tensions
individuality versus being defined by a group or group
subjectivity and the power of one's strongly felt but
unexamined feelings versus objectivity and the
requirement of critical reflection
self-fulfillment or self-actualization as a primary concern
versus service to and being for others
the question of being committed to the reltive versus
struggle with the possibility of an absolute
-disillusionment with one's compromises and recognition that life is more complex than Stage 4's logic of clear distinctions and abstract concepts can comprehend, press one toward a more dialectical and multilevel approach to life truth

I think it is quite rare for an individual with cognitive deficits to be able to function at this level of faith. Tensions between individuality and group membership, subjectivity and critical reflection, and the ability to interact with notions of absolutes and things which are relative are difficult for this group. Internal conflicts between self-actualization versus service to and being for others do find their way into discussions of the acting out faith for these individuals. The notion of helping others is very important in the lives of persons with cognitive disabilities, perhaps because of the help they have received and have benefitted from, or perhaps in the self-actualization they feel in helping others, or in being depended upon. Whatever the reason, the notion of helping others is very important.

Perhaps due to an inability to organize themselves, or a recognition of their own need, group membership is typically desired above individuality. In some ways, group membership might be considered the highest ideal, in that it implies a certain level of competence. Individuality is evidence of a disconnectedness from others due to the severity of a disability, or an inability to connect with others. However, one must look at both connectedness between persons with and without disability, and connectedness within the disabled community itself. Adults with cognitive disabilities like to talk about the fact that they are a member of a Bible Study, or a member of a social club or a member of a church. To them it doesn't necessarily imply a subjugating of their life perspective to be identified with a group, rather, it implies that they are likeable people who have lots of friends, another high ideal.

They will distance themselves from individuals or groups if they feel they are being taken advantage of (should they be able to detect that) and at times on the basis personal philosophy about right and wrong.

Finally, I do believe that they sometimes recognize a more dialectical and multilevel approach to life truth, but rather than struggling with the conflict, they simply live with the paradox. For example, a man I know told me that, "My family allows me to live in their garage, but they steal my money." These conflicting perspectives, one of "caring" and one of taking advantage of coexist without resolution, and are simply accepted as the status quo. Perhaps this is because the individual values group membership over confrontation, recognizes his dependency, or lacks the confidence that he is actually perceiving the situation correctly.


No comments: