Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Evolutionary Relating | Introduction to the Book

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This is from the introduction to the forthcoming book. You can find additional excerpts here.

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It’s the one thing that unites and connects us all.

We are not united by national origin, gender, politics, ethnicity, and the like. Not universally. The one thing that universally unites us is this:

Love

It's the one thing every human has in common.

Any poem about love in any language still transmits the same experience regardless of the language we translate it into. Sufi mystic Rumi and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda were separated by several centuries yet both their poetry still translates to this:

Love

Love. Love and a clear reverence for the women they loved without losing any of their masculine centers. It's almost become a lost art.

But it does not matter where your lover came from or whether you have the same birth language - or even speak the same language. Or what color they are. We can fall in love with anyone from any place - from any religion or cultural background - at any time.

We’ve all experienced some version of it. 

Perhaps it was the rush of the chemical attraction--they touched your hand and the electricity was unforgettable. Or maybe it wasn’t the chemistry, maybe it was the feeling of finally being home. Or a kind of comfort and safety you felt almost immediately. Or maybe it was a feeling of familiarity--as if you've known someone for years even though you just met them.

Then at some point when those feelings (many of which we discover are Illusions and projections) are dispelled, and the person begins to behave in ways that disappoint, confound or even anger us, we may begin to question the connection that we have with them and at times, perhaps, even our own judgment. 

Inevitably, we come face-to-face with how many assumptions we've made. How we have built our entire relationship and levels of trust, as well as our fantasies about the future, on these assumptions. And in our pain and confusion, we often make grave errors that only make matters worse and tragically make our future in that relationship - or the next - even worse still.

Sucks, right?

But you know what? 

Virtually all of that is avoidable.

Most of us do not know how to set ourselves up for success in the beginning - we start dating based on chemistry and attraction or availability - not on aligned values. We do not know how to have the conversations to set a baseline for what we will agree on - what our agreed foundation is - heck, some people wait so long to have these conversations that they are not even sure if they are monogamous or both dating other people months into dating (!)


These are conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. And some people know that, but they don’t know how to have those conversations.

Or worse, they are simply too scared to have them.

Then when conflict arises,  we lack the tools to navigate the situation in a way that feels good, let alone connective and satisfying to both of you.  

Or when the relationship stalls we don't know how to keep it alive, sexy, and have it continue to inspire and uplift - to bring out the best in us.

Then when it ends we have no constructive way to deal with the grief, the self-doubt, the anger, and no capacity to deal with feelings of betrayal or loss or confusion. 

At that point, some of us immerse ourselves so deeply into the process and feelings of loss that we may even think that we are destined to repeat the cycles - and perhaps some of you have - that do not work and lack fundamental workability.

This book strives to solve most of the avoidable challenges and problems that arise in all three stages of relationships and provides structures and tools to assist you in working through the unpredictable - and in some cases unforeseeable - problems that arise. 

In the beginning: how to avoid unwarranted bliss and the inevitable crash - disappointment and even, how to avoid mediocrity in the middle or simply being in a habit rather than in a relationship, how to deal with anger fear jealousy all those things that can arise and create conflict in that middle stage. And of course, the confusion, anger, and grief that can arise when it ends if it ends and how to set yourself up for Success without vilifying the other person and how to reclaim your power if you've lost yourself in the relationship. 

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Agreements for Healthy Relating | Agreement 1: Truth Over Comfort

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The Four Agreements

From Chance to Wisdom 

In my experience, there are four agreements that are necessary as foundations for any healthy relationship regardless of the context - meaning it doesn't matter if it's a professional context, if it's friendship, or if it's sexual, intimate, and romantic.

In fact the more intimate it is the more important I think these agreements are, but unfortunately - and paradoxically - the less likely someone is to actually be willing to have the conversation that’s required. That's for many reasons, most of them self-esteem issues are at their source and fear-based.

Let me explain: If we are attached to the hope that someone will like us, to the degree that it becomes a need for their approval and therefore induces fear in ourselves, and/or we have scarcity around whether or not we will actually find somebody who is a fit, or whether or not we can find someone else if a relationship does not work out, we have a tendency to overlook things that we know are important to address because if the person doesn't like us then we may take that personally in the case of a self-esteem issue, or we don't want to set up any barriers to them liking us or connecting with us.

But in doing so, we skip over critical foundational steps - and virtually assure we end up with someone who is not a fit or find ourselves in a conflict without the agreement reality as to how we find our way out of it and get back into connection.

So we ignore wisdom in favor of the immediacy of false connection - so as to not "rock the boat". At its worst, of course, this borders on codependency and external validation and that a path that if you continue down that road leads to frustration, heartache, and worse.

However if we have an abundance mindset - a certainty that there are plenty of people out there who might be a fit for us - and fit is more important than not being alone - we understand that it's easier to find somebody who's a fit that it is to deal with the frustration and challenges and eventual heartbreak of someone who is not a fit, and we are internally validated in terms of our esteem for ourselves, then we choose wisdom over chance.

The reality is we are actually choosing wisdom and communication over something much worse than chance: predictably negative results.

When do I lay out these agreements?  On the first date.

Some people may fret at this moment - and they are worried it is too late - they already skipped over these agreements and find themselves in the quagmire of shoulds and implicit agreements and unstated yet clear expectations you never agreed to. That can be an icky and frustrating place.

But don’t fret: you can transform any relationship - or “reboot” or - or start over from scratch and begin to date someone again - you can use the agreements as a way to transform friendships - I have. I have used the agreements and the conversation around them to bring years-long friendships back to life.

We’ll talk about skillful means - how most effectively to do that - after we lay out the agreements and flesh them out fully.


The Agreements

Four Foundational Agreements For Healthy Relating

  1. We tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort
  2. We do not hold anyone accountable to agreements they have not made
  3. If we are upset, we make a request (for a new agreement)
  4. We accept that we are responsible for our own experience and our own emotions.
    1. Make no assumptions
    2. Don’t make anything up

Let’s examine each of these agreements fully.

Agreement 1:  Truth Over Comfort

The first agreement is that we tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort. 

The “comfort” might be our own, or it may be the comfort of others.

Here is an excellent standard: if we are afraid to say it - or afraid that somebody can’t hear it or might take it personally - that’s probably the very thing that should be said. 

And as I am sure you have experienced, the longer we delay the telling of that truth, the bigger it becomes in our mind and the worse it will be when we tell them - for the relating, for our internal anxiousness around sharing it, and for them when they find out how long we delayed; telling the truth brings relief for all without delay. There may be broken agreements to clean up - something we will address later on in this book, but that aside, telling the truth should increase intimacy and connection. 

Hearing the truth - if done openly and spaciously - always will.

Telling the truth is not an excuse to be a jerk.

There is a popular theme in some circles where someone is a jerk (that is a technical term) and they finish it off (or begin it) with “I am just speaking my truth”.

That is not in alignment with the spirit of this rule - because most often “speaking your truth”  is just being self-indulgent. The spirit of this rule is to increase intimacy and to increase connection. Thus, we want to tell the truth with skillful means - meaning in a way that honors both ourselves, yet delivered in a way the other person is best able to receive it.  As well as caring for the relating or the relationship - the 3rd entity that is created by the synergy of the two of you.

Why is this so important?  Relationships begin to die in the unsaid.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence; the grass is always greener where it is tended to, cared for, and nurtured.

If there is enough unsaid in the relationship, you are not even relating to the human in front of you anymore - you are relating to all the stuff you have not said, or do not think you can say - and that shows up as being distracted, shut down, simply not present, or simply being silent. So instead of relating to the dynamic and vibrant human in front of you, you are simply in your head about … all the things. 

That build-up - that residue - kills true intimacy.

And yet, telling the truth and hearing the truth are - at the very least - very different sets of capacities. 

That can not be overstated - and as I have said over and over again, communication skills are physical skills that take practice - and these component skills definitely take a lot of practice.

To start with, telling the truth can take a lot of courage. Hearing the truth takes openness and, at times, a willingness to hear feedback and truths that are difficult to hear. 

And the list goes on - on both sides.

But imagine telling the truth about something - something you are scared to share about yourself - and having your partner thank you, express gratitude for trusting them to share it with them, and acknowledge you for the courage that it took and to express that they trust you even more now - and to do it without judgment - with love and acceptance. 

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Relationship Postmortem | How to Decide When It's Time To Leave

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#RelationshipPostmortem

While most of this section is going to deal with what to do after the breakup - how to process the grief, how to use that period of deep pain for your own development, transformation, and personal evolution, and how to set yourself up for success in the next relationship so you don’t repeat the same mistakes, we’ve all wondered at some point … 

When is it time to leave?

This may be the most difficult question for us to answer for ourselves and there are so many variables - if there are children involved it makes it even more complicated even if the end result is the same.

But one thing we want to be sure of is that we do not stay in the relationship for the wrong reasons.

What are some of the “wrong” reasons?

Let’s start with a few mindsets or orientations to the process before we answer that question. For me personally, these aren’t just mindsets or beliefs, they are convictions; I am willing to assert them as self-evident truths.

First: every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership.  What does fulfilling mean? For me, it means that you're lit up in every way: sexually, lovingly, intellectually, and spiritually. That they are an incredible lover and your best friend. Most important of all:  that you can express yourself - just be you - without being judged or shut down. That you are appreciated, encouraged, loved, and feel a deep connection to this person. That you can communicate through anything.

At the very least, your values need to be aligned enough - and your preferred forms of those values - how they would show up in your relationship need to have enough overlap that the little things don’t matter.

But whatever “fulfilling” means to you, every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership. 

If you are reading this and you are single, you can use the Values and Forms exercise we laid out earlier in the book as a way of determining a greater degree of likelihood for success in your relationship. Values are a far greater determinant of compatibility than any typing system [zodiac, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc] as your level or stage of ego development will have a far greater influence - for instance at a certain stage you may experience differences as problematic, at yet another stage you may begin to see them as more of a benefit - complementary rather than conflicting - and so on. 

If you are reading this and you are in a relationship, you can use the same exercise to gain an understanding and deeper insight into why you are in conflict and … ultimately … whether you are a functional fit or not.

Second:  while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to transform [the relationship].

This is another fundamental truth. If you alter your internal relationship to the person and behave differently - and come at the whole situation fresh and open to possibility, they will respond to that. It may take longer than you desire - but I firmly believe [and this part may not be true but it is still the powerful way to relate to it]  any relationship can be transformed if one person is lovingly but unwaveringly committed to transforming it. You can infuse new life into it at any point. 

The question is not can it be transformed or not, the question is how.  

Not all relationships should be, but I believe all relationships can be transformed.

Lastly - and this makes a good segue to the “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:  

Longevity is not an effective gauge for success. You can be in a relationship that feels dead 20 years and people will congratulate you just based on the amount of time you have been together. Here’s the problem with that:  most humans aren't in a relationship. They're just in a habit.

Having said that, there are a few “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:

1. You are afraid to be single or alone. 


If you are afraid to be alone you are very likely in some form of co-dependent relationship and are having to sacrifice your happiness and - at times - your mental or emotional well-being. 

In this case, if you are in a relationship you consider “dysfunctional”, leaving may be the bravest and most powerful and empowering thing you can do - despite (or maybe even because) of how scary it is at first.

2. You don’t think you are good enough to have a more fulfilling relationship.

In my research, I was surprised at how often this came up - that some people didn’t think they were worthy of a more fulfilling relationship - or a higher quality partner.

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Facility With Self

meditating-suit-facility-self-woman Facility With Self and The Ultimate Skill

Facility With Self

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:

  • Taking responsibility or owning my part is the fastest way to build a healthy sense of self
  • I have assumptions—they are under my control
  • Some (most?) of my filters are out of my awareness; it is possible to bring them into my awareness by paying attention to my subjective experience and my language patterns
  • I am 100% responsible for my emotional experience—it is under control if I develop the necessary capacities said another way:
  • My subjective experience (emotional life) of the world is completely generated by me and is the result of my interpretations, beliefs, perceptions, preconceived notions, distortions, etc.
  • There is always a way - and always an ethical way 
  • Flexibility and variation of approach toward a specified outcome—focus on results and my effectiveness towards such—will provide optimal probabilities of achieving that outcome; a fixed approach leads to less than optimal results
  • I have no inner enemies; I have parts—who are sometimes in conflict, but who have positive purposes. These parts can be honored, understood fully, and integrated to resolve the internal conflict contributing to my congruity with my espoused values.

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:

  • Self: being in your own body. Seeing out of your own eyes. Knowing what you want.
  • Other: walking in someone else’s shoes. Seeing the world through their eyes with their filters—feeling into them; empathy
  • Observer: the position of director of a play or an interested third party who is observing.

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"

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.

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