Comment: We are getting close to the end of the series; I hope you are gaining benefit from it.
MacQuarrie Email Review #03 — The Third Set of Emails
From my perspective, the past eight emails (#17-#24) have included important topics:
- blocks to awareness, and why we avoid
- knowing and living values (rather than beliefs)
- perspective (the distortions you bring) and truth testing
- self-care and forgiveness: living peacefully
And there are a few more emails to go, largely loose ends and miscellaneous topics that have to do with anger management and conflict: (#25 and #26) expanding upon the Blowing Out process, (#27) resolving difficulties, (#28) relationships and intimacy, (#29) responding to children, and #30 (dealing with other angry people), plus there will be a 31st email on loose ends and closure.
Overall, I hope you have benefitted from the program, maybe even enjoyed it.
Question: Have you gotten your outcome, both from Email #01 and the overall program that I am offering in these emails? If you have not, what do you need to do? Ask questions of me? Become more disciplined? Is this program being effective for you? Now is the time to plan.
[At the end of the course, I will be asking for you to send me feedback, partly so that I can know to what extent the program is being effective, and also to make improvements along the way. Please think about what you have gained, what has worked for you and what has not worked, and pass it on to me at the conclusion of the course.]
Probably the most important question I can ask you (of any issue, not just anger) is: What is the positive intention of your anger, in any instance, in every instance? What do you gain by being angry, in this instance? (Most people can tell me what they lose by being angry. However, the more important question is what do you gain — because, until you can find another way to accomplish this positive intention, it is likely that you will continue the pattern of your anger.)
And in the larger scope, what do you need to do so as to continue the advances you have made? Fundamentally your growth as a human being can be unlimited, and unending. It does not just stop with these emails.
There are some fundamentals that can guide the process.
Landmark #1: In the book The Road Less Traveled, the author Scott Peck starts the first page, first paragraph with “Life is difficult.” (I would add ‘sometimes, and recurring.’) Paragraph two of the book indicates this is a great truth, the first Noble Truth of the Buddha. He then goes on to say that once one truly accepts that life is difficult, then life is no longer difficult — because once one truly accepts that life is difficult, then the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. One simply gets on with life! Thus to the extent that you are complaining about life’s difficulties, you have not learned this lesson.
Landmark #2: To what extent do you have compassion for others, and yourself? When my wife and I had our day-retreat center, our flyer stated:
No one is perfect; we all fall down.
The measure of maturity is not that we fall down,
But in how we arise,
And how we assist others when they fall down.
Landmark #3: the Adaptive Skills. People who function effectively have well-developed Adaptive Skills (a concept developed by a colleague John Scherer) — these are the skills that one develops from early childhood onwards, skills that make you who you are. Are you:
- easy to talk with? (your relationship to authority)
- emotionally and cognitively available?
- able to delay gratification? (bracketing anxiety)
- aware of your self? (your self-concept, your congruence, your management of your shadow)
- adaptive? (flexible to your impact on others, especially in conflict)
These are profound skills that you only develop through extensive personal growth, especially by exploring the feedback of others as to how they experience you. Risk revealing yourself!
Landmark #4: the difference between personal growth and therapy. As a human being, I can never fully know myself — ideally I am always expanding into new areas. Some parts I simply have no awareness of, conscious or other-than-conscious — I simply have never explored these parts (the pale green of the accompanying diagram). This is personal growth.
Other parts I have hidden from myself — as a child (usually), things happened and they were very painful. I survived, I adapted, but I kept these parts hidden — they were too painful (the red areas). Now, as an adult, I am a past master at avoiding awareness of these areas of myself — I keep them behind a very thick wall, and I seldom come close to the wall (except when I fall into my rage or other emotions of powerlessness). This wall represents my blocks to awareness (Emails #17-#19). Challenging these blocks, creating holes in the wall, is the task of therapy.
Personal growth can be accomplished with processes such as provided by these emails. Therapy is more dicey — the main reason I (or you) need a therapist is so that a skilled person can give me feedback as to how I avoid recognition of the wall, and thus avoid development of the Adaptive Skills. Ideally the therapist also challenges me to punch holes in the wall, changing the ways in which I block awareness.
So how can you know if your awareness is blocked? Answer: Are you living the Serenity Prayer? Are you picking yourself up when you fall down? Are you living with compassion, for self and other?
Only you can know if you need to work with a therapist; only you can know if you can afford to work with a therapist — it is expensive, but you can be selective to find a good therapist. (I was fortunate in that I had a professional career that gave me adequate income so as to afford costs.) You can avoid much of the costs if you will challenge yourself to do the work of personal growth in a disciplined fashion. And if you are organized in studying your limitations, you can then go to a therapist with selective issues. You need to be in charge of your own therapy, and negotiate with your therapist as to what are your needs — you do not need weekly appointments for years at a time. You do need to develop a working relationship of sufficient depth to allow exploring.