To be honest with you, the word codependency was a horrible choice. After all, it is a learned relational style that has nothing to do with being “dependent”. I could write an entire book on this relational style and what conditions give rise to it and what behaviors come along with it. One thing you need to know though is that this relational style is an adaptation that a person makes to an unhealthy social environment at an early age. People adapt this relational style and carry it through the rest of their relationships in life. If you would like to learn more about this, you can watch my videos titled: The Truth about Narcissism and Codependency, as well as: Codependency has Nothing To Do with Dependency.
What is important to understand for the sake of the information that I am about to share with you in this video however, is that people who develop the relationship adaptation style of codependency decide at a subconscious level that because no one is really concerned for their welfare, benefit and best interests, the best way to survive is to get their own needs met by sacrificing parts of themselves so as to conform to other people’s interests and creating an attuned emotional contract with them, whereby their own needs are manipulatively met in exchange for doing so. It is also important to know that you will hear pretty much everywhere that codependents place a lower priority on their own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. This is not true. It only looks like that on the outside. The reality is that if we have adopted the relational style of codependency, the preoccupation with the needs of others is our method for getting our own needs met.
In any relationship, confluence is the feeling of “we”. It is the feeling of togetherness, agreement, unison, ease, harmony and alliance. The best way to conceptualize of confluence is to think of two rivers flowing together to become more. Confluence is the opposite of being against each other. It is the opposite of conflict. Confluence is something that feels good to people in general and it is something that we all seek in relationships. But not at any cost. If we are someone who has adopted the codependent relational style, what sets us apart is that we have learned to establish confluence at any cost. We go to lengths to establish confluence that are detrimental to ourself and to anyone we are in a relationship with. For example, we usually grew up in households where difference meant conflict. Therefore, for the sake of creating confluence, we abandoned our authenticity and made ourself the “same” as others or made ourselves into whatever they wanted us to be. Or for example, for the sake of confluence, we also learned to enable dysfunctional behavior in others. And we are perfectly willing to fake confluence. The reason being that we have learned that anything but confluence is dangerous. We normalized going to great and horribly self-abusive lengths to distort ourselves so as to feign confluence, even to the degree that we fooled ourselves. For those of us with a codependent relational style, establishing confluence in any relationship is a subconscious desperate attempt to avoid danger and ensure that our needs will be met. We don’t just like confluence… We hold onto it like a buoy that our life depends on in the middle of a deep ocean squall.
It is important to understand this attachment that people with a codependent relational style have to confluence. Because it is this attachment that creates a mind trick that keeps you stuck in a state of inauthenticity, thinking that it is authentic. Here is the trick... If you have adopted the relational style of codependency, you care so much (often on a subconscious level) about confluence, that it registers in your system as your top value and therefore your top priority. This means that letting go of any other personal truth you might have so as to establish confluence with someone will actually feel like relief. It will feel good and right and authentic because in doing so, you are in-alignment with your top subconscious value.
So that you can understand this mind trick, here is an example: Tom is married to Sandy. Tom has adopted a relational style of codependency. The truth is that Tom loves adventure. He also loves taking risks because it makes him feel alive. But Sandy is someone who likes predictability and routine. She enjoys staying at home in her garden and with her cats. She gets upset any time that Tom changes the routine or suggests they take a trip. Sandy is not a master of relationships to be sure. But interestingly enough, she does not have a narcissistic relational style. Still, Tom does not know how to deal with incompatibility in a relationship and whenever Sandy gets upset, the feeling of not being aligned with her is viscerally terrorizing. His desperate attachment to confluence is triggered. And so, Tom goes to work denying the truth that he loves adventure and trying to getting rid of his tendency towards risk taking. He does this in many ways. First, he denies, suppresses and disowns the personal truth that is a threat to his sense of confluence with Sandy. He decides that being a risk taker is not a truth about himself, instead it is an unhealthy addiction that he is meant to cure himself of. To validate this, he reads books on the addiction to risk taking and watches movies about bad things that happen to risk takers to discourage himself from taking risks. He also attends Buddhist seminars about being in the present moment and about the beauty of the mundane. He decides that even exploring his own neighborhood can be an adventure if he decides to make it one. He forces himself to stick to the routine and engage in the many home-body activities that Sandy is engaged in such as reading, cooking, gardening, watching TV and taking neighborhood walks. At first, doing this feels so good and so right. He will believe because of this that he is being authentic. After all, he is in alignment with his first subconscious priority… confluence. The problem is, he had to suppress other parts of his authenticity in order to be aligned with his authentic top priority, which is confluence.
Tom is not satisfied in his life because he is denying the truth about himself to be in alignment with the truth that he wants confluence in his marriage. Again and again, these feelings of dissatisfaction will creep to the surface and when it does, he becomes compelled to break the routine or go for an adventure or act out in some way. But when that happens, it threatens his sense of confluence. So, he quickly suppresses them again. And when he does, again he feels relief. Again, he feels like he is back on track and doing what is right and true for himself, simply because he has attained confluence. Tom will confidently look at you straight in the face and say, “We love being at home. We’re just two homebodies. Honestly, I think that people now a days are just addicted to intensity and are never satisfied. They have forgotten the beauty of simplicity.”
The mind trick is that your attachment to confluence acts like a smokescreen for your personal truths in that you do authentically want confluence. So, anything you might do to attain it, including being dishonest and inauthentic may feel like you are being honest and authentic to you.
If you are someone who struggles with this mind trick, here are some suggestions:
Recognize when a personal truth would stand to grant you confluence with someone and therefore you could be at risk of being in this pattern. And if a truth would stand to grant you confluence, that truth needs to be treated with suspicion. You need to really question whether that truth is in fact your truth, rather than trying to prove it is your truth. On top of this, you need to seriously question your relationship with compromise… to giving up things or changing things about yourself in order to be in confluence in a relationship. For this reason, you would benefit by watching two of my videos. The first titled: Why You Should Never Make Compromises in a Relationship. And the second titled: Do You Base Your Relationships on Compromise or Compatibility?
Familiarize yourself with and memorize the difference in sensations between something being real or true vs. something downregulating your nervous system because it gives you relief from danger. One exercise you can try is to close your eyes and imagine a situation where you feel like you are in trouble with someone else. Now, imagine that you are able to get out of trouble and please them so the other person is happy with you. There is a relief that feels right and good in the body. Feel that in every cell of your being. What does this feel like? Now change exercises. Think about a truth that you can’t take away. Something you believe in to your absolute core. Or something that can’t be denied, like that you were born in the city that you were born in. There will be a kind of solid, unshakable sensation near your core. Feel that in every cell of your being. What does it feel like? Notice that these two sensations both feel “right” but they are very different feeling flavors.
Realize that if you fall into this mind trick, you struggle with denial as a coping mechanism. For this reason, you would benefit by learning about denial. To do this, watch my video titled: How to Call Bullshit on Denial. In alignment with this, chances are very high that you are not being honest with yourself. It’s hard to be in confluence and know that you are lying to yourself. So, you are most likely in the pattern of fooling yourself. To do this, you are in the pattern of suppressing, denying, disowning and reframing your own emotions. Telling yourself stories about them so as to obscure the truth they contain. Each emotion is a carrier of personal truth and information. It is critical to notice your emotion and listen to the personal truth carried by your emotions. Not tell yourself a confluence supporting story about them. When something feels “off” in your life, but you don’t know what, chances are high that you are not being honest with yourself because your truth threatens your sense of confluence with someone in your life. If you find yourself in a pattern of self-sabotage or of breaking your word, it means you are not being honest with yourself. If you complain but you don’t take action, it means you are not being honest with yourself. And to be honest with yourself, you are going to have to be willing to risk losing confluence.
If you are in this pattern of confluence attachment, in your relationships, what you try to suppress will keep coming up again and again. It is not hard to live in alignment with something that is genuinely true for you. If it is not true for you, it will be hard to live in alignment with it. It will feel like you are having to be very disciplined to do something despite some part of yourself that you disapprove of. This is an indication that you are suppressing and denying and disowning a personal truth. For example, imagine that man is looking for a relationship where he doesn’t have responsibility and instead is taken care of. But he got into a relationship with a woman who has no interest in doing that. He will have to actively work against this truth. And he will notice that because it is second nature to live according to your truth, he will “slip” into behaviors where he doesn’t take responsibility or where others are forced to take care of him. Probably slips that lead to repeated conflict. Essentially, the real truth keeps rearing its head.
Commit to the mastery of relationships. The reality is, if you have a codependent relational style, you are afraid of people and relationships induce fear. You don’t know how to have yourself and have other people too at the same time. You have only known zero sum games and manipulation in relationships. You look to placate people before there is even ever a conflict. You don’t understand how to create genuine repair without compromising your personal truth. And you don’t know how to find a third option. This means, you must un-learn and also learn how to have a relationship.
It is important to know that someone who is codependent enough, does not have to be in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic relational style in order to fall into this trap or behave in codependent ways. A not so funny joke is that all it takes to be considered a narcissist in a relationship with a good enough codependent is to have an opinion or a preference. All that being in a relationship with someone with a narcissistic relational style does, is make these patterns harder to break free from because it reinforces these behaviors. After all, there is even more incentive to create confluence in a relationship when the person you are with is genuinely willing to destroy you for the sake of their own best interests.
When something is real, it is very stable and solid, even if you don’t feel “good” about it. When something is simply confluence, there is no stability or solidity to it. You are looking for something to feel good, even if there is no stability or solidness to it. Underneath what you are saying and doing, it will feel like: “Like me, like me, like me”. You will be looking for one thing: for your nervous system to relax, making it a strategy.
This strategy of creating the false experience of confluence in a relationship in order to try to establish and maintain connection does not actually work. It gets you in the moment relief yes. But it does not allow you to build a relationship based on what is true. So, there is no actual relationship. If this is your pattern, you will be prone to duping people. Because of your relationship to confluence, you will seek to establish confluence from the very beginning by lying to the other person about yourself, often subconsciously. They will feel like they have found THE most compatible partner, only to realize that there is something different hiding underneath the initial person you presented to them. How do you have a relationship with a person that changes who they are in order to be whatever they sense that you want them to be? How can you feel solid with that? If you can’t pin someone down to anything, you are building a relationship with a shapeshifter. Anything that you think is compatible one minute, won’t be the next. As a result, you can’t find actual compatibility and you can’t create actual security in a relationship, only temporary – in the moment relief. It is a recipe for building a life that is counter to who you actually are and counter to what you actually want… A life and a relationship of pain.
You cannot suppress, deny and disown personal truths, even in favor of the personal truth that confluence is your top priority. They end up coming out in subconscious ways. Therefore, this safety strategy is a guarantee that your relationships will in fact become unsafe, painful and will most likely end. It is also an exhausting exercise in self-hate.
When it comes to happiness, most of us are concerned with the big stuff. Stuff like having a sense of purpose, career satisfaction, having a good self-concept, financial security, being physically healthy, achieving our goals and relationship satisfaction. In the pursuit of happiness, we get so wrapped up in these big things, that we forget to really experience the small, simple pleasures that are available to us every day. Simple pleasures that make our life experience rich and that are the ‘stuff of joy’.
When we are so busy being fixated on achieving the big things of happiness, we tend to be more aware of what isn’t than what is; and more aware of what we don’t have than what we do have. Because of this, we often don’t even recognize when these moments of simple joy are happening and we don’t really “resource” them. We don’t really take them in. Because of this, we deprive ourselves of joy in our everyday life.
For this reason, a powerful practice is to recognize, embrace, seek out and fully take in the simple pleasures that exist in the world for you on a daily basis. Your assignment this week is to write a list of your simple pleasures so that you can become aware of them. And to engage in at least one simple pleasure each day. And while you are engaging in that simple pleasure, fully feel it. Take it in with all of your senses. Be totally present with it with your mind, emotions, body and spirit. Let it “take you over” in a good way as if you have no filters to the full experiencing of that thing in life.
So that you can have an example, I will share with you some of my own list. If I shared the whole thing, we’d be here all day…
Sitting at the summit of a mountain peak when it is completely covered in snow
Watching horses graze and feeling their utter contentment or lying backwards on them and watching the clouds above me while they graze
Trying a new tea at a tea shop
Walking very slowly through a grocery store, looking at everything they have for sale
Meeting up with someone for a catch up and some connection
Cooking something for the people I love and calling them into the kitchen to try it
The feeling of bright, warm stage lights against my face
Gifts and Giving them!
Big downy flake snow storms with no wind
Hot baths (especially when they are colored pink by a bath bomb)
Watching someone’s hands and face in movie theatre lighting
The feeling of Velvet and Satin
Sitting in a shaft of sunlight when it is shining through a window
Sitting in a hot tub in the winter
Going for an intuition walk
The way my dogs greet me when I come home
Going on a run first thing in the morning with music playing in my headphones
Finding the perfect song to fit my mood
Reading a book or journaling in the haybales in a barn
Watching great British bakeoff
Standing on the beach and letting the waves wash up over my feet
Pulling the fluff out of Cat Tails (plant)
Sleeping with the widows open but with a super warm comforter, so it’s super cold outside and a warm cocoon inside when I sleep.
Swimming in swimming pools with goggles
Going to places in the city where birds hop around at my feet
Walking through artisan markets
Sticking my fingers in uncooked rice
Waking up before everyone else does
Making treasure hunts for children
Re arranging rooms
Attending hockey games
Eating pomegranates (pomegranate is my favorite fruit)
Eating snow out of a cup
Watching children in toy stores and soaking in their excitement
Popping tar bubbles in old roads
Now let’s imagine that I decided to engage in the simple pleasure of trying a new tea at a tea shop. I don’t care if I have had tea a thousand times in my life, I’m going to experience this cup of tea as if it is the first time that I am drinking tea on earth. I’m going to intentionally notice everything about the experience. I’m going to pay attention to every visual image and to every sensation on a physical and emotional level. The feeling of the cup against my hands. The fragrance of the tea. The sound of a spoon against ceramic and the liquid pouring. The look of the steam rising from the cup. The heat of the liquid in my mouth. The way the flavor plays on my tongue. The way it makes me feel emotionally to feel and hear and smell and taste all these things. I’m going to use the experience itself to pull me into the present moment and deeper into the full immersive experience of that tea… as if I came to earth specifically to try this tea.
When you are doing this exercise, make your list as big as you can and remember that simple pleasures come in all different shapes and sizes. Different simple pleasures are available to us based off of where we live and the unique lives that we have. And remember that one of the greatest joys in life is enjoying simple pleasures with others, most especially when we have the chance to introduce one of OUR simple pleasures to someone else, who has never experienced it before.
When it comes to the big things in life, people often feel like they are beyond reach and so, many people feel powerless to being able to bring about joy. What you will find is that these simple pleasures on the other hand are usually well within our control to experience. Meaning that joy is always within reach, we are not powerless to it and we can bring it about on any given day. This is a big deal when you finally accept that a happy life is really just a string of joyful moments. And it is these simple moments of joy that make for the best memories. A person who is truly living is someone who can fully immerse themselves in the simple pleasures occurring in any present moment and fully soak it in through all their senses.
Many of us are engaged in self-sabotage. We do things that hinder our own success, that go against what we want the very most and that cause our own destruction. It is easy to assume that we have parts of ourselves that are against us, almost like living with an enemy inside of our own skins. But what we don’t realize is that these self-sabotaging parts of us, these “enemies within” are not enemies at all.
The way that consciousness works is that when we encounter difficult experiences, our own consciousness fragments. Even though we call ourselves by one name, we have many different parts of ourselves. They exist like internal Siamese twins because they share one body… the body we call ours, but they have very different perspectives and personalities and values and reasons for being. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Fragmentation, the Worldwide Disease.
A significant portion of our internal fragmented selves are comprised of parts of us that contain traits that are vulnerable. Things that didn’t keep us safe in our specific environment. And parts that are protectors for those vulnerable selves. For example, a person who grew up in a family that only cared about productivity and disapproved of anyone who wasn’t busy, may have a vulnerable part of themselves that is slow and loves to be in the present moment. But may have created an internal protector for that part which is driven and disciplined and is constantly pushing to do more.
What most people do not understand, but what people must come to understand, is that the parts of someone that are self-sabotaging, are in fact protector parts within them. You could consider these parts of self to be inverted advocates. They are convinced that what they are doing, is helping the person in some way, even if what they are doing has negative consequences. They perceive that the harm they have chosen is less dangerous or painful than the alternative.
Today, I want to talk to you about one specific un-recognized protector within people that perhaps causes the most damage to a person’s life… The Internal Self Rejector. When we are young, to experience rejection, is soul shattering. It not only causes us to feel like our survival is at risk (because we are relationally dependent as a species), it causes us to form the self-concept that we are bad, wrong, unwanted, unlovable, defective and that we lack value.
Before you become comfortable with the limited image in your head of rejection, being something that only looks like a child who is abandoned or a child who is being scapegoated, keep in mind that when a child in a family finds a way to change themselves so as to become exactly what a parent wants (as is more typical with a golden child), underneath the acceptance and praise they receive, they too feel as if their real self is rejected. So does a child in a family who is largely ignored or who spends a lot of time alone and who we might call more of a lost child. Rejection can take on many different forms.
When we experience rejection, we subconsciously think that we have one hope of actually maintaining alignment with the people we need and love… the very ones that are rejecting us… To triangulate against ourselves. We split our consciousness so that one part of us pushes the rest of us away, so as to gain rapport and alignment with the person rejecting us by virtue of having a common enemy. Only this time, the enemy is US!
As seemingly backwards as it sounds, we create a part that is protecting us, specifically by rejecting us. We create an internal rejector. The goal of this part is not actually to destroy you, even though this is often what ends up happening in the long run. The goal of this part is the following: 1. It is more painful when someone else does something to you than when you do it to yourself. Therefore, taking the power away from those who would reject you by internalizing rejection, beating them to the punch and doing it pre-emptively, is experienced as less painful. 2. It is done to maintain connection with those who originally rejected you and who may currently be rejecting you by agreeing with them about yourself. 3. To cause you to withdraw or isolate so as to avoid the constant pain of disapproval and of not being able to do anything to change the parts of yourself are being rejected. 4. To get you to stop doing what is getting you rejected (when you can).
The internal self rejector is similar to the inner critic in that it is established in response to the exact same experience. Only the self-critic is designed to alter your behavior to conform to what would get you acceptance. To understand more about the inner critic, watch my video titled: Inner Voice, The Inner Critic is your Friend, not your Enemy. The self rejector on the other hand, is designed to get the external rejection to stop no matter the consequence to the self… To control other’s behavior or gain power over their behavior.
So that you can understand this dynamic better, I’ll give you an example. Martin’s father left when he was 2 years old and his mother hated men. She demanded that Martin become exactly what she needed, so she could lean on him like a surrogate husband. His whole life, he felt as if his father could not have left unless the truth was, he was worthless. And his mother’s constant rants about men and demand for him to be exactly how she wanted him to be, made him feel as if he was not only rejected by his dad, but also his mother. The vulnerable part of himself that experienced all of this abandonment and hate against his maleness and deliberate molding so that he would be something else, tried to get the rejection to stop by creating an internal rejector. Over the course of his life, this part has managed to keep him safer by taking the heat away from people’s conflicts with him and pacify them by agreeing with everything bad they say about him. It has managed to get him to stop doing things that would make it so he is all alone. It managed to get him to be able to stay a part of his family. It managed to get him to live by himself, so that he can be himself and not be living directly with people who would inevitably reject him.
However, let’s look at the downside to this sabotaging strategy. Martin was a budding tennis star. In his first international tournament, he won. But unlike the other players, when he won, his family was nowhere to be seen and all his friends, being bummed about their loss, did not celebrate his win. He felt more rejected for winning than he felt for losing. And as a result, Martin chose to quit being a tennis player and he decided to deliberately lose matches and then quit to be a coach of other winners instead. Believing that no one will actually value and love the real him, Martin has never put energy into figuring out his truth and genuine desires. He does not know who he really is. He establishes relationships on the basis of codependency. He goes into relationships by figuring out what will get him approval and cause people to want him and conforming to that. But he can’t keep it up long term. So, he ends up going into incompatible relationships and inevitably being rejected any time his real colors come out. When people have issues with him and shame him, he agrees with them about himself, reinforcing the internal rejection. Instead of examining whether he genuinely wants to change something about himself and doing so in a way that is for himself instead of against himself OR instead of really positively owning that thing about himself and putting himself in a compatible situation to it, he feels guilt, feels he “should” change, but puts no actual energy into changing, and tries to overcompensate by doing something else unrelated that would get him approval. He is actively engaged in self suppression 24-7. And he dissociates in his relationships so as to keep himself close to the people he loves but also distance himself from the pain of their rejection at the same time. Martin sabotages his life and his relationships over and over again because this protector of his is willing to do anything else damaging, just to avoid external rejection or to get other people’s rejection to stop.
When you have an internal self rejector as a protector part, you will be so concerned with getting the external rejection to stop or avoiding it, you will not embark on a process of self-discovery so as to be authentic. You will end up putting yourself in incompatible situations where people will inevitably reject you. It is a set up from the get go. Not only that, it’s your only familiar way of interacting socially and therefore the only social situation you feel comfortable in… it’s the devil you know. On top of this, because of the law of mirroring (often called the law of attraction) when you have an internal self rejector, you will be a match to people who reject you.
It is essential to see, hear, feel, understand and appreciate your self-rejector part. It is also essential to help it to make a decision about whether the consequences of what it is doing are genuinely worth the rewards and to re-purpose this part of yourself so that it is more of a direct advocate rather than an inverted one.
All this being said, one of the most powerful things you can do, is to work with and integrate the part of you that is your internal self rejector and the vulnerable part that created it as a strategy of protection. To understand more about how to do this, you can watch my video titled: Parts Work (What is Parts Work and How to Do it). You would also benefit by watching two of my other videos. The first titled: The Truth about Narcissism and Codependency. And the Second being The Secret to Overcoming Your Problems, which is about the process of exaltation.
The internal self-rejector is an attempt to stop suffering and pain from happening. But you will find that often our attempts to avoid one kind of pain, only land us in another kind of pain.
Relationships are not something that most people on earth are directly taught. Instead, we are indirectly taught about relationships by our interactions with our family members and our peers and by watching movies and reading stories. But these interactions and these stories are not necessarily in alignment and they are also not necessarily a reflection of reality. As a result, what we learn about how to have relationships may be totally dysfunctional. And what we learn about relationships may also be false.
Today, I want to talk to you about one of these false ideas that people have about relationships that makes it a guarantee that their relationships will fail. This is an idea that I come across so consistently when I’m working with couples that it is mind blowing.
The false idea that people have is this: Relationship security is something that is just there (and should just be there) the minute you commit to having a relationship. OR relationship security is something that you build, but then it is there. Once you build it up, you don’t have to do it again. In America, we call this a “one and done”.
This is completely false. If you navigate your relationships with this idea at the helm, your relationships are doomed for the rocks. You are most likely at the place where you understand how ridiculous it would be for a person to think that you should just feel loved in the relationship because they are in a relationship with you and that’s all. You most likely also understand how ridiculous it would be for them to think that showing you love and affection up until the point that it is obvious that you feel loved, is their indication that their job is done… You feel loved now and so they don’t need to put any more energy into making you feel loved, because love is established. It is as ridiculous to think security in a relationship works this way.
Here is the reality… You know… what they should have taught you at school… Relationship security is something that you are consistently doing and consistently building and re-establishing every day in your relationship over the duration of the entire relationship. Every interaction, every conversation, every situation and each little moment that you experience with the other person is an opportunity to either establish and build security or destroy security.
In our current society, most of us get this idea that relationship security is something that is just there (and should just be there) the minute you commit to having a relationship. OR that relationship security is something that you build, but then it is there. Once you build it up, you don’t have to do it again, because chances are that your family (especially Mom and Dad or whoever the primary caregiver was) put little to no energy into ensuring the actual wellbeing of each individual member of the family, but nonetheless, a sense of closeness, belonging, confidence, certainty, happiness and safety was still expected to exist in each member of the family and it was still implied “because you are family”. On top of this, people expect that because they have a specific feeling, it means they have relationship security. For example, the feeling of being meant to be together or the feeling of being committed or the feeling of loving someone, or the feeling of belonging with someone, that relationship security simply exists and is guaranteed. On top of this, movies and stories have indoctrinated us with the idea that love makes everything in a relationship, including security, automatically happen and that if it is meant to be, it will be, with little to no effort on our parts. On top of this, we have seen relationships between two people that are long term, and because we value relationship longevity as a society, we see the relationship as successful and therefore secure. However, we do not realize that the relationship is not healthy nor is it successful, nor is it secure. Instead, one or both of the people in the relationship have decided to simply develop coping mechanisms and establish dysfunctional patterns so as to cope in response to that lack of relationship security. And this gives us an inaccurate picture of how to make a relationship actually successful and actually be conducive to the wellbeing of both people involved.
For the sake of this conversation, let’s define relationship security as feeling safe, certain and confident about each other and about the bond between you. This brings about a natural state of ease, relaxation and wellbeing. A great deal of relationship security involves the specific needs that you have from the relationship, being actually met in the relationship. A great deal of this involves feeling that the other person is really there for you, not just inconsistently or unpredictably or sometimes. And a great deal of this involves feeling like you can trust them. The same is true about all of this for them, but about you. Trust is such a huge element of security in a relationship that it is crucial to understand trust. For this reason, after you have watched this episode, it would be a great idea to go watch my video titled: Trust (What is Trust and How to Build Trust in Relationships). Relationship security is something that is an element of any relationship we have. Whether it is with a partner or sibling or parent or friend or colleague or whatever else. Unfortunately, we are usually only concerned with it in our romantic relationship, which today, most of us consider to be our primary relationship.
When something that a person in a relationship does or does not do, creates a fear, poses a threat, invites the unwanted or creates danger for the other person, or for the relationship itself on a physical, emotional or mental level, some degree of security is lost in the relationship. And guess what, it doesn’t matter whether that threat or danger is or is not real. The reality is that you lose security in a relationship according to each person’s unique, individual perception.
This is yet another reason why compatibility is so crucial in a relationship. When incompatibility exists, it is a real problem for security in a relationship. I’ll give you one simple example to illustrate this. Imagine that you wanted a feeling of exclusivity in a romantic relationship and you wanted a physically faithful partner. For you, your partner being flirty and physically affectionate with other people makes you feel threatened and alone. It is the opposite of what you want. Getting into a relationship with an actor or actress, who is flirty by nature and who regularly has to perform kissing scenes would be incompatible. There would always be a withdrawal from the relationship security bank account. If you get into a relationship with someone incompatible, the amount of effort you will have to put towards trying to create security in the relationship will be like trying to build a sand castle in the rising tide. It will quite literally be impossible to keep up. If you want to understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Incompatibility, a Harsh Reality in Relationships.
So that you can understand this better, I’m going to give you an example, the first part of this example is the unhealthy dynamic. The second part of the example is what building relationship security would look like in that same example.
Adam is married to Tracy. Adam expects that the fact that he is married to Tracy should provide all the security that Tracy needs in the relationship. If we were to watch his actions, Adam has established an intermittent reinforcement pattern with Tracy relative to relationship security. Sometimes he is available and there for her, sometimes he is not. Sometimes he acts in her best interests, sometimes he plays a defiant zero-sum game. This pattern of unpredictability is destroying her mental and emotional health. He has not taken it seriously that they are already in a zero-security zone in their relationship. As a result (as happens in relationships) the relationship could afford less and less autonomy and less and less separate time. On this day, Tracy needed Adam’s presence. She needed him to want to be with her and want to prioritize establishing security in the relationship. She also needed his reassurance. But Adam was more interested in Tennis. Despite knowing that prioritizing flying to play in a tennis tournament for fun would upset Tracy and make their relationship worse, he decided to go anyway and make her the problem for her neediness. His version of reassuring her was to gaslight her by telling her that their relationship is fine because he loves her (keep in mind that he is acting the opposite) and because they are married and therefore, he is committed to her (keep in mind that he is making himself unavailable when she needs him most). Two months later, Tracy initiated a divorce. The reality is that Adam did not prioritize security in his relationship with Tracy. He was primarily concerned with establishing his own autonomy and individual needs and individual happiness within the relationship. And the way he went about doing this, amounted to not only an intermittent reinforcement pattern, but also a consistent destruction of the security in his relationship with his wife.
If Adam had been committed to establishing relationship security, the first thing that would be different is that Tracy wouldn’t feel like the commitment to creating security was one sided. She wouldn’t feel this way because when security was threatened, his priority for himself would be re-establishing that security. He would be the one taking the initiative to create it because that’s what he wants for his own life and for her and for his marriage. Because of this, he would establish a pattern of “I care that we both feel good and am committed to finding a solution that feels good to us both” rather than simply fighting for his own needs against her and rather than an intermittent reinforcement pattern.
On the day that he wanted to go to the tennis tournament, but knew that it would threaten his relationship security, he would have first tried to find a way where he could make Tracy feel secure and be able to attend the tournament. First, he would establish that he sees the issue, demonstrating that they are on the same page and therefore working together towards a solution. That she is not alone in her reality and that how she feels is a priority for him. She would obviously demonstrate the same. He might suggest that she come with him to the tournament and that he turn it into a together experience for them both. First by demonstrating his desire for her to be there with him when he plays his matches. Then by planning a special date or experience for both of them after the tournament is over. He would demonstrate a “pull” rather than a “push away”. If there was no way whatsoever to bring her with him, and their relationship was at a point where they could not afford physical distance, he would then be faced with a priority check. Does he care more about his autonomy and attending a tennis tournament or does he care more about his relationship with Tracy? This may cause him to face the fact that there are incompatibilities between him and Tracy and potentially even between him and marriage. If he made a decision that his priority was establishing relationship security, he would cancel his trip and demonstrate this commitment in some way to Tracy, such as initiating conversations and time together and reassurance. And he would do so with no resentment towards her because he would be making this decision in alignment with what his own priorities are. As a result, in that moment, he would be building security.
Relationship security is something that you establish, just like building up a bank account. It isn’t like every day you wake up at zero. It is established as a result of demonstrating a pattern of caretaking the other person’s needs, feelings of safety, certainty, accessibility, availability, responsiveness, support, trust and confidence both in you and with you as well as in the bond between you both. And there is more leeway in these relationships where this pattern has been established. But believe me that you cannot just put any pressure that you want on a relationship. You cannot just withdraw and withdraw from the security bank account and expect that the relationship will last. And if you really loved someone, you would not want them to have to withstand the pain of your withdrawals at all. You would want that bank account to be as big as possible. You would want them to feel as secure as is possible.
Each and every moment in any relationship is an opportunity to either establish this security or diminish it. Each time you notice an insecurity or the other person expresses it, is an opportunity to problem solve so as to caretake their vulnerability, therefore add to the security of the relationship or to bulldoze that insecurity and vulnerability, therefore diminish the security of the relationship. Each conversation is an opportunity to either demonstrate workability, therefore increase the security in the relationship or demonstrate unworkability, therefore diminish the security of the relationship. Each act you take is an opportunity to either demonstrate that you are committed to a win-win scenario therefore increase the security in the relationship or that you are perfectly willing to play zero sum games against the other person’s best interests, therefore diminish the security of the relationship. Each moment with the other person is an opportunity to understand them better, therefore better know how to create security in the relationship, or to stay in a narcissistic bubble where you are only concerned with your own truth and your own needs, therefore stay in the dark relative to what would create security in your relationship with the other person.
If you don’t want to put in the work of establishing security in your relationships consistently in each interaction with the other person, you are not actually committed to relationships. You are committed to using relationships for something else that you want. Establishing and reinforcing and building security in a relationship is something that you do every day. It’s something that you are creating or destroying in every moment.
When it comes to relationships, we want them to last. Especially when it comes to a primary partnership. Relationship longevity is something that we want and our definition of success always centers around what we want. What we want and therefore intend in a relationship is even embedded in most wedding vows… to be with the person until “death do us part” (or longer). And because this is what we want and because it is what governing bodies wanted (when they decided to make marriage the foundation of societal structure), longevity is how we define success in a marriage. Longevity in a relationship is like a badge of honor. People can feel successful and proud when they tell someone how long they have been together.
The thing is, when it comes to relationships, longevity both is and isn’t a measure of success. Being friends with someone or a partner to someone or married to someone or working with someone for a long time may be an indication of relationship success. Or, it may not. Here is what I mean:
On one hand, longevity can indicate that two people are compatible and have found a way to form a kind of symbiosis. That their commitment to the relationship and dedication to working on the relationship has made it so that they have created repair to any ruptures that have occurred. That instead of succumbing to perpetual avoidance by running from discomfort the minute it came up; they used the relationship to grow. But instead of growing apart, they grew together. It can indicate that they are practicing the mastery of relationship. It can mean that their relationship is healthy. It can indicate that the relationship is successful.
On the other hand, longevity can indicate that for whatever reason, two people are committed to staying together, no matter how incompatible and miserable they both are. That in response to the pain of the relationship, in order to stay together and not make a change, they each figured out coping mechanisms to deal with the relationship. As a result, they did not grow. They are not in a relationship that is healthy. And they are not in a relationship that is successful. It is a mistake to think that if a relationship lasts, it automatically means that it is a good and successful relationship. People can stay together for their entire lives in a dysfunctional, toxic dynamic with one another.
When we don’t recognize this, and we treat longevity as the definitive marker for success in a relationship, we think that anyone who is in a relationship that has lasted a long time, has the key to a successful relationship. The reality is, they may have great wisdom and advice or they may not. What they may have is the key to creating a toxic dynamic that lasts a lifetime or the key to coping with a dissatisfactory relationship rather than changing the relationship or getting into a different one.
So that you can understand what I mean, I’ll give you an example. Miriam has been married to Robert for 45 years. As a result, people definitely see their relationship as successful, three of their four kids do too. When they were in their late 20s, Robert started a sales business. He was gone 3/4ths of the time and Miriam was left to raise the children completely alone. She was miserable. This misery was compounded by the fact that Robert had a raging temper, was totally disengaged from her and the kids when he was home and had an affair at one point. Robert felt bored by Miriam. She lacked both passion and interests. She never said or did anything exciting. She didn’t want to make any decisions for herself. He hated her passive aggressive character. She was not affectionate and so he felt sexually rejected. And he resented the dependency she loved to foster in him. The relationship was not a good one and it was full of dysfunctional patterns. However, both Miriam and Robert stayed committed to keeping the relationship together. They both cared a lot about their family’s opinions and both of their family’s believed that you never say the “D” word (divorce) in marriage. They didn’t want to disrupt their kid’s sense of family, so they believed in staying together for the kids. Miriam did not believe in her ability to create a livelihood or to be safe in the world without Robert. Robert wanted nothing to do with raising kids and so he felt dependent on Miriam to be there and to be the one doing it. And neither of them wanted to face the societal stigma of divorce and be looked down on by their community. So, they stayed together. And each of them found ways to cope with the pain.
Miriam coped by ignoring and denying the things she disliked about Robert or any of his behaviors and fixated instead on what she loved about him. She replaced intimacy and communication with him, with intimacy and communication with a group of best friends. She distracted herself as well as found something to look forward to in a television show that came on every night. She let go of any expectations of him and instead poured all of her needs and expectations into her children. And she took to smoking. Robert coped by coming up with every excuse to not be home. He considered his family to be a stable nest that was always available, but he found all his zest for life away from all of them. He took the edge off his irritation with a gin n’ tonic every afternoon and by obsessing over sports games on TV. He made every effort to make it known that his kids were to expect no attention from him, and to go to their mother for whatever they needed. He bought Miriam presents occasionally in order to gain some of her temporary satisfaction, because it bought him some relief from the tension between them.
Miriam and Robert were not happy, even though they said they were. And they believed their relationship to be successful because they were still together and because their experience was “normal”. After all, so many other married couples they knew were experiencing the same things. When people ask them what the secret to a good marriage is, Miriam says it is accepting the other person for exactly who they are instead of trying to change them. Robert says it is to use your head and pick a spouse for important things like who would keep a good home or who would be a good mother or who would be financially responsible.
A relationship has a much bigger chance of lasting a long time, even a lifetime, if it is a good one, if it contributes to the growth and wellbeing of each person, if it is healthy and if it is compatible. But longevity should not be considered the measure of whether a relationship is good or is healthy or is compatible or does contribute to the wellbeing and growth of each person. There are many relationships that are successful that are not long. And there are many relationships that are long that are not successful.
It is time for the whole of human society to recognize that longevity should not be the definitive measure of success in a relationship. That relationship success should be based on other things; most especially the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing if each person that is part of the relationship and the degree to which the relationship nourishes that wellbeing. Of course, if people realized this, the social structure of society would inevitably have to change.
It doesn’t take me saying it for you to clearly see that there are some pretty bad patterns that people can display, especially in relationships. Today I want to bring your awareness to one of the worst patterns that I keep seeing consistently played out… A pattern that is being fueled by society itself. It may just be the sickest game that a person can play.
Here it is in a tiny little nutshell… A person does something to cause pain to someone else. That person they caused pain to reacts to it. And then, the person who was hurt is made the problem specifically for their reactivity. It is easy to understand how terrifyingly ill this behavior is if we play it out on the physical level. Let’s imagine that someone was to walk up to you with a baseball bat and smash it into your leg and by doing so, to break your leg. And then, when you were writhing around on the floor yelling at them and crying, imagine that they came at you with “My god, something is seriously wrong with you. Maybe you need a therapist because you can’t control your own emotions. You need to learn to respond, not to react. I can’t be around this behavior… my boundary is that I only spend time around people who don’t raise their voice to me."
The thing is, we like to make a big divide between physical and emotional or mental pain. Guess what? That divide does not actually exist. Emotional pain registers in the brain and body as physical pain, often even worse. And people do this to each other on an emotional level to a degree that should make you sick to your stomach. People just currently have a harder time seeing this dynamic on an emotional level. We are in the emotional dark age. People don’t perceive emotional harm yet… In the same way that in the 1500s we didn’t see the harm of physical torture chambers. We are ignorant to the emotional harm we cause each other.
So that you can see this pattern better, I’ll give you some examples. Janet is married to Doug. Janet is a single mother. Doug came into the relationship as a super active, protective, responsible man who was competent and super attuned. Over time, this changed. Doug now super irresponsible. He behaves as if he is passive and not particularly competent. He fails to protect Janet on account of the sudden development of conflict aversion. He is also no longer attuned and as a result, he keeps creating conflicts. Janet is grappling with feeling like she has either been duped into the relationship by Doug or that Doug has had some mysterious personality transplant. The disappointment and grief and stress that comes with that have pushed her to the breaking point, especially since Doug can give her no answers as to why he has changed.
Recently, when they were out at dinner with someone who did not know Janet, but whom none the less started accusing Janet of things that were not actually true about her, Doug sat there silently watching it happen, leaving Janet alone to defend her own character. He had already decided that there was no point in fighting with someone who had already made up their mind about Janet. This passiveness and failure to set the person right; and decision to not protect her and instead let her fend for herself, was wildly painful to Janet. As a result, they got in one hell of a fight in the car on the way home. Janet was really angry at him. But, instead of see that she had a very valid reason to be reacting like she was reacting, Doug decided that the problem was her anger. The problem was her aggressive body language and her raised voice and the fact that she was triggered. And when they stopped at a gas station and other people noticed they were in a fight, what they saw is Doug sitting still and silent, getting yelled at. So, the other people agreed… They thought “wow, that’s a bitch… she’s just tearing him apart. Obviously, she is the problem.” Essentially, Janet was expected by other people to be hurt in this way and not to react, most especially not react with anger. She is expected to behave in a loving manner no matter what is done to her or what her partner fails to do.
Another example is Dylan. Dylan is 15 years old. Dylan’s mother is extremely unpredictable in her moods and in the way she sometimes meets and sometimes has no interest in meeting her children’s needs. She has created an insecure attachment in Dylan. She expects Dylan to entertain himself and cater himself to her consistently fluctuating needs. When he has a feeling or an emotional need that does not fit in perfectly with hers, she immediately shames him and treats him like the family problem. Dylan’s mother is not an advocate to Dylan. In fact, she is more of an emotional adversary. Needing to see herself as a good mom to the degree that she is unwilling to examine her own approach to mothering, she often makes his reactions the problem instead of what she is doing to evoke those reactions. Last week, when she decided that she was sick of dealing with dog hair all over the house, she decided to get rid of the family dog by taking it to the pound while her kids were at school. That dog was the only thing Dylan could rely upon for connection. When Dylan came home to find the dog gone, he had a complete emotional melt down and got furious and smashed all of the family pictures on the mantle. As usual, Dylan’s mother made his outburst the problem. And as a result, she decided to ship him off to a behavioral correction center for boys. He walked into that correction center being seen as the problem for his reactivity. And the reality is that this is full blown abuse that everyone is participating in. It is full blown abuse to do things like this to a person, much less a child, and then put their head in a noose whereby if they react to it, they are condemned as the bad guy.
To give you another example, Rose is a spiritual healer who writes a popular blog and who teaches seminars at a local healing center for people looking to make positive changes to their life. Scott is a man who is attending one of these events. He has huge issues with authority and he sees himself as a healer and spiritual advisor. From the minute he enters the room, he is in a competitive power struggle with Rose. On a subconscious level, he is not attending the event to change anything about himself. He is attending to challenge Rose and to get all the other people at the event to see him as the truer spiritual teacher. He derails the seminar to contradict everything that Rose is saying and directs the entire conversation towards questioning her character and insulting her over and over again in front of the rest of the class. During the course of the conversation, Rose becomes flushed red. A look of frustration comes across her face. Though not yelling, she is visibly angry with him and starts arguing against his accusations. The conversation gets heated. Scott of course sees Rose’s reactivity as the problem, not himself and his behavior towards her. And not only that, he and the rest of the entire class make Rose’s reactivity not only the problem in the scenario, but decide that because she reacted at all, she is not truly as spiritually developed as they thought. Their subconscious expectation is that if she is really awakened, she should be able to be emotionally un-affected by and therefore unreactive to anything that anyone does to her. Hmmm… That seems fair.
This form of abuse, where reactivity is made the problem, instead of what caused it, is a huge problem in our anti-reactivity culture. Currently, what is expected is that a person does not get emotionally aroused or dysregulated, is not phased or affected by anything someone else does or does not do, does not blame anyone for what they do or don’t do and does not defend themselves. What is glorified in society is emotional neutrality/numbness… Not having emotions. And as people, we tend to have an issue with anger most of all. No other form of reactivity is disapproved of and is scapegoated more than anger.
You will hear everywhere that circumstances don’t cause our emotional reactions. That they are a choice. But guess what? For people, they aren’t a conscious choice. They are primal. That only changes as a result of a process of learning what to do about the reactions when they occur. And of changing one’s perception. The emotional system is something that can be developed. But it will never develop to be non-reactive. It will just react differently. This is where the door opens for what people call “response” rather than reaction.
A question that I want to ask you is: Where are we going to draw the line? Do you think it is fair to say to someone whose spouse died… “Hey… it isn’t the fact that your spouse died that caused you to get all emotionally aroused (ie reactive). It isn’t the circumstances that cause your emotional reactions. It is a choice you make to feel that way.” Or “Hey war vet… it isn’t the fireworks going off that caused you to react by your heart racing and by having to hide at home. Circumstances don’t cause emotional reactions… they are a choice.” Or “Hey… it isn’t the fact that I just cheated on you that is the cause of your emotional reaction. You can choose to feel however you want to feel, no matter what I do or don’t do to you. That’s called emotional responsibility.” In case you want to learn more about this, watch my video titled: Am I Responsible for How Other People Feel?
This form of abuse, where reactivity is made the problem, instead of what caused it, is an especially rampant problem amongst spiritual people and in spiritual communities because, reactivity has been made the big bad wolf. It is seen as bad and wrong and especially un-evolved.
When we make reactivity the default problem, we are opening the door super wide for abuse. Both perpetrating it ourselves and enabling it in others. To get out of this pattern, we need to start to recognize the pain we cause other people. We can’t stay blind to the harm we cause, especially emotionally to other beings. We also need to keep in mind that we can do serious harm to someone else by what we fail to do, not just by what we do. And we need to ask ourselves and answer honestly: What do we seriously expect? If someone gets hurt emotionally or mentally, is it right to expect them not to react? Is it right to expect them not to defend themselves? If you say you expect them to respond rather than react, what do you think the right response should be when someone is hurt? What should their next response be if they have an open, honest conversation so as to make someone aware that they were hurt and the other person says, “I’m not responsible for how you feel!” What type of emotional relationship do you want to have with other people? What emotional responsibility are you taking for ensuring that you do not harm other people emotionally?
Obviously, there is a place within consciousness and self-development work for caretaking and finding better strategies to work with our own emotional arousal and dysregulation. That is not something that is up for debate here. What is important is to know that it is all too easy to scapegoat someone due to their reactivity. It is all too easy to use someone’s reactivity as the smokescreen for someone else’s incredibly damaging behavior. And it is a sick, sick game to harm someone on any level and then as if that is not bad enough, to make them the problem for reacting negatively to being harmed.
One of the questions that I have received the very most over the years is: What are mankind’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses? I’m going to answer that question for you today. And I’m going to do so with the hopes that by gaining this awareness, people will take ownership of what they need to appreciate and amplify as well as what they need to change. I am going to tell you the top three negative things (weaknesses) and top three positive things (strengths) of humans, therefore mankind.
If a person were to disidentify with human kind enough to be able to objectively look at it from the outside, the top three weaknesses are the following:
Negative Manifestations of the Ego (Self Concept).
Mankind has developed self-concept. A self-concept is an idea of the self that is constructed from the beliefs that a person holds about themself and from their environment, including the responses of others. Contrary to popular thought, the Ego is not something to be gotten rid of. It is something to be owned and integrated. It is in fact a beneficial tool for awareness and awakening. For lack of a better way of putting it, there is such a thing as a healthy state of Ego and an unhealthy state of Ego. But to the negative, humans are a perfect example of unhealthy Ego. They fall prey to all of the potential negative manifestations of the Ego. Such as: A sense of separateness and therefore disconnection and aloneness from everyone/everything else. There is a huge issue if we live on a planet with 8 billion people and the reality is that most everyone feels alone.
Some other negative manifestations of Ego include but are not limited to: Only being concerned with one’s own best interests, unhealthy identification, control, manipulation, unhealthy pursuit and use of power, unhealthy pursuit and engagement with pleasure/desire, unworkability and the refusal to change, seeking and creating conflict, denial, fear, greed, illusion, avoidance, negative competition, envy, superiority and inferiority, dysfunctional patterns, dysfunctional relationships, fear of death, survival focus, and ironically, lack of self-awareness. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Self Concept, The Enemy of Awakening.
Narcissism and with it, the Failure to Create Healthy Relationships and Symbiotic Win-Win Scenarios.
The term narcissism, as we are using it in this context, means to perceive oneself and therefore one’s best interest as separate and divisible from the best interests of all that is “other”. And to act in one’s own best interests regardless of the negative impact on others. Mankind is in a very severe state of Narcissism. Individual people demonstrate this relative to one another and humanity demonstrates this relative to the other species of the world, indeed the very system that they live in.
People have wildly dysfunctional relationships with each other and with other things. In fact, dysfunctional relationship is the norm. They play zero sum games, which means they have an I win, you lose approach to their relationships with all things and they believe erroneously that there is no consequence for this.
Because of this Narcissism, by far the single biggest source of suffering for people on the planet is not some external threat, it is other people. Relational trauma is the biggest source of human suffering on earth. And by far the greatest source of suffering for many other species on earth is also humans. It is only natural for someone to want the source of their suffering to vanish. And so, what do we find? We find that there is a desire emanating from many species of earth for humans to vanish.
To hit you with a very harsh reality check, a cancer cell behaves narcissistically in the physical system. People are currently behaving like cancer cells within the greater system of earth. A cancer cell has disconnected from the rest of the system and is doing its own thing, regardless of the negative impact on all other parts of the system. And this may lead to death. So too, this extreme state of narcissism exhibited by the human race may just lead to the extinction of the species itself, as they are destroying each other and they are destroying the very system upon which they depend. If you need proof of this Narcissism, look no further than the hurt in your own life. Look no further than the never-ending list of wars throughout history and even now. Look no further than the practice of interspecies slavery that is all around you, only most people call them ‘pets’ and ‘livestock’. Look no further than businesses caring more about financial gain than the actual wellbeing of those who they are supposed to serve. Look no further than the destruction of the environment. Look no further than the agenda of the media and its impacts on the collective mind. Look no further than how hard it is once you become conscious of all of this to live in a way that does not add to suffering on this planet. It is as if the entire society is set up to perpetuate pain. The manifestations of this narcissism are all around you, creating suffering for all on a daily basis.
Lack of Awareness; Especially Self-Awareness.
Mankind is a very complex species. It is a species with undeniable intellect. However, that intellect is not coupled with awareness. Instead, it is often coupled with ignorance. Mankind lacks information and knowledge and awareness that is crucial. They especially lack awareness of themselves. Much of which is due to the human ego. This is why they can do things like create weapons, having no awareness of the actual implications of doing so. Or farm in a way that is uber productive, but that ultimately depletes the soil to the point where human health and even survival is at risk. They can do amazing things, but without seeing the impact or ripple effects of doing those things.
The human ego protects a person from seeing anything ‘bad’ about themselves, which is why almost everyone will watch this very video and agree that “people” are this way, but not see themselves as this way. It hasn’t occurred to people that if humanity is this way, individuals are this way. And that means you may be this way without realizing that you are this way. There is a great deal of hypocrisy amongst humans.
People lack awareness of what is not working and of what is a problem, often defending the problem instead. You can’t fix what you don’t realize is broken. People normalize and justify and maintain what isn’t working, succumbing to complete ignorance that it is working. If you need proof of this, look no further than the coping mechanisms that people maintain. Look no further than so much of the dysfunction in relationships. Look no further than the way people parent. Look no further than the lack of empathy and lack of change people display on account of how unaware they are of what the experience is like on the other side. Look no further than people eating what they eat today and then being confused about why they are growing increasingly more and more unhealthy. Look no further than the disease-based model of medicine. Look no further than science claiming that things of a “spiritual” nature do not actually exist on account of not being able to prove it. Look at people behaving in ways that create the very problem that they feel a victim to.
What all of this adds up to is the fact that currently, humans create pain. They create massive amounts of suffering for themselves, for each other and for other beings that are part of the system that they are a part of. And the worst part is, most people still don’t realize it. In fact, they defend the very things that are bringing about that pain in themselves and others. They defend the very things that are bringing about their own demise. And now, perhaps you understand why the focus of spiritual leaders throughout history has been what it has been.
And if a person were to disidentify with human kind enough to be able to objectively look at it from the outside, the top three strengths are the following:
Creator Nature, The Ability to Bring Forth and Actualize New Thought.
People, more so than any other species on earth, are creators. They have tapped into and become manifestations of Source’s creator nature. They can conceptualize of what does not yet exist. And they can bring it into physical manifestation. Because of this, they are truly inventive and innovative. They are endlessly creative. They have used this creator nature to compensate for their shortcomings in ways that are advantageous for them. And this creator nature makes them future oriented in such a beautiful way. People are focused on what could be and on bringing what could be into existence.
One of the best ways to conceptualize of this incredible strength is to imagine another species, say a crocodile. If you watch the species over the course of history, not much has changed in the life of the crocodile. In contrast, when you look at humans over the course of history, so much has changed in the life of a human, because of what they, themselves create. In fact, the physical human itself can hardly keep up with it. People create rich stories. They create tools and strategies. They mold the earth and everything in it to suit themselves.
It is this trait that enabled them to farm instead of to gather. To tame animals so as to ride them. To craft clothing and move into new environments on earth. To build more and more complex structures to withstand the elements and make it so that they no longer have any true predators anymore. To create art. To invent ways that despite possessing no wings, they could fly. To create ways to scientifically understand the world that they live in. And the list goes on and on.
The Individuality from which Free Will Arises and from which a Person Chooses his or her own Meaning in Life.
Many of us are familiar with the story of William Wallace that was immortalized in the movie titled: Braveheart. He was a national hero who fought for his country’s independence from England. What we see in this character is the power to exercise his free will to make a choice for what personally mattered most to him, regardless of what other people were doing and regardless of the pressure that was put on him to conform. With the power of his free will, he chose meaning for his life and it was something that mattered enough to die for.
The reality is that this character trait is inherent within all people. Some people are simply more in touch with it and exercise it more than others. The capacity for self-concept and self-awareness brings the gift of individuality. The human can powerfully exercise personal choice. And by doing so, use his or her own will, regardless of what others are doing or are not doing. Having this individuality, including this personal choice, brings with it the truth that a person chooses what has importance and meaning for themselves. This can lead a person beyond the simple cycle of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance. It can lead them to the truth that some things have more meaning than one’s own survival. And with that comes great bravery and also great power. It makes one person truly capable of greatness. It makes one person capable of changing the collective. Some of you may have heard about the concept of the hundredth monkey, when a new idea or behavior spreads to the collective. The hundredth monkey depends on this human strength.
This strength is part of what makes people so complicated. And also confusing to other species. If you look at people through the eyes of an elk for example, one person wants to hunt and kill you. Another would stare at you in awe for an hour and protect you from the other person with their own life.
There are so many examples of people who were able to positively alter their own lives and also the lives of others because of their choice and ability to think and speak and act in alignment with what was meaningful to them individually, regardless of what everyone else was doing or not doing. You could say that every great social change came about because of some person or many exercising this strength.
Curiosity… The Quest to Understand, Learn, Find the Truth, Gain Knowledge and Find Meaning.
People are so curious that it is precious. It is a strength that is as adorable as it is deeply commendable. It has been said that curiosity is the engine of achievement. And it is curiosity that has led people to the knowledge that has enabled them to bring about their various creations as well as to achieve what they have set out to achieve. Curiosity accounts for a great deal of the human intellect. This insatiable curiosity causes people to expand and expand and therefore facilitate so much universal expansion. You might be able to go so far as to say that curiosity is the essence of human existence on earth.
People don’t just exist in the universe; they strive to comprehend the universe that they live in. They want to know. They want to understand. They have a thirst for learning. And people have an innate drive to find meaning. People must find meaning in everything that is and in everything that happens. And when they cannot find it, they make up and add that meaning to the things that exist or the things that happen.
Human beings have the capacity to extract the most out of their life experience because of their curiosity and their zest for learning. The universe’s mysteries have a way of revealing themselves to the curious mind. Great learners also always end up teaching others what they have learned. In this way, the collective mind of mankind keeps growing and growing and growing. And it is truly correct, what Einstein said, that a mind that opens to a new idea, never returns to its original size.
Many of you, depending on which country you live in, “know” that Santa Clause lives in the North Pole. He is white bearded, dresses in a white fur cuffed red suit, he is chubby, jolly, friendly, gift oriented, energetic, benevolent, gentle, he does not discriminate on the basis of economic status, loves children and can’t get enough cookies. But how do you know that this is how Santa Clause is? Have you ever met him personally? Who have you adopted your idea of who he is (and thus what to expect) from? Imagine that you met him for real and he was not like this at all?
Imagine that Santa’s ability to deliver all of those presents to the children around the globe meant that he had what some people would call a type A personality. Imagine that when you met him, you realized that he was a workaholic perfectionist who rarely ever sat still because of his sense of urgency. Imagine that you discovered he was driven by achievement, impatient, reveled in competition, had a dominating attitude, demanded high quality results from his elves and lost his temper when they didn’t deliver. How would it change the way you thought and even more importantly, the way you felt about Santa? Most people would experience disillusionment. There would be a sense of let down or disappointment. Maybe you would think the real Santa is not how Santa should be. The real Santa would fall short of positive expectation because you would have discovered that he is not as good as you had imagined him to be.
What happened in this example, is the dismantling of a positive overlay. An overlay being a fantasy that we are convinced is real, but that in fact, we are projecting over the reality of someone or something else. If you want to learn more about this, watch my video titled: Overlay, What Prevents You from Having a Real Relationship.
Many years ago, I coined a phrase: Santa Clause Complex, to describe the dynamic where a person has created a positive overlay of what someone is like and what they should be like, one that they project onto and over top of what that person is really like.
When we have created and projected an idea of what someone is like, or what someone should be like, finding out the reality of what they are actually like can be a painful process of disillusionment. Similar to the experience that most of us went through when we discovered that Santa Clause did not exist, at least not in the way that we originally thought he did. That pain can also cause us to turn against the person or thing that we created an overlay about. Rather than see that it was you, yourself that created the overlay, you will have a tendency to blame the person or thing for the discrepancy between your own overlay and the reality. You will feel deceived by them. You may accuse them of being fake or a fraud. People are especially prone to doing this with people that they idolize or admire, but do not personally know.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “the higher the pedestal, the further the fall?” This phrase is actually about this very dynamic. People who put someone high up on a pedestal, are often in a relationship with their own overlay of that person. And when the person that they have put on that pedestal doesn’t conform in some way to the overlay, disillusionment occurs. Suddenly, the person that they put on a pedestal experiences a fall from grace. They are devalued, depreciated and even turned against. In fact, haters often come about as a result of this dynamic.
I’ll give you an example, Adalee had been completely taken with a pop star since hearing one of his songs on a playlist years ago. She could tell from his lyrics and interviews and the way he moved on stage and the way she saw him interact with his fans at concerts, that he was a wonderful man. He was exactly the kind of man she wanted to marry. In fact, she knew from the minute she saw him the first time that she was meant to be his wife. She knew that if she could only get into the room with him face to face, he would feel it too. She played out elaborate fantasies in her head about the romantic interludes that would absolutely ensue when that time came. When she listened to the lyrics of one of his love songs, she knew that one day he would tell her that he wrote those words for her, he just didn’t know it at the time. Adalee would confidently tell anyone that he was super conscious and conscientious, moral, full of honor, all heart, kind and generous, super spiritual, devoted and loving in relationships and everything a real man ought to be. The reality is that Adalee did not know this pop star personally. She had never met him or spent any time around him. So, she was in fact in a relationship with her own overlay about him.
One day, after many years, Adalee actually did manage to get invited backstage. This pop star was friendly, but totally out of alignment with her overlay. He did not act like she was anything special to him. Definitely not like he recognized her as his future wife. He had a lot of pretty girls backstage with him and seemed to revel in the attention he got from all of them. And on the table, she saw a syringe. She realized that they had all been doing drugs backstage. That night, Adalee’s overlay came crashing down. The lyrics in his songs were nothing like what she had experienced backstage. The interaction definitely didn’t fit in with her idea of what a good man should be like. And her dream of them together was in ruins. She slipped into an anxious depression. She decided that he was a fraud. She had dedicated years to the thought of him and their life together in the future. Because of this, she felt taken advantage of by him and misled even though they had never met. But keep in mind that Adalee still did not really know him. Instead, she simply slipped into a new overlay about him, this time, a negative one.
As a leader in the spiritual field, I experience this all the time. People have a very strict idea of what a spiritual figure should and shouldn’t be like. And people create elaborate overlays about what I am like from the hours that they watch me doing only one thing… teaching.
But you don’t have to be famous for people to build an overlay about you and fall into Santa Clause Complex when it comes to you. Santa Clause Complex doesn’t have to be about someone famous. We run the risk of falling into Santa Clause Complex whenever we create a positive overlay about anyone. The disappointment we feel when we meet someone in person vs. what we saw on their dating profile online is an example of this. Actually, the beginning of a relationship itself can be like this. We may spend weeks with someone and feel like we have found “the one” because so far, they have perfectly matched our overlay. But then, one day, the way they act does not match our overlay and we feel disillusioned and feel as if they are no longer “the one”.
We can experience this disillusionment with more than just people. We can fall into it when we create a positive overlay about anything. Any of you who have gotten really excited about a trip, only to find that the experience of it is worse than the idea of it, know what it is like for the reality of something to not live up to your own overlay.
Santa Clause Complex, really any positive overlay, is a set up for the person or thing that is the object of our positive overlay. It is an unfair set up whereby they, or it, will disappoint us, lose our favor, experience a fall from grace, be devalued and be seen as less by us. It is a set up for them to experience pain because of us.
People are prone to overlays because they are creators. They dream up what they want and then seek to bring about what they desire so that it becomes manifested. You will come to see that the contents of someone’s overlay always reflect what that person is deeply wanting.
People are also prone to overlays because we tend to form very rigid ideas of how things should be. The contents of someone’s overlay also tend to reflect that person’s idea of how something should be.
If you have a positive expectation of someone or something, chances are, you have built an overlay. The contents of this overlay represent what you want and how you think they or it should be. This means you are projecting rather than perceiving reality. Wipe the mental slate clean of expectations and intend to be open and curious instead. Question your ‘shoulds’. And remember, you can never compete with the idea that someone has about you in their own head, be it good or bad.
When you come into this physical life, you do so with an intention or many. That intention is a big reason why you incarnate into the specific set of circumstances that you call your life. For example, that set of potentials in terms of lifepaths, that astrological arrangement, that city, those parents, at that time and all of the dynamics that each of these things gives rise to. Your ‘purpose’ is in perfect alignment with this original pre-birth intention. Keep in mind that purpose may or may not be about a career you are meant to have.
We like to think that trauma is an oppositional force to purpose. That it derails a person from their purpose. And trauma absolutely can and does sometimes derail a person from their purpose. But something that is critical to understand is that trauma usually plays a huge role in shaping a person for their purpose. In fact, many beings that incarnate into trauma that derails them from their purpose, do so specifically to become lost. Because this gives rise to the desire to find themself. Which sets them on the path of self-exploration, which ultimately leads them to the experience of using their free will to choose their life according to the personal truth they find.
A person’s purpose is born of both shadow and light, both trauma and joy. As people, we love to make trauma wrong. As a result, we make anything that comes from trauma wrong. Trauma doesn’t only play a role in the dysfunctionality, weakness and problems of people. It also plays a role in the functionality, strengths and advantages of people. So, it can be said that trauma is often at the root of people’s failures. It is also often at the root of their success. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: What Is The Trauma Healing Paradox? You may also benefit by watching my video titled: Can You Hold Dichotomy? Objective thinking.
When we make anything that comes from trauma wrong, we jump to the automatic conclusion that if trauma played a role in why we are doing whatever we are doing with our lives, that it isn’t what we are meant to be doing. Essentially, if we realize that trauma plays a role regarding why we have a certain career or a certain goal or a specific need or a specific desire or a specific purpose, then we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t be doing that career or aiming for that goal or we need to heal so that we don’t have that need or desire and it isn’t our actual purpose, it’s just a coping mechanism. And when we do this, we can get things terribly wrong. We assign the wrong meaning to our realization. To understand more about this, you would benefit by watching my video titled: You Can’t Heal Yourself Out of a Desire.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone whose purpose simply comes from joy and natural talent and spontaneously generated interest. And those who say that’s all it is, have usually not explored themselves or their past deeply enough. So, it is better to accept that Trauma is an ingredient that you will find in the recipe of a person’s purpose. In fact, for some specific purposes, extreme trauma is the only thing that creates a drive strong enough to propel a person through the challenges that they must overcome to achieve their goal. Challenges that quite frankly are beyond most people’s limits and that others with less drive would say no to.
When we discover trauma at the root of what we are doing with ourselves and at the root of our goals, we must become aware that there could be big shadows inherent in what we are doing or the way we are doing it. Thus, when we discover trauma at the root of what we are doing, we must begin a process of becoming aware of that trauma and with the awareness of it, we must then decide what to do with it and how to go about healing it directly. It is in the healing of the trauma that we purify ourselves into alignment with our purpose. If we heal the trauma at the root of what we are doing, either:
We will discover that the only reason we were doing something is because of a trauma and that in the healing of that trauma, we no longer have any intrinsic motivation to do what we were doing. And we will quit. Therefore, we have a different calling all together. OR
We will heal the trauma and discover that we still have intrinsic motivation to do the thing that we were doing. We will continue, but in a different way. It will feel as if the doing of it comes from a different place inside of you, and from a different energy. You will purify yourself into a state of deeper alignment with your calling. And often, people become more successful at their given purpose as a result.
So that you can understand this on a deeper level, I have two examples for you.
Gatik is an actor. This purpose has made him lots and lots of money and granted him lots and lots of significance and attention. Gatik has recently had a crisis relative to his career. He realized that his thirst for fame began when we was a child. It was the result of growing up with parents where nothing he did was ever good enough. Parents that shamed him for needing their attention. They had their own expectations about what he should do and didn’t really care who he was. As a result, Gatik never had space to figure himself out. All he knew is that when he went into a role of someone else, he felt relief of being immersed in a different story and a different life. And he had an insatiable desire to prove himself. Acting was an obvious way for him to find this relief from the emptiness of selfhood within and from the pain of insignificance and lack of attention.
When Gatik began to unravel his past and find his own personal truths and heal to the degree that he no longer needed the relief of escaping himself and got into a relationship with friends who were supportive of him living an authentic life, he found that he had no motivation to act. In fact, he hated so many elements of the career itself. Though he was thankful for that chapter of his life, the thing he once considered to be his purpose in life, now seemed much more like a “so that”… Something he didn’t like, but that he was doing only because of the things the trauma had made him so desperate for. All that seemed to remain was a desire for attention. Intrinsically, he felt a huge passion for cooking. It was an interest that he had ever since he was a child. So, in his exploratory phase, he enrolled himself in cooking school. He found a passion for preserving and growing cultural foods, such as strains of beans that were going extinct. Some years later, he had created a cooking show to star in and opened up two restaurants. He felt truly in his purpose.
Kathy is a therapist who specializes in marriage and family therapy. Recently, she has become all too aware that the dysfunction in her own family of origin played a huge role in her decision to become a therapist. Her trauma was that she always felt super confused and afraid of all the conflict. The family dynamics created huge instability and all the gaslighting made her feel insane. Also, when her parents split up, she could not get over needing to figure out how to have been able to prevent that. When she found psychology, she found a promise of being able to figure it all out. There were methods for establishing sanity and stability. By helping people to get out of the very patterns that caused her so much pain, she felt safer in the world.
When Kathy first realized how much her own childhood pain and unsafety was playing into her decision to be a therapist in the first place, she started to doubt how “pure” her practice was. So, she took some time off to really face this element of her profession.
In this process, Kathy found that underneath that trauma was a genuine love of working through problems. And a love of the intimacy and deep conversations that she could have with people. And a deep intrinsic interest in understanding people and all the research around the human mind. She found that without her own past, she would not have anywhere near the grasp for the subject that she has. As a result, Kathy realized that her trauma had been an integral part of her purpose, which she knows in her heart is: to be a therapist. However, some things have changed. She notices when she is projecting her own need to establish safety and stability onto her clients and finds ways to meet those needs for herself directly, rather than needing them to do something specific so that she can feel stable and safe in the world. She also spends far more time on marriage therapy because she enjoys it so much. And if she gets a client that she is too personally triggered by or that she can’t figure out, she refers them to a colleague rather than getting sucked back into the old distress of feeling like she has to be the one to figure it all out herself; because if she can’t, she and they are doomed to be stuck in pain.
Kathy is even more in alignment with her purpose now. But the way that she goes about doing it is different, more in-alignment and more successful because of it.
Seeing as how trauma is an integral part of purpose, make a conscious decision with your own free will about what to do with it. When it comes to trauma and to resolving and healing your trauma, scrap what isn’t working for you. Let go of what is detrimental or at odds with what you really want. And powerfully own what is working for you and what is beneficial and what is bringing you to what you really want.
The way to go about it when you find the trauma that is at the root of what you are doing, is to focus on healing it. Don’t tell yourself that it automatically means you shouldn’t be doing whatever it is that you are doing. Instead, get open and get curious. No matter what direction this process takes you, it will be towards something that feels better to you. The process of doing so will in and of itself make you aware of what you are not yet aware of. It will force you to separate out what is and isn’t ultimately in alignment for you. It will reveal to you if you are meant to go in a different direction and towards a different purpose all together. Or if your purpose is what you are already doing and therefore, if instead, it will take on a different form and come from a different place within you. And will in fact deepen as a result of this process.
Let’s not beat around the bush, making a decision can be really hard. This is especially true when the stakes are high. This is also especially true if you struggle with indecision in general. When we are facing a decision, we really want to make the right decision and we are really afraid of making the wrong decision. Afterall, there are negative and positive consequences for any decision that we make. But what most people don’t know is that the key to making the right decision is to make the decision specifically according to your values and more importantly, according to how you prioritize those values.
A value is what you consider from your honest, authentic core to be most important. For so many people, there is an inconsistency between what they value doing and what they are actually doing. The reason this does not work is because satisfaction with our own life can only happen when the things we do and the way we behave in the world towards others and towards ourselves match our values. And at the end of the day, we need to be able to powerfully prioritize our top value.
If you are currently struggling with a decision and would like additional information related to this topic, you would benefit by watching three of my videos. The first is: The Secret to A Happy Life. The Second is: Indecision (Decisions and Indecisiveness). And the third is: Why You Should Consciously Choose Consequences.
But today, I’m going to share with you a priceless exercise that will help you to make the right decision. To do this exercise, you are going to take whatever situation you are in and figure out what making any of the choices involved in the situation would give you. It’s best if you come up with at least five things per choice.
When you do this exercise, you will find that the things that each choice would give you are essentially values. So, by doing this exercise, you are becoming aware of what values you would be in alignment with and what values you would be making a decision for in any choice.
For example: Imagine that a person has been invited to go on a vacation with friends and that they are having a really hard time deciding whether to go or to stay. This person would create one column for the values that they would be in alignment with (or get out of) going on the vacation. Then this person would create another column for the values that they would be in alignment with (or get out of) staying. It might look something like this:
Going on Vacation Staying Home
From there, you are going to arrange all of these values in order of priority… Most important to least.
For example, when the person in our example arranges these values in order of absolute priority. It might look something like this:
Make the choice that is most in alignment with the highest value you selected! Doing so is currently the best choice for you.
Using our example, based off of how this person arranged their values, it is clear that they would be more in alignment with their top values by choosing to go on the vacation with friends. And so, this is the decision that they should make.
This exercise is an epic one for literally any decision you may be facing. It is especially useful if you have exhausted all of your options for trying to find a third option or a choice that does not require you to choose between two or more of your top values. These are situations where you are most likely facing a really hard choice.
When you do this exercise, and you make your decision based off of your top value, you are making your decision based off of what is most important to you. Doing so makes it so that whatever you decide to do has worth, is beneficial to you and has meaning to you. And that will help you to handle any of the consequences that come with that decision. You will be making the decision that is truly right for you.
Success is the accomplishment of an aim or of a purpose. It sounds simple enough as is. If someone’s aim is to get a college degree and they get a college degree, we can say that they have succeeded. If someone’s purpose for writing a letter was for the other person to feel loved and the other person actually felt loved by reading the letter, we can say that they have succeeded. But we need to simplify the idea of success even further by looking at a more objective, universal perspective. The reason for this is that we may accomplish an aim or purpose that we don’t truly want.
Let me explain. A person may not actually want a specific job, but they may apply for it and set it as an aim anyway. If this is the case, they may succeed in getting that job. But doing so will do very little for their wellbeing or for their personal sense of accomplishment. To simplify it further, from an objective, universal perspective, to succeed is to achieve what one wants.
And this is why no one can actually agree upon what is and what isn’t a success. No one can agree upon the picture of success. And this is because 1. People disagree about what aim or purpose is good and right. And 2. Not everyone wants the same thing because people have different values, needs and desires.
For example, many people in the western world feel that having a mansion and a penthouse and multiple businesses and 5 luxury cars and a closet full of designer clothes and constantly traveling on your private jet means that a person is experiencing success. However, if you were Amish, you wouldn’t think so. You would believe that living a modest and simple life is good and right. Therefore, your picture of success might look like a simple home with no electricity, home cooked meals, a horse and buggy, spending quality time with family, friends and community and enjoying the natural world.
Or for example, one person might really want and value quality leisure time. They would see success as someone being able to have lots of enjoyable, zero pressure “down” time. And another might really want and value achievements. They would see success as someone who is proactive and busy so as to produce and to rack up awards and reach goals.
A person’s picture of success changes over the course of their life. It changes because desires change and perspectives change and beliefs change. Never the less, we love to think that other people should have the same estimation of “right” and “good” that we do, want the same things as we do and have the same values as we do. Therefore, we think our own picture of success is superior and therefore, everyone else should have the same picture of success. When they don’t, we tend to feel superior to them and try to convert them to our picture of success.
For humanity to progress, we need to be able to recognize all forms of success rather than minimizing or negating some while exalting and revering others. Regardless of whether or not we, specifically want that aim or purpose and therefore type of success. Imagine a world where you have two people. One is a thespian who is usually short on cash and who moves to whatever city has a part in a show to offer. One is a lawyer with tons of money to burn and who will not take any real risks in life. It is obvious that these two people have different desires and values. Their picture of the success they want is different. But imagine that the lawyer can genuinely recognize the thespian’s ability to tell stories and confidence in front of a crowd and dedication to ruthlessly following their passion as success. And the thespian can genuinely recognize the financial security that the lawyer has built up and the business they have built up and the legal knowledge they have attained as success.
When we say “I can’t recognize that person as a success” what we really mean is “that person has not achieved anything that I want and that I value”. This being said, it is especially hard to recognize something as success when it is obvious that the way that someone goes about attaining what they want harms someone or something else. In which case, we could say that this person has succeeded at their aim or purpose, but has not succeeded at harmony or at creating safe relationships or at creating system health or at enhancing the wellbeing of the other. But this is not going to matter much to a person unless what they want is safe relationship and harmony and system health and the well-being of the other. And what we are left with is being desperate for them to want that, so as to treat it like an aim and incorporate it into their picture of success.
Now that this has been said, and you understand how many forms of success there can be and how individualized the picture of success is, it is important to know something else. For people to accomplish something together (to succeed together) they have to agree upon the picture of success. If they do not, it is inevitable that at some point, their values and desires will clash. As anyone who has been part of a team can tell you, it is a huge issue on a team when everyone’s picture of success is different.
One’s picture of success is a big element of compatibility in relationships. Also, people may share the same values, but in what order? Life has a way of ensuring that our values will be tested against each other. When this is the case, we may need to prioritize between two or more of our top values. And if someone else that we are trying to accomplish something with would prioritize those same values in a different order, it is a guarantee that they will not agree with the decisions and actions we take and vice versa. Suddenly, their values and our values will be juxtaposed. This is a recipe for conflict.
So that you can understand this, I’ve got an example for you. Max and Richard own a business in healthcare for seniors together. Both of them love financial success and both of them really care about helping people that need care. So, starting a business in healthcare was the best of both worlds. A few years back, their company got sued. As a result, they needed to make enough money to afford the court case. This situation caused both of their top values to be tested against one another. Max decided that because his top value in life is financial security, money was the bigger value and therefore, should be the priority. Meanwhile, Richard has always had family money. He decided that helping people who need care, regardless of money should matter most. Both simply assumed the other was on the same page instead of directly communicating.
Suddenly, they were disagreeing on everything. Max wanted to sever relationships with insurance companies that were difficult to get pay outs from and discontinue some of the programs they had for seniors on low incomes and consider merger deals with much larger competitive companies. Richard wanted to bleed their accounts dry for the court case and even do fundraisers if necessary so they could continue business as they had always done; especially their programs for seniors on low incomes. You may look at this conflict and immediately jump to the conclusion that Richard is the better and more moral person in the situation. But even the accountants agreed that Richard’s course of action could put them out of business altogether, meaning that not only would Max and Richard personally suffer, every last one of the seniors under their care would no longer have care and would have to start over from scratch with a new provider. The point of this entire story has nothing to do with morality. What it is about is values and a picture of success and whether two people’s values and picture of success are compatible, especially when situations arise that force people to prioritize.
When you are trying to establish compatibility so as to achieve anything with someone else, whether that is a good relationship or a business goal, it is important to make sure that you are on the same page with them about the picture of success and also, should the need arise, the prioritization of values.
Long story short, success is to achieve what one wants. We could argue all day over whether someone is or isn’t a success based off of whether they have or haven’t achieved what we value and want. If I were to give you my picture and therefore definition of success, it would be about what I want. Even the universe’s more objective picture of success is about what the collective universe wants. But to make it more grounded, if someone wants to be traveling the world, traveling the world is successful to them. If someone wants a millionaire lifestyle, a millionaire lifestyle is successful to them. If someone wants to be awakened, being awakened is successful to them. If someone wants a close family, having a close family is successful to them. And our picture of success will evolve over our lifetime as our needs and perspective changes. The most important question is: Is this way that I am thinking, are these decisions that I am making and are these actions that I am taking actually helping me to achieve what I really want?
To be completely honest with you, most of us are still operating from an oversimplified, primitive mentality regarding the Universe that we live in. Part of this primitive mentality is that we expect the Universe at large (or that which many people call Source or God) to be all knowing and able to control everything that happens; as if all of us were just chess pieces being played in the name of some greater plan that has already been decided upon.
If you think about it, the relationship we have with the universe is rather like the relationship we have with our parents when we are three. And growing up to find out that the truth of our parents is different is scary for many reasons. The same can be said about finding out that the truth of the Universe is different than we thought.
When we imagine that the universe can control everything that happens or doesn’t happen, we imagine that if the Universe loved us and wanted the best for us, it would sense our desires and simply make them happen for us. And that similar to our parents, if it doesn’t, it means that we have displeased the Universe and are being punished in some way.
Essentially for the sake of today’s conversation, I need you to recognize in yourself the expectation that if you have experienced something unwanted and therefore, you have a desire for the opposite experience, the Universe can and will bring that opposite, wanted experience to you. This is especially true for things we, ourselves feel powerless to bringing about. For example, if you have experienced people betraying you, you may think that the Universe can and should simply bring people to you who will never betray you. Or if you experienced failure, the universe can and should bring you success. Or if you experienced being taken for granted, the Universe can and should bring you a life where instead, you are deeply valued and appreciated.
Because of this expectation, we become very upset when instead of finding ourselves in the opposite, wanted experience, we find ourselves in yet another repeat of the painful, unwanted experience. And guess what? Each and every one of us will find ourself in repeat situations. This is especially painful when those situations were unwanted in the first place and therefore, we desire to never experience them again. This happens because of the nature of the law of mirroring, which is one of the principal laws governing this time-space reality that we call life, and also due to the nature of expansion.
This is not happening because you are bad and wrong and are therefore being punished. It’s not happening because this Universe (What so many call God or Source) could make something different happen, but simply isn’t for some reason. It is happening because you are a fragment of the Universe and that means, you have free will. You are a creator, whether you are a conscious creator or an unconscious creator. And if you have any way of thinking or behaving that feeds into creating the unwanted experience in any way, that way of thinking or behaving has to be changed for the unwanted experience not to happen.
It is easy to see this concept with other people. Imagine that a person wants a relationship, but they withdraw from a partner every time they get close to them. This behavior will keep feeding into the creation of the failure of their relationships. The Universe cannot control them into being intimate and close and not withdrawing. It also cannot create a relationship for them without them changing because there is no real relationship if one party in the relationship refuses intimacy. And that is not what this person really wants. What the universe can do is to be in a relationship with them. To the degree that it lends its energy (which is massive) to them getting what they want. To their expansion. This means helping them to become self-aware so as to change patterns that are not serving them so that they can align with their desires. At the same time as helping to align them with the people, places, circumstances and things that are a match to what they are wanting. Therefore, using our previous example, this person who keeps withdrawing in relationships has to recognize their own behavior and choose to change it with their own free will in order to be a match to the relationship they want.
I have said before that to heal is to experience the opposite. Therefore, it is tempting to think that the most healing thing is to simply BE in the opposite experience. But sometimes the most healing thing is to be in a repeat of the original experience, and to see a different perspective, make a different choice and/or take a different action.
When we have a pattern… a way of thinking or behaving that lends its energy to creating what we don’t want, it is likely that we will find ourselves in a repeat. A variation of the same situation all over again. And that it is not meant to re-traumatize us. Instead, it is a huge healing opportunity. And the most healing thing is to become more aware and by doing so, to change a pattern, a way of thinking or behaving that is in fact lending to the creation and therefore repeat of that very unwanted experience. And that getting to the healed state (the opposite, wanted experience) is contingent upon US changing that way of thinking or behaving. So, we could say that the way we are thinking and behaving is lending its energy to the re-creation of that unwanted experience. AND at the same time, the most healing opportunity could very well be the repeat of that experience.
So that you can understand this better, I’ll give you an example. Jane grew up in a dysfunctional family dynamic with non-religious parents in a southern Baptist community. Jane was not only made the scapegoat of her family; she was also made the scapegoat of the community. She longs to be a part of a close-knit group of people who see her goodness and take responsibility for their own insecurities. We could say that for Jane, such a group would be the healing experience. But what if I told you that it would be vibrationally impossible to bring Jane into that experience because of the way that she thinks and behaves. And what if I told you that if it was possible to simply give Jane that experience, despite the way that she thinks and behaves in relationships, that it wouldn’t be the best thing for her. There would be zero free will, conscious creation and personal empowerment in it. Therefore, Jane finds herself in a nightmarish repeat of her childhood scenario.
Jane formed a very close-knit group of friends who all decided to live together in an artist’s colony. One of the other women in the colony, Beth is very intimidated by Jane. She feels Jane is a superior artist. She hates the way that her boyfriend acts around Jane. As a result, Beth started to see Jane as a threat. Because of this, she began to triangulate the other members of the colony against Jane. It worked. It worked because one member of the Colony knew that Beth has been there in the colony longer than anyone and so, not aligning with Beth created insecurity around their living situation. It worked with another because they had a huge insecurity around sexual infidelity. This person’s own parents were torn apart by infidelity and Beth chose to triangulate against Jane by suggesting that Jane was trying to seduce her boyfriend away from her. And so on and so forth. Each member of the community had an insecurity that they did not take any personal responsibility for. Instead, they simply decided to preserve the image of their commune being wonderful, except for Jane. And soon, Jane’s character was under attack. It was a repeat of the situation in her childhood.
Without going too far into the process she went through to get there, Jane realized that her pattern that fed into the creation of becoming the scapegoat is a totally dysfunctional relationship with pressure. She realized that whenever she finds herself in a situation where someone tries to put pressure on her for something that isn’t her responsibility, she has no boundaries around it and she just takes the pressure and takes the pressure, which means taking responsibility for things that are not hers. Of course, she is a magnet for people who don’t want any responsibility for themselves or others. And once a person learns she will do this, they eventually make her responsible for everything in their life. And if she refuses to take it, she is immediately made the bad guy and the consequences of the responsibility being dropped come down on her.
For just one example, it is the responsibility of her roommate Jess to come up with her own rent. Chronically, each month, Jess is short on rent. Jess cries about it and Jane takes the pressure to make up the extra rent. The reason being that if she doesn’t, no one else will and they, not just Jess, will get in trouble with the landlord and possibly be kicked out. Jess loves to use this consequence as leverage for getting Jane to pay for her.
Jane realized that she takes pressure for others chronically because this is what was expected when she was a child and this is what it is to be a scapegoat. When the Baptist community treated her poorly, her father didn’t defend her, he made it her responsibility to try to not take it personally. When her mother made her the problem in the family so that she could avoid facing the fact that she was unhappy in the life that she had chosen and changing something, Jane actually took the pressure and tried to act in a way that pleased her mother. When they expected Jane to caretake her younger brother, Jane took that pressure and resentfully watched him as if he was her son every day after school.
Jane realized that she was in a repeat situation so, she must do something different this time than she did the first time, and that if she succeeded, it would be a healing experience. Jane decided to not take the pressure and for the first time, to put the pressure back where it belonged. So, after really deeply looking at her actions to make sure that nothing she was doing was actually something she should not be doing. As well as sorting through what actually was her responsibility and what wasn’t, she set a firm boundary with Beth. She had a conversation with her about how she has to face her insecurities relative to her own art and her own looks and her own relationship with her boyfriend. She told her that if she fears that someone can threaten the relationship, who she really distrusts, is her boyfriend. And Jane set the boundary that beyond ensuring Beth that she will never cheat with him, she would no longer be made responsible for keeping their relationship secure, that was their job.
Despite the relatively amicable nature of the talk itself, Beth was still subconsciously benefitting too much from Jane being the bad guy and not facing her insecurities, so this only escalated her tactics. Beth decided that she would threaten to move out of the community and convinced another roommate to go with her. Normally, Jane would have taken the pressure and been so intent on avoiding all the consequences of that happening that she would have taken responsibility for doing whatever it takes to make Beth de-escalate and feel good to be in the house again and to come across as good to the other roommate. Instead, she said “Ok. That’s really sad, I wish you wouldn’t go, but I can see if your insecurities are just too big to be in the house with me, then leaving might just be the best option.” Beth was flabbergasted and furious. She and the other roommate packed their stuff into a car and left that night in the middle of the night.
That same week, she also told Jess she couldn’t pay for her rent and after only one month of someone else having to pay for her so as to not get kicked out of the place, the rest of the community asked her to leave to make room for another person who would make the rent. Long story short, they couldn’t find enough artists to move in to come up with rent. But everyone agreed that it was not Jane’s fault that they didn’t take responsibility to do so. And so, all the remaining roommates got evicted from their little artist commune. The thing is, Jane felt like the consequence, which was very painful, was still worth it. She could see how unhealthy the responsibility dynamics were. And she felt better because she was not under as much pressure and could see how to avoid being a magnet for irresponsible people and how she could avoid getting into a dynamic where she would run the risk of being scapegoated again. She wasn’t stuck in a social system where she was the scapegoat anymore. She also didn’t run away from that social system only to end up the scapegoat all over again in a new one. Her new healing practice was: Only taking pressure and responsibility that was actually hers to take and outside of that, only taking pressure and responsibility that she actually wanted.
When we find ourself in repeat situations, we immediately think “this shouldn’t be happening”. And why wouldn’t we think that? It isn’t what we want. It’s the opposite of what we want. But from a more objective perspective, we haven’t gone backwards. And it is what should be happening. We have re-manifested/been put in a healing experience where the healing thing (whether we recognize it or not) is to change the thoughts, behaviors, habits and actions that make us a match to and bring about that unwanted thing in the first place. We are meant to learn what it takes to lend our energy to the creation of the opposite, wanted thing. And to employ our free will to change those detrimental patterns so that the next step is to actualize whatever it is that we are truly wanting.
In today’s world, you probably have heard a lot and probably will hear a lot from other people about the importance of work-life balance. But is it really necessary?
The idea of work life balance is the idea that it is only possible to have a healthy lifestyle if you separate your work from the other elements of your life, such as your personal life. And after doing so, seek to establish a state of equilibrium where you equally prioritize the demands of your career and the other elements of your life.
Right off the bat, there is a problem with the philosophy of work-life balance that is easily visible in the term itself. It suggests that your work is separate from and not part of truly living. That truly living is everything else outside of work. It suggests that living is the time you spend with loved ones, your home, your hobbies, the vacations you take etc.
If we look back over the course of history, there are too many reasons to list for why a person in any era decided to take a specific job or perform a specific task; not because they felt intrinsic motivation to do it, but because it was a “so that”. It got them something else they valued. Over the course of history as society evolved and experienced so many changes and different revolutions, societal needs and values changed. And with it, so did the lifestyle of its citizens. This was especially true when the whole of human society began to operate on the exchange of money. This was especially true when religions began to govern how people should live. This is also especially true in countries where societal evolution meant beginning to view a citizen as a part of a machine.
In the life philosophy of these industrialized societies, one’s profession was divorced from one’s talents, values, intrinsic motivation and passion. Instead, it became the societal norm that you have to work (even if it is a job you don’t like) so that with the rest of your time, you can have money to have a home and personal life and have what you really love and do what you are really passionate about. In these countries, the idea of work-life balance originated as a key element of health. The main reasons that it was seen as a key element of health is that 1. It didn’t take much time to realize that if all a person’s time in a day is spent meeting the demands of a job that they don’t like, they will very quickly become depressed and their wellbeing will decline. And 2. These societies were set-up on the structure of a nuclear family. And if a person’s work is separate from their family and yet they work all the time and don’t have any time to dedicate to their family, the family falls apart. This spells instability of the societal structure. So, the short-sighted solution that arose was the idea of work-life balance.
We need to throw the idea of work-life balance out the window. It is an outdated concept that represents nothing more than a symptom fix. And it instills the wrong mentality in people’s minds about work. As a replacement for the idea of work-life balance, we need to focus on what any specific individual person needs to achieve a state of health and wellbeing. And this means there will be a TON of variability regarding how they manage their time, how they organize their life and how much energy and time they put into what in their life. People need to customize their life.
Regarding the place that work fits into someone’s overall life, I want you to think of a scale. On either side of this scale, we have an unhealthy extreme. On one side, you have someone who has complete resistance to work and who believes that work is not life and who refuses to get a job or work because of it. On the other side, you have a workaholic. A person who spends all their time working as a coping mechanism and as a method of avoiding other elements of life. Everyone falls somewhere on this scale. For example, one person may do a job they hate only so that they can have money to have the basic necessities of life. Another person may not work for a livelihood because their livelihood is provided, so the only work they do is intrinsically motivated and for pleasure. Another may do a job they like and are intrinsically motivated to do some of the time, but they make sure to limit the time and effort they spend on it because of their other priorities. Another person may feel such deep purpose and meaning in their work that the vast majority of their time is dedicated to it and all the other elements of their life are integrated into it and organized around it. Keep in mind that where a person currently falls on the scale may not actually be the right place for them on the scale.
The vast majority of people who believe in the importance of work-life balance are coming from the paradigm on this scale that either: Work is only a thing you do so that you can do the other stuff, which to them feels like really living. Or work should be something you like, but you need to prioritize other things equally to or more than work. And they are arguing for work-life balance so as to defend the rightness of their place on the scale as well as to project what they think is right for them onto other people. Keep in mind that the place that is right for someone to fall on this scale is a big factor when it comes to compatibility in relationships.
The way to know if someone has arranged their life correctly for themselves with regards to how much time and energy they dedicate to what in their life, is that they will be thriving. Their life will feel good. If a person is feeling distressed because of how much time and energy they are putting into their career, that is your indication that more time and energy needs to be put into something else, such as leisure time. If a person is experiencing conflict in their relationships because they are so focused on their career and their partner or friends want them to prioritize quality time together, it is time for a re-evaluation. This indicates that a person needs to re-assess their own priorities. This could mean that an adjustment towards decreasing focus on work and increasing it on something like leisurely social interaction would lead to greater life satisfaction. Or it could mean that there is incompatibility between the two people regarding values and lifestyle choices.
The concept of work-life balance tends to cause people to globalize about what is right for all people and by doing so, to lose sight of how individually customized life must be for people to experience satisfaction. I’ve got three examples for you to help illustrate this. The first example is Joe. Joe is a doctor who is passionate about solving endemic diseases. He is currently working for doctors without borders as well as a few other humanitarian groups. He finds so much meaning and purpose in his work that it is his absolute priority. As a result, anyone who enters into a romantic relationship with him cannot rely on him staying in whatever city or country he is currently in because he may be transferred. And they can’t rely on him to not cancel on things he has agreed to being present to, because he is always on-call. For Joe, his work is his life because for him, it is the most important thing in his life.
For joe, the other elements of Joe’s life and his other needs have to be organized around his work. And we need to seek to customize his relationships to his work. He needs to seek compatibility with a woman who shares Joe’s values and who can support his career. For example, this woman might be someone who is very independent and thrives on having her own time away from a partner. Or this woman might be someone who wants to sign up to do this work with him, so that she can derive her own sense of purpose and togetherness from supporting Joe’s purpose and being together in the cause. In this case, she would go wherever Joe is stationed and lend her energy towards supporting Joe so that he can help people.
If we approach Joe with the idea that Work-Life balance is important, we would make the mistake of encouraging him to reduce his work and by doing so, take him away from his purpose, his meaning, his passion, his motivations and his values. We will also lead him into an incompatible relationship with a woman who has other values and wants him to cut back on work to be with her doing other things… A relationship where the best he can hope for is mutual compromise. And Joe will feel miserable in his life because of it.
The next example is Gabe. Gabe is feeling really insecure about the fact that despite incredible pressure to do so, he feels no drive to get a career or to settle down with a wife and kids. Nothing about the traditional life suits him. He feels passionate and lit up inside and motivated to learn new languages and to explore new cultures and places. He is an explorer and a traveler at heart. In fact, this is his reason for being in this life. His life-purpose if you will. People often look at Gabe as immature. They put pressure on him to settle down and find a career. They talk about the importance of work-life balance. Although they don’t mean to suggest that Gabe should cut back on work. He doesn’t really have a career. He simply takes a temporary job in a location to make a bit of living money and then goes onto his next location. Instead, what they mean to suggest is that they think that Gabe will only be fulfilled if he gets something productive and permanent to do for work and gets serious in his work building a family and reduces his level of ‘play’ around the world. But this is actually wrong for Gabe. Gabe was never meant to live a traditional life and Gabe is actually meant to make his life about traveling and exploring. If Gabe is honest, he does not really need predictable financial security. Part of the excitement that causes him to feel alive is trying out so many different things and experiencing so many different lifestyles through the opportunities he comes across for work around the world. Gabe should not try to find a relationship with a person who wants a traditional life. And the concept of work-life balance does not even apply to him and his life purpose.
Lauren is a human resources administrator. She also has a partner and two kids and three dogs and a mortgage and friends and extended relatives that she cares about. Lauren is living what we might call (in today’s world) a more traditional life within society. Lauren is currently distressed because it seems that by working eight hours a day, five days a week, the demands of her work and the demands of her personal life are in competition with one another. She is experiencing burnout. If Lauren were honest, she likes to do her job. She likes the security of the pay. She likes the tasks she performs. She likes her colleagues. But her work is consuming so much of her mental energy and time that she doesn’t feel she has enough to dedicate to the people in her personal life that she cares about. She is thinking about work even when she is at home. She doesn’t care so much about her work that this feels good. She really wants to be present and have energy to be a good partner and mother and friend. If we take the traditional approach to Work-Life balance, we may encourage Lauren to cut back on her work hours and work part time. Or if she can’t, to learn techniques to leave work at work when she goes home. However, what Lauren really needs is not balance. What she needs is the flexibility to be able to organize the many priorities in her life so that she is satisfied with her ability to give enough and to resource enough from each one of these priorities throughout the week. The actual solution to this conundrum is for Lauren to be able to telecommute. She is a self-disciplined person whose issues would easily be solved by working from home, even if that were only on certain days of the week. If she had control over what hours of the day she was working, she could organize her work around her personal life rather than organize her personal life around her work. And as a result, she would thrive.
Humanity is out of alignment with work. Work being an activity or task involving mental or physical effort that is done in order to achieve a purpose or result. Sit with that definition of work for a moment. It is as much work when someone plays a game of tennis as it is when someone pours concrete for the foundation of a house. A person may or may not engage in a specific activity or task regularly in order to establish a livelihood. A person may or may not be in alignment with their values when they engage in an activity or carry out a task. A person may or may not enjoy that activity or task and therefore may or may not enjoy expending the effort inherent in it. A person may or may not do an activity or task because it is meaningful or purposeful. But it is the meaning, purpose, value and level of enjoyment that a person finds in carrying out a task or doing an activity that dictates whether someone is in alignment with what they are doing. Therefore it is the meaning, purpose, value and level of enjoyment that a person finds in carrying out a task or doing an activity that dictates whether a person is happy doing what they are doing.
Where the progression and expansion of humanity is headed, is towards each person’s purpose for being and place in society, being dictated by what their intrinsic talents, interests, motivations, values, and enjoyments are. When this happens, every person’s work will be purposeful and meaningful. Work will become play. Only one person’s play will look very different from another person’s play. One person’s play and therefore work may be cleaning things. Another’s may be designing rockets. Another’s may be caretaking children. And someone’s work may or may not be something that they do in exchange for money.
Not every person’s purpose for being is about a “career” they are meant to have. But some people’s purpose for being definitely is. On top of this, the amount of time and energy that a person dedicates to one thing vs. another will be customized. This means for example that for one person it will be right for them to dedicate 80 hours a week to their career and the remaining time to sleep and spending quality time with a loved one. For another, spending the majority of their time connecting with people and only some time on other things will be right for them. For another, their life might look a lot more like the “balance” that we traditionally associate with work-life balance. And each person’s relationships will look different based on what life element prioritization is right for them specifically. There is no cookie cutter approach to human happiness. This includes how much time, focus, energy and effort is dedicated to a person’s career vs. the other elements of their life. How to know whether the prioritization, time and energy someone dedicates towards the different elements of their life is right for them is that the person will like their life and they will be thriving.
Polarity is an integral element of life. Contrast is a reality in this universe. This means that both positive and negative co-exist. Both positive and negative are inherent to reality. To have a full picture of reality, one must be able to recognize both in anything. But the ability to recognize both the positive and the negative in anything is, for lack of a better way of explaining it, an unbiased, impartial, objective skill. We get into trouble when we become bias towards either aspect of reality.
People become heavily bias towards the negative or the positive. They lose their objectivity and their perspective becomes subjective. They start to manipulate their perception of reality in whatever way serves them. For example, a person will start to ignore positive elements and only notice negative ones if they have been traumatized by disappointment enough to decide to never get their hopes up again, and keep themselves expecting the worst; so as to not be let down ever again. Or for example, if a person does not trust in their ability to feel negative emotion without experiencing huge consequences or trust in their power to see a negative and do something proactive to exact change upon it, a person will start to re-frame every negative they see into something positive instead.
Metaphorically speaking, we can get into trouble when we only wear rosy colored glasses through which to view reality and we can get in trouble when we only wear dark glasses through which to view reality. And today, we are going to talk about one dysfunctional behavior that is rampant within human society and that occurs when we slip into a bias towards the positive polarity inherent within reality… Negating negatives with positives, which is a form of toxic positivity.
When we negate negatives with positives, what we are actually trying to do is to make the negative thing un-real. We are trying to convince ourselves or other people that it does not exist. We are nullifying it, abolishing it and making it either un-true or less true. It is a form of denial. It is a direct and deliberate invalidation of the negative thing. We do this because we feel we cannot handle it being valid, true or real. Because the behavior of negating negatives with positives belongs to the coping mechanism of denial, you would benefit by also watching my video titled: How to Call Bullshit on Denial.
So that you can understand this behavior better, I’ll give you an example. Amy was ecstatic to find out that she was pregnant. But at three months along, she suffered a miscarriage. Amy was absolutely devastated. So much so that she became depressed and developed serious anxiety attacks. Amy’s heart was broken, so was her faith in the future that she wanted. A few of the people in Amy’s life did not know how to deal with their own painful emotions and thoughts that crept up when that happened. As a result, they did not know how to hold any space for Amy’s painful thoughts and emotions. And so, the coping mechanism they reached for and encouraged Amy to reach for was negating the negatives with positives. They wanted to make the negative invalid so they did not have to deal with it. They said things like: “Now you have an angel looking out over you”. “At least it was early and you didn’t get to know your baby”. “You got pregnant and so you know you can always get pregnant again”. “If it happened, it was probably for the best, there must have been something wrong”. “Well, the upside is that you and your husband can focus on each other and do some more traveling in the meantime, there won’t be space for that when there is an actual baby in the home.” Needless to say, these perspectives only compounded Amy’s trauma. As a result, she felt totally not understood, isolated and alone with her pain and made wrong for her perception of the experience, therefore she started questioning her own sanity.
There are several dangers inherent in negating negatives with positives. I’m going to list some of them for you.
When you negate a negative with the positive, you are actively stepping out of reality. You’re trying to cancel out the negative element of reality, so that you can convince yourself that it doesn’t really exist and you can feel better because you are in an illusion that the positive is the only thing that is real. Reality is actually your only axis for power. This means any action you take is not one that is exacted upon what is real. It will not lead to the intended results. Therefore, you have rendered yourself not only out of reality, but also powerless. This can get you into some real trouble. To understand this, I’ve got a real-life example for you.
Jen was a single mother who really needed a partner. She met Nicholas and got attached to him quickly. They started living together after a few months of dating. Jen started seeing a lot of red flags and negatives about Nicholas. For example, Nicholas definitely fostered an emotional dependency in her. He seemed intent on convincing her that no one in her life actually knew, valued or cared about her and that to the opposite, he was the only one who did. Nicholas had no friends his own age whatsoever and whenever they would go to a social gathering together, he would not engage in adult conversation with her, instead he would seek out the company of whatever children were there and she would find him wresting with them and tickling them. Often, Nicholas would get up in the middle of the night and make any number of excuses as to why he needed to do something other than stay with her in bed for a bit. She couldn’t shake the feeling that he had some kind of double life. Nicholas was unexplainably nervous about police officers and if there was ever a police car parked somewhere that he made plans, he would immediately change plans and keep driving. Sometimes Jen felt that Nicholas was more interested in her daughter than he was in her. He would often suggest that Jen should go on vacation or go to the gym and let him do her the favor of watching her daughter. He was always offering to spend time with her and to drive her to ballet practice. Often, because of this, Jen felt left out of their little “club”. Well, as it turns out, Nicholas was a child sex offender who had established an incestuous relationship with Jen’s daughter about one month into them living together.
The problem is, Jen uses positivity as a coping mechanism. And she especially employs the technique of negating negatives with positives. So, with every negative, she had a way to negate it. She told herself he cared so much about her that he was so afraid of losing her that he felt threatened by her being close to other people. She told herself that it is amazing that he is so good with children, that it was a sign that he was young at heart and was repelled by the impurity and pretense in adults. She told herself that the good thing is that she found a man that is so interested in her daughter and so willing to step up and be an integral part of her life too, unlike other men. She refused to get up when he got up at night to snoop on him. Instead, she told herself that some people are night owls and being up at night is integral to their creativity and that her ticket to being a good partner by loving him the way he is, is to allow him the space to be that way. She told herself that Nicholas’s avoidance of the police was proof that he was being protective because as we all know, there is so much corruption in the police force, they are simply legally supported criminals. Jen put herself out of reality and into an illusion that felt good to her. Unfortunately, by being out of reality, she could not act upon reality and therefore, she failed to keep her daughter safe in such an extreme way that neither of their lives will ever be the same. You cannot make the right choices or do the right thing in any situation if you are not willing to see the full picture of reality, including the negative elements of reality.
When you negate the negatives with the positives, you run the risk of mentally and emotionally abusing yourself. You gaslight yourself when you invalidate the part of you that sees a negative reality. It is to suggest to that aspect of yourself that what you see, you didn’t see, what you feel, you have no good reason to feel and that you should doubt your estimation of reality. You emotionally invalidate yourself when you do this. You dismiss and reject your painful feelings and thoughts. This is to send the message that those thoughts and feelings are unimportant, unacceptable, inaccurate, insignificant, irrational and not real. When you do this to yourself, this is how you are making a part of yourself (or many parts of yourself) feel. When you invalidate the part of you that sees the negative or that is in pain because of it, you are refusing to see, hear, feel or acknowledge it. Therefore, you are condemning it not only to isolation. But to being alone and in pain. It makes you doubt your own sanity and feel like you are going crazy, which will make you afraid of yourself. It also denies you the authentic support you need in order to deal with what you are facing.
When you negate the negatives with the positives, you run the risk of mentally and emotionally abusing other people. You run the risk of gaslighting them, making them feel like something is wrong with them for what they think and feel, dismissing and rejecting them, making them feel like what they think and feel is unimportant, unacceptable, insignificant, inaccurate, irrational and not real and condemning them to being not only alone, but in pain alone. It makes them doubt their sanity and feel like they are going crazy, which makes people afraid of themselves. It denies them the authentic support they need in order to deal with what they are facing.
When you negate the negative with the positive, you are in a coping mechanism. To cope with something is by definition to make a specific alteration mentally, emotionally or physically so that you can manage or adapt to something that is causing you stress. By definition, we only cope with a situation when we perceive that we cannot change or eradicate it. But the thing is, we often cope with something that we can change or can eradicate. And so, when we negate the negative with the positive, we are often keeping ourselves in detrimental situations unnecessarily and failing to change things we should change. We have succumb to false powerlessness, albeit disguised with a positive façade. Metaphorically speaking, instead of realizing we are in jail and getting out of the jail, we are making ourselves ok with being in jail by convincing ourselves that it isn’t jail. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: How To Let go of a Coping Mechanism.
When you negate the negative with the positive, you are in a state of avoidance and resistance. You are misusing recognition of the positive elements of a thing by turning it into a tool of avoidance of the negative and a tool of resistance against the negative. You are trying to shut part of reality and anything associated with that reality down. In a universe governed by the law of mirroring, whatever you resist, persists. Also, it is an invitation for the reflection to get bigger. If you refuse to see a reflection and are thus unresponsive to it, it will escalate until it becomes something you literally cannot deny. So, it is a set up for future disaster.
When you negate the negative with the positive, it prevents growth and it prevents expansion. Growth comes from facing the unwanted, gathering insight regarding it, letting it define what you want instead and the process of alchemizing oneself and one’s life so as to create improvement and ultimately, to achieve what is wanted. Recognition of the negative is what creates movement and change. Without it, stagnation occurs. For example, imagine that a family has many dysfunctional patterns. Patterns that have caused real harm to the individuals in that family and that have set them up for failure in their other adult relationships. That dysfunction will never change, it will simply be perpetuated if the members of this family refuse to acknowledge the negatives inherent within their family dynamics and patterns. If each member of the family only recognizes the positive in the family and uses positives to negate every negative about the family, they are in an illusion about their own family. They are creating an overlay and expecting every member of the family to buy into that overlay. Anyone who tries to make the family system improve, by bringing up and trying to change the dysfunction, will then be ostracized. The consciousness of this family has then stagnated and is not growing and progressing and expanding. The dysfunction simply passes from one generation to the next. And believe me, the universe has some serious tricks up its sleeve for shaking up families like this. When you negate the negative with the positive, you thwart progress. You thwart it in yourself, others, the world and the universe at large.
Toxic positivity, in its many forms, is often very subtle. We are normalized to it in our current society. Because we don’t recognize how detrimental it is, we still think all forms of positivity (including negating the negative with the positive) are good. But don’t forget that we once thought that heroine was a fabulous cough medicine. So, we need to recognize when we are doing this and when other people are doing this and put an end to the misuse of positivity.
If you are reading this, chances are this is not your first rodeo. You have probably spent considerable time reading self-help books and consuming both spiritual and personal growth material. No matter what role someone is in (whether they are the one teaching and producing and selling content or whether they are the one consuming it) the vast majority of people involved in self-help, personal growth and spirituality, have the same subconscious or conscious aim… To get to a point where life only feels good.
And here is where some serious confusion needs to be cleared up. The biggest lie that the self help/spiritual industry perpetuates is that there can be an end to contrast. That it is possible to get to a point where life only feels good with no negatives and where no unwanted things happen anymore. It’s at this point that I have to tell you that just because we say we are spiritual but not religious, doesn’t mean that we haven’t carried over the same religious beliefs and given them a makeover. The self-help/spiritual industry is selling you the idea of heaven, just like so many religions have. Only this time, it’s had a makeover. Now, instead of reaching heaven (an end state of positivity) after you die by doing things right and good enough while you are alive, it’s all about reaching heaven (an end state of positivity) while you are alive by doing thing right and good enough while you are alive.
If many people were honest, this is their actual expectation for doing things like workshops, conscious manifestation exercises, therapy, shadow work, self-help processes, meditations, breathwork and health regimes etc. And so many people suffer because of this hidden expectation that they have either generated or been directly sold.
Contrast is one of the integral elements of this time space reality. What I mean by contrast is the existence and the perception of polarities such as positive and negative, wanted and unwanted, dark and light, pain and pleasure. Contrast is the root of both personal and universal expansion. A physical human is meant to sort through the wanted and unwanted elements of this time space reality so as to give rise to desire. And then, to line up with that desire with their thoughts, words and actions. Doing so, causes a person to actualize the expansion. But this improved state of being will come with a new set of contrast. And so, the process starts all over again, propelling the person into the ever-expanding state of being. For example, let’s say that a person really wants to have a life in nature on a self-sustainable farm. By actualizing their desire, they may have things like a sense of independence and freedom, the peacefulness of the natural world, a life that is wholesome, high-quality food and simplicity. But they may also experience things like inconvenience, lots of labor that needs to be done personally in order to maintain things, a feeling of disconnection from the rest of society and a decrease in financial income. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Want To Succeed? What Pain Will You Say Yes To?
All this is not to say that you should simply give up on life being good and give up on joy and give up on aiming for the constant improvement. It is the desire for life to be good that causes personal expansion. And it is the process of lining up with (so as to actualize) the things that you desire that makes life a process of ‘the better it gets the better it can get’. But this is very different than expecting that you can and should get to a place where there is no more contrast. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: The Ticket to an Empowered Life.
What you are after by chasing a state of heaven while you are alive is a state of ended-ness. No desire and therefore no progress or movement or expansion is born from a being who has everything they could ever want and is only ever experiencing the positive. And you came to this time space reality specifically because you were able to see the value of expansion. To have committed to this time space reality and to seek an end to expansion at the same time, is a contradiction.
Aside from all of this, there are some main reasons that it is so important to not be doing self-help processes or spiritual practices with the expectation that eventually, if you do them good enough, you will get to a point where you never feel or experience anything negative and life will only feel good.
You will fail at it no matter what you do. And you will fail at it through no fault of your own. You will not fail because you are not doing something right. You will fail at it because the reality of life and how this time space reality was designed is in direct opposition to a state of ended-ness. Because of this, not only will you be out of reality (which only ever leads to unwanted results), you will also feel like something is seriously wrong with you and like you are not doing something good enough or right. This will cause you to suffer unimaginable levels of pain. Some of you who are watching this are already in this pain I am speaking about. Imagine that life is an ocean. In this analogy, the contrast of life is like the waves in the ocean. To master life is to master the art of surfing. To operate with this expectation of getting to a point where life only ever feels good and only wanted things happen is to think “If I just surf good enough, the waves will stop coming”. No person who actually attained enlightenment is teaching anyone how to stop the contrast of life. They are teaching you how to develop a different relationship to the reality of contrast (to the waves of life), and this in turn changes your life experience for the better.
If you engage with self-help, personal growth and spiritual things so as to reach a state of positive ended-ness, everything you do is a ‘so that’. You will be doing a great many things you hate so as to get to a reward you want. But this means that you will hate the process of life and never achieve the reward that you are trying to get to. This is a recipe for burnout, powerlessness and despair. You will especially get into trouble if you are using lots of shadow work to try to reach a state of heaven while you are alive. The here and now experience of life itself will not only be painful, it will not be worth it because the reward for doing painful things (which you think is a life where nothing ever feels negative and you never experience something unwanted) will not come. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: If You Want to Be Happy, Don’t Do This!
If you approach life in this way, you will never live life in the ‘now’. Instead, you’re on a rat wheel trying to get to a perfect future. There will be no actual appreciation of the now. Because even if you engage in the practice of appreciating the now… even that practice is a ‘so that’… something that you are only doing in order to try to have a better future.
You will fail to fully commit to the adventure of life and to mastering the process of expansion. Instead of really committing to playing the game of life and extracting the benefits from it, you’re going to be in resistance to it, trying to get out of it and transcend it. You will not be fully committed to life. You’ll have one foot in and one foot out of life. And you cannot truly manifest if you don’t put all your energy into life. Also, you will be in resistance to both pain and desire. For this reason, it would benefit you to watch two of my videos. The first titled: The Meaning of Pain and the second titled: Are You Afraid of Desire? The Truth about Desire.
You will walk around with an attitude that if you or someone else is in pain or experiencing negative or unwanted things, you or they are doing something wrong/bad and that it means something about you or them. By the way, this is simply a modern facelift that was done on the idea that if someone doesn’t get to heaven when they die, it is because they did something bad or wrong. What you will most likely make it mean when you experience negative or unwanted things is something that causes you to feel inferior to others who you think are more right and more good than you are because their life is better than yours is… That they are more enlightened than you are.
And walking around with this attitude will cause you to hold a person in less esteem if they are experiencing pain and unwanted things. You may tell yourself that you’re the more successful or enlightened one. You can often hear this insinuation in people’s voices when they ask “How are you a match to that?”. As if reaching a state of positive ended-ness, a heaven in life, is a measure of how good and right someone is.
This belief and this expectation puts you into a state of narcissism and in a personal bubble reality built for one. At its root, the expectation that one should get to a place in life where nothing negative or unwanted ever happens, arises because a person is desperate to get away from pain. When people are in pain, they tend to be very narcissistic. It’s very hard to care about the wellbeing of others when you are in pain. And so, even if you have been sold on a practice such as taking the other person’s best interests as a part of your own best interests, you will ultimately only do that because you think that it will lead to you, yourself experiencing no more pain in relationships. And you will only seek to attain a state of oneness because you believe it is the ticket to you feeling good and no longer separated. Again, it is the attempt to manifest a heaven... an ended state of positivity for yourself.
Unfortunately, many teachers as well as the self- help/spiritual industry itself has sold you the lie that there can be an end to contrast. That the goal is to actualize heaven, a state of positive ended-ness, while you are alive. And that if you are not there yet, you need to do something different and better. Because of all of this, you are chasing a goal that you will not reach. You have used your degree of happiness in life as your measure of your own goodness and rightness. You have turned your life into a “so that”. Joy in life is not dependent on there being nothing negative and on never experiencing unwanted things. Contrast is not an oppositional force to joy. You can love your life and still experience contrast. You can do everything right and good and you will still experience the contrast that is inherent to life. Otherwise, the second any being became enlightened, all homeless people would suddenly not be homeless anymore and no animal would eat another animal and no one would ever lose a loved one because death would not be a part of life. So, either no being has ever achieved enlightenment or contrast is inherent to life, whether a being has achieved enlightenment or not.
With this in mind, I want you to ask yourself this question: If I accepted that there will never be an end to contrast. That no matter what I improve or what desire I attain, there will always be both negative and positive, wanted and unwanted inherent with it… what would I do differently in my daily life today?
And remember, there is no difference between working your ass off to get to heaven after you die and working your ass off to reach a state of heaven while you are alive!
We tend to make the basic assumption that if we are around something positive or that holds a higher vibe, that we will begin to feel better. But this is not necessarily the case and today, I’m going to explain why.
First, let me explain what I mean when I use the word vibration or “vibe”. Everything in the universe is made of energy that vibrates, and energy that vibrates imparts information. The amplitude and frequency of energy is what determines how (in what form) that energy will express itself. We call this a "vibration". It is a term you will hear often in spiritual circles. You may hear someone say that something has a “high vibration”. This means that it has some positive quality and effect that is beneficial to a person in some way. For example, we may say that rose quartz has a high vibration because it is nurturing and mood lifting, it enhances warmth and connection with others and helps people feel compassion towards one another. Or we might say that a person has a high vibration because they are so awakened or intuitive or fun or confident or open.
We live in a universe that is governed by the law of mirroring, also often called the law of attraction. In a universe governed by the law of mirroring, things that share the same time and space must be a vibrational match in some way. Because of this, we see things like entrainment occurring. How this applies to vibration is that when two energies are in the presence of one another, they will come into resonance with each other. Usually, the less dominant frequency will change to match the more dominant frequency. And to generalize, the higher frequency is usually the more dominant frequency. Therefore, if we are in a less than loving mood and we are around rose quartz, it will cause us to come into a more loving state.
Because of this, it is tempting to think that if we are around something that has a high vibration, it is a given that we will feel better. This is the case often. But as you might have noticed, this is also often not the case. Sometimes, being in the presence of something with a high vibration may make us feel worse. And here are the top reasons for this:
You may feel worse around something with a high vibration because of resistance. Resistance is any oppositional force. When entrainment starts to occur with something high vibe, any part of us that may be against that positive state will kick into strong resistance. It may be confusing why any part of us would be in resistance to something positive and beneficial. But it happens all the time. Here is an example. Imagine that in your childhood, your personal power was seen as a bad thing. Any time you demonstrated personal power, it led to negative social consequences. If you spend time around someone who has a lot of personal empowerment (a higher vibration than you hold) this is likely to cause the part of you that has the negative association with (and therefore resistance to) personal power into resistance. As a result, you will feel negatively towards that person. And your body will register them as a threat. To understand more about resistance, you can watch my video titled: Urgent! Deal With Your Resistance Before You Do Anything Else!
For things with a lower frequency to entrain with things that hold a higher frequency, they need to release anything that is keeping their vibration low. Anything that is not a match to that higher vibration. For this reason, high frequency things and people are famous for causing a kind of “detox”, “purging” or a “coming up to be cleared” process to occur within lower frequency things. For example, shamanic medicines that hold a very high vibration often cause vomiting and extreme emotional releases and a purging of the subconscious mind. Or for example, let’s say that we are experiencing a safe, loving relationship. Being around that high vibrational experience may cause us to re-sensitize to and no longer normalize the fear we feel socially and it may cause all the accumulated grief about all the abusive relationships we experienced to surface. Thus, causing us to feel worse.
Being around something that holds a high vibration may make you acutely aware of what you lack or of where you aren’t. When this happens, it is common to feel bad about yourself and about where you are. Many of you have experienced this when you are feeling really terrible and you spend time with someone who is having a fabulous time in life. Suddenly, the contrast between where you are vibrationally and where they are vibrationally makes you feel even worse. It’s as if their happiness makes you feel even more miserable and sorry for yourself and feel even more like a failure. Or for example, if we visit a group of people that are higher vibration in that they are open and honest and intimate and committed to each other, it may cause us to feel worse about our own social circle. Suddenly, because we have the comparison, we start feeling even more alone and surrounded by distant, dishonest people who only have relationships of convenience. If we subconsciously slip into negatively comparing ourselves with whatever holds a higher vibration, we will feel worse about ourselves and our life.
When we are exposed to something high vibe, it naturally induces a process of healing. And healing is not always a feel-good process. When we heal something, we change a pattern that is unwanted into a pattern that is wanted, usually into some form of its opposite. For example, if we feel demeaned, to heal is to feel valued. Or if we are lonely, to heal is to achieve togetherness. But this process often entails us becoming aware of and experiencing painful things.
There is a big difference between something that is simply pain relief and something that is healing. For example, imagine that someone is suffering because of their inauthenticity. And imagine that they share the same space with someone who is authentic and who also supports their authenticity. The process of healing so as to become authentic may involve things like becoming aware of how inauthentic they are, being willing despite fear to enter into conflicts instead of avoid them, changing or even ending relationships that were not created from a place of authenticity, seeing the pain they caused others by entering into those relationships on an inauthentic foot. Leaving the familiar and creating whole new life for themselves etc. None of that feels good, but you can see that it is good for this person to go through that process. You can see that definitely it is better than if this person simply found a way to feel good, even if it meant staying inauthentic.
It may sound counterintuitive, but even though the fact that something feels good to you can be an indication that something is good for you, that doesn’t mean that anything that feels bad is bad for you. Also, something that feels good to you may very well not be good for you. There is a definite limit to knowing that something is good for you because it 'resonates' with you.
For example, it doesn’t always feel good to exercise. But exercise is good for you. Cocaine makes you feel good. But it isn’t good for you. Physical affection is good for you, but it won’t feel good to you if you have trauma around intimacy. Having your ego stroked will feel good, even if getting your ego stroked in a situation will keep you blind to something dysfunctional that you are doing, and thus keep you stuck in a detrimental illusion.
When we are around a high vibrational thing and it causes us to feel bad, it does not mean that high vibrational thing is bad for us. It is simply an indication that we have something negative or painful that needs our attention on the road to raising our own vibration or healing or finding improvement.
Raising your frequency may cause negative side effects and may cause you to feel worse before it makes you feel better. But even though it may not always feel like sunshine, gumdrops and roses, it is good for you!
Jack is 47 years old. Even at 47 years old, he has never had a real career. He is still working temp jobs. Because of this, he is always struggling financially and has never been able to buy his own house. Instead, every year he has to go through the process of finding a new apartment to rent. And because the prices keep going up, but his pay checks don’t, his lifestyle keeps going down and down. And when it comes to relationships, it seems like every woman who he commits to, eventually wants a better lifestyle. More than he can currently give them. But they feel like if they want to improve their life, it will be on their shoulders alone to do so and to drag Jack along, since he has no motivation and thus, provide that lifestyle improvement for Jack as well. Because of this, his relationships always devolve into him feeling like he is not good enough.
Jack is not fighting against this reality. He has accepted it. But having accepted it, Jack has slipped into powerless about it. Jack has decided that he can’t change it. Because he has decided that this is the reality and he can’t change it, he has decided that life sucks and that it is just going to keep sucking. He doesn’t want to put any effort into trying to make it different because he can’t face the idea that he might do that and nothing will change, enhancing his pain. So, telling himself that he can’t do anything to change it, prevents him from putting what little energy he has towards something and it creating no results. But the problem with this is that he has slipped into apathy. By the way if you want to understand more about apathy, you can watch my video titled: How To Cure Apathy.
Jack is passive to his own life. He does the bare minimum to get by and he spends most of his time escaping into video games and amateur league sports. He does absolutely nothing to try to change the reality that he is struggling financially and has no career and cannot offer a woman anything other than his company. He flips the polarity dynamic on every woman who he gets into a relationship with and makes her carry and provide for him, while he does nothing except show up to his temp jobs, play video games and sports. He has accepted the negative reality of where he is. He has added the meaning “I’m screwed then and can’t do anything to change it”. And he has stopped trying to bring about what he wants.
Blaine is 47 years old. Because he went into medical debt, he is currently working temp jobs. Because of this, he is struggling financially and he is living in his parent’s basement. The woman he is with has a stable career, but is always too stressed to be happy and is carrying more weight that he is financially. Because of this, she often says she feels like she is his mother rather than his woman. She is deeply unhappy about their life together. On a subconscious level, Blaine does not feel like he can handle facing any of this reality. It would make him feel so powerless, he might become like Jack. So, Blaine refuses to see, acknowledge or accept the painful reality of his life. Instead, he focuses only on positives. He reframes anything bad or negative that happens. And he acts according to the reality that he wants to see, rather than the reality that is. He wants the reality to be that he is not working at temp jobs because he knows he’s better than that. But he acts like this IS the reality and so, he tells himself and other people that he is a crypto currency trader by profession and despite making almost no money by trading, often turns down temp jobs he is offered.
He wants the reality to be that he can afford anything, so he charges things to his credit card and lives above his means. He wants the reality to be that he has his own apartment, so he finds one and lies about his income to get it. Of course, by doing all of this, he increases his debt. He wants the reality to be that he and his girlfriend are in a wonderful relationship. So, when she complains about their life together, he decides that she has just had a hard day at work and he settles her down by rubbing her feet. Because this usually puts her in a better mood, he does not think their relationship is in trouble and is absolutely shocked when one day, she breaks up with him and moves all of her stuff out.
Blaine will not see or accept any reality that causes him to feel bad about himself or his life. And so, he makes decisions and takes actions according to what he wants to see and wants to be real, as if it is already the case. When he does this, he is so out of reality and is living in such a fantasy world that only he occupies, that not only does he seem mentally ill sometimes, he also keeps hurting himself and other people. He makes the wrong choices and does the wrong things because he is not responding to what is real.
What you saw showcased in these two examples is the human tendency to go one of two ways when it comes to unwanted elements of reality. When it comes to the topic of reality, people make the mistake of either:
Accepting an unwanted reality and then sinking into powerlessness about it, so as to let go of what they want to be the reality instead. And so as to do nothing to change it into something better.
Refusing to see the unwanted reality and instead, acting according to the reality they want to have be true.
Both of these pendulum swing strategies get people into big, big trouble. The first strategy causes a person to give up on what is wanted and decide that life is pain and slip into the illusion of powerlessness. By doing this, you are no longer able to see what CAN be done. For example, the time that Jack puts into video games could be spent on learning a skill that might make him more money or on looking for and applying to different jobs. It is obvious to everyone else in Jack’s life that he is absolutely not powerless to making good money. They are constantly frustrated by his passive, apathetic behavior.
By using this strategy, you are in fact out of reality because you are not seeing the wanted or beneficial elements of reality that you could draw on and use in order to bring about a change. And you are not in reality relative to what you CAN do to create whatever it is that you are wanting. You are no longer an active participant in personal expansion. Expansion must then happen to you and despite you, which is a dangerous invitation. If you want to learn more about why not actively participating in expansion is a dangerous invitation, watch my video titled: Why it’s Dangerous to Stay in Your Comfort Zone.
The second strategy causes a person to slip into a narcissistic bubble reality. When a person is in their own reality, acting as if what they want to have be true is true in the here and now, they are alone and they make the other people in their life alone too because of it. This creates parallel perceptual realities, which destroys relationships. On top of this, it is to slip into not only denial, but also a form of mental illness. A person starts to behave in a scary way because they don’t perceive anything negative, such as dangers or risks or reality. It’s guaranteed that with this strategy, the person has no actual power because when they make decisions or take actions it is not a decision or action exacted upon what is real and so it will not have the desired effect.
Unfortunately, many modern spiritual beliefs have contributed greatly to this negative coping mechanism. Especially amongst those spiritual communities that are centered around the Law of Attraction. There is an idea floating around that to deny or not acknowledge the unwanted, so as to merely focus on what you want to have be true (as if it already is true) is how to manifest. This is not true. This is the way to become mentally ill and slip into a narcissistic parallel perceptual reality. Tools that help you manifest what you want to have be real (including visualizing things as if you already have them) must come with the willingness to also see reality and to see what is. To live an empowered life and to be able to create things in reality, you must be able to acknowledge what is (including the unwanted elements of what is) and also practice focusing on and taking action towards what you want instead.
Imagine someone came into a hospital and the reality was that they were internally bleeding, but you didn’t want that to be true, you wanted the reality to be that they are well. Now imagine that because of this, you acted as if they are well. You told yourself that their dizziness was because they drove to the hospital and just got motion sick. You told yourself that their swollen, tight abdomen was because they had gas. And you gaslit the crap out of them by saying that they are ok, sending them home with a Lolli Pop and a smile on your face. It’s easy to see that you are not mentally well. Not only that, because you were not in reality, you could do nothing to change the reality and thus were making yourself unnecessarily powerless. And not only that, you made the wrong decisions and did the wrong things and there were huge consequences for it.
If you use the strategy of pretending that what you want to have be real is real, you will make yourself unnecessarily powerless, you will make the wrong choices and take the wrong actions and there will be serious consequences to you and everyone around you. If you find yourself slipping into this second strategy, you would benefit by watching two of my videos. The first titled: Reality. And the second titled: The Most Dangerous Parallel Reality.
Both of these strategies find their roots in our early life experience. When we are young, and when we experience unwanted things, it is necessary to learn that we can do something about them, so as to have a better experience. When we see our parents doing something to actively change unwanted elements of their own lives as well as experience them acting as allies regarding changing the things that are causing us pain, we learn that reality does not imply that we are powerless to unwanted things. We learn a sense of empowerment about the things we don’t like in our life. And this empowerment gives us bravery to look at the unwanted aspects of reality and do something proactive to change them.
When we don’t have these early experiences, we often learn that no one can do anything about the unwanted elements of reality. We have a sense of powerlessness relative to things we don’t like about our life. So, we decide to cope with this sense of powerlessness in whichever way is less painful to us specifically… We either cope with this by accepting unwanted realities and succumbing to a false sense of powerlessness about them so as to focus on something other than creating improvement. Or we cope with it by refusing to see and accept unwanted realities and living in a dangerous fantasy as if what we want to have be the reality, is already the reality.
In this life, the ticket to an empowered life is to see and accept the reality… what is. This includes both the wanted and enjoyable elements of reality and the unwanted and painful elements of reality. One does not negate the other. And from there, to actively participate in the process of expansion by capitalizing on the wanted and enjoyable aspects, while proactively changing the unwanted elements into what we want instead. We are meant to see the reality (what is) and to actively bring about what we want to have be the reality (what we want). This causes not only expansion for ourselves, but also the people around us, human society, the world and the universe at large.
This process of continuously sorting through the contrast of this time space reality so as to transform the unwanted into what is wanted, means that we are constantly in the process of appreciating what is, while also continuing to create improvement. We let go of the idea that the goal is to get to a place in life where there is an ended-ness; because everything is perfect and there is nothing more to improve upon. We enjoy this game of exploration and change around consistent improvement. We begin living with the attitude of the better it gets, the better it can get.
Most of us reach adulthood with a burning desire… To be approved of, liked and loved exactly as we are. Those of us that grew up in dysfunctional families tend to struggle with this dynamic the very most. In dysfunctional families (and remember that most families today fall somewhere on the spectrum of dysfunction) the parents exhibit a behavior or many that are detrimental to themselves and to other members of the family. But they display an unworkability when it comes to changing that behavior. This puts every other family member in the position to continue to try to get them to change that thing about themselves and face consequences for doing so, or to accept and adapt to the dysfunction by enabling it. When they accept and enable it, leaving this person exactly as they are, they receive approval and positive feedback for doing so. The parent or caregiver feels loved. As a result, they learn that the definition of loving someone is appreciating a person exactly as they are and not asking them to change anything, even if what they are doing is detrimental to themselves, to the person and to others.
When we have to change ourselves so that someone else in our family doesn’t have to change and so that they approve of and love us, we feel bad about ourselves. We feel unlovable for who we authentically are. And we set out on a lifelong quest to be loved exactly as we are, without having to change anything… including what is dysfunctional about us. Ironically, we set out on a mission to unknowingly become the very thing that hurt us. We become inflicted with the very same wound that made our parents unworkable. And because that wound then makes us unworkable, we inflict the very same pain on the people in our lives that our parents inflicted on us as children. We damage them with our un-changeability.
Because our subconscious definition of love is to appreciate a person exactly as they are and to not ask them to change anything (even if what they are doing is detrimental to themselves, to us and to others), this is what we are looking for. We are looking to finally be able to be in the position that our parents were in with us when we were growing up… Where we have a person who demonstrates their approval and love of us by not ever disapproving of us. And by not ever asking us to change anything. We have decided that this is how to know if we are supported and loved. We want to be in a feel-good relationship the way we are, even if our behavior is not conducive to a feel-good relationship. We want our partner to make themselves compatible to us, even if they are not actually compatible to us. And we often decide that the ultimate testament of love is if someone is willing to be in pain so that we can have this experience. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: The “Suffer So I Can Feel Loved” Relationship Dynamic.
When we have this pattern, this desire gets in the way of self-development, personal expansion and making necessary changes that would make our relationships and life better. If we want to be loved exactly as we are and without changing anything about ourselves, seeing anything about ourselves in a negative light and consequently making changes to anything about ourself, seems to take us in the opposite direction from what we really want. So, we stay as we are. And by staying as we are, we become a new link in the chain of the same dysfunction that runs through our own family line. And our relationships become a repetition of the same dysfunction. This pattern is one of the hardest for people to put an end to.
So that you can understand this pattern better, here is an example. Weston grew up in a home with a father that was passive and took the back seat to his mother. His mother was super into control and got everything her way. In her home, everything had to be the way she wanted. This included how Weston dressed, behaved, when and how his needs were met and what his interests were. Weston was in a lot of pain about this. He was hungry, but couldn’t get food because his mother decided it wasn’t time for him to eat. He wanted attention, but couldn’t get it because his mother decided she didn’t want to give it and put no energy into finding someone who could give it to him instead. He hated the preppy outfits she made him wear. They were uncomfortable and he always had to keep them clean. He longed to wear lounge clothes. He loved to spend time exploring, but his mother put him on a regimented schedule. He loved music. But his mother thought that was a useless interest and enrolled him in academic interests, where he didn’t excel. When anyone had conflicts with her, there was no win-win to be found, she would simply get rid of the person. Weston watched her do this with his older brother, who was sent away from home to a behavioral modification boys camp when his behavior displeased her. And this led to Weston becoming conflict avoidant. Weston conformed to what his mother wanted. He felt he was not loved exactly as he is. But, as a result of changing himself to suit her, he became the golden child. He demonstrated his love for her by approving of her exactly as she is and changing himself, because she was unworkable. She would not change anything. In her mind, if her children were good and loved her, they would do exactly as she says.
Because of all of this, Weston is on a subconscious mission to find love. But not real love, his dysfunctional definition of love. He is on a mission to be loved exactly as he is and not have to change anything about himself and his behavior, even if it causes the other person pain. Recently, Weston moved in with his girlfriend Sahara. And Sahara is suffering. There are things that Weston is doing that is detrimental to himself and to her. When conflict arises, he refuses to engage and leaves the apartment. He spends all his free time listening to music and exploring places he hasn’t been to in the city instead of finding ways to improve their financial situation, leaving her to be the primary provider for the two of them. He leaves piles of things everywhere in the apartment because he hates to clean. His ill-fitting lounge clothes have holes in them and he wears them everywhere, even when it is totally inappropriate to do so. And she is pretty sure they don’t want the same things in life. Many of these things don’t only hurt Sahara.
Many of these things are actually sabotaging Weston’s success and preventing him from getting what he wants. There are negative consequences he is experiencing as a result of them. People don’t take him seriously or see him as professional because of how he dresses. He is stuck in a crappy financial situation and in an apartment he hates. He can’t have good relationships because he doesn’t handle conflict well. He is distracted and unfocused because of the clutter everywhere and is constantly losing things. And instead of finding a compatible relationship arrangement with Sahara, he is simply keeping things as-is, which means the emotional tension in their relationship keeps rising to the point where the relationship is mostly negative now.
Sahara is being more loving to Weston and one could argue, more in alignment with his own best interests than he is by recognizing that certain things that Weston is doing are working against his best interests, and by drawing his attention to the need to change them. But Weston refuses to entertain this notion. In his mind, if she truly loved him, she would stop creating conflicts, approve of him spending time on music and exploration, stop getting upset about finances, stop getting upset about the apartment being clean (or simply clean it herself) stop caring about what he wears and start focusing on all the ways they are compatible instead of harping on the idea that they might be incompatible.
Because Sahara gets upset with him about these things, he doesn’t feel valued or loved. He keeps insisting that if she valued and loved him, she would value and love him exactly as he is and would not ask him to change any of these things. He is being unworkable because of it. He refuses to change anything about himself. Weston has slipped into a withdrawn, surly attitude because he feels Sahara isn’t a good person because she keeps trying to change him. And he thinks that because she wants his to change, Sahara doesn’t really value and love him. Of course, this just serves to make the relationship worse.
Whenever Weston gets negative feedback about anything he does, he feels harmed, unseen, shamed and unloved. Recently, Weston attended a self-development seminar. And he hated it. When the speaker suggested that in order to get what he wants, he has to change himself, he disagreed and he felt insulted. He decided the speaker is not a good person. He thinks that the advice he got is the opposite of what he needs to do. All he was really looking for was validation. All he really wanted was advice about how to get what he wants while staying exactly as he is. All he really wanted was to be told how to get the experience of being valued and loved the exact way he is and without changing. When the speaker explained that to get different results, you have to be willing to change, he decided that the seminar wasn’t for him and simply didn’t return after lunch for the afternoon segment. Weston is thwarting his own self development. He is looking to stay the same. He is looking in the wrong places for validation and he is simply looking for people to approve of him exactly as he is and enable his dysfunction. But he is stuck in the illusion that this is progress and this is love. Weston doesn’t see things about his behavior as being dysfunctional and will not recognize them as being detrimental to himself and others, even though much of his behavior is dysfunctional and is detrimental to himself and to others. So, he feels it is self-hating and against himself to change them rather than self-loving and for himself to change them. He has become just as unworkable as his mother was. And now, Sahara is in the same position with him that he was in with his mother.
When we fall into this pattern, the reality is that we have decided on a subconscious level that someone only loves us if they support our dysfunction. We also fail to really make a conscious choice about what things we want to change about ourselves because they are detrimental to us and others and which things we want to stand for and embrace because they are beneficial to us and others. And in turn, this makes it impossible to properly assess compatibility in our life. We can’t assess our compatibility with places, jobs, situations, things or people. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: Incompatibility, a Harsh Reality in Relationships. When it comes to life, knowing (a) what you are willing to change (and why) and (b) what you are unwilling to change (and why) is critical. You need to know where you can and where you can’t be pliable in order to create the life you genuinely want.
To love yourself is to act in alignment with your own best interests. Changing something about yourself that is detrimental to yourself can be a profoundly self-loving act. To love someone is to take them as a part of yourself. When you do this, their best interests become a part of your best interests. You cannot be ok with them being in pain for your sake. And so, you want to either (a) change the thing about you that is causing them pain or (b) recognize that you are unwilling to change what is causing them pain and thus, must acknowledge incompatibility and act accordingly, so as to not keep them and you stuck in the pain of that incompatible situation. The more compatible we are with someone, the more they will approve of us exactly as we are. But love is something entirely different. Both love and self-development imply some degree of making changes to ourselves.
To generalize, even though death is an inevitable part of everyone’s life, people are terrified of looking directly at the reality of death. It is a subject we want to avoid. This attitude that we have towards death is detrimental to us in many ways. One of those ways that it is detrimental is that it prevents us from seeing life clearly. What anyone who has had a near death experience or who has lost a loved one will tell you is that death changes your perspective towards life and towards all the different elements of your life; most especially the people in it.
To view life and to view relationships from the context of death is both profound and meaningful. It has the capacity to change the way we relate to life and the way we have relationships. The sad thing is that we often wait for an actual death to confront us in some way for this way of looking at things to be forced upon us. We wait until either someone is on their death bed to communicate from this perspective or we end up too late and someone in our life has already died and because of it, we were unable to communicate to them from this perspective.
Today, I am going to present to you one of the most powerful relationship exercises you can do. Here it is: You are going to pick someone in your life. You can literally pick anyone such as your friend, a co-worker, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, someone who really impacted you either positively or negatively in your childhood, one of your siblings, your partner or one of your parents etc. I will tell you that this practice can create particularly profound shifts when you do it with one of your parents.
From there, put yourself in the perspective of either you being about to die or them being about to die. Pick whichever option puts you in a more lovingly, open objective perspective. Either way, know that just like when someone is on their actual deathbed, this is the last time you are ever going to see them in this lifetime. It is your very last opportunity to communicate to them. And from this place, you are going to write them a letter or speak a message to them… As if these are your last words to them. Let this letter flow intuitively from the core of yourself. But in order to help you with this practice, here are some things you might consider:
Who are you writing to? What is their personality? No two people will need or appreciate the same message. Personalize your letter according to who they are and their specific personality and needs. This will allow your unique relationship with them to shine through the letter.
How do you want them to feel? What is that lasting imprint you wish for them to carry with them regarding you and your relationship to them? Let this set the emotional tone for the overall letter.
What is your intention for writing this letter in the first place? Let this intention serve as the guide for how you write or speak it.
What tension between you needs to be resolved and what might you say on your end to resolve it?
What painful thing between you needs to be acknowledged? And what might you say on your side to reduce that pain between you?
What conflict needs to be put to rest or what closure needs to be created and what might you say to put it to rest or create that closure without denying any of your own needs?
What might you need to acknowledge regarding their pain relative to you or apologize for?
What might you need to explain so they understand it, without justifying yourself?
Do you have any cherished memories or moments you want to remind them of?
What do you love, admire and approve of about them authentically and honesty?
How would you want them to feel about themselves, you, your relationship and their life at the end of their life or yours? And what might you say to evoke that feeling within them?
What might you want to thank them for?
Might you want to communicate the objective story you are going to tell other people about your relationship with them in retrospect in order to give them a taste of your perspective about your connection over the course of time together?
What have they taught you or what did you learn from them?
What is it that they deeply need or want to hear from you? How might you give them what they want to hear from you in a way that is authentic and that does not hurt any aspect of you to express?
Can you see their vulnerability? How might you speak directly to and answer to that vulnerability in a safe and caring way?
Is there any question you want to ask them that would bring you closer to truly and compassionately understanding them?
Is there anything you need to reassure them about regarding themselves, you or your relationship?
What is left unsaid that must be said?
What could you authentically say that might bring them peace and solace? Is there any way you could let them off the hook for something in a way that does not hurt you in any way?
Make sure that nothing is left unsaid. And once you have written this letter, take that leap to be vulnerable by giving or sending it to them.
If you find that you are in a super angry or disapproving or negative mental and emotional place when you sit down to write this initial letter, and feel the need to confront them on their wrongdoings or make them see how much they hurt you, know that you can write several versions of this letter. There may be more than one layer to work through in order to reach the full truth of your sentiments about and to them. That being said, when someone is on their deathbed, at their most vulnerable, it tends to strip away these top layers and what someone is left with is what is deeper and what is more objective. It leaves you in a place of love. Love is not an up-beat, all positive state of affirmation. It is a deep, truthful, expansive state of closeness. This means, if you really genuinely put yourself in this perspective of having only this last chance to communicate to someone before you never see them again, this deeper more objective perspective about them and you and your relationship will surface.
I’m going to challenge you to not lie in this letter. One thing I notice when people are on their death bed is that people get emotional and want the other person to feel good and so, they lie just to make the other person feel good. They totally bulldoze parts of themselves when they do this. For example, a person may have been disowned or physically abused by their dad and say “You were a really good dad at the end of the day”. When that isn’t true. At the end of the day, they were not a good dad. However, that doesn’t mean that he was all bad. For example, this same person might say “I loved so much when you used to take us in the back of your Cadillac to the corner store to get candy.” And that is totally true and also not damaging to any part of themself to say.
The purpose of this letter is the same as it would be for you communicating a last message to someone right before they die. In general, what you are looking to do is to reduce tension, conflict and pain rather than to create it. It will surprise you how freeing this letter will be not only for them, but for you. And the profound impact and importance of communicating at this level when someone is still IN your life and alive, cannot ever be overstated.
In English, we call someone or something the “underdog” when they are the ones with less personal power than the other party involved in a situation. Because they have less power, they are thought to be at the disadvantage, have smaller status, have smaller chance of succeeding and are perceived to be the victim in the situation.
Human beings naturally support and root for the underdog. There are many reasons for this. For example, many of us feel vulnerable in the world. Many of us feel like we are at the disadvantage and like the odds are stacked against us. This makes us identify with the underdog and internalize them. Therefore, rooting for the underdog feels like rooting for ourselves. People love unexpected triumph. We love when people win against the odds. It gives us hope for ourselves.
Another reason is that power tends to threaten us. When someone has power, we fear that they might use that power to oppose our own best interests. We feel like they don’t need us. It also makes us feel less than them, all of which hurts our self-concept. So, we tend to want to see people with power lose that power. On the other hand, when someone does not have power, we feel both empathy and sympathy for them. We feel they need us and this enhances the sensation of there being an emotional bond between us and them. We feel morally good about ourselves for supporting them and we feel subconsciously above them. It makes us feel both right and good to support someone who is at the disadvantage. This boosts our self-concept. So, we tend to want to see people without power, gain it… just not too much of it that it then threatens us.
Another reason is that we subconsciously experience pleasure at the misfortune of others when envy is involved. We tend to envy the person who has more power, advantage, status, success and is perceived to be the victor. When we see that person lose their power, advantage, status or success, it decreases the pain we feel about what we lack and about our self-concept. We perceive the situation to be fairer, regardless of whether this is the case or not.
On top of all of this, one of the defining features of our species is care. This includes support for those of our species that are disadvantaged. A direct affront to survival of the fittest, we care for and support our weak, starting with our completely relationally dependent babies. It is not common to see the young, disabled, ill, weak or old of other species being picked off by predators, attacked by their own kind or left to die. When we hear this, we feel horrified. It’s not how we do things and it’s not what we believe is good and right to do. This species trait played a role in our species evolution. It is wired into us on a biological level.
In principle, there is nothing “wrong” with our natural affinity for the underdog. What we need to be aware of is that our natural affinity for the underdog leads to a kind of underdog effect whereby we become blind and fall prey to some pretty big shadows. And today, I’m going to list some of them for you.
First, we know that people root for the underdog. We can exploit this tendency. The fact that people root for the underdog gives us huge incentive to come across as the underdog in any situation where we want people to get behind us and support us. A person can act like the one who is at the disadvantage and is the victim, regardless of whether this is actually the case or not and others will fall for it. Any of you with siblings have probably experienced this one in action. A younger sibling acts the villain and initiates some kind of misbehavior. The older one, who is actually the victim in the situation, reacts to it. The younger one starts crying and yelling to come across like the victim to the parents in the house, because they know the parents will see them as the underdog. And they do. The parent comes in the room, immediately sides with the perceived underdog, which is the younger child, and takes action to guard the younger child and punish the older child without any attempt to assess what is actually going on. No doubt some of you have experienced the younger sibling taking a break between sobs to triumphantly stick their tongue out at the older one. This child knows they have won. And they have done so by exploiting this tendency in people to support the underdog. You may feel this kind of childhood behavior is fairly benign. But take that same behavior on into adulthood.
This behavior becomes a manipulation tactic that people use to try to stay safe socially and to try to gain the support of others. It is especially exploited when someone is trying to gain support for themselves at the same time as rally people against someone else. This is when the underdog effect becomes your biggest ally in your game of victim control. You can use the underdog effect to deceive others. You can do this to such a degree in fact that you can have all the power in a situation and you can do all kinds of terrible things to someone else in that situation, but as long as you don’t appear to others to have that power and as long as you appear to be at the disadvantage, you can deceive other people into seeing the other guy as the top dog and the bad guy. And so, people start to enable and support the person that is actually creating the problem. In layman’s terms, they unknowingly have been deceived into supporting the villain and going against the true victim in a situation.
So that you can get a clearer idea about this dynamic, I’ll give you an example. Joelle just recently moved into an intentional community. The intentional community was started by Tegan. Tegan is a healer by trade and is for lack of a better word, the matriarch of the intentional community. Joelle doesn’t like authority and thinks that everyone should be on equal ground. As a result, she immediately started getting into power struggles with Tegan. She started triangulating other community members against her, arriving to community meetings late, refusing to do the tasks that Tegan assigned her, taking every opportunity to compete with Tegan’s knowledge about healing, helping herself to Tegan’s essential oils, asserting that she had something better to do when she was invited by Tegan to socialize, and giving Tegan ultimatums regarding her needs.
One day, when Tegan was hosting a healing retreat, she was called away to take an emergency telephone call. When she came back to the group, Joelle had taken the liberty to take over the group and was answering questions and leading them through a yoga exercise. Later that night, Tegan, who was furious and at the end of her rope, confronted Joelle about her usurping behavior in front of the whole community. Joelle played the underdog card.
First, Joelle started tearing up and denied that she was in any power struggle with Tegan and in fact, asserted her deep respect for Tegan instead. In other words, she started by actively gaslighting. Then, she went on to explain how she had taken over the group as a favor to Tegan and thought she would be grateful for it because she had left them high and dry. And then she started crying about how hard it is to live in the community because she is new and doesn’t know her place yet and is always doing the wrong things by Tegan. The tactic worked. Most of the community members started feeling empathy for Joelle and started feeling like maybe Tegan was being unfairly hard on her. When she saw this new tactic working, Tegan snapped and yelled at her for pulling a victim control drama. But that only served to hand Joelle the win. The rest of the community members defended Joelle against Tegan and some of them started seeing Tegan in a different, more negative light. Joelle had succeeded in acting like the underdog to the degree that not only did she get away with everything she was doing to Tegan, she also managed to manipulate Tegan’s intentional community out from under her as well and rally them around her instead. Of course, they were all pawns in a power game that was just won by Joelle against Tegan. But they were too blinded by the underdog effect to see it. They thought they were protecting Joelle, the underdog and victim from Tegan, the top dog and villain. When the reality was the other way around. To learn more about the way that people use the dynamic of victimhood to their advantage, watch my videos titled: The Victim Control Dynamic (Escaping Control Drama in Relationships). And Anger and The false Villain Dynamic.
The underdog effect enables us to let ourselves and other people off the hook, when we and they should not be let off the hook. And at the same time, put all the pressure and accountability on the shoulders of whomever we perceive to be the one with more power. There is a tendency for people to give others a pass when we perceive them to be at the disadvantage, weaker, have smaller status, have smaller chance of succeeding and/or when we perceive them to be the victim. We don’t hold them accountable for what they do or don’t do. We have a soft spot for perceived weakness. It is a psychological fact that the more mistakes someone makes, the more likable they are perceived to be. And the weaker someone is perceived to be, the more people tend to develop a protective affinity for them. Because of this, we feel compassion for them and relieve them of accountability in a situation. We put all the pressure and accountability on the other guy. And we enable dysfunction when we do this.
So that you see what I mean, I’ll give you an example: Miriam is married to Dirk. Dirk is a very aggressive man with a rage streak. He regularly beats his kids. Miriam is terrified of conflict and doesn’t feel capable of leaving Dirk and living out in the world alone. So, she stays and tries to make her kids behave in a way that prevents Dirk from getting angry. Most people will give Miriam a pass because of her weakness and fear and lack of character strength. But her actions had severe negative impact on her children. She enabled and acted as an accessory to their abuse for years. She was a bystander. She kept them in an unsafe environment. She actively supported and maintained dysfunction to the detriment of everyone involved.
I’m going to ask you the following questions and I want you to seriously think about them: Is someone accountable for their weakness? For their limits? Is someone accountable for their lack of personal power? For the character strength they lack? For their failures? For their mistakes? Or are these things an automatic pass?
If the answer is yes, then people will keep using them as an excuse both for what they do and for what they fail to do. We have to seriously consider this because there are VERY real consequences for these things. We can definitely have compassion for someone who hurts other people with these behaviors. But should that absolve them from their responsibility and accountability and should it absolve them from the consequences of their actions or inactions? Consider that to take responsibility for one’s own weakness and limits and mistakes is to not put oneself in a situation in the first place where that weakness or limit or mistake is going to have real consequences for oneself or others.
All too often, we fall into the trap of letting a person off the hook (who is the one that is actually accountable) because they are perceived as weaker and therefore the underdog. And with that, we fall into the trap of placing the accountability on literally any other person around him or her that is stronger, more capable and who seems to have more power.
The underdog effect can cause us to run the risk of making the people around us and our own human society weak. If other people’s power threatens us to the degree that we want people to stay just powerless enough to not be a threat to us, we keep other people down. We keep them small. If we experience pleasure when people who are at the advantage experience misfortune, we subconsciously wish for each other to experience hardship and we slow the progression and advancement of our own species. If we enable and defend weakness, lack of character strength and failure, we are ensuring that it will not only continue, it will grow. If we fail to see other people’s power and fail to reflect it to them, we will fail to help them to step into their power. We are condemning them to powerlessness. If we see the person who lacks power as the automatic good guy, there will always be incentive to stay the victim, to stay powerless or at the very least, feign powerlessness and victimhood as a manipulative tactic. If we only identify with and internalize the underdog, we will remain disconnected from and ignorant of the aspect of ourselves that is more powerful and is at the advantage. The underdog effect can cause us to act as an oppositional force to our own expansion, the personal expansion of others and the expansion of society. It can cause us to thwart our own progress as well as the progress of others.
So when you root for the underdog, just make sure that the underdog effect doesn’t get the better of you!