Although many of the ideas in this course are relatively new and I find it challenging to apply these to my own unfolding life story, I will attempt to make use of a few key points to help me develop the faculty of reflective practice, hoping, as Fowler suggests, that in the retelling, insight may arise and provide fodder for fresh growth impetus. As we are many students, you may not remember my particular journey, so I will revisit some of the highlights from my journey and attempt to view them through the lens of a few select stages from one or two stage theories. The stage theories which I will use are Kohlberg’s and Fowler’s.
As I cannot remember much from my early life and childhood, we will bypass any interpretation of these. We will begin, rather, by looking at my youth, from the ages of 13 and onwards, which coincides with entry to Junior High School. Personally, at this age, I was becoming more aware of the opposite gender. Being from a visible minority group, however, I was not often given opportunity to participate in dating. At dances, I would stand by myself, and I don’t remember being invited to many parties. According to Kohlberg, I would, at this age, have been drawing nearer Stage 3 – Good Interpersonal relationships, a subset of Level II, Conventional Morality. Key to the young teen’s reasoning ability is identification with, or projection upon, what is understood by society in general. In my particular dilemma, I felt that “everybody” could see that my being an outcast was unfair. In Kohlberg’s moral hierarchy, I would have thus been going through a shift from “unquestioning obedience to a relativistic outlook and to a concern for good motives” (Crain, p. 138, 3rd ed.). My awareness may be thought of having expanded from self, to self-in-context of society... still a bit limited in scope and application, but beginning to apprehend a sense of higher principles of order nonetheless.
Now in Fowler’s theory, at this point in life, I may have been making the move from Mythic-Literal Faith to Synthetic-Conventional. In the latter stage, the emergence of formal operational thinking allows for abstractions to grasp pattern and meaning in the world. My being rejected because of my skin colour would have become part of a larger experience, and I would begin to identify with other “rejected” peoples, including other visible minorities, in addition to historically-ostracized groups, such as the Jews under Hitler. These dynamics would have helped to shape my personal mythos – a sense of becoming and emerging in identity which incorporates the past and anticipates the future.
Transition to the next stage in both theories may have taken place (if at all) when, as a man in his early twenties, I dropped out of medical school and experienced spiritual rebirth in Jesus Christ. After a couple of years of partying and seeking out sensual fulfillment, I went through a crisis which involved placing my entire world-view into question. In Fowler’s theory, the breakdown of my persona would have been facilitated by an awareness of conflict between competing authorities, and by experiences which were incompatible with a previously-unexamined but tacitly held belief-structure. Specifically, I joined a Bible study and saw the love of Christian fellowship, in addition to many miracles. This clashed with my Muslim upbringing, which had taught me that Christians were not to be trusted, because they ate swine’s flesh and drank alcohol. Thus, with a commitment to Christ at the age of twenty-three, I may have begun the transition to Individuative-Reflective Faith, in which I saw the burden to make my own decisions with respect to conviction. This choice to leave Islam created tension with my community of origin, and a quest to integrate into a new community, the body of Christ. Although previously, my identity was assumed and adopted by virtue of membership via birth into one faith-tradition, I now began to hold to a different set of beliefs as a result of personal reaction and judgment upon competing world-views. This new faculty for critical reflection encompassed self and ideology, allowing a total transformation of both, although residual tensions from the past remained, urging a more dialectical framework, and perhaps laying the groundwork for Fowler’s next stage. Perhaps key in the move, which is often not made, is the ability to embrace what is suppressed (e.g. rituals, symbols and myths), allowing a second naiveté in which one’s past is not simply rejected outright, but reclaimed.