"Falling in love is the greatest story of addiction in existence." -Philippe Lewis I toyed with this idea for years. Along with the idea that all romantic love is delusion. Delusion and addiction. Why else does "absence make the heart grow fonder" if not because you aren't dealing with the reality of who they are - but rather who you imagine them t...
© © 2017 Jason D McClain, World-Wide Rights Reserved.
Be sure that you've read Part 1 » here «.
[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]
As I asked in Part 1:
"...was Jesus really born of the Virgin Mary? Was Lao Tzu really born as a 900 year-old man? Is the earth really resting on the head of a giant serpent (or the shell of a giant tortoise)? And of course, the subject of great debate most recently it seems: is the Earth really only 6,000 years old? Are these facts—with belief in them required to enter into the afterlife? Or are they gorgeous and useful poetic metaphors pointing to a greater truth in a way that people at the time could accept, pointing to Divine power?"
These metaphors are a testament to the belief in stunningly powerful, mystical, and magical forces embodied in "Spirit". Stories told to the good common folk of those eras. Metaphors they could relate to. This was useful and good—in fact, it could have been no other way at the time. However, the vast majority that count themselves among the world’s religions have lost touch with this simple wisdom: that metaphors of their spiritual traditions do indeed hold tremendous aesthetic value and inspirational mythopoetic beauty, however, they are not the Truths themselves.
Nor should they really matter when discussing spiritual merit. Would we say someone was not a good person if they acted with love, grace and charity all of their life, dedicated to the service of others, but rejected the idea of the Virgin Birth? Of course not.
Sadly, focusing on the details of the metaphoric stories as a basis for “faith” rather than the individual relationship with the Universal Truths results in losing access to Divinity and Spirit. Ending up, in turn, hopelessly (and endlessly) arguing over details of form and presentation-details of stories told long ago so that simple people could easily have access to God. These arguments aren’t just friendly disagreements or intellectual debates engaged in among scholars; they have split families and divided congregations--and sent nations to war on too many occasions for us to want to list here.
The fact that this is so, and that is springs from traditions that were and are meant to free the spirit, spread love, and acceptance, and give hope to the hopeless, is no less than tragic.
So that we can attempt to avoid the same pitfalls, let us set aside what is “true” or “false” about these mythopoetic themes and focus instead on the more personal and individual experience. This is what is relevant for our discussion that is focused on the context of personal evolution.
For that, we need to address not the truth, but the utility of our relationship to the Divine--"to" vs. "with." This “to vs with” business is not just fun with prepositions. It has a very practical impact on our internal life and emotional experience.
The manner in which we relate to anything determines its meaning and importance in our lives. Whether that thing is a significant other, a new career opportunity, a rainy day, traffic on the highway, and/or yes, even “God”. Perhaps we should even say In fact, especially God—not because that is accurate, but simply because of the impact that our personal relationship with God has on our real-life happiness.
Let’s take traffic.
We have all experienced traffic on a highway. How do you relate to it? What is your interpretation of it? Do you view it as a waste of time? A hassle? An increase in vehicular pollution? Or perhaps you see it as a welcome break and use it to unwind on your way home listening to relaxing music or an opportunity to listen to a favorite book on audio? The obvious point is that how you “hold” this experience we call “traffic” in your subjective world will give rise to a specific and tangible emotional experience around it, or what we will call an “atmosphere”.
“It is never the thing itself, but rather your relationship to it”.
Knowing that let’s take it out another level: it is not just how you relate “to” traffic that will determine your experience. While this is true, we could take one more step and realize that we are not just in traffic--if you are in your car in the middle of traffic, you are the traffic. You are at the very least a component part of it as a whole.
Think about that the next time you are cursing the traffic you are in.
You can see what we have done there, and you are likely already familiar with the importance of and the ability to “frame” your experience described in the above paragraphs. This is nothing new. Most of the wisdom traditions teach that how you interpret an event will determine your emotional experience around it—and with regular practice, you can discipline your mind to interpret your experience in a way that leads you to have the emotional experience of life that you desire. Simple. Not easy, but simple.
And yet, when we get to the context of God—we go all whacky. As if it somehow no longer applies.
Just as we examined if your relationship to traffic serves you, we will examine the same of your relationship to God.
I was with a client and we chased the source of his "issue" to a particular construction he has of God—and God and spirituality is very important to him.
The most recent “Love of My Life” helped me see and understand something I was unaware of.
She would share something about her inner life with me and I would listen attentively, and when she was finished I would thank her for sharing it. I love understanding my lover at a deeper level so any time they share their experience I am definitely interested. On several occasions though, she would pause when finished, put a hand to my forearm and say, “that was really vulnerable for me to share”.
“Oh!” I would say. “Ok”.
The reality is I have never really understood or agreed with the conversation around vulnerability in intimate conversations. I understand it now.
But often, I will share something, and the person (usually the woman) I am sharing it with will acknowledge how vulnerable it was for me to share. Except it wasn’t. Why? And, why not?
Let’s examine this together:
If you feel something is “vulnerable to share” that means you are psychologically and emotionally exposing your underbelly to someone when you share it. Like when a cat reveals their tummy to you - and as a natural predator, they know they can be gutted so this is a sign of safety and trust. - Following the metaphor when someone shares something vulnerable for them it means they either feel safe enough with you, mustered enough courage to share it, were able to set aside their fears for long enough, or “white-knuckled it” though their fears to share it in spite of the fact that they are emotionally very sensitive about the matter and your response has the power to devastate them emotionally.
It also means they are dependent on you for your approval at this moment to feel okay about themselves or about the thing they are sharing.
This is one of the many reasons supporting Agreement 1: Telling the Truth and Hearing the Truth.
If we are to be sensitive to them and their needs and we want to increase the level of intimate sharing from them, we would do well to be caring and kind when they share something that took courage or they had fear around sharing. The more we make it safe for them to share - meaning we make it no big deal with no dramatic reactions - and thank them and acknowledge them for sharing it and the courage it took, the more they will share and the more intimacy and connection you will experience with them.
They will open to you more and more.
That’s how we engage with them there. With kindness.
How we deal with it when the roles are reversed is very different.
Now, imagine it is you doing the sharing. If you feel it is vulnerable to share what this is pointing to your fear that they will judge you, shame you, stop liking you, be angry or hurt, or leave you when you share it. Setting aside any possibility that you are revealing you broke an agreement - that’s a very different animal - at its worst, this can be a sign of co-dependence. At best, it points to a lack of full self-acceptance as you are looking to them/hoping for validation or approval.
At this point, we can look back on both the sections on esteem for yourself.
Once you have fully accepted every aspect of yourself - meaning be willing to look in the mirror unflinchingly at all of your exceptional qualities, your faults, and everything in between - once you can face the truth about yourself fully - the whole experience of “vulnerability” fades away. Once you have self-acceptance, shame and shaming, and the fear of a lack acceptance from others and the corollary seeking or needing of their approval all evaporate - or at the very least you become immune in a healthy way.
This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipContinuum section.
To be Guided by Jason - whether you are currently in a relationship and want to transform it, or you are single and want to “do the next one right” - check out the Evolutionary Relationships offering.
Or just schedule a complimentary initial conversation here to get the process started.
The title of this piece is one of my favorite ways to sum up what I think is the ultimate capacity and the most valuable skill set in life is. It is also access to being emotionally free, flexible, and generally more happy, regardless of your circumstances.
This is also where I remind you that communication skills - and in this case, you are communicating with yourself - are physical skills. They are awkward at first. They take practice to become proficient in. They take repetition to master.
Gaining Facility With Self is the most challenging and most rewarding guiding principle - as well as a set of capacities - to take on. In addition, I assert that there is nothing in life external to one’s self that cannot be managed, overcome, conquered by having greater Facility with Self.
Many of you have asked me what this thing is. What are its component parts? This is complicated and the answer has been long coming, but this piece is written for the purpose of providing as complete an answer I can muster at my current level of insight and writing ability.
I trust you will read it generously, knowing that some aspects of the distinctions are beyond these two elements currently - and must be demonstrated and/or experienced as they involve navigating our interiors.
Let me say that none of what I write here is the “truth”; I am not even interested in debating its accuracy—while I think I could. What I am asking you to do is try it on for the purpose of your own personal evolution. Not what is true but what is useful for that outcome and for the outcome of your own happiness via developing ultimate choice with your own emotional and mental experience.
Necessary Operating Assumptions
Most people are not even aware of their operating assumptions. You could also call these beliefs, filters, and presuppositions. One of the necessary first steps to Facility With Self is to acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that we all have operating assumptions, beliefs, and filters. Most people operate as of the are their “truth”s. Most of them are sweeping generalizations created from moments when they assessed something in their experience and extrapolated from it—often inaccurately. Judgment—a necessary skill for survival—gone awry. Most people have assumptions that do not serve them. For example people are out for themselves; I can not control my emotions; men are a certain way and women are a certain way and that’s that; a leopard can not change its spots, etc.
Anyway, I consider the necessary assumptions | beliefs | filters for Facility with Self to be (at least) the following:
These items can also be summed up as “attitudes”.
Necessary Skills (imitating the Buddha)
Once the necessary attitudes are in place as operating presuppositions, there are some skills that come into play. The first is some agility in the ability to occupy multiple perceptual positions or to experience the world in “triple description”. Some people have asserted that the ability to move through all three perceptual positions - at will - to be a good operating definition of mental health.
Additionally, the evidence, as well as the practice of Personal Evolution, is the ability to take on an ever-increasing number of perspectives. but without these foundational three, you will not have any facility at all.
What are these perceptual positions? At least the first three:
It is important to remember that these are holarchically arranged. They are also known as First, Second, and Third, respectively. Holarchy? For example, paragraphs contain sentences, but not the reverse. Sentences contain words, but not the reverse. Words contain letters, but not the reverse. In the same way, Second - a second position shift - requires first, but not the other way around. Third A third perceptual shift requires the ability to occupy both first, then second, and then take the perspective of third. It could be said that this is simply a shift in attention. The ability to project your awareness or your consciousness to a space and then perceive the world from a different angle is the beginning of the acquisition of this skill. For instance, what does your head look like from the back? Pretend the floor you are sitting on is plexiglass—what do you look like from beneath? Etc. Why is this a critical skill? […]
Going meta to your experience and acquiring what is commonly referred to as “meta-cognition” is the ability to have not only awareness but choice over your own thought processes. This is what Buddha’s vipassana meditation technique teaches. It is a skill and this skill holds the promise of allowing you to liberate yourself from the emotional roller-coasters - the vicissitudes - of life.
Once you can see the process is of your own making, and then master it, you will be truly free.
An event happens and then ⟹ you interpret it in a certain way, which leads to ⟹ your emotional reaction, and in that reaction, ⟹ you then make it mean something (your generalize) - often creating a limiting belief - which then ⟹ leads to an emotional atmosphere.
Most people think this is a one-step process: Something happens and then ⟹ they feel bad.
And most humans then blame the other person or external circumstances for the feeling. And in the process of blaming - lose all of their power.
This is why the most fundamental orientation to all of your experience is one of 100% responsibility - it is your access to choice and power.