Escaping the Comfort Zone: Motivation, Shame, and the Will to Transform


How do we cultivate the will to transform?

How can we consciously step out of the safety of our comfort zones, and into our greater purpose and potential?

Dr. Keith and Corey explore the complex psychology of motivation — the various sticks and carrots we use to get out of bed in the morning and keep ourselves moving forward in our lives, sustaining the inertia we need to push us through any number of hardships, setbacks, and growth opportunities.

And of course these sources of motivation are as multifaceted as the human mind itself. We can notice interior motivations and exterior motivations, individual and collective motivations, motivations to feel more whole, motivations to feel like we are part of a greater whole, etc. — all focused, enacted, and enforced in very different ways at each stage of development.

So how do we as integralists navigate and reconcile this vast array of motivations, both within us and outside of us? How can we better align ourselves with our deepest, most purposeful motivations so that we can more fully contribute our gifts to the world? Watch as Dr. Keith and Corey explore these questions, and more.


I think the discussion of shame could be refined if y’all made a distinction between shame and guilt. Shame is something, as you imply, that comes from outside. I associate it with pre-conventional morality. If I my breach does not get detected, no shame. I like Erikson’s developmental model. It’s probably approximately right. In the second year the child begins to see that there some things it has no problem with, like smearing its shit all over the place, but its patents don’t like. Shame. By the third year the child has internalized this value and shames itself: guilt.


@Stephen_Boyd, I’m also an Erikson fan, but with the specific addition of George Vaillant’s stage of Career Consolidation. (I teach workforce skills to adults, so that stage is pretty necessary for my practice). A deeper dive into shame vs. guilt from Eriksonian and other perspectives would be interesting. Interesting especially in how this might relate to the many other rich themes in the video that started this thread. There is a lot to unpack in the video!

Resisting the temptation to create a long post with lots of bullet points, perhaps my main takeaway from the video is that our social nature strongly influences our motivational structure, shame plays a constructive role in that, and as society evolves, shame and social roles evolve with it.

My motivation: drafting various writings on how to learn better and teach better in an adult education context. Demographic diversity figures in. A lot of the video relates directly to my projects. So I guess I need to review drafts and see if there is room to expand or revise anything. Thanks @corey-devos and @Keith_Witt for a very inspiring talk!


A little more …

I very recently got access to an Open Educational Resource (OER) platform for self-publishing. Here is my first attempt:

So why bring that up here? What if instead of “Making Connections: a Study Guide for Information Technology” the title was “Making Connections: a Study Guide for Integral Theory”. Notice some of my techniques:

  • short sentences
  • easy words
  • lots of concrete examples
  • very practical

I make a living explaining complex systems to students at all developmental levels. No shame in that!


I guess I would add that shame could be used to reenforce stuff most of us in this audience don’t like, like toxic masculinity. “Don’t cry, be a man!” Etc. Of course men were asked to cut off many parts of themselves in contexts like the American frontier, so that shaming was probably functional. As an emergent Green kid in the 60s, I was shamed by the boys and the girls at my school to bring me back into the Amber norms.It didn’t work. Couldn’t work. And those old patterns persist long after they are no longer needed, sort of like childhood responses that we carry into adulthood even when they no longer serve us (and bring them into my therapist’s office). Not quite sure that’s all true, but it’s a good story for today. Shame could all be used to gin up an army of fascists. Skillful means must guided by wisdom.


Thanks for sharing a personal perspective @Stephen_Boyd.

First, a reference: I realize @Keith_Witt wrote a whole book on shame, and when time allows (or maybe Keith can just tell us!), I’d love to hear how his view on shame relates to that of Erikson.

Summarizing a bunch of other random references on this, it seems the consensus view is that shame equates to social pressure, which gets internalized. Most of the therapeutic experiences I have had (mostly in the '80s) and perspectives I have read (ongoing) tend towards helping clients overcome excessive shame and helping them grow into autonomy, self-worth and agency. As a teacher, that’s my default setting on shame. Whatever most people are feeling ashamed about, they are probably overdoing it due to introjected not-so-integral superego content. So self-esteem building works in most cases.


I agree, with the caveat that the goal is not to feel good (or maybe even equanimous) about everything we do. Cheating on your partner isn’t just an exercise of your autonomy, though it is that).


@Stephen_Boyd, likewise, I agree that social boundaries are needed and the some internalization of those boundaries in the form of shame is likewise needed. “If it feels good, do it” feeds egoistic and atavistic impulses, as was all played out quite a bit in the '60s for all to see.

What interests me currently is how the boundaries of shame shifts as society evolves. I’m currently reading a book by Norbert Elias called The Civilizing Process. The book is about how manners, courtesy, politeness, “civilized” behavior evolved in Western culture over the centuries. Behaviors that were once quite open and common became shameful as the rules of polite and courtly society shifted.

For example, here are some medieval table manner guidelines:

  • “A man who clears his throat when he eats and one who blows his nose in the table cloth are both ill-bred, I assure you.”
  • “It is not decent to poke your fingers into your ears or eyes, as some people do, or to pick your nose while eating. These three habits are bad.”
  • If a man wipes his nose on his hand at table because he knows no better, then he is a fool, believe me".

Moral of this story: shame is a social construct. And a moving target!


I associate shame with Red and Amber. it’s still there in later stages of development, but guilt predominates.


Interesting discussion …

I some did some quick research to get a better handle on common usage of both “shame” and “guilt”. The reference below is good, in that it points out that 1) they are different and 2) in common usage, people use the two interchangeably. So confusion is not unexpected.

On the point of @Stephen_Boyd, I agree that most theorists locate the emergence of shame prior to the emergence of guilt. In that sense, guilt is more evolved than shame, both from psychological and cultural-historical perspectives.