Wholeness Week’ (Post 1 of 3) – At the heart of CTI’s Co-Active Accessibility and Wholeness Project is an ongoing discussion examining the concept of wholeness, its origins, as well as its impact on and relationship to meeting the accessibility needs of people with perceived disabilities. Recently, Nick Kettles and Barton Cutter, connected to talk about the first of three guiding principles we’re exploring as the basis of the Co-Active Accessibility and Wholeness Project.
First Address Wholeness.
Barton: We hold that wholeness exists beyond perception. For a variety of reasons, we have historically defined one’s ability, and often by unconscious extension one’s wholeness, from a perspective of conditioned thinking and behavior. Yet as we unravel these assumptions, we eventually uncover an innate experience of humanity where perceived limitations fade. Addressing wholeness, therefore, speaks to an unwavering commitment to orient from that universal experience within ourselves during each interaction, AND point toward that same experience within the other person.
Nick: What I like about what Barton is saying is that our commitment to see wholeness in others has to be unwavering, because no matter how much we believe in the idea of people being Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole, conditioned thinking will challenge that assumption. I notice that even while I consider myself the beneficiary of a well-rounded university education, where equality is assumed, in my first interactions with Barton, I was aware of not being sure what his capabilities might be. It was bizarre to notice that I carried assumptions about what people with apparent disabilities such as speech impairment could accomplish, especially since the Co-Active Model stands for everyone’s unlimited potential.
I realized on reflection and over time just how powerfully we can be unconsciously conditioned by institutions such as medicine: whose entire existence is predicated on the idea of fixing something that is broken, defected, or impaired. The power of this message also lives via our media and entertainment, and absolutely has the ability to influence our capacity to see another with perceived disabilities as ‘whole’.
Barton: Indeed! I hear Nick’s comments exposing the origin of several ‘blind spots’ in how we typically think of wholeness. I’m particularly intrigued by his descriptions of our initial interactions. It points toward a shared experience of encountering the unknown and the fear our ego can experience when asked to consider a deeper sense of wholeness.
Much of our conversation has revolved around recognizing wholeness in the other, particularly when another person has a perceived challenge, but it’s equally important to explore the impact of recognizing wholeness within ourselves. For me, the simple shift from “I’m a disabled person” to “I’m a complete human being, and I have a disability” is profound! This took a long time for me and I’m still discovering new aspects of this ‘human capacity’ each day. I see this as important because in situations where wholeness isn’t recognized by anyone in an interaction, it leads to collusion. Wholeness has to be actively recognized first, before it can be addressed.
Nick: Building on what Barton says, in other conversations we’ve had with faculty colleagues Eileen Blumenthal, Kristen Bentley, and Judith Cohen, I have noticed the shift that happens when we address the wholeness of any individual first, before we consider how to consider the accessibility requirements of their disability. And when we get the order right – first address wholeness, second accessibility – it is indeed profoundly powerful because it means we cannot avoid examining the impact of our interaction on how we perceive our own wholeness, by reducing the interaction to a matter of logistical hurdles to jump over.
Many times in our conversations I no longer see any disability, just a unique expression of wholeness. I notice there is a fear this might been seen as patronizing him as being special or inspirational, to somehow make up for his disability, however this somewhat detached perspective is not where I stand. The unique beauty and symmetry I see in Barton’s expression of wholeness, actually rises from the space that was made available when I moved beyond my unconscious conditioned thinking about what he was and is capable of, and allowed the experience to deepen the experience of my own wholeness.