Comment: As human beings, we have multiple ways in which to block ourselves from the work of living effectively, of living peacefully while honoring each other.
MacQuarrie Email Program #18 — Blocks To Awareness, Part 2
The principal task in this email will be for you to expand your knowledge of your patterns.
In Email #14 The Rules, I noted that the task is to “name the rules! Make them conscious, and make a clean choice as to whether or not you wish to live your life based on this rule. Of importance, the Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing said that: “Until you can see through the rules, you can only see through the rules” — a very astute observation.
Learning and unlearning the rules — this is an important aspect of what life is all about, especially as regards anger. In so doing, you learn how to recognize the sources of anger. The real need is to grasp the patterns emotionally, especially the emotional significance of introjects.
Introjects are undigested attitudes, the SHOULDSs and MUSTs and OUGHT TO’s absorbed from parents and other childhood caretakers, now expressed in a manner that indicate the individual does not know what he or she actually wants, or who he or she actually is. Because introjects are imposed on children, usually in circumstances of criticism, they are painful, and become the basis of blocking awareness.
So this email will expand upon the blocks to awareness in order to gain better access to the rules. To begin, I will repeat some information from Part 1:
- Everybody does all four patterns, but when a pattern is prominent. it becomes troublesome.
- Two patterns (Projection and Retroflection) lead to Top Dog behavior of domination; the other two (Introjection and Confluence) lead to Under Dog victim behavior.
- Two patterns (Projection and Introjection) are heavily invested in responding to shoulds (introjects), whereas (Retroflection and Confluence) avoid emotional experience.
- The chronic behaviors present themselves as patterns wherein the individual is resistant to doing the work necessary for healthy living. Of note, Fearfulness is not Fear. Fear is a healthy response to danger; fearfulness is a pattern of catastrophizing about the future, refusing to do the work because it is perceived as too painful. Laziness is a form of malignant boredom: “I can’t be bothered,” “It’s too much,” “Who cares, anyway.” Self-righteousness means “I’m Right!” (And everyone else is wrong.)
I also mentioned I would describe the patterns in order of ease of identification!
The introjector is relatively easy to identify — he or she is trapped in shoulds. The introjector is repeatedly languaging his or her experience as should (must, have to, et cetera). When he or she uses the pronoun “I,” the real meaning is “everybody.”
The primary skill for responding is that of listening to oneself (see the Checkbox of Change, Email #11), hearing the many times of saying should, either aloud or silently to oneself. The primary tool is the Will I or Won’t I process described earlier (Email #15).
The retroflector is also relatively easy to self-identify; he or she is disconnected from his or her body, although the emotional energy is displayed by some body process. Self-identification by the retroflector is more difficult because the primary need of the retroflector is to avoid emotional contact; the retroflector will usually engage intellectually, but not emotionally.
A major question is thus: When you are stressed, where does it show up in your body (an aching shoulder, a twitch of your leg, et cetera)? The retroflector also shows up in language, in the use of the reflective “myself,” saying such as, “I am ashamed of myself,” or “I have to force myself to do this job.” He or she makes an almost endless series of statements of this sort, all of them suggesting that he and himself (or she and herself) are two different people.
When you identify either of these features (body stress or this language pattern), the primary tool is to engage as if dealing with separate sailors (Email #13). If a body stress, imagine that your body is a sailor, and have an actual conversation with this sailor to explore what is the nature of the stress; if an existing conversation already (e.g., I am ashamed of myself), have a conversation between “I” and “myself.” Who are these two “people?” What are their characteristics? Explore what is being avoided, and what is the underlying need.
The projector is somewhat more difficult to self-identify, basically because the projector dissociates by focusing on the outer world, avoiding self. (Projectors do not often show up in therapy — it is the recipients of their projections who come to therapists!)
The projector is usually speaking of others, in either positive or negative terms, interpreting the behaviors and/or mind-reading the thoughts of others. Projection displays itself in the use of the pronouns “you,” “it,” or “they,” when the real meaning is “I.”
The primary tool for dealing with projection is that of the Pointing Finger (Email #09), reflecting on the possibility that one is talking about oneself when describing others.
The distractor, the person who uses confluence as a primary defense, is the most difficult to self-identify — a master of shifting the focus away from self, usually in a variety of ways. Confluence displays itself in the use of the pronoun “we,” when the real meaning is in question. (Like the projector, the distractor does not often attend therapy. However, the use of distraction is a very common pattern if one observes closely.)
The skill required here is that of tracking the pattern when it occurs, using such as the Checkbox of Change. Once identified, the primary tool is that of identifying what is being avoided, using such as the John James Game Plan to dive deeper into the avoidance.
The fundamental skill in all of these blocks is that of being present to what is actually happening right now, identifying the pattern, identifying what is being avoided, and making a better choice of how to respond. With practice the response can be immediate, but in the beginning, it is often necessary to simply note the pattern, study it at a later time, and then return to the original situation with new resources (all parts of the Checkbox of Change).
As a final note, all of the patterns are useful, when not used as blocks of awareness. Introjects contain the social rules — they are useful to know, and to follow on occasion. Projection is necessary for compassion, for relating to others. (And mind-reading, a type of projection, is both useful and often accurate.) Retroflection is either an example of spontaneously recognizing sailors, or an extreme of the mind-body connection. Confluence is the basis of playfulness, creatively interacting with what life is offering at the moment.
So the goal is not that of eliminating the patterns, but of bringing the patterns to consciousness, making better choices (and having a better relationship with the other-than-conscious mind).
Coming next: Why We Avoid