InnerEthics® & Right Relationship

In the helping professions, when we work with our clients, we don’t just work with the diverse aspects of our clients, but with all the people and associations with whom clients are connected. Ethics is the study of relationship. Transcending the limited viewpoint that we are unrelated and wholly separate is essential for ethical development.

We are interconnected in the web of life, not only sociopolitical systems and ethnic groups, but all beings. This web connects systems beyond the walls of the treatment room, consulting room, or classroom into family, culture, ecosystem, all beings on Earth, and perhaps even beyond into unseen dimensions. We are all in this together.

When we begin to widen our view to see and honor a web-like context of relationships, we speak and act more ethically.

What is the InnerEthics® model?

The InnerEthics® model is the only psychological ethics model I know of that addresses two essential aspects of ethical discernment and behavior.

  1. The basics of ethics, transference, and countertransference that are fundamental to ethical professional practice, with an emphasis on learning about relational ethics and our own motivations when we are in a responsible role, in order to prevent client harm and increase client benefit.
  2. The unique ethical territory of understanding and working skillfully in a relational, self-reflective context with clients who are in profound and extraordinary states of consciousness.

Two terms that describe this model are “Inner Ethics” and “Right Relationship.”

Professional ethical dilemmas and unexpected ethical pitfalls tend to occur more often in the midst of extraordinary states of consciousness. Sharing intense, profound states has the potential to bring to the surface compelling, often unconscious, fears, needs, and longings in both clients and professionals. These experiences challenge and stretch us and act as catalysts for us to grow in our professional roles for the welfare of our clients. In growing professionally we gain personal insight and compassion for ourselves as well.

Extraordinary states can be viewed on a continuum. Reverie, guided relaxation, acupuncture and relaxing massage invite extraordinary states at the more “ordinary” end of deep states of consciousness. Lucid dreaming, childbirth, spiritual awakenings, mystical experiences, trauma regression, entheogenic medicines, and extreme grief and loss can extend consciousness into less familiar territory.

The degree of our willingness to delve into what is sometimes the shadowed realms of our own motivations, desires, and fears will determine the extent of our ability to make consciously caring, flexible, ethical choices in support of right relationship.

The InnerEthics® model provides guidance and tools to ethically navigate the deep, uncharted waters of profound, extraordinary states of consciousness and to discover their healing gifts. I designed this model to help prepare us, as helping professionals, to more skillfully assist our clients by learning to navigate and integrate a broader range of human experience and expression.

What is InnerEthics®?

Before I wrote my book The Ethics of Caring, I observed that ethics education approached ethics from an external point of view, focusing primarily on the law and professional licensing requirements and behaviors. Knowledge of these external ethical mandates is crucial for the practice of therapy, ministry, medicine, education, midwifery and other licensed helping professions.

What was missing in most cases, though, in ethics education was an emphasis on the value to clients of their professionals’ self-understanding of their own motivations. As we licensed professionals and leaders engage with healing and personal evolution, ongoing self-examination of our own values and motivations helps us discover our own internal ethical codes that complement the external codes and standards.

By paying close attention to ourselves in relationship, we discover our own “Inner Ethics.” These two approaches to ethics, internal and external, are complementary.

“Right Relationship” is at the heart of healing

The Inner Ethics® model provides a reflective, compassionate, and transpersonal approach to being in “right relationship” with ourselves, our clients, and in community with others.

In the therapeutic, spiritual, medical, perinatal care, educational, or mentoring relationship, it is relationship itself that is at the heart of healing. And ethics and integrity are at the heart of any healing relationship. In addition, many of the world’s great religions contribute a spiritual precept of humility (willingness to ask for help and learn) and truth (authenticity).

I believe the success of The Ethics of Caring book and its approach to ethics reflect credit on the time-honored spiritual systems of ethics that informed and inspired their creation. I believe there is a universal appeal for most people to be in “right relationship” with one another.

Another way to define professional right relationship is through the Christian use of the term stewardship, which implies conscious and appropriate caretaking. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (authentic caring) and the admonition to “look not for the mote in another’s eye, but look first for the beam in our own eye” (self-examination first) are both phrases from the Christian tradition that point us in an ethical direction.

The word “right” in “right relationship” is not quite the correct word in English for this concept, but it does have precedence for mindful use by Buddhists as in “right livelihood.”

As professionals we must formulate our own inner ethical code of what constitutes right relationship to a client. We must do this in general, in every relationship anew, and in a moment-by-moment way in each client relationship as the relationship evolves.

Only our courageous soul-searching can bring awareness to our fears, desires, and spiritual longings. Our willingness to face our vulnerabilities and hidden motivations will allow us to apply self-compassion and make choices truly in the best interests of our clients.

If you are on a personal path of self-discovery related to right relationship in the web of life, or if you have a current challenge in your professional life, the The Ethics of Caring book to learn how to use the InnerEthics® model. Self-Reflective questions listed there may be sufficient to address your situation.

If you should want a consultation for further reflection, I offer in-person, telephone and video conferencing options. You can learn more about consulting and contact me here.

Taylor takes a nuanced and compassionate approach. By understanding how good people become confused about what they should or should not do, we are both warned and strengthened. Her chapters on money, sex, and power contain some of the most insightful discussions of these complex issues that I have ever seen.

~ Judy Harrow, excerpted review in the New Jersey Association for Spiritual, Ethical & Religious Values in Counseling Newsletter.