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Exploring your lifestance
workshop outline by Gea Meijers
(for a one to two hour workshop)

download as word document



In Dutch the word ‘levensbeschouwing’ is used to describe institutionalised systems of belief, whether religious or non-religious. In English a really good term seems to be missing for describing these beliefsystems, but a good word can be ‘life stances’.

This workshop will talk about life stances. After a very brief introduction, you are encouraged to think for yourself about your life stance and then you will share this in small groups. We will end with a brief plenary presentation of each small group.

What is a life stance?

According to a wellknown Dutch sociologist, and philosopher, Goudsblom a life stance is a: “coherent, articulated and socially recognisable system of opinions about the human life and the sense of living”. For example, humanism or Scientology Church or Catholicism are life stances.

This definition entails that some opinions are part of your life stance and some are not. For instance that you like a dress to be red is not part of your life stance opinions. But that you believe in an afterlife or a God, such opinion would be part of your life stance. Opinions of your life stance are opinions concerning your view on human nature, on knowledge, death, living and being.

The definition of Goudsblom is not completed. I think since when talking about life stances, people usually mean also the norms and values for living that are derived out of one opinions about life. If one beliefs in a God that does good when one prays, one can have the norm for oneself to go and pray regularly. If one does not belief in a God, this norm is not sensible.

Values are things you find important to live by. For instance: honesty, being punctual, being happy. We all have values we think as important for guiding our actions in life. We can also have values we think as important for others around us, or society. For instance, that our society is a liberal one. Norms are the standards derived from our values. If we find honesty an important value, we can translate that into a norm that we do not lie. A lot of our laws concerns norms. They are standards of what is allowed and what not.

Goudsblom’s definition states that also that a life stance should be socially recognisable. I think one can have individual life stances that are not recognisable a being part of one religion or known life stance. Probably for many people, their life stance is not so articulate, coherent and socially recognisable. Even the socially recognisable life stances have many incoherences.

It is better to make the distinction of implicit life stances versus a more explicit one and to recognise that a distinction cannot be made clear cut. In the same line of this thinking, a wellknown humanist philosopher in the Netherlands, Harry Kunneman, speaks of implicit humanism and explicit humanism in the context of Dutch society, because he notes that around him there is much happening in line of humanist pholosophies that are not recognised as humanist action and ideas by people. People see such belief as accepted, ‘normal’or individual views.

An example of implicit versus explicit humanism in Dutch society (simplified to make it clear what is meant) would be the belief that people have the freedom to explore their sexuality as long as this is not hurtful to others. Homosexuality is for most people in Dutch society an accepted and relatively normal possibility for some one’s sexual identity. If some one is gay or straight, it is op to the person. This is very humanist thinking also but people in the Netherlands see it as common view.

With these remarks on Goudsblom definition and sure more can be set, I would like to suggest the following definition of life stance: “a life stance is a set of interlinked, articulated system of beliefs about life, human nature and our existence connected to norms and values that are derived out of this views”.

Why explore your lifestance?

Making your lifestance more explicit and clear for yourself, will enable you to be more autonomous and will empower you when facing your choices in lifes. What is important to you? What not? Why? It could get you surprised talking about your life views.

The Assignment

This excercise is a way to talk about your life views and values, starting from your won reflection and than sharing that in a group. It is focussed around choosing one or two views/values which may be difficult, but on the other hand stimulating as to get a better view of your what is most important to you.

Take 15 minutes to think about your lifeview and values with the following scheme.
*To make this workshop more practical and functional for the IHEYO 2005 Conference, I have made the part more specified towards thinking about societal projects, you can connect it in this way to your youth work and your project planning during the rest of the conference.

Life view

-Please give two statements of your life stance that are important for your daily activity, for instance your view on humanity, on life, etc.
-Please give two problems in the world and/or your society that you find urgent and would like to see more action taken on.

Conviction (values)

-Please give two convictions or values that are for your important during your daily life and guiding.
-Please give two convictions or values that you find important to take account of as active citizenship in your (multi or mono?) cultural society.

After the assignment, form groups of 4-5 and discuss for an hour about the differences, commonalities, things that have your notice. After this let each group give a short presentation to the whole group. It is not the intention to come to agreement in each group, but to share our ideas and be stimulated by others.