The pyramid needs its foundations

I met up last Saturday for a conversation with a friend who is a human givens therapist and has been on a spiritual journey for decades.  She also has the realness and straightforwardness which you might expect from an Enneagram type 8, which I enjoy.  We were talking about the problem of spiritual bypass.  Where people use transcendental spiritual states to bypass issues they have in their life.  In her language, people are often using spirituality to get their emotional needs (givens) met.  In the Human Givens approach, if people are getting all their basic needs met, they cannot help but have a certain psychological health.  Or in Maslowian terms, if people are not getting their basic needs mets, then they cannot contemplate questions of meaning and spirituality.  So this is fascinating stuff.  I feel I know people who I would not necessarily call psychologically well-balanced, but who are definitely spending much time contemplating meaning and spirituality. So what’s going on here?  I am not sure, but I am keen to find out.  Obviously, in Enneagramatic terms, certain types are likely to place more importance on the search for meaning (type 4 especially).  So it could be that type 4s, irrespective of whether their givens are met, are more likely than others to feel the loss of meaning in their lives.  My friend was challenging me on what interventions are really needed.  If you are working with a stressed executive, who is not getting their needs effectively met, why be doing more advanced exploration work with them?;  rather – the house of their life needs foundations – get their lives and environments set up so they can meet those needs.  The analogy Human Givens therapists draw is with a plant.  Put a plant in the right environment of water, light, fertile soil and, some genetic deficiency notwithstanding, it cannot but grow.  In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of psycho-spiritual schools – schools which place spiritual work in the context of psychological issues.  If you have a demanding superego, that is going to be drawing you from presence, then let’s have a look at that.  If you are not in touch with the deep anger which sits inside you, then let’s do some work on that.

About Jack Butler

Jack Butler is a social entrepreneur, coach, workshop leader and speaker. His latest venture provides full spectrum human development through coaching, programmes and other development resources for leaders and entrepreneurs. He founded Future Foundations (, a leading youth personal development training organization. He is a professional member of the International Enneagram Association and a former fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Jack was the IAB 2007 Young Entrepreneur of the Year runner-up and took a double first class degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Jack spends his time between London and Brighton in the UK and Boulder, CO and the Bay Area in the US. In his spare time, he enjoys physical challenges (3 Peaks Challenge 2010, Tresco Marathon 2006) and supporting The Simultaneous Policy Organisation ( He is a Partner in Passion and Purpose of the Grubb Guild, a voracious reader of personal, cultural and spiritual development, and likes to inquire, journal, travel and write.
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