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TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION AND THE FLEXIBILITY OF CONSTRUCTIONS OF REALITY
WILLIAM CHARLES MADSEN
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.
Research completed June 1976.
Long-term participants in the Transcendental Meditation programme were found to be more open-minded than both non-meditators and prospective meditators.-EDITORS
The following is an abbreviated version of the author's original senior honor's thesis to obtain the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Department of Psychology, Stanford University.
This study examines the genesis of and the possibility for change in inflexible constructions of reality, or closed-mindedness. It analyzes the theories of Fromm, Rokeach, and Maslow concerning the genesis of in-flexible constructions and tests the hypothesis that Transcendental Meditation (TM) may facilitate increased degrees of construct flexibility. A comparison of scores on the Rokeach Dogmatism Scale revealed that a group of experienced meditators (N=20; mean length of time practicing TM, 47.45 months) were signifi-cantly more open-minded (p
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ON THE TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION AND TM-SIDHI PROGRAMME, VOL. 2
In our world of constant flux, a major problem facing humankind is that of inflexible constructions. Constructions are defined by George Kelly ( 1963, pp. 8-9) as the transparent patterns or templates which we create and then attempt to fit over the re-alities of which the world is composed. The realities of which the world is composed are a series of dy-namic processes. However, processes are extremely difficult to accept, comprehend, and deal with, and we as individuals are much more accustomed to conceptualizing in terms of states. Consequently, we place structures on these processes in order to better understand them. These structures, which by their very nature are static entities, comprise our ways of construing the world.
There arises here an inevitable conflict between the dynamic processes which constitute reality and the static constructions which are used to understand reality. As a result, these constructions are only approximations of reality and must be continually revised as the processes change so that they may continue to be effective for understanding and interacting with the world.
Inflexible constructions are ones which are not easily subject to such continual revision. By holding inflexible constructions, individuals become locked into interpretations of the world which become less and less effective as the processes which are being interpreted continue to change.
Inflexible constructions are a major inhibition to growth and creativity on both a personal and societal level. Both growth and creativity presuppose change, and inflexible construct systems effectively block such change.
In this context it would be of interest to examine conditions which encourage and perpetuate inflex-ible construct systems and activities that might in-crease one's degree of construct flexibility.
ERICH FROMM AND THE PROCESS OF INDIVIDU-ATION-One theoretical framework from which it is possible to analyze the genesis of inflexible con-struct systems is offered by Erich Fromm. He be-lieves that individuals become disposed to hold in-flexible construct systems to the extent to which they are made to feel alone, isolated, and helpless in the world in which they live, and thus anxious about what a perceived threatening world holds in store for them (Fromm, 1947).
Fromm describes this as an outcome of the pro-cess of individuation. Individuation is the process of an individual's growing emergence from his/her original ties to the natural and social world. These ties which exist before the emergence of the in-dividual and which connect him/her to the outside world are called primary ties. Primary ties are essen-tially the injunctions which direct and guide us by "telling us what to do". They imply a lack of free-dom, but provide a sense of security and orientation which forms the foundation from which to later seek this freedom. Thus, the process of individuation is evolution from the security and rootedness of pri-mary ties to the freedom of individualism.
This process has a dialectical quality. On one hand, it entails the development of positive freedom (freedom to) which results in the growth of self-strength and self-integrity, while on the other hand, it entails the growth of separateness and isolation. Negative freedom is essentially freedom from primary ties which give meaning and security to the individual, and positive freedom is essentially the freedom to carve out new meaning and purpose in one's life once freed from those ties.
If these two aspects of the dialectic evolved at the same rate, there would be no problem. Unfortu-nately, they do not. While the growing separation is a natural process, the development of self-strength has been impeded by various social and economic conditions.
This poses the problem of how an individual is to find new meaning and orientation in his/her life. One solution to this problem is regression or the attempt to re-establish primary ties. This is the attempt to escape the insecurity and anxiety of separation by giving up freedom and trying to elim-inate the gap between one's individual self and the rest of the world. One means of accomplishing this is by authoritarianism, which Fromm (1941, p. 163) defines as the:
... tendency to give up the independence of one's own individual self and to fuse one's self with somebody or something outside of oneself in order to acquire the strength which the individual self is lacking.
Through authoritarianism, the individual tries to ac-quire secondary ties which will teplace the lost pri-mary ties. Authoritarianism results in inflexible construct systems because one's constructions be-come based on external authority rather than one's
MADSEN DEVELOPMENT OF PERSONALITY: OPEN-MINDEDNESS -PAPER 152
own perceptions of the world, and the revision of these constructions in accordance with the changing processes of one's world becomes even more in-hibited. Consequently, one is increasingly removed from one's own world.
Thus, Fromm sees inflexible construct systems stemming from authoritarianism as an attempt to avoid the feelings of anxiety and isolation which arise from the loss of security and orientation in the process of individuation. This is a very good theor-etical framework from which to analyze the genesis of inflexible construct systems, but it lacks any supporting empirical research. Consequently, it is necessary to turn to a more empirical framework from which to continue this analysis. One such framework is offered by Milton Rokeach ~nd his concept of belief-disbelief systems.
MILTON ROKEACH AND BELIEF-DISBELIEF SYSTEMS
-The belief-disbelief system includes a system of beliefs which one accepts and a series of systems which one rejects. Rokeach (1960, p. 33) defines the belief system as:
... all the beliefs, sets, expectancies or hypotheses, conscious or unconscious, that a person at a given time accepts as true of the world he lives in.
He defines the disbelief system as a:
... series of subsystems rather than merely a single one, which contain all the disbeliefs, sets, expect-ancies, conscious and unconscious, that to some de-gree or another, a person at a given time rejects as false. (Rokeach, 1960, p. 33)
This concept is essentially the same as that of con-struct systems because it is used to represent:
... each man's total framework for understanding his universe as best he can. (Rokeach, 1960, p. 34)
Belief-disbelief systems can be distinguished by their degree of openness or closedness. These should not be thought of as two separate states, but rather as two extremes of a continuum. Openness and closedness are simply ideal types exaggerated for the convenience of analysis. No individual has a completely open or completely closed belief-disbelief system. Furthermore, the degree of open-ness or closedness can vary within limits as con-ditions vary (though the degree of those limits is a controversial matter).
Closed-mindedness generally refers to a number of things: a closed way of thinking which can be as-sociated with any ideology regardless of content, an authoritarian outlook on life, an intolerance toward
those with opposing beliefs, and a sufferance of those with similar beliefs. It refers to the way in which a person thinks; to the structure and not con-tent of belief-disbelief systems. Content refers to what is believed, while structure refers to the way in which it is believed.
One of Rokeach's major contributions to this field was his development of a viable measuring device for open and closed-mindedness. This device is called the Rokeach Dogmatism Scale (Rokeach, 1960).
Rokeach agrees with Fromm that the insecurity resulting from a threatening world lies at the basis of closed-mindedness. He believes that belief-dis-belief systems serve two powerful and conflicting motives at the same time. There is a need for a cog-nitive framework to know and to understand, and a need to ward off the threatening aspects of reality. To the extent that the cognitive need to know is pre-dominant and the need to ward off threat is absent, open belief-disbelief systems should result. But as the need to ward off threat becomes stronger and the need to know weaker, it is more likely that closed systems will emerge. Thus a person will have open belief-disbelief systems insofar as possible and closed ones insofar as necessary.
There are many studies which show increased closed-mindedness as a result of increased threat (Rokeach and Bonier, 1960; Hanson