Category Archives: Important Concepts

¿Truths? Part 7

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Meaning2As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths is long, and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

(162 — Continuing from previous) Why bother telling others how I feel?

(163) Telling others how I feel, however, does not lead to change, especially it does not lead to change in others.

It is not meant to!! The only time it really worked this way was as a new-born infant: I cried, I got what I wanted. But all this was soon to change.

(164) I live in a community, an environment of other people. When we are authentic and complete with each other, I am most at peace.

(165) I am dependent on others for many of my needs. This is neither good nor bad, simply part of being human—I am designed for interaction.

(166) In seeking to get my needs met from others, I can either:

  • make hints and expect that they will guess my needs (wherein I am often disappointed and angry—my outcome), or
  • ask for assistance.

(167) Telling how I feel, and expecting change, is not a form of asking. “Asking” means that the answer “no” is acceptable.

(168) I may not like “no”—the other is free to respond, and I am free to ask another!

(169) Basically, I can tell someone else only two things:

  • who I am (what is my experience), and
  • how I think they should be.

(170) Both get me into trouble.

  • When I tell others how they should be, they generally don’t like it.
  • When I tell others who I am, they sometimes tell me how I should be.

(171) I need a way out of this process. For me, that way is a combination of love (compassion) and play (humor and paradox).

(172) I am very committed to you getting your desired outcome in life. I am not committed to my getting your desired outcome for you! Sometimes I choose to do so.

I am very committed to working with you, to exploring with you — when you ask for assistance.

I am not responsible/accountable for you!

(173) Why do I really care what other people think?

In general, when I take a stand, any stand, 25% of people will like it, 25% will not like it, and 50% won’t care.

(174) In each group, however, there will be those who will tell me who I should be, and those who will tell me their own experience.

I would rather have people tell me who they are, even if they disagree with me, than for them to tell me who I should be.

(175) I can also only really ask two things from you:

  1. for some form of behavior change (to which you can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’), or
  2. for information (to which you usually cannot answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’).

(176) Indirect communication is characterized by confusion to these two.

(177) I only am able to hear you when I am moving towards you. “Moving towards” means being interested, excited, physically moving towards, anything such that my interest in focused on you.

I want to hear and be heard—what do I need to do? If I am not willing to hear you, why should you listen to me?

(178) What is the difference between feedback and criticism?

For me, when I tell you who I am, I am giving feedback; when I tell you who you should be, I am criticizing.

Unfortunately though, you will hear what I say through your filters, not mine.

(179) Feedback describes my experience, often in relating to the behaviors you have done.

It is not a request for change; it is data so as to be in authentic relationship.

(180) Criticism describes the difficulty I have with you, and usually ignores my contribution to this difficulty.

It is a request for change, always, and often in a sneaky hidden fashion.

(181) I can only do two things with others:

  • I can give them a gift of my time or my energy. A gift has no price tag, absolutely none, not even a thank you! Yet I gain merit (personal valuation) from gifts (part of the paradox of life)!
  • I can do something for which I expect reciprocity (a transaction for payment!). I do not gain merit from these transactions. I resent when I don’t get paid!

(182) Keeping these two actions separate is absolutely essential!

(183) I have considerable language difficulty in my relationship with others.

To like (love) someone is to be excited by their presence—this has more to do with me that it has to do with you!

To love someone is to “will to extend oneself for their spiritual growth,” to “call them to their own unique power”—this has more to do with my own growth as a human being, my relationship with the universe, than with you.

Interpersonal relationship with another person has most to do with trust, only partially to do with liking and love—I trust you when you keep your commitments and/or when your actions are consistent with expectations.

(184) To trust is to have confidence in the reliability, the predictability, of an occurrence in the future.

It is usually, but not necessarily, a positive hopefulness. If you are repeatedly dishonest, I likely will trust you to be dishonest in the future!

Not usually the effective basis of relationship though!

(185) The distinction between “needs” and “wants” is frequently important in relationship.

Needs reflect that which would affect my survival as a living being. I need oxygen. I need water. I need food. I need shelter.

Wants reflect that about which I have some choice; I can survive without my wants being met, albeit with sadness or pain. I want successful relationships in my life. I want a comfortable home.

(186) Depending on my maturity, many needs and wants overlap or are fuzzy.

If I say to someone, “I need you,” I really am saying I want you in my life, I want the feelings that I experience in your presence.

I can survive without this, and it might be painful to me.

(187) You and I are similar. I feel comfortable with what is familiar! I relax and have fun! I “like” you. We are “acquaintances.”

Then the differences start to emerge.

(188) I am a sexual being. I get “turned on” by certain experiences, many of which I am not consciously aware. When I am “turned on,” my sensations are wonderful; my emotions are powerful; my thinking is very unclear, very foggy.

You and I are similar. You do things that remind me of my sexuality. Thus, “romantic love”—a sexual fog!

Then the differences start to emerge.

(189) You and I are different.

Authentic interpersonal relationship necessitates shared honesty, and the coming to terms with these differences that exist between us. Conflict occurs when we confront these differences—anger, or a precursor of anger, is the emotional impact of this conflict.

To be continued — we are about half way through the list.

Here is the image that Phil added. I am not sure how to add it to the comment:

PotOfStew

 

¿Truths? Part 6

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Problems2As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

(134 — Continuing from previous) Changing my language may radically change my life!!

(135) Much of my reactivity is sustained by five common expressions (or their euphemisms): “I should,” “I don’t know,” “I can’t,” “I’ll try,” and “maybe.”

(136) Maybe (!); do I want to? My energy goes to what I want, not what I should (‘should’ activates that part of me that says “I don’t want to!”)

I have choice! I need to choose! I should choose!! Maybe!! I don’t know if I can!! I can’t!! But I’ll try.

(137) As applied to the external world, there are many things I don’t know, and there are a lot of things about which I know only a little.

However, most of the time when I say “I don’t know,” I am referring to my inner thoughts or experience, and when “I don’t know,” I stop thinking about the subject.

If I don’t know what is happening to me, no one else does either! And no one else can determine what is happening to me—it is my responsibility to know myself!

If I want power/strength/freedom/wisdom, it is also essential that I know myself! I know of no other way to obtain these.

(138) With rare exceptions, the word “can’t” is a misnomer; what I am really saying is that, if I were to do the action (which I most likely can), then I would … (be afraid, be hurt, be angry, lose money, etc.) and I don’t want this outcome.

I “won’t” is a more accurate word for this choice.

(139) “I’ll try” is also a misnomer in that it frequently becomes an excuse for ‘not doing.’

If I have never done something before, my attempt is an experiment and still a ‘doing;’ I may not succeed at my expectation, and yet still gain valuable feedback in my attempt.

If I have done the task before, even without success, I know what to expect (perhaps how difficult the task is). ‘Trying’ (without proper preparation and action) is an excuse.

(140) “Maybe” as applied to my inner world simply means I am too lazy to take the time to know myself! And also I disconnect from my own authentic experience, my truth-testing.

An experiment: Say out loud “Today maybe I will (action — some action to be done [walk to work, eat an apple, . . .]).” Then say “Today I will (action).” Feel the difference created by maybe!

“Maybe” as applied to the external world again means I am too lazy, perhaps not willing to take time to know myself, or more commonly not willing to be engaged in commitment.

Neither lead to effectiveness in my life.

(141) If I give attention to my actual experience, I can know myself!

(142) My relationships with others are based on:

  • being authentic (showing the other who I am), and
  • keeping my commitments (doing what I say I will do).

(143) Living in this manner takes much time and effort.

(144) I do not make commitments lightly. As much as possible, I attempt to be very clear as to what I am committing.

(145) I can only keep commitments when I know the terms by which I may break my commitment.

Often my commitments have time limits, or some other way for negotiation of conflicts.

(146) Commitments require a vision, a purpose to which I am committed. Big purposes require more commitment, and are also more validating of my being, my sense of belonging and of valuing myself and the universe.

(147) When I interact with another, when I show the other who I am, when I give voice to who I am, the message that is received by the other is often different from the message that I intend.

This is a major source of difficulty in my relationships, in my authenticity, especially when I assume that the other has received what I have intended.

(148) A partial truth, especially true in persisting relationships, is that the message received is the message given!

Messages between persons are incredibly complex. Communication depends on the present content, the way in which the message is given, and the filters of both giver and recipient (which in turn are influenced by the past experience in the relationship, and in all previous relationships!)

Human communication is frequently miscommunication, especially when emotionally laden!

(149) Communication is complex!

“I believe you understand what you think I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I said.”

(150) Equally true (and harder to recognize):

“I believe that you understand what I said but I’m not sure you realize that what I said is not what I meant or what you think I meant.”

(151) Consider also:

I believe you understand what you think I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I said.”

Voice tone and inflection can be incredibly important!

(152) How do I know what to say?

First I need to be able to know what I am experiencing. And I need to know my values, my significant beliefs. Then I need to be able to compare all this with what the other is experiencing. Highly complex.

Amazingly, I learned how to do this simultaneous with the development of language, while dealing with the subtle craziness of family and culture!

Wow!! Enough to drive one (or me) crazy!

(153) If I have given the same message more than twice, the other either cannot, should not, or will not hear.

If I don’t recognize this, I’m sending the wrong message myself.

(154) When you don’t know what to do, do it slowly.

(155) I live in an environment, an environment of other people, all of whom are also attempting to live in ways that keep them safe, if not joyous.

(156) Other people are mirrors for me; it is from others that I learn to see myself. I need to know the authentic experience of others so as to see myself more clearly.

To do this effectively, I need ways of sorting the information I get from others. What is authentic experience? Who/what do I trust?

(157) You are the ultimate Mystery to me. I cannot possibly understand you—I am not you.

What I can do is make meaning of who you are (my story) and then be an ‘I’ and a ‘Thou? with you—a distorted mirror for us to experience each other and learn from what we are experiencing.

(158) There are skills to observing the message being received, often called “calibration” of the response—also known as “body language.”

The message received creates biologically observable and consistent responses, changes in skin color, body stance, and many other changes, long before a verbal response occurs.

The same is true of the message sent.

(159) These biological responses are available to each of us: your responses are observable by me, and my responses are also observable by me. They form the basis of my truth-testing.

(160) Part of the difficulty of communication is that the verbal response is often different from the calibration response, a so-called double message.

Confusing! Valuable at times also!

(161) Calibration can also be used to check the message being sent!

(162) Given the complexity of communication, why bother telling others how I feel?

Essentially to be honest with myself, and to define my self [sic]!! When I do this, I like myself better! and I develop my inner strength!

To be continued.

¿Truths? Part 5

Dave’s ¿Truths?

CogDiss01As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

(107 — continuing from previous) Some actions are more useful than others. They distinguish effectiveness from purity.

(108) Frequently, effectiveness and purity do not coincide. Do I want purity, or do I want effectiveness?

If what I get is recurrent pain, somehow I am contributing, somehow I am wanting purity.

(109) The mind is a pattern generator—a generator of behavior that becomes patterned behavior (habit and/or stuckness).

Purity is often pattern!

 (110) I need to be careful of what I am choosing—I may get what I ask for!

Do I really want this outcome? I have known people to tell others “Drop dead!”¾and they have!

(111) I have a center, a place within myself, or a way of being where I am most stable, at peace and ready to be in action.

I can learn to be centered.

(112) Learning to be centered necessitates three things:

  • developing a vision of who I am and where I want to go with my life, something greater than myself to which I am committed.
  • developing discipline in my life.
  • planning—keeping track of what I need to do on a daily basis, balanced with a philosophy of “just do it!”

(113) The meaning of life, being centered in life, always points to or is directed to something or someone other than self; strict orientation to self does not appear to be an effective stance.

This stance of being centered can be through creative contribution (achievement), exploration of relationship (affiliation) or by acceptance of unavoidable pain (the inward journey of freedom).

(114) To live is to have pain (sometimes); to live well is to find meaning in the pain.

Life ultimately asks that I take responsibility to find the answers to its problems, and to fulfill the tasks it repeatedly sets for me, for each and every individual. These tasks differ from individual to individual, and from moment to moment for the same individual.

(115) The word ‘self’ is frequently misunderstood; the word actually has many meanings, often derogatory.

The suffix ‘-ish’ refers to ‘having the characteristic of.’ How is it that ‘selfish’ is so derogatory?

(116) True selfishness means to be centered, to have the characteristics of a self!

However, such a state threatens others (and becomes ‘Don’t be so selfish!’), a focus on the other, the crab box (see #18).

(117) Meaning provides reasons; actions provide results.

(118) I am most centered when I am complete with the actions that I want to do, the actions that are effective, the actions that lead me to a sense of health and resolution of the tasks I have set myself.

(119) Invariably, this includes my environment. I am not ‘independent,’ nor am I a parasite on others.

I am dependent on my world in many ways though. And I need to be aware of the consequences of my choices.

(120) When I avoid my own need for action, I lose my center. Completeness does not mean that I have no issues that trouble me—it means I am at peace with my own actions.

(121) A friend of mine wants his tombstone to read “He couldn’t do everything—so he did something!”

(122) Progress in my life requires a balance of actions, those from myself and those from others. Completeness means that I am awaiting action from others.

I seek completeness.

(123) Some issues/conflicts of my life are more important than others. Conflicts trouble me when:

  • I am in internal struggle with myself (my “shoulds”), or
  • I am in external struggle with others (their “shoulds”).

(124) My “shoulds” present major issues for me, and I seek resolution; they are important to me.

The “shoulds” of others require that I delimit myself; I have the right and the responsibility to agree or to disagree—and to be at peace with my actions.

(125) As much as possible, I transform my “shoulds” into choices based on how I would manage the worst possible outcome of “Will I?” or “Won’t I?”

If I am willing to accept the risk of the worst case, I can always manage whatever outcome occurs. If neither option generates anxiety, I choose on the basis of what is the best that will happen.

(126) I also have a dark side, a part of me that I do not know well, and frequently do not wish to know well—lazy and arrogant amongst other characteristics.

Frequently my dark side is my most creative part. A big component of the second half of life is to learn from, and come to terms with, my dark side.

(127) Fish swim in the ocean; I swim in language!

Language provides the basis of giving meaning to my awareness and of being in action, of interacting with others.

(128) The discipline of monitoring my own language, of what I am actually voicing, is an incredibly powerful discipline.

(129) More and more, I recognize that I can only language in metaphor, an implied comparison with the intention to create meaning.

My best use of language is to strive for you (or me, in my self talk)¾the listener¾to have a detailed sensory experience of the meaning I am intending, either by telling you my actual experience as it happened, or by creating a metaphor with similar effect.

(130) Telling you my conclusions, rather than my experience, is fraught with difficulty.

It is very possible you will argue with my conclusions.

People seldom argue when told of experience.

(131) Language most likely developed as a process for cooperative behavior. Essentially by definition, cooperative refers to non-innate behavior, behavior that requires some form of future intent, and some form of self-conscious choice.

Given that we humans remain creatures of habit, most cooperation occurs via some form of ritual, some form of stylized agreed-upon habit.

(132) Once a culture or a species can generate language, the possibility of non-genetic inheritance (memetic) becomes an actuality; we call it tradition! enforced usually by ritual!

This inheritance may also be multi-dimensional, through time and space, to friends and neighbors, rather than simply thru time to our children.

Genes and memes: memes likely are transmission processes unique to our species.

(133) This form of inheritance (via memes) is extremely powerful.

Witness the furor of the Irelands over centuries,  the devastation of Bosnia-Serbia, the terrorism of the 21st century. Consider also the influence of the family, where both genetic and cultural transmission occur!

(134) Changing my language may radically change my life!!

To be continued.

¿Truths? Part 4

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Truth3As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

[An apology also — sometimes the formatting offered by WordPress is very limiting! An aspect of technology that I hate is that it forces me into processes that I do not want in my life; yet the same technology offers many advantages. Thus my common statement: Technology is wonderful — when it works.]

(80 — continuing from previous) Reactivity is a habit! And like all habits, sustained by laziness!

(81) I cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.

I alone am 100% responsible for everything that I feel, think, and do! People may stir my pot or push my buttons, but I provide the pot and the buttons.

Personal freedom has to do with having many choices, acting on those choices, and dealing with the consequences.

(82) Awareness is essential! My “attention to my ongoing spontaneous sensations and perceptions” is fundamental (and may be developed through discipline).

The more grounded I am in Now, the more choice I have. When I distinguish between my perceptions, and how I interpret these perceptions (my story), the more choice I have.

This is the basis of personal freedom (and of power and strength).

(83) My awareness is often rapid and fleeting, just barely within consciousness.

This is especially true of those perceptions that I wish to avoid, those that are painful to confront.

(84) “The Rules” (the social constraints as to how I and you should be) are generally out-of-consciousness. They are so familiar, and so pervasive, that it is simpler to keep them out-of-consciousness; then we can be ‘good little boys and girls,’ approved of by others, especially our parents.

(85) Two of the major rules are:

  • ‘don’t talk about the rules—keep them out-of-consciousness’ and
  • ‘your rules are the same as my rules.’

(86) These keep me safe — and keep life complex.

I learned these rules as a small child, asking questions when others were uncomfortable or anxious. Rather than acknowledge their discomfort, they criticized me and, in my pain, I learned not to speak about the rules. Eventually I learned not to think about the rules.

I also had to assume that each one of us obeys the same set of rules. It was the only way for me to make sense of my world.

Then it seemed like I could avoid the pain. And I could for a while.

(87) A major difficulty however occurrs when I moved out of my family of origin, into another family of my own creation. And I assume that everybody had the same rule!

Not a good assumption! My partner has a different set of rules, also in the other-than-conscious domain. So we fight, and wonder what is happening, but we can’t talk about the rules. That breaks the rules!

The consequence is called Guilt!

(88) Guilt is useful for about ten (10) minutes.

Guilt is the meaning/energy I give to an issue when I break the rules.

If the rules are out-of-consciousness and I cannot talk about them, I have created a problem for myself.

(89) If I am guilty, then I am attempting to give myself a message about a problem, usually about a belief of mine that I am bypassing.

I have broken some rule as to how I ‘should’ act.

(90) The rule is out-of-conscious, likely because I hold it as a ‘should’ rather than a ‘want.’

My growth work is to hear the message, and decide if I want to attend to it or not. If not, I need to resolve my guilt; if so, I need to be in action!

(91) As with ‘guilt,’ so the above is applicable to ‘embarrassment,’ ‘resentment’ and ‘rebellion’—they are useful for about 10 minutes.

I am ‘embarrassed’ when I assume you will criticize me for breaking the rules. And, after all, you have the same rules as I do! So you know when I am breaking the rules!

I ‘resent’ you when you break the rules, my rules, and I am unable to talk about the rules. And, after all, you have the same rules as I do! Don’t we?

I ‘rebel’ when you attempt to impose your ‘rules’ on me, rules I don’t want to acknowledge, because we cannot talk about them. That breaks the rules!

(92) I ‘shame’ myself when, in addition to being trapped in breaking the rule,  I consider that I am also bad for breaking the rule.

(93) If you want to be a slave, harbor your resentments and your guilt.

They bind you to your out-of-conscious rules. Such crazy rules!

(94) I have a set of tools for solving problems; they are called actions. My disciplines are also actions. Depending on the stresses in my life, I need different tools at different times.

(95) I can only solve problems through actions! I can act my way into a new way of thinking; usually I cannot think my way into a new way of acting.

Interaction with life involves risk! There is no risk in thinking; thinking does not mobilize action. Intention mobilizes action!

(96) Actions speak louder than words; they are also more truthful!

(97) I have a body! I use my body to be in action. It is the only body I have, or will have. I need/want to keep it healthy.

More than anything else, health involves intelligent attention to good nutrition, regular exercise, and effective responses.

(98) I use my body as my source of information.

All biological organisms are designed to receive information (awareness—sensation through sensory systems) and act on that information (action—response through motor systems). All information comes to my mind from my body (perhaps!? — consciousness is very complex, probably more than my simple body).

(99) Given that I am a spiritual being, it is probable that there are other sources of information. However, in the complexity of our modern materialistic world, it is difficult to determine what these other sources might be, or to access them in reliable ways.

My body is my best starting point.

(100) My body (body-mind-heart-soul-spirit) is a vast system of communicative networks, responding to demand. Three systems predominate:

  • Neurological: electro-chemical orientation, an organizing neuronal/humoral network (uni-cellular), encoding information, responding in milliseconds to seconds. Principally responsible for temporal consciousness and memory.
  • Cardiovascular: fluid pressure orientation, a distributive network (multi-cellular), transferring information/resources, responding in seconds to days. Principally responsible for ??? (¿felt sense—emotionality or spiritual?).
  • Myofascial: mechanical piezo-electrical orientation, a structural network (extracellular), allowing movement within the exo-system, responding in days to years. Principally, it seems to be responsible for energetic consciousness and memory.

(101) The purpose of my mind is to be a delay loop between awareness and action! Almost always, when I am suffering, I am stuck in the delay loop.

(102) The system (me) is well-designed—not omnipotent, just well-designed.

(103) The system is so well-designed that almost always my body knows my truths, and what actions are appropriate.

Usually this occurs  long before I am ready to acknowledge this information consciously.

(104) Action clears the delay loop for new information, and new possibility.

(105) Action can be specific (this is what I need to do—so just do it!) or it can be non-specific discharge (exaggeration, role play, anger discharge in safety, etc.).

Both satisfy the system. (This is one of the fundamental distinctions of my Blowing Out work.)

(106) If at first you don’t succeed, do anything else that is different!

(107) Some actions are more useful than others—they generate the outcomes I want. This is called being effective.

I stop myself from this because it “doesn’t feel right!”—it does not correspond to the way life ‘should’ be. I call this purity —and generally I want purity!

‘Feeling’ has nothing to do with right or wrong; ‘shoulds’ certainly do!

To be continued.

 

¿Truths? Part 3

Dave’s ¿Truths?

Truth2As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — such self-study is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list of these truths is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

[An apology also — sometimes the formatting offered by WordPress is very limiting! An aspect of technology that I hate is that it forces me into processes that I do not want in my life; yet the same technology offers many advantages. Thus my common statement: Technology is wonderful — when it works.]

(52 — the ending of the previous post) What traps me most as a human being is when I assume that the story I make up is true (!), somehow more important than the facts.

(53) Some of my beliefs are easy to identify; others are very difficult.

I have beliefs about my environment, my behaviors, my capabilities, even beliefs about my beliefs—all of these are comparatively easy to identify and manage.

My beliefs about who I should be (my values), about who I am (my identity), and about my identity (my faith), become progressively more difficult to identify and to manage.

(54) Life is difficult; life is painful (I would add: sometimes!). This is the first Noble Truth of the Buddha (Truth #1 of four and I ascribe to them all). There are aspects of life that I do not want to face, and I do a lot to avoid these aspects ( usually inappropriately).

The biggest difficulty (Truth #2) arises because, somehow as a human being, I do not want to believe that life is difficult. “Life should not be this way! Life should be easy!” I want to hold on the pleasurable, and avoid the painful. I suffer when life is not easy — “it should be easy.”

Truth #3 is: Pain (truth #1) is inevitable; suffering (truth #2) is optional.

(55) Maturation through life requires acceptance and discipline (Truth #4).

The Buddhists say it somewhat different from this.

(56) If I truly accept what life offers and am disciplined in my responses, life becomes easier—not less painful, just easier! And frequently more joyous!

(57) Biologically, I am deeply influenced by pain/pleasure. My mind-brain is set to experience reward with the occurrence of pleasure—whatever I consider as pleasure (and possibly also reward if I avoid pain).

In this, I have a short-term orientation to life, my source of satisfaction or my nemesis! Long-term orientation is generally more satisfying if I am seeking peace or happiness (wanting what I get). And more difficult to achieve.

Fortunately I have choice—it come with the human mind (?brain).

(58) What I resist will persist!

Human beings are not helpless, only habitual.

(59) Accepting that life is the way that it is, and authentically working for change, is a major step for creative life!

(60) Acceptance is a very active process: it is not passive! It may not be easy, though.

Often, I accept best when I, to the best of my ability:

  1. examine what I gain and lose from the problem,
  2. acknowledge/appreciate the positives,
  3. minimize/change the negatives, and
  4. forgive my humanness.

(61) By discipline, I mean “doing what I need/want to do even when I do not want to do it”, usually every day.

If I want to fly with eagles, I need to do more than play with turkeys! I need to do what is healthy for me.

(62) Discipline is a way for me to learn about myself, and to stretch my boundaries; it is a way to look at myself in action. The disciplines that I teach (informally) are Yoga (Iyengar), Meditation (Vipassana), and Journal Writing (Progoff). There are many others; essentially they all involve a dedication to truth.

How can I maximize the ways in which I use discipline?

(63) What I gain from discipline is stamina, stamina to be at peace with life’s pain.

(64) Some more definitions to consider/experience:

Pain—                 The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of bodily harm.

Anxiety—   The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of personality harm.

Discipline— The conscious awareness of an unpleasant experience that denotes the potential of health, such that I choose the experience.

The action of choosing needs to be experience-based, not should-based.

(65) Discipline is not a solution; it is a tool to allow me to be still while I find other means of resolution.

(66) Much of every-day life requires discipline in the form of delayed gratification, cleaning up mess so as to have greater satisfaction.

Discipline allows one to do the cleanup with contentment rather than resentment.

(67) Laziness and fearfulness trap me; “life should be easy.”

(68) Life is not fair! It never was!

The only thing in life that is fair is what you and I agree to accept as fair. It is then unfair when one of us breaks this agreement.

Otherwise, life is! Each one of us is handed a different set of circumstances and issues with which to grapple, perhaps to solve.

Optimally we agree to treat each other fairly. We get into difficulty though when we assume that this agreement exists.

(69) My current definition of life is:

“Life is what happens when I am planning something else.”

(70) We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.

(71) It’s not so much what happens to me that matters, but how I respond!

Sometimes the environment is toxic; more commonly I lack flexibility.

Freedom and wisdom both depend on flexibility!

(72) Energy is the capability of doing work, of initiating movement. Life energy, aliveness, is my inherent excitement that I bring to my life.

Emotions occur when I give meaning and direction to my energy.

(73) There are three fundamental “laws” that impact life energy:

  • every human being wants positive experience,
  • it is easier to get negative experience than to get positive, and
  • negative experience is better than no experience.

(74) As simple as these laws seem, they account for much human behavior.

(75) ‘Bitching’ and ‘being a bitch’ are not female preoccupations.

‘Bitching’ means to use one’s energy to complain rather than to negotiate or problem-solve, to be indirect rather than direct—it is generally an ineffective means of power, used by both men and women. It is a way to negative experience.

Pot(76) One of the best metaphors I know for describing myself is as a pot of stew (all the stuff of my past: my values, beliefs, memories and expectations, my VBMEs), being heated on the stove by my current or recent stressors, stirred by a spoon (the current event, here now, often your behavior).

(77) When my pot is stirred (or my buttons pushed, however you want to name this), what comes to the surface (my thoughts and feelings, my T/F) are information as to what is happening, especially information as to what is already in the pot.

Although the process is rapid (and predominantly outside of awareness), I then choose my behavior, my responses (again, also often out of awareness).

If I am aware, I speak of “responding”; if unaware, I “react.” In any event, my behavior then becomes the spoon for your pot! And your subsequent response becomes a further spoon for me, or someone else, and so on!

(78) Consider, however:

  • If I were really stirring a pot of stew with a spoon, and a carrot came to the surface, would I blame the spoon for the carrot? Did the spoon make the carrot?
    • No! The spoon brought the carrot to the surface, but it did not make or cause the carrot.
    • Yet this process is what happens when I blame you for my thoughts, feelings or behavior, when I say “you made me …..”.
  • Your behavior is simply your behavior; I have no divine right to change it, or to judge it. However, I do have the right to know, to account for it, especially if I believe you intend to harm me.
    • If I feel anguish of some kind (anger, sadness, etc.) and you intend it, I wish to protect myself from you, either by leaving or by defending myself in some other way!

(79) In order for me to react to an event (a spoon), I must perceive it (take in the information), and then make an interpretation or judgment about it, especially about its possible danger to me. Generally this is a highly primitive fight-or-flight reaction, incredibly rapid and out of awareness!

Then I prepare my response, and my body starts to reacts, again out of awareness! This body reaction is my emotion, my body getting ready for motion.

I have some choices and control over this process.

(80) Reactivity is a habit! And like all habits, sustained by laziness!

To be continued.

 

¿Truths? Part 2

Meaning2As noted with ¿Truths? Part 1, I am choosing to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I submit them simply for self-study as an example of one person’s searching — it is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, 25-30 brief statements per posting.

As previously noted, a comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology of scientific materialism has many hidden presuppositions. As much as possible, I will identify them in these posts.

[An apology also — sometimes the formatting offered by WordPress is very limiting! An aspect of technology that I hate is that it forces me into processes that I do not want in my life; yet, the same technology offers many advantages. Thus my common statement: Technology is wonderful — when it works.]

  1. (Continuing the previous) As part of being present, I learn skills of living.
  2. The skills fall into two main groups:
    • skills of integrity, being my word, including choosing action (pro-activity) rather than “understanding” or “reaction,” developing a vision of where I want to go and how, and being disciplined in “how” I action my vision
    • being in relationship with life, trustworthy and committed, including balancing my needs with the needs of others and being a midwife for others..
  1. All this requires that I be very clear of who I am!

Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself (Thomas Merton).

  1. My journey is not your journey. You need to do your own journey.

The only truth I can tell you is of my journey.

  1. I can never know absolute truth; depending on circumstances, everything is true, and everything is bull. What I gain on the journey is wisdom, the knowing of my own truth! I cannot teach wisdom to anyone else.
  2. I am here now!

This is very simple, yet very fundamental. This is the only time in which I am able to make a difference in life. What difference, if any, do I want to make at this time? Now? Here?

  1. As a biologic creature, I have all the resources I require so as to be alive, to live fully.

I frequently wonder about this; present-day human life is very complex. Sometimes I truly do not know something, and I obtain such from another source. Such resources are invaluable to challenge me in my growth.

However, if there is something such as universal consciousness, then perhaps all is available to me, if only I knew how.

I certainly need integration of my resources; my society also needs integration.

  1. The following statement speaks volumes!

“Until you can see through the rules, you can only see through the rules.” (R. D. Laing)

  1. Believing is seeing!

Usually we say “seeing is believing;” less accurate though.

  1. I am currently doing the best that I can. Even when I believe I should be doing something else, I am still doing the best I can right now.

I can however do something different (especially if I do not like what I am currently doing!)—I have choice!

There is a price tag to choice!

  1. Fears are ‘Fantasied Experiences Appearing Real.’

One of the activities I enjoy is climbing—50’-60’ in the air, suspended by a safety harness. The real risk is slight; the perceived risk is high (and exciting).

Most of my fears are due to perceived risk! I call this fearfulness. And I need to be careful that I do evaluate the real risks!

  1. There is a major distinction between fear and fearfulness.

‘Fear’ is the authentic response to danger. ‘Fearfulness’ is the catastrophic response to ‘fantasized experiences appearing real.’

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, indicated that this latter is one of the only two sins—it alienates us from life.

  1. This distinction became the basis of my PhD dissertation — the study of acedia, an ancient term that for me includes fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness as the fundamental emotional processes we use to avoid authentic living.
  2. Some thoughts/definitions of importance to me.
  • Power—               the ability to influence others.
  • Strength—            the ability to resist others.
  • Freedom—           the ability to influence myself.
  • Wisdom—            flexibility with craziness (yours and/or mine).
  1. I live within an environment, and I impact that environment. Even when I am doing “nothing,” I still have an impact.

What is my impact? Do I truly want this impact?

  1. On rare occasions, I am an innocent victim of the universe (especially true of children).

I am never one when my pain is recurrent—always I contribute to my own suffering.

I have no power to change the universe; I do have power to change my self.

  1. Assuming there is a purpose underlying the universe (God, Creator, .Mystery, …), then there are probably no innocent victims, ever. We are given this life to live it, in all its complexity.

There is a great freedom in accepting that I have chosen to be here.

Yet I often wonder as to the purpose envisioned by Creator. The diversity of life is so complex, especially in the realm of good and evil.

  1. I have a purpose in being here! Even when I do not know what that purpose is, I still have a purpose. What is my purpose?

Sometimes my purpose seems small (I want to talk to you!); sometimes my purpose seems grand (I am an instrument of Mystery!). Always I am a creature of the universe, contributing to whatever purpose resides in the universe.

  1. My time is my time! No one, absolutely no one, gets my time without my permission! I can give my time freely, or resentfully—either way, with my permission!
  2. I am an explorer. I am often happiest being an explorer. As explorer, I cannot fully know what I am exploring until I have explored it!

Frequently, when exploring, I feel very scared.

When I am most scared, and able to explore my scare, I find my biggest treasures.

  1. As much as possible, I seek simplicity and clarity. For me, these allow me a place to stand in the universe. What is the simple and the obvious in my life?
  2. There is a major difference between wishes and goals.

Wishes are exciting, generally vague, and usually I can tell you why I don’t have “it” in my life, perhaps with excuses or explanations. I may also regret, or somehow create, a negative experience from this.

Goals are planned directions, planned in that I know what I want and how to get it, what I need to do and when. The RPMS of goals are Realistic, Practical, Measurable and Specific!

  1. When I am living a goal, it is likely that I am also excited and looking forward, able to celebrate when I am finished (or having reached a significant milestone on the path). I can also change direction when necessary.

How do I live my life, what part as wishes and as goals? Both are useful at times.

  1. “Want” does not mean that I like something; it means that “I choose” (perhaps the better of two goods, often the lesser of two evils).
  2. There are no guarantees!
  3. One of the simple concepts in life is that there are three kinds of “facts”:
  • there are external facts (outside myself—said to be objective — wow!),
  • there are my personal facts (my own internal sensations, thoughts, feelings and my behavior descriptions of what I experience outside myself), and
  • there are my interpretations of these two other facts (the story I make up about these first two types of facts).
  1. What connects these three are my beliefs. Keeping all these aspects, my facts and my beliefs, separate and manageable is an amazingly difficult process—and an incredibly rewarding one when I do so.
  2. What traps me most as a human being is when I assume that the story I make up is true (!), somehow more important than the facts.

Also, I often keep my beliefs out-of-consciousness (so as to maintain this trap)! To step out of the trap means that I will encounter pain (and hopefully joy).

To be continued.

¿Truths? Part 1

Questioning the truth

More than thirty years ago, in my attempt to grasp effective change, I decided to write down my beliefs as short concise statements which could be compared with to my actual experiences, and thus validated. Thus, the following are truths for me. I speak them only as my experience, my beliefs, my values, and yet I think they are universal, independent of culture for the most part. This practice has proved to be one of the most powerful activities of my own growth. It allowed me to be clear of my own attitudes about myself and the world. Initially I revised them every few months, now every couple of years. I also live them as much as possible; they are always in revision and are not absolute.

Now at age 76 I am undertaking a major life review and choose to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I offer them simply for self-study of one person’s searching — it is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, perhaps 25-30 brief statements per posting.

A comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology that describes me include Gestaltist, panpsychist, and panentheist (those terms require many comments). Essentially I believe that consciousness and energy-matter are two sides of the same coin, a coin that is not yet describable (if it makes sense to you, think of wave and particle in quantum mechanics). However, most of the world is orientated to scientific materialism, and much information I value is coached in these terms. I attempt to be very precise with my language, but because of these issues, I often use somewhat strange language, and I ask patience of the reader. For example, I often speak of mind-brain, when I am not clear as to how the mind (consciousness) and brain (energy-matter) interact. I certainly do not believe they are synonymous; only that they are somehow related, and that perhaps mind is vastly more sophisticated than brain. Other examples will be explained as they occur.

We so need to grow as a species!

Dave’s ¿Truths?

1. I forget these truths, frequently and repeatedly!

The hardest thing for me to learn is what I don’t know, because I don’t know that I don’t know it!

Frequently it is not safe for me to learn these truths—there is a price tag to truth.

2. A major problem of our society is the loss of the subjective.

Objectivity provides great technology, and only limited humanity.

3. There is an old engineering principle that states: “If it works, use it.” Very practical!

One corollary is “If your conclusions are wrong, examine your premises.” When my conclusions about life are wrong, I may need to examine my assumptions.

Similarly, “If your conclusions are right, don’t trust your premises.” Life is an ongoing process of exploration in which I am repeatedly encountering new wonders (and terrors).

4. What I have gained in my life, especially from childhood, is a map of life.

The map is not the territory!

5. Life comes as a complete package, a territory, not a map, and includes subjectivity, objectivity, diversity, community, decay, rejuvenation, … (perhaps this is just our dramatic dualistic way of experiencing).

I am not in charge! Dualism may be an inherent component in the universe. Witness right-handed and left-handed amino acids, and our biologic preferences.

However, consciousness does not need to be dualistic (right/wrong, good/bad, et cetera). Perhaps consciousness is fully non-dual.

6. Each of us is unique! We have many similarities, yet we each have unique maps, similar but not the same.

No two people understand the same situation (any situation, any sentence, any object, any smell, et cetera) in the same manner. We frequently delude ourselves that we do!

When I truly validate this difference, the consequences are staggering!

7. There is much evidence that life is painful (sometimes); there is no evidence that life is serious.

Being able to play with what life offers is a major skill, and part of maturity.

8. Another major skill of maturity is the ability to know when to be silent!

And preferably in awe of whatever is occurring.

9. The most successful person in the world is the one who is having the most fun.

In my experience, I do not compare when I am having fun! I simply have fun! Everything is included and integrated when I am having fun; there are no divisions.

10. Human beings are fundamentally playful, if allowed to be so. Our integrity seeks authentic feel-good experiences.

If a new, authentically more effective pattern can be experienced in place of an older less effective pattern, we will change rapidly and permanently. Invariably this new pattern has an authentic feel-good character. Integration of the change within our lives, and our emotional systems, may require considerable time.

11. There are two basic processes available in creating change: choice and playfulness.

Choice involves deciding how we want to live, given our options, moving in that direction. There will be consequences, and hence a price tag to our choices.

Playfulness is available as a skill so as to create authentic more effective patterns within our choices, generally improving the cost/benefit ratio of the price tag. Often playfulness requires challenge of the existing system.

12. When I am in pain (or suffering), I need to examine my map; when I am comfortable, I need to be careful with my map.

What limits me is my ability (or inability) to say “yes” to what life offers—the territory! not the map!

13. Please do not trap me in the limitations of your map.

It is extremely painful to get caught in your interpretation of me when that interpretation does not reflect my reality, and you do not have a way to step back from our/your reality to assess the data.

Certainly at a personal level, it is the most painful experience of my life, and at a societal level, I think it is probably our most common emotional problem. one in which people have great difficulty letting go of their maps.

14. The basis of our humanness seems to reside in our brains (see next comment).

Our brains are built in three evolutionary stages: the brain of a lizard (fundamental survival), the brain of a mammal (emotion, including love and play), and a human brain (clarity and choice, the ability to deal with the complexity of  time and meaning).

15. However, consciousness is not necessarily restricted to our brain.

I often wonder what is the connection between mind and brain. As a physician, I know that I lose the ability to access the consciousness of an individual when they have major brain injury, but that does not mean that consciousness exists within the brain. The brain need only be an access portal.

The nature of near-death experiences suggests that there may be other portals.

16. I have limitations. I am not God (whatever that term means); I cannot do everything.

I have choice though. I have the beginning of awareness, and I can develop my awareness further. I can also play.

I can love, or I can fear. When I fear, I call the other a problem—and I have pain. If I then say “this should not be,” then I suffer.

17. I have a set of beliefs. The purpose of beliefs is to link one experience to another. Somehow, as a human being, I believe that my beliefs are more important than what I experience. Wow!

Many of my beliefs are “shoulds!” Wow again! This is principally how I drive myself crazy (or at least neurotic)! It is also how I drive others crazy.

18. Much of my experience is grounded in biology.

One of my favorite stories is how to catch crabs in the ocean. Put a large open box (a big box), partially filled with bait, on the ocean floor. The crabs (10-20 crabs) will climb into the box, and eat the bait. Then, when the bait is all gone, the crabs will keep each other in the box—they won’t let each other leave. If persistent, they will kill the crab that wants to leave by tearing its claws off. Biologists call it ‘the togetherness factor’.

Wow! How we ‘should’ each other.

19. Other experiences that I have had are grounded in something else.

In particular, I have been graced with occasional profound mystical experiences. I do not know how to ground these in biology. Perhaps they are simply a survival mechanism for responding to existential loneliness.

20. When is enough? A huge question!

For me, ‘enough’ means that I have what I need for adequate comfort, and a bit more for occasional luxuries.

21. What I experience, and what I value (peace, community, et cetera), are far better guides to life and its richness than what I believe.

In my experience, do I achieve my values? If not, what am I valuing instead?

22. I am on a journey, this phase of which begins with conception, and ends with death. The journey is one of growth to be a mature human being, whatever that means. Essentially, it means to be present to life.

23. The word “present” has multiple meanings, a triple entendre!

it means to be here,

it refers to now, and

it is also a gift to be opened!

24. Are you present? Am I present?

25. As part of being present, I learn skills of living. The skills are not the journey, merely the tools of the journey. Being in action of my own truths is one of the skills; in particular, I value this process.

How Then Shall We Live?

CogDiss01In my reading today I encountered a truly outstanding description of how one man chooses to live with Climate Change, something that will affect all our lives. Dahr Jamail’s commentary As the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live? (20190204, the first of a series) touches me deeply, both for his honesty and for his depth of knowledge and understanding. He is one of a small group of journalists in whom I have a deep sense of trust as to his integrity. (Joe Rohm is another source that I trust for his knowledge and his integrity.)

Jamail writes for TruthOut on climate issues and I recommend all his writings. I have recently ordered his book The End Of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (20190122). I will undoubtedly be reporting on this in a later blog.

As I write these words, I also have a moment of profound cognitive dissonance. I am slowly reading Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken, a very well-researched description of 100 substantive solutions to reverse global warming. I also think of the DVD Tomorrow (2015) that I watched a few weeks ago, a video that deeply impressed me with its hopeful message of creative responses to climate issues.

Thus I simultaneously hold the honest searching and sadness of what we have done and do to our planet together with the incredible creativity that is available. All this with the recognition of how powerless we are to deal with the insanity of capitalism and neoliberalism, the power dynamics that run our system.

It truly reminds me to be humble of the limited yet important ways in which I can contribute.

Other articles worth reading:

Jamail writes a regular series of articles for TruthOut, many of which can be found under Climate Disruption Dispatches or his website http://www.dahrjamail.net/.

The most dangerous climate feedback loop is speeding up (Joe Rohm, 20190117)

And on the flip side:

Opinion: Our house is on fire, and many Albertans want more lighters (20181229)

A very clear presentation of the options for Albertans. What I find fascinating is the number of ad hominin attacks in the Commentary section, an indication of the amount of toxic discourse (as noted in the past few posts).

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

How conflict escalates

I mentioned in my last post Finding Common Ground that people “argue conclusions,” and more readily relate to sensory experiences. In this post, I want to explore the mechanisms involved. If we are to find common ground, it is important that we understand mechanisms whereby conflict escalates — there is an adage: “Give a man a fish and he will feed for a day; teach a man to fish, and he will feed for a lifetime.”

That very adage is sensory. I can almost guarantee that in reading it, you had memories that engaged with the adage. Similarly in this post I want to teach how conclusions provoke conflict. Then I hope you may be able to take the skill into your own conflicts.

My operational definition of conflict is “difference in a closed space” — that closed space is a relationship of two (or more) people. One of Joe Schaefer’s fundamental premises was “the conflict is not the relationship,” the conflict is only part of the present relationship.

First, a diagram of importance, an emotional triangle. Imagine a triangle consisting of two people (me and you) and an issue (a conflict). Most people will say: “Let’s resolve this conflict so we can feel good about each other.” They put the conflict in the middle of the relationship. Instead, Joe said: “Let’s feel good about each other as we resolve our conflict.” Note the difference. The emotional triangle makes it clear that the conflict is not the relationship; it is part of the present difficulties of these two people, only a part of the relationship.

There are some fundamental principles of emotional triangles that are important here. First, each person of the triangle can directly influence the other person plus their own connection to the conflict. But they cannot directly connect to the other limb, the so-called 3rd Limb of each person (relative to the person).

Second, healthy exchange in communication is direct. It may not always be pleasant (for example, the healthy expression of anger) but the long-term outcome is potential health. Unhealthy exchange crosses into the third limb; it generally is not cooperative (although the individual impacted may choose to cooperate, e.g., an employee being told what to do by an angry boss).

A major example here is the distinction between feedback and criticism. In feedback, I give you information about myself that you cannot obtain in any other way — I tell you my experience. There is no requirement that you be different; it is simply a description of what I am experiencing, and generally I tell it in the hopes that our relationship will improve. In criticism however, I want you to be different — you should be different (according to me). The operational word here is should!

So what do conclusions do? Think of your response to any significant issue in your life, and what you concluded is the appropriate course of action to resolve the as-yet-unresolved issue. How did you language this conclusion? Again, I can almost guarantee that your conclusion contained some euphemism of should (have to, must, et cetera). Now, state your conclusion aloud, and feel your intensity. To what extent are you focused on the other being different (and perhaps yourself also)?

Thus, on most occasions when conclusions are stated in conflict, they become an implied criticism of the other. And who enjoys being criticized? What enjoys being told what they should be doing?

Hence, escalation!

The methodology of describing experience without stating conclusions minimizes this, as described in the previous post. We respond best to lived experience or metaphor that encapsulates experience. We generally do not fight with the narrative descriptions of others — we might disagree with the conclusion, but we usually trust that the other is telling the truth of their experience. And we share their reality.

Also, perhaps when we tell our own stories, we might be able to step into our own limited experience and the humility of uncertainty.

Can we go on feeling good about each other as we resolve our differences? Yes, we can!