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Agreements For Healthy Relating | We Do Not Hold Eachother accountable to Agreements We Have Not Made


Agreement 2:  We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not (explicitly) made

Holding people accountable to agreements they have not made - by punishing them for not being aware of your preferences - is just one aspect of unclean relating. It is also fundamentally unjust.

How do they punish? By withdrawal and withholding.

Intimacy, connection, love, all those things. The things you are there to experience with them.

Sometimes they dress it up as "making sure you understand the impact". Oh, I understand. I understand what they are doing and I see the control game they are attempting to play.

And the degree of attachment and emotional enmeshment one has and external validation one seeks is the degree to which one will be controlled by these gimmicks.

Play a higher game. If your partner will not join you in that cleaner, higher game - will not co-create it with you - choose a new board to play on.

We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not made

What does this mean?  How does this occur? What are the indicators?

We’ve all done this. We’ve all had this done to us. Some more recently than others.

The word “should” is one huge indicator, and all-too-often we punish the ignorant - and for what? For not reading our minds? Fro simply being themselves? Sarcasm aside: how do we punish them? 

Most often by withholding intimacy and connection - while blaming them for that very choice we just made. It’s not pretty.

While there is something to be said for having an overlap in world-views and values as a natural fit, I have known people who grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, and still had different ideas, standards, opinions, and rules about how a relationship, a partnership, or marriage should operate in the day-to-day. While you may begin to intuit your partner's needs and desires, this only comes from a process of educating one another about our preferences.

No “they should have known” or “shoulds” in general. Not in Evolutionary Relating.

As an Evolutionary, we understand the difference between an agreement - or rule that we have both agreed to - an expectation, which is usually an unstated desire, and a standard, and/or a boundary.

To fully understand - and therefore be able to agree to - the 2nd agreement, let’s distinguish the difference among those four.

First, if you are upset by something they did or did not do, ask yourself, “do we have an explicit agreement about this”?  If the answer is no, then you can skip to Agreement 3 and decide if you want to make a request around this particular thing or not. If so, and if they agree - it then essentially binds both of you to a new agreement.

Bear in mind that the more rules you have in your relationships the less freedom of expression both parties will have and the more attention you have to have on those rules and agreements. And the truth is - if you are looking to bind someone to an agreement to limit their behavior in some way because you are uncomfortable with how they are - when no real harm is being done by their behavior - but you want to control them or you fear something happening - then you are trading self-expression and spontaneity (read: fun) for stability and safety. And there is a place you are not free emotionally if you want to control or constrict them in some way.

There is nothing wrong with that - just be aware that is what you are doing - and look deeper for the work you can do to allow yourself more freedom there, which will, in turn, give others the freedom to be.

But even if it hasn’t been communicated we still can’t hold that person accountable. If it has been communicated and the person agrees then it’s a new agreement And they can be held accountable.

But in terms of holding someone accountable to an agreement they have not made - it occurs all the time. So if you do not have an explicit agreement around something and you find yourself cutting them off or punishing them in some way - be it punitive or by simply withholding connection - you can reconnect again and take care of your own needs by simply making a request - and they then do not have to guess what your needs are, you are taken care of, and you can get back to connection and love - which hopefully is the primary purpose of your relating.


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Emotional Freedom Part 4: Guilt and Shame

Be sure to see parts one, two, and three here, here, and here respectively. In this piece we will examine the assumptions that lead to guilt, the structure of shame, and the antidotes to both. Guilt Q: “I often feel guilty for things I have done.” A: [S.N. Geonka ] “Guilt has no place in Dhamma [the path to enlightenment or ‘the law of nature’].” I assert that guilt serves no purpose in inter-personal relations. No legitimate purpose. Some say “if the person feels guilty or remorseful, then I can be assured they will not repeat this terrible wrong they committed against me” or “ I am assured of their good character”. Is this accurate? Let’s examine this together. Sharon slept with another man, violating the monogamous covenant she shared with her husband. She felt “bad” and out of guilt, told him the truth. She swore it would never happen again. Seeing how badly she felt, her husband felt assured this would not happen again and stayed with her and the marriage commitment. A few years later, Sharon was unfaithful a second time and in fact, carried on an affair with another man. This time she felt she best not be honest with her husband. How many chances would he give her, really? Unfortunately, he found out about it through some carelessness of hers and some direct questioning which followed. Again, she was authentically remorseful and felt guilty for misleading and breaking her husband’s trust—she did not feel bad just for getting caught, rather she felt authentically guilty for what she had done. They separated, sought counseling, and eventually divorced. Far from Sharon being a fiction of my mind for the purpose of illustration, this story is real, and the name has been changed. And, this is just one example of many I could give of patterns of behavior, remorse or guilt, and repetition of the problem behavior. Guilt is unreliable [at best] as a guarantee of future behavior. We have all seen people apologize and be guilt-ridden, yet commit the same acts repeatedly. I go so far in my own relations as to let people know very clearly that their guilt and apologies hold no currency with me. I WANT them to feel free emotionally about any “wrong” they may have committed against me. At the same time, I may not want them to commit the same act against me again—I do want assurance of a shift in behavior and an honest and earnest intention by them to do so through learning. For that, guilt does not help. In fact, it is a hindrance What is simply needed is their acknowledgement of the mistake and their pledge to not commit the act again. If it happens repeatedly, then there are practical choices to be made: do we continue to invest time and energy with this individual?

In essence, they need to demonstrate they have learned from the mistake. Not because we made them feel guilty by berating them subtly or not-so-subtly, or they made themselves feel guilty by beating themselves up, but because they noticed their own lack of integrity, or perhaps they did not live up to their own standard, or perhaps that the results that they produced by this mistaken action were unpleasant for all and should be avoided and in noticing that, they self-corrected in a clean and rapid way. Of course, we can simply take note and shrug our shoulders knowing that we are all on our own path. They are on theirs and I am on mine. And there are times, certainly, on the other end of the spectrum, where I choose not to associate with the person any longer. What is important through all of it is clarity, cleanliness of interaction, and grace where possible. Wanting someone to feel guilty or remorseful is one of the most selfish and ego-centric implicit demands we can make. It speaks to wanting the misery to be spread even further than it already has for our own short-term gratification. Whatever the case, the guilt simply clouds clear thinking, delaying the appropriate resolution of the conflict, and is therefore unnecessary and undesirable. Additionally, it is suppressive to the whole system and can lead to immune problems, which leads in turn to health and well-being problems. Why would we want that? As mad as it may seem, we do want it sometimes, don’t we? Not as above where we think Sharon “should” feel bad. But rather, one darker step further—we want her to feel bad. We enjoy it. Take pleasure in it. We feel it is deserved and appropriate. That it is “just”. We want it because they harmed us and we experienced misery and so we want them to feel miserable too. We want them to share in our misery. This is clearly madness. One person in misery is enough. Why expand the scope if not for dynamics of power and control or to exact a psychic price. Is this the world we want to create? Are those the dynamics we want in our relations? Again, what is ultimately important is not how the person feels about what they have done—but they take earnest steps to learn from our mistakes and integrate the leaning into our behavior. We want assurance that the event or act will not happen again and we have clearly seen that guilt does no such thing. Demanding guilt will only add more misery and heaviness in the air. And what about that? In an even clearer situation, what about “guilt trips” where we have done nothing “wrong” but we have not met someone’s expectations or social conditioning and they attempt to extract guilt, or worse, shame us? I will simply say that they are the crudest tools for influencing someone I have ever experienced and to reward someone for using it by allowing it to be effective only feeds the wild animal. Additionally, if we try and use guilt heavy-handedly when someone has overcome great fear to tell us the difficult truth, as Sharon did in her first transgression, we only assure ourselves they will feel less inclined to tell us the truth in the future, as we made it too painful. And in doing so, we have just killed off intimacy. Guilt, however, has a close cousin that is more complex and worthy of closer examination… Shame Shame is even more interesting to me than guilt, and its structure is more complex. Shame has several components:

  • A compressed sense of time
  • A case of mistaken identity
  • An evaluation that is a confusion of logical levels

Time I have written before about our unconscious sense of time. When I work with clients who are experiencing shame, they invariably have a compressed sense of time. That is to say that their focus is limited to an act, an event, or a small series of events. Often, consciously expanding their sense of time while pointing out to them that that this act, or series of acts will not define who they are--which leads us to… A case of mistaken identity “The ultimate spiritual practice is dis-identifying from that which you think is you—objects in your awareness.” –Ken Wilber Who am I, who are you? What aspect of our lives are we identified with? Literally, we think [unconsciously] that we are our behaviors or our thoughts or our finances or our sexuality or our social reputation or our looks, or relationships or our…etc., and on and on. We can know this of one of three conditions are present:

  1. we have extreme fear about losing something
  2. we experience extreme misery or despair of one of these things is taken from us or we “lose” it
  3. we experience shame if it is jeopardized by our behaviors

Which leads us to… Behaviors, capabilities, beliefs, identity, spirit; logical levels of experience. If we have a confusion of logical levels, we will often confuse our behaviors, our capabilities, our beliefs, or our constructed identity with who we truly are, and therefore mistakenly judge ourselves by one of these levels. I behaved in XYZ manner and therefore I AM _______. But who we truly are is god, is radical spirit is pure consciousness or awareness, or even a learning being, a force of creativity, etc. Given all of that, what are the antidotes to guilt and shame? The antidote to guilt requires partnership: you must co-create clean relating with those willing and make explicit agreements around guilt and learning. Specifically that guilt holds no currency and learning holds a pot of gold. Guilt is “out of bounds” either self-imposed or demanded. It is that simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. The antidote to shame is more complicated, and more rewarding, in my opinion, and has more lasting benefits that ripple out to all areas of your life. It requires several steps of skill acquisition, and therefore continual practice:

  1. Develop emotional awareness; notice when you are in the shame
  2. Develop perceptual flexibility; step out and notice your emotional state thereby dis-identifying from it [NOT disassociating, but rather dis-identifying]
  3. Expand your focus to include other positive representations of your behavior, and consciously expand your unconscious sense of time
  4. Remind yourself that whoever you think you are [behaviors, etc.] you are more than that.
  5. As always ask yourself: “how am I responsible” and “what can I learn?”
  6. Add resources and imagine yourself behaving with these additional resources in the future

As you read this, and review it in your mind, you can begin to imagine, even now, how these practices and skills would give you choice and eventual freedom—and not just from shame, but with full integration, from all unnecessary negative emotional experiences. Join me in creating the kind of world in which we all want to belong. A world in which unnecessary negative emotional experiences are known to be just that—unnecessary—giving us access to a world of choice, and through that choice, joy and freedom, and through that, beauty of unknown richness. *acknowledgements: as usual, these I.D.E.A.s were inspired by [but may not be reperesentative of] work by minds greater than mine.

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Emotional Freedom Part 3: Anger and Resentment

[Note: While this is not a discussion of egoic development, we can not stress enough the foundational necessity of true esteem for the self for emotional freedom. So many upsets, be they anger upsets, shame, fear, etc., can be traced to a lack of esteem for the self—that is pre-rational or early-rational egoic development. From anger to shame, the variable of one’s egoic developmental stage is undeniably an important factor. But that is another discussion for another time. I have written briefly about egoic stage development and will occasionally refer to these distinctions in this discussion.] Be sure to see parts one and two here and here, respectively. Now that we have covered interpretations and extrapolated meanings, what of specific dynamics within each emotion? What of anger? Resentment? Guilt? Shame? What other variables lead to negative emotions aside from lower egoic development? For it is through this knowledge, using our self-reflexive awareness and meta-cognition, that we can notice these dynamics as they are happening, and choose a different path. Anger. Anger has at least two components.

  • Indicator of a crossed boundary
  • Blame

Often anger is “just-ified”. That is, with respect to justice, we are “right” in being angry. Maybe someone has violated our person or property. Perhaps they have broken an agreement. Perhaps they have deceived us intentionally. We have little choice around the action of others. They will do what they do, as we are all on our own path. However, when we are angry, often we are blaming them for what they have done. This is different and separate from holding them accountable, which is appropriate, but goes further into a game of pre-rational ego. Let’s say that I had my car stereo stolen. I come out in the morning and I notice it gone and the dashboard area around where it was previously installed is damaged. I call the police and I wait seething in my anger. “what a low-life thief”, I say to myself along with numerous other colorful expletives. Once the police come they ask me a few questions: “Do you have a car alarm?” Yes, I tell them. “did you hear it go off last night?” No, I tell them, regrettably I did not set it last night. “Were the car locks damaged?” No, I tell them…the car was unlocked… We can quickly see where this is going. While the crime of the stolen stereo is indeed a crime and may be punished and is an unfortunate violation of my person by the extension of my property, the responsibility is mine to lock my vehicle, set my alarm, and care that my car is secured. Once I begin to take responsibility by asking the two key questions:

  • How am I responsible
  • What can I learn or gain from this that will allow me to release the anger completely?

The blame will dissolve and the anger will begin to fade away.

The truth is, no matter what has happened to us: assault, theft, harsh words thrown at us, fraudulent deception, broken agreements, or unrequited love--no matter what has happened, there is something we can take responsibility for and something, or many things, we can learn that once learned will release the anger entirely. And no, learning that “all men are jerks” is not the kind of learning I am referring to. It must be something insightful or positive and empowering about yourself or about the world. There are times when we get angry with others for not meeting or violating one of our expectations. Often, these are implicit, unstated expectations. In this case, the only responsible thing to do is notice this, take responsibility for it, and make a request of the other person so they are more fully informed of your expectations. [For a fuller treatment of the ideas of rules and fair play see relationdancing.] We must stress, however, that no matter how “just”-ified the anger is, it is still not useful for anything other than dynamics of control and dominance. In fact, one must get through the anger first to see things clearly anyway, to see through to justice, rather than demand vengeance and retribution. Again, the way to accelerate the process until one is emotionally free is to ask the two key questions above—and we do it for ourselves. Not for the Other. The first question, “how am I responsible?”, shifts the focus from blaming Other to a more responsible “I” and as a result, assists in building true esteem for the self as any responsibility-taking action does. It builds our sense of self. The second question, “what can I learn?”, turns the event into a learning experience and a gift and the conditional clause “that will allow me to release the anger completely” assures that our mind will give us a deep learning. The deeper the learning, the more fortunate we are to have unfortunate events occur to us. I know this from an abundance of first hand experience. In the case of anger—and indeed in the case of all unpleasant emotions—the Evolutionary uses their self-reflexive awareness [which we have all been practicing daily] to notice when the anger arises. They observe the sensations and then ask the two key anger questions and notice the internal shift in their sensations after answering the questions. The idea is not to never experience anger [although you will find after daily practice and rigorous application that fewer and fewer things will anger you]. The goal here is to simply shorten the duration for which you experience the anger. Shortening and shortening and shortening the duration until it is mere minutes and then mere seconds rather than hours, or days, or for some of us still in an emotional prison: weeks and months…or longer. Resentment is a little different. Resentment still requires blame, as anger does, however it has an interesting residuary element. It builds and builds even after anger is experienced and expressed or released. I like to think of it this way—it is an indicator that the person I resent is overdrawn on their emotional bank account with me. Not that they are to blame—it just is so. Where then can we take responsibility such that we can release the resentment? What is usually the case with this residue we call resentment? It did not happen overnight. It built over time. What else can we say about resentment? There were perhaps [and probably] many points along the way in our dealings or interactions with the person we feel resentment towards when we wanted to say no, and we chose to say yes for various reasons. In other words, we failed to honor our internal voice, knowing, instinct, or intuition—our inner desires or wisdom. We failed to honor ourselves. In doing so we were irresponsible indeed. Over time we built resentments, and then we blame them—essentially—for our inability to honor ourselves and say no when we knew it was best for us. The madness continues. [In part 4 we will explore guilt and shame]

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Discolored Vision

Have you ever noticed how some people’s perception of the world seems more accurate than others? How some people’s perception of you seems more accurate than others? Have you ever stepped out and noticed the degree of accuracy of your own perceptions? Have you ever had the experience of badly misjudging someone’s motives, being, intentions, behaviors, or character—thereby noticing your own inaccuracy? How did you account for this discrepancy? Have you ever noticed that you are more accurate about some people than others and how some people or some people’s behaviors trigger you and other’s do not? What would your life be like if you were freed from disproportionate emotional responses and you could see the pure and innocent core of others? It is commonly known in the world of platform skills training that most feedback tells you far more about the giver of the feedback than the recipient. In other words, if I do something in the world, like give a talk, or write something such as this piece you are reading, or even simply tell a joke in a public a small percentage of the feedback I receive will be solid, objective feedback. A larger percentage will be a demonstration of the person’s level of development, prejudices, beliefs, and—at worst—unresolved emotional events form their past and their issues of esteem for themselves. Why? The Buddhists speak of using Vipassana meditation to “clear away the clouds so you can see the sun”. The sun is always there—as it is. But in your perception, it is grayed. It is blocked. It is obscured. The word “vipassana” actually means to clear things away to see them “as they are”. Not as you would have them be, believe them to be, or think they are—but as they are. There is this I.D.E.A. of cleansing your vision. Giving your Self clarity of vision. How is this possible? We are lead to believe in our world of post-modern philosophy that this is not possible. There is only our skewed subjective experience. Yet simultaneously, many of us seek out coaches, gurus, leaders, and friends who have this very clarity. They “see” things—accurately and clearly. And these people are widely respected, valued, and many acquire great wealth in the process. Be it wealth of spirit or community or material wealth—or all of the above. How is this accomplished? How can we clear our vision such that we see things more accurately and can relate with others in a space of clarity and presence? To answer that we need to back up a bit… The first step is noticing. Do I have a preconceived notion about the person/organization/community? Am I dealing with and relating to them right now? Or am I dealing with my internal representations of them? Have I verified my interpretations of them/it? Do I have “disproportionate” emotional responses? Do I experience anger, guilt, shame, blame, fear to a degree that stops me from being fully self expressed in the natural disposition that the spiritual warriors of Shambhala teach, which is the natural disposition of pride, joy, and a general upright posture and attitude? Do the “little things” in life bother me? Do I judge others as bad and wrong rather than experiencing compassion and wisdom for them and if so, to what degree? Disproportionate emotional responses typically have two sources: unresolved past experiences that we have coded as “negative” in our subjective experience. These may come in the form of parental “imprints” or they may come in the form of a “gestalt” of negative emotions rooted in our childhood when we did not have the wisdom to see the positive learning or meaning in the pain. Meaningless pain leads to misery and agony and creates a deep gouge in our emotional consciousness. This can be resolved with any number of technologies and turned into a gift. Self-esteem is the other primary source of a disproportionate emotional response. Using the definition that self-esteem is the knowledge that you are competent to handle life’s challenges and the belief that you deserve to be happy [self efficacy and self-regard] then what happens when one has insufficient self-esteem in any given context? One responds with fear, uncertainty, and this can often appear as anger or some other disproportionate response. A person with high self-esteem can respond with graciousness, clarity, and ease. The higher degree of self-esteem one has, the more gracious one will be. Unresolved events and disproportionate emotional responses can actually “color” or skew our vision—and actually alter our internal representations. We have all heard of the “green monster” of jealousy and “seeing red” when one is angry. An excellent example of this was a client I worked with had their visual sub-modalities colored as red in memories where anger was present beginning at an impact experience when they were 4 years old. In other words, when they visualized the events, there was a red tint to the image. Once we worked with the events using Time Line Therapy™, all of the events had lost the red tint and they were now seen in black and white. Of course, even to get to a place where one would choose to clear their vision requires self-reflexive awareness and a certain degree of personal responsibility; it requires the ability to notice and assess one’s own behavior and an acceptance of the truth that we are all responsible for our own emotional life and a desire to evolve one’s self. This in and of itself is a monumental breakthrough for most who experience it. The next step is to take the necessary action to clear one’s past and begin to build a strong sense of self, a large component of which is healthy self-esteem, and then to begin to generate a new compelling future—one of your own design that will inspire, uplift, and draw one to new heights unburdened of the past habit patterns. From this place of freedom and generative creativity nothing is impossible. It is your natural born right to live a joyous and free life full of love and happiness. All that stands in your way is a choice. The choice of course belongs to you. What will you choose?

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