[Note to the reader: "God" is used throughout as a signifier to point to wherever you put your worship. It could be conventional religions as I will mainly address, but you could just as easily replace it with Gaia if you "put your worship" there--if the environment is your ultimate concern. or you could replace it with polytheistic beliefs such as Hinduism. Or maybe you put your worship in the Universe, Consciousness, or Community. Consider that whatever your ultimate concern is, the concepts in this article can apply to that thing as "God" for you. Doing this will allow you to get the most from this article. -Jason D McClain]
Is Your Relationship to God Wrecking Your Relationship With God?
It’s a provocative question, isn’t it?
Why even ask it? It is fraught with predicable emotional triggers and will produce reactions that may blur the importance and the point of the topic at hand.
We could use your relationship to your "self" or your relationship to others or even your relationship to money. The fact remains that we could use any of those concepts--any of those signifiers--to get to what we are pointing at and we will use a couple of them as lead-in examples because of their familiarity--but it would not be as effective to stop there for our larger conversation; not as effective as getting to the very root of our relationship to and with our deepest and highest stages. But even more to the practical: we will use God for the simple fact that there is no concept or question more galvanizing—making us sit up in our chair and pay attention--than questioning our very relationship to and with the Divine.
So we use “God”.
Before we begin to explore the question, we need to lay the ground on which we will stand: stages of egoic and emotional development. Stages that we interpret the world through and react emotionally from. Stages through which we will interpret every aspect of our lives--events occurring around us, the actions of others as they relate to us, the world we navigate through politically, economically, romantically, and, yes, our spirituality and the nature of the Divine.
So if we are to examine our relationship to God (or “the Divine) then we must begin with an understanding of the lens we gaze through.
"God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different." --Rabbi Harold Kushner
From pre-personal to personal to trans-personal. From vengeance to justice to grace. From pre-rational to rational to trans-rational. From ego-centric to enthno-centric or gender-centric or nationalistic to world-centric. From unconscious to conscious to super-conscious. These are just some of the ways we can label the grossest stages of development of the Self—and they are stages of increasing wholeness and increasing embrace. Each stage transcends, yet also include the benefits of the former. Each is noted for its increase in capacities and increase in the ability to hold an ever-increasing number of perspectives. We could also think about these stages as an expansion of what an individual can identify with or as. From ego-centric to ethno-centric / gender-centric / nationalistic to world-centric; identifying as just an individual to identifying as a member of a community or collective of individuals to identifying as a member of a global community—a citizen of the planet and a member of its ecosystem. Plainly put: our stage of self-development will determine our world-view—and that world-view will evolve over time. And that evolution will have a directionality.
Human development can be divided into three major phases: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional, or pre-personal, personal and transpersonal (Wilber, et.al., 1986). This applies to the development of cognition, morality, faith, motivation and the selfsense. The infant enters the world unsocialized, at a pre-conventional stage, and is gradually acculturated into a conventional world-view, whether it be religious or secular. A few individuals develop further into post-conventional stages of post-formal operational cognition (Pfaffenberger, et.al., 2009), post-conventional morality (Sinnott, 1994;), universalizing faith (Fowler, 1995), self-actualizing and self-transcending motives (Maslow, 1971), and a transpersonal self-sense (Cook-Greuter, 1994; Wilber, 1980, 1983, 20001).
-Frances Vaughn, Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2010
We could say that one of the primary practices (as well as one of the primary indicators of personal evolution) is the ability to take on an ever-increasing number of perspectives; the ability to understand—even if not agreeing with—an ever-increasing number of perspectives or “views” of or “from” a given place.
And that lens—or lenses—is the filter through which we view the world as well as being the platform we will likely react from. This is not a box we can put ourselves or others in. It is not a classification as rigid as a “type”. Think of it more as a probability: a weather forecast, or a general orientation within high odds. Think of it more as a lump or a wave. But even still, the fact that we will likely interpret through and react from our “stage” of development of the “self” is hard-wired as a probability can get.
And, the endeavor we call “personal evolution” is the process of activating movement and moving through those stages.
Why is this important?
In the process of personal evolution we have both the mechanisms to create, and the path to enjoy, true peace within--and to reduce conflict without. An ever-expanding ability to hold an ever-increasing number of perspectives leads to a life that experiences greater ease, reduced fear and reduced anger, greater empathetic capacities, increased self-acceptance, increased capacities to handle whatever life may throw at you—and respond more resourcefully, and ultimately, leads to an aligned, purpose-filled and full-filled life.
As within, so without.
In recent history, it has become commonplace in personal development circles and communities for us to realize that our relationship to ourselves is very important—it is an accepted fact that it will determine a great deal of our experience materially, inter-personally, and emotionally. It may be thought of as self-concept, or self-esteem and self-acceptance, self-care, and self-love. This shows up in particularly high-relief/ particularly sharp in contrast in work with relationships where it is clear to more and more people (whether we like it or not) that our relationship with our self will determine our relationship dynamics with others: how well do we honor boundaries both for ourselves and for others? Do we feel we deserve to be happy and deserve to have a relationship in which we are treated well—with kindness and respect and love? How easily and openly do we communicate?
In essense: the degree of health we enjoy in our relationship with ourselves (and to our “self”) will have a great deal of influence on the degree of heath an vitality we enjoy in relationships with others—and life in general.
One of the aspects of working on and in the context of personal evolution is that I am constantly in evolution in both senses of the word--"in it", as in exploring the context and in the process of my own personal evolution as well--because you see, it is never over. Our evolution, which is really about allowing the greatest depths of ourselves to unfold and manifest in the world, is never over--because our depths are infinite. If who we are is a manifestation of the divine--an outpouring of Spirit, and the Kingdom of God is Within [and I believe it is] then there is no end to uncovering, clearing, and allowing that beauty to unfold in the world.
And I never ask my clients to do anything I have not done myself and am applying in my own life. Period. As such, this post is a little more personal for me to demonstrate that.
After my divorce, and the year-long self-reflection that followed, I realized that for the most part, what consistently happened in my romantic relating was a zero-sum type of dynamic. That at the end of my relationship with a woman, she was tangibly more empowered, more comfortable with herself, more fully embodied, and proud of her womanhood.
Partly because it was my constant practice to be sure she felt loved, had per positive qualities acknowledged somehow on an actual daily basis [not the same ones, but what authentically struck me at the moment as I appreciated her at some point], that she not only had a daily reminder, with full connection and presence of my love for her [and what I loved about her and why] but that she blushed with my acknowledgments.
It was conscious. Intentional. And the relating really cost me dearly. I was psychically drained, more dis-empowered, and frankly, less of a man by the end. It was, in fact, a zero-sum game.
It was not the things I was doing that drained me. They were rewarding to just do it. It was the lack of any reciprocal expression, I think. And I other things they did that I lacked facility around.
The contrast had never been so great than after my divorce--and the dynamics never so clear as in that marriage.
Now, I never planned it that way, but once I noticed it after the divorce, I ended up having a zero-tolerance policy for romantic relating that was not about synergistic upward spirals where both people were winning--and the relating was winning too. A triple win game. Both parties were winning--AND the actual relating was winning too. It is healthier for me to just be alone and fully empowered McClain-Ness than to be in unfulfilling and relating that ultimately cost me energetically. Although it took me a while to adjust to that, and sadly there was one relationship in which she ended up being drained...but it is all a process--and sometimes that is about the pendulum swinging the other way before it swings back the middle to finally rest upon the golden mean.
But back to zero-sum...
Let's face it--people who have little or no self-respect choose bad and even abusive relationships over being alone. Me? I would rather wake up alone, be in the company of just myself, than be in an unhealthy or un-fulfilling relationship. And I never have [and never will] just go from one relationship to another. Takes at least 6 months or so for self-reflection and the integration of the learnings before we can be responsible with another's heart, But that is all romantic...
Six years later, I am just now getting to really make sure that is generalized into all relating--not just romantic.
This is all part of how I have been consciously going through ALL of my friendships, free of sentimentality or attachment, and shrewdly examining if they are rich, dynamic, healthy, and fulfilling--or if they are just habits. And then explicitly ending the friendship or deepening and continuing the friendship with more connection, engagement, and intentionality. Regardless of how much I love the individual I am in the friendship with I may be ending. The relating must also be fulfilling. and one of the most important things for me that has the relating fulfilling is emotional engagement...rather than fear and detachment. But real engagement--yet also free of identification or enmeshment.
SOMETIMES that means me making decisions for other people when their relating with me is not serving THEM. I used to refuse to do so, thinking I was availing them of the growth opportunity to declare boundaries, make those choices themselves, develop confidence in communicating their needs, etc. But given that most people are deficient in true esteem for the self, and self-respect [part of which is demonstrated by drawing boundaries] is one of the core components of esteem for the self [along with self-efficacy] but I stopped doing that. I am now quite comfortable making choices for others when they continually demonstrate they incompetent to do for themselves--so long as it is about relating with me.
That is quite enough of the why and the what. But what about the "how" Jason?
It is all about values and forms.
One of the exercises I have clients do in Phase 2 of the Personal Evolution program [and occasionally in the professional evolution program as well] is a full life, all context examination of what is important to them [values] and how they would know if it were being experienced by them; what would they be seeing, feeling hearing, doing, and experiencing that would prover to them they were experiencing value X, Y, or Z? Conflict often happens in the form [which is why politicians are scant on policy papers before the election]. Values [freedom, security, justice] are things that everyone can agree on--we all want that. The HOW of carrying them out? Conflict arises sure as the sun also rises.
So in seeking friendships or romantic relating, it is not enough to express that "communication" is important to us. For some that will mean asking about your day. For others that will mean that if you are bothered by something, no matter how small, you share your internal process. Communication is the value, but the form is different.
Anytime we are upset, barring an unresolved event from the past or a pervasive self-esteem issue, we must look to values. So this becomes a tool for elegant communication to have your needs expressed [and met] as well. One that avoids conflict or having the other person be wrong. One that has intimacy and a deeper level of understanding arise.
But that is a story for another time.
For now, do this:
This is taken from the Evolutionary Sales course materials. This is no ordinary sales training.
There is no greater core component to your degree of success or failure than the evolution, expansion, and strengthening of the above. There are several reasons for this, but as a refresher: there are two aspects to your self-esteem:
1) knowledge of your competence
2) The feeling you are "appropriate to life; deserve a good life”
1) Value in the marketplace
2) Your Divine worth as a settled matter
A few days ago, a student of mine - a graduate of the Evolutionary Sales course -- asked me if fear could be useful.
Below is my response.
Of course fear *can* be useful. Anything is useful in *some* context.
And in any situation where we are discussing intra-personal matters (our relationship with ourselves) the question is: "do we need to use negative emotions for their usefulness-or is there a way to get the same outcome with a method that creates harmony rather than dissonance and dis-ease?
I think the answer is pretty obvious.
This does occasionally come up with clients around motivation; they are not sure how they will motivate themselves without anxiety. In that situation we have to work with their meta-program around motivation; are they motivated toward vision or away from pain. I have it that it is not a wiring thing (we are "just that way" but a matter of choice, training, and conditioning).
Having said that, if you remove fear and replace it with nothing in terms of motivation, then you will run into problems of ... well, "lethargy" is not quite it, but you get my meaning I trust.
Going into this deeper, let's distinguish what we mean by "fear". I see the following:
1) Fight or flight where your body is in physical danger (rational fear)
2) Fight or flight where we are not in physical danger (irrational fear)
3) Anxiety around not knowing how to do something and we are forced to do it (like land a plane when you are not a pilot and lives are at stake).
4) Anxiety or panic when we imagine some performance situation going poorly (presentations / public speaking, approaching someone we are attracted to, etc.)
#1 and #3 are fine. In fact, #1 is critical for our survival; it can be life saving.
#2 is an invention of our mind and is created by a combination of a lack of facility with self / lack of skill at navigating our interiors and insufficient self-esteem. It is also usually resulting from a gestalt of fear that can and should be cleared out of our past.
#4 is pretty straight forward: it is imagining a future event with a negative outcome. And since that future is a fantasy, imagining it not going well is ... well, silly. It may not be conscious- or it often is. If you imagine giving a presentation and having your notes fall to the floor or everybody scoffing at you, then you will have anxiety (and other emotions). However, if you imagine it going well -- that everything is going to be fine and you make that your internal representation of the event -- imagine that "movie" then you will feel much, much better.
I am not personally motivated away from pain - it has almost no impact on me because of the life I have had; I can deal with pretty much any level of pain. I have also systematically cleared out fear, anxiety, anger, etc., etc., etc. And having worked on my ego structures for nearly 25 years, there is almost nothing that I am not certain I can handle, so it is simply ineffective for me personally. In general, I am future oriented, vision oriented, and "toward" motivated.
I have often found though, that you have to resolve the fear, guilt, shame, etc., before you can take the necessary steps you need to take to get the thing done you need to get done, so how about we skip the negative vibrations in our nervous system, and find ways to motivate ourselves without the blunt instrument of fear? And as we imagine how much more spacious we feel, and how much cleaner and clearer our vessel / channel is, we can live our purpose even more fully because our vehicle (body/mind/spirit/nervous system) does not have dissonance in it that needs to be calmed.
When you realize that you are unborn; when you meet the face you had before your parents were born- the pure Witness, then life becomes lela or play and you can thrust yourself into it with full gusto because you realize that you can't really die.
At that point you have disidentified from that which you *think* is you, but is not really you and you have identified with the ever-present Witness. You have become God.