Tag Archives: anger

Anger #24r The Third Set Of Emails

So sad.

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!

PersonalGrowth3Landmark #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.

Anger #24 Forgiveness (Letting Go)

Comment: Although I note this email as perhaps the most important of the series, it is only possible to utilize this email effectively, especially long-term, if the rest of the program is developed.

MacQuarrie Email Program #24 — Forgiveness (Letting Go)

Forgiveness3Welcome. This email is perhaps the most important email of the entire series — forgiveness. It is again longer than usual (three pages instead of two), so as to teach a specific skill.

So what is forgiveness? Often it is misunderstood, because it has almost nothing to do with the other person or the events of the past. Forgiveness is the letting go of the energy so as to be peaceful with the future; alternatively it is letting go of the hope for a different past. We hold on to our resentments, hoping that the other will change — but the major person being hurt is ourselves, not the other (who may not care or even know of our lack of forgiveness). Even if we forgive, we must still protect ourselves from further harm in the future — we simply do not carry unnecessary energy about the issues.

The task of this email is to explore your own issues, and develop processes for forgiveness. The most important questions I (or you) can ask myself in these issues are:

  1. What is the positive intention of my anger/resentment?
  2. What do I gain by being angry/resentful?
  3. What would I lose if I let go of my anger/resentment?

For those issues that you truly want to let go, we can now explore two major processes.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

I first encountered EFT at a workshop in 2002  (?) — it seemed as hokey as anything I had ever encountered. I also did not have much use for it myself — most of my life issues were resolved.

However when I used it on clients (and to a limited extent on myself), I was astounded — it worked! And it soon became my tool of choice when I did not know what else to do. A client would start to discuss an issue, and I would be saying to myself “What the h— am I to do in response to this?” So I would use EFT — and the issue resolved. This could be anything from childhood pain that was 50 years old to a woman struggling with PMS. Amazing!

It also became part of my standard demonstration protocol for my anger weekends. Easily learned, clients would continue to use it at home. Of the clients who only attended the weekend workshop, I am uncertain as to how many continued to use it; but with the ongoing group clients, relief continued. I cannot demonstrate its being used, but I invite you to explore the process. However, there is a detailed free description of the full process at emofree.com. If ineffective, let me know, and we can find another way to explore it.

You could also consider finding a workshop on EFT — the process has become popular, and more regulated. Originally the training was free, and easily accessed; now it is regulated, and costs.

On the end of this, I describe the process in detail. The process involves light tapping on your body at specific locations, for example:

  • The Sore Point: gently massage the front-center of your chest (either side) about 1-2” from the midline, just to the side of the sternum (chest bone). Find a point that is slightly tender — this is the Sore Point.
  • The Karate Point: the little finger side of the hand.
  • The Gamat Point: make a fist, and look at the back of your hand (either side). Notice the knuckles of the little finger and ring finger. About 1” up from the knuckles, touch the soft space between the associated bones — this is the Gamut Point.
  • The Collar Bone Point: touch the notch at the top of your sternum, and shift 1” to either side. The boney prominence is the Collar Bone Point.
  • When tapping the fingers (Thumb – Little Finger), tap at the side of the nail. You do not need to tap the 3rd finger (ring finger).

The whole process seems a bit weird (or perhaps, a lot weird), but again, I assure you that it became my first approach to issues that were resistant to other approaches, and I was frequently astonished by its effectiveness. So give it a go, and see what happens.

Laughter Yoga

Although not directly a method of forgiveness, I suggest that the process of Laughter Yoga is a powerful tool for creating positive states that contribute to forgiveness.

Although I am no longer active in the field, I was a friend of the founder Madan Kataria, a Mumbai-based cardiologist who was concerned about the stress levels of his patients (and of himself). As part of his explorations, he read the book Laughter Is The Best Medicine, and really took the message to heart — over a few years, he founded an international organization consisting of small groups of people who gathered daily or weekly to engage in spontaneous laughter. There are currently more than 10,000 such clubs around the world.

Early on, he recognized that humor is not necessary for laughter, and that groups can engage in “silly” activities to encourage spontaneity and expression of amusement. The word silly itself originally meant happy or prosperous, but like many words later became critical or disparaging.

So what is laughter? It is a release of tension, and promotes mirth, a very healing experience.

  • Humor — the quality that something seem amusing [unexpectedly].
  • Laughter — the spontaneous act of expressing amusement (tension release).
  • Mirth — the continuing physiologic joyfulness of laughter.

Think of how you feel after a good joke. Do you have any interest in being angry? What happens to your resentments, at least temporarily. Question: Are you willing to risk feeling better?

Although most people only access laughter through humor, it is very easy to access if you are willing to be silly, to engage as if being a small child delighted with events. I invite you to watch a particular video, Bodhisattva In Metro, as a sampler. I watch it daily — I seldom tire of it.

Angry#24-LaughterAnd I know its effectiveness. As part of my PhD research, I studied the nature of discipline. The graph shows the results of the monitoring of my sense of personal well-being over a period of several months: every day, I gave myself a score of how I was feeling over-all (-10 to +10). In the upper left (A), I did a daily prayer of 15 minutes — minimal effect. Daily laughter (upper right, B) for 21 days: gradual increase to +8. Vipassana meditation (lower left, C) for 10 days: gradual return to base line. Laughter resumed: rapid increase to +9. Alternating Prayer-Laughter-Vipassana (D): persistence of +10. I was astounded! And now it is simply part of my daily routines.

Like all disciplines, I let it go from time to time, but when I resume, I get the same outcome. I feel better, the way I want to feel! It is a choice. I also suspect it to offer two additional benefits: it is the basis of forgiveness and it is the basis of play (to be considered shortly). Enjoy!

Coming next: Managing Yourself While Angry


Emotional Freedom Technique (see www.emofree.com)

Basic assumption:

The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system.


Memorize The Basic Recipe. Use it on any emotional or physical problem by customizing it with an appropriate Setup affirmation and Reminder Phrase. Be specific where possible, and aim EFT at the specific emotional events in one’s life that may underlie the problem. Where necessary, be persistent until all aspects of the problem have vanished; fractionate the problem as needed.

Try it on everything!! Until you are comfortable with the process, I suggest that you do not use it on issues that you think you should release — for learning purposes, use it on issues that you truly want to release.


  1. Identify issue in 3-4 words (this is the reminder phrase, RP). Associate fully into the experience, and assign a subjective units of distress (SUDS, 0-10).
  1. The Setup . . . Repeat this affirmation of the RP 3 times, while continuously rubbing the Sore Spot (chest), or tapping the Karate Chop point:

Even though I have this (RP), I deeply and completely accept myself.

  1. The Sequence . . . Tap about 7 times on each of the following energy points while repeating the Reminder Phrase at each point.

EB, SE, BE, BN, Ch, CB, BA, BN, Th, IF, MF, BF, KC

       EB: Eyebrow     SE: Side eye     BE: Below eye     BN: Below nose    Ch: Chin

      CB: Collarbone    BA: Below armpit  BN: Below nipple    Th: Thumb     IF: Index finger

MF: Middle finger    BF: Baby finger  (Note: skip of 3rd finger)     KC: Karate chop area.

  1. The 9 Gamut Procedure . . . Continuously tap on the Gamut Point (back of hand near and between 3rd and 4th knuckles) while performing each of these 9 actions:

(I) Eyes closed     (2) Eyes open    (3) Eyes look down hard right

(4) Eyes look down hard left   (5) Roll eyes in circle  (6) Roll eyes in other direction

(7) Hum 4 seconds of a song    (8) Count to 5    (9) Hum 4 seconds of a song.

  1. The Sequence (again) . . . Tap about 7 times on each of the following energy points while repeating the Reminder Phrase at each point.

EB, SE, BE, DN, Ch, CB, BA, BN, Th, IF, MF, BF, KC

Use the Basic Recipe up to ten (10) times on the issue, until the SUDs comes to zero (Ø) on two consecutive occasions.

            If two Øs are not achieved, check your need to hold onto the issue. If appropriate, fractionate the issue into smaller chunks, and eliminate these until resolution.

Note: In subsequent sessions, the Setup affirmation and the Reminder Phrase are adjusted to reflect the fact that you are addressing the remaining problem.

Anger #23 — The Primary Skills of Self-Care

Comment: Herein I describe with I consider to be the primary skills of self-care, those skills that keep me stable and able to be (relatively) relaxed with what life offers. Self-care requires time, but essentially if I do not take care of myself, I am not able to gift to others. Nor will anyone else effectively take care of me.


MacQuarrie Email Program #23 — The Primary Skills of Self-Care

In my 40s, I had a very painful mid-life transition as I came to terms with how my life had developed to that point (fortunately the second half of my life has been much better, frequently painful but much better). In the earlier mid-life transition (and also later in my eldership transition), I found that I needed to spend up to 3 hours per day in self-care, and came to regard three skills as essential to my health: meditation, journal writing, and yoga. Even then, I still needed a fourth skill, that of energy release, but the primary skills of emotional stability were these three. Energy release provide acute care; the others that of chronic care.

Meditation allows me to stabilize my energy, my anxiety, so as to have a sense of peacefulness. It later became the way in which I practiced awareness. Journal writing allowed me to clarify my thinking. Eventually it became my ¿Truths? and my writings (my books, my blog, et cetera). Yoga allowed me to ground myself in my body, to grasp the nature of emotional energy.

Here in this email, and as part of your tasks for this time, I will describe each in turn as to how I practice(d) these skills. As task for this email, please explore each skill (and plan to engage in at least one of the skills on a more regular basis). This email is much longer than usual (four pages instead of two) because I wish to describe certain skills in detail (see below).

Meditation (Mindfulness Practice or Vipassana)

I initially picked up meditation in my training as a Gestalt therapist, using the Now I Am Aware Of (NIAA) exercise of Email #03 Awareness. A number of years later I attended my first 10-day vipassana meditation retreat, and recognized that vipassana was an advanced form of awareness, studied within Buddhism for over two millennia. Subsequently I came to realize that every authentic religion has its own practice of awareness, generally called contemplation.

The practice is simple (yet one is always a beginner to the practice): Sit! (or walk), while attending to the data that arises, without judgment as to the nature of the data. Have some gentle way of reminding yourself of time, with the intention to practice anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes (a minimum time period is necessary for the mind to begin to settle). Do it daily!

You can use a mantra (a keyword) as a focus, but the skill is still that of returning to awareness when you drift away (you will, always — that is the nature of the mind). For example, if the focus is that of counting slowly from 1 to 10, then simply count quietly to yourself. As you do, your mind will drift to other thoughts; perhaps you will totally lose track of counting. When you notice that you have drifted, gently come back to the focus of counting, starting again at 1 — no judgment, no criticism, simply return to 1, and resume, until the next drifting. In all of this, if you drift into story, simply note “story,” and return to counting. If you reach 10, simply return to 1.

Specific mantras are useful as reminders, e.g., love, acceptance, Yahweh (one possible origin of the name Yahweh is that it is the sound of the in-breath followed by the out-breath), et cetera. Or, name the sensations as with the NIAA practice.

Meditation is my preferred way of accessing my other-than-conscious mind; it allows me to by-pass my analytic functioning, accepting what is presented. I have very much learned to trust it.

To continue your practice, find a mindfulness course, or go to a vipassana meditation course.

Journal Writing (The Progoff Journal)

Journal writing can be as simple as keeping a diary, or it can be an integrated study of many facets of your life. Principally it is a way to record how your life is changing over time.

The most sophisticated journal I know is called a Progoff Journal, with many branches. If you can, find a workshop on it. The additional pages of this email are from this process:

  • Progoff Stepping Stones: a method of developing your life history.
  • Progoff Journal Entry: a method of exploring any issue.

Yoga (Hatha Yoga)

Historically, Yoga is the scientific investigation of consciousness within Hinduism, very similar to vipassana as being the scientific investigation of consciousness within Buddhism.

The practice of Yoga in the West has principally been an exercise form, the branch of yoga known as Hatha Yoga. Here one practices yoga postures (which are actually actions in stillness), designed to explore body energy in relationship to gravity. There are many teachers (styles are often named after specific teachers), often with major differences between the styles. Some styles I consider dangerous: e.g., Astanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga (hot yoga). For me, these popular styles encourage rapid movements, and are very stressful to body joints —the associated joint injuries are likely cumulative, slow to develop, and very slow to heal.

My own Hatha Yoga practice, that of Iyengar Yoga, is based upon the teaching B. K. S. Iyengar. I consider it the most precise form of investigation, and offering the greatest depth of awareness.

Over time, especially through my own practice of yoga, I came to the conclusion that life energy is stored in two locations: 1) in the story, and 2) in the small muscles of body (this is at least my working metaphor). I suggest you do a google search of Muscle Charts of the Human Body, for example, here. What you will see is what I call the Muscles of Mobility (MM) — the large, easily visible muscles whereby we move. But they are not the muscles which hold energy. Deep to these large muscles are the many tiny muscles with hold the bones together, what I call the Muscles of Stability (MS). It is these that carry energy. In Western exercise patterns, people exercise the Muscles of Mobility — such exercise, although fatiguing, does not provide much energetic release!

Angry#23a-Yoga1Imagine a rubber band (MM) attached to a spring (MS). When you pull the two ends, the rubber band stretches, but not much happens with the spring. Now pull directly on the spring: the exploration of Yoga — in stillness, minimizing the Muscles of Mobility while activating the Muscles of Stability.

Angry#23b-Yoga2Furthermore, my experience is that there is a paradoxical effect. We exercise to strengthen our musculature — that is generally why we go to the gym. In so doing, we utilize the Muscles of Mobility, and activate them to sub-maximal load. They strengthen over time.

But what about the emotional energy stored in the musculature? Does “exercise” strengthen that also? Yes, anger and other emotions are strengthened by gossiping and complaining! —  the equivalent of sub-maximal load.

However, what I am suggesting is supra-maximal load, thus exhausting the energy. It is this that empties the pot, such that you are now able to think more clearly.

Coming next: Forgiveness


Progoff Stepping Stones

Dr. Ira Progoff, an American psychologist, developed an in-depth process called the Intensive Journal Method; in my experience, this methodology is the most comprehensive journal available. As part of the process, he devised a manner of recording an autobiography based on the intensity of memories, — as follows (the process requires about one hour):

Warning: the first time I did this exercise, I sobbed deeply and painfully for 30 minutes.

15m    In free-form writing, list memories from your whole life; attempt to list these memories as 1-2 words, only as reminders. Obtain as many memories as possible (ideally at least 50-100, both pleasant or unpleasant). Do not dwell; simply record the memories briefly.

5m      Review memories briefly, and circle those that have significant energy attached (strongly pleasant or unpleasant memories). Indicate your age with each significant memory.

10m    Divide your current age by 10 to obtain the closest whole number (these are the Stepping Stone divisions). On a new piece of paper, create a one-column table corresponding to this number of SS divisions. Transfer significant memories (those circled) to the appropriate age slots so as to develop a chronology of significant memories.

10m    Pick one memory from each SS row — give it a specific 1-2 word name. List these chronologically on a separate page, again as a one-column table, the “Stepping Stone Record.” One row blank is no problem; avoid two rows blank (find a memory).

30m    Describe each memory in more detail, as:

  1. I am ___ years old and … (briefly describe sensory details of the memory), and
  2. It is a time of … (describe the energy tone of the memory).


SS#1   Hospital Walk

I am 3 years old, standing alone on the street in front of the hospital window, looking for my mother. She has been absent from home for 2 years with TB. I have just walked ½ mile alone through busy Halifax streets.

It is a time of great pain, yet I feel an inner strength.


Stepping Stone Record Format

Name: _______________ Date: ____________________

For each Stepping Stone (usually 8-12 in number), list:

SS#     Name: _______________________________

I am _____ years old and _____________________________________

It is a time of _______________________________________________

Finally: Read the completed Stepping Stone Record aloud, preferably to a close friend; or read it into a tape recorder, and listen to the recording as you hear yourself speak.


Progoff Journal Entries

This is a standardized format for the study of any issue. It allows the grouping of events (specific issues, e.g., angry with my partner over use of the car) into more general category (e.g., anger when not informed of changes). Specific sections of a journal can then be recorded, and made accessible for further study.

General Category of Issue:      _____________________.

Name of Specific Issue:          _____________________.

10m       Free-form writing on the issue

5m       List memories of life events of issue (1-2 word descriptors)

1m       Circle the major memories (high energy memories).

5m       List metaphors: (this issue) is like . . .

1m       Circle major metaphors (high energy metaphors)

10m       Impact on my life (1 minute each topic)

Important persons at the time of this issue.

Important personal events at the time of this issue.

Important social/cultural events at the time of this issue.

Impact on my body.

Impact on my sexuality.

Impact on my relationships.

Impact on my work.

Impact on my dream life.

Impact on my hopes for the future.

Existing wisdom I already have of this issue.

10m       Music Meditation (loud music can both focus the OOC and distract.

20m       Dialogue with metaphor or meditation.


Summary:      Summarize writing, metaphors, impact and dialogue (max 1 page).

Journal Record Format (Name of Category: _______________)

Name of Issue: ________________________________________ Date: ________________

Summary of Free-form Writing ________________________________________________

Most important Metaphors: ____________________________________________________

Impact on My Life: __________________________________________________________

Summary of Dialogue learnings: _______________________________________________


Anger #22 Knowing Your Own Truths

Comment: The skills suggested in this email are subtle and if developed, they are very powerful as a means of sorting how to respond to life.
MacQuarrie Email Program #22 — Knowing Your Own Truths

Angry#22a-ActionModelWhen I first introduced the Blowing Out process (Email #07), I alluded to the Action Model, a second way of looking at The Pot (Email #06). Here I present more details. Something happens (a Stimulus, a spoon), and we respond (action). (The difference between a response and a reaction is speed and awareness — we talk about people reacting when the response is rapid and other-than-conscious.)

Between stimulus and response are a series of complex sophisticated inter-related neurological functions. Sensory organs register the various stimuli, filtering (at F1) external data in complex ways. The earliest of which we can be aware are the initial perceptions we call sight, hearing, touch, et cetera (we can never truly know the outer world — but only what is known at F1).

We then evaluate the F1 perception on the basis of our values, beliefs, memories, and expectations (our VBMEs — additional F2 filters), to create a story of the stimulus, called meaning. Then, on the basis of our story, we plan a response (intention), and begin the movement into action, our energetic response or emotion. From there, finally, we move into action (our response).

This processing cycles repeatedly (rapidly, in milliseconds, and in many ways) through our body-brain-mind, almost all of which is out-of-consciousness. We act. Then we register new stimuli in response to our actions, cycling between the inner world of story and the outer world of matter-energy.

There are two fundamental areas of which we must develop awareness:

  • the earliest sensory data, that revealed at the F1 level, and
  • the story we generate in response, the basis of our intentions and our actions.

I call the story The Ghost, it being a complex interaction of the stimuli of the outer world, the filtering at the F1 level, and the filtering by our VBMEs (F2). We never respond to the outer world; we respond solely to our Ghosts (see the previous email as example).

Angry#22b-AwarenessThis activity can be considered as three zones of awareness:

  • the outside world (F1 sensations that we interpret as being external to the bodies)
  • the inside world of the body (F1 sensations of pressure, position, tension, et cetera in our bodies)
  • the middle world of story, the Ghosts

Somewhere I have read that in general people spend about 95% of the time in Story, and only 5% actually aware of Data. The skill of Awareness (Email #03) is that of increasing Data and decreasing Story — even small shifts create major changes, and even the best people spend much of life in Story (perhaps 80% of the time).

The tasks of this email are to expand those skills:

Task #1: Continue practicing of Now I Am Aware Of …  exercise. (I suggest re-reading Email #03 for details, at the very least continuing to explore internal visual, external visual, internal auditory, external auditory, internal kinesthetic, external kinesthetic, et cetera.)

Task #2: Develop your awareness of recognizing Ghosts. Question: Given the complexity of this whole process, how can you reliably know when you are in story, particularly caught in your past experiences superimposed on the present, versus when you are actually dealing with the present moment? — I maintain that you can develop this skill.

How? It is difficult to describe in an email, but the next time you are with a group of strangers, find someone who reminds you of a person you already know. As you look at them, question yourself as to whether you are actually seeing this stranger, or are you actually seeing the person you know. Notice the sharpness, the clarity, of the current sensory details of the stranger as you think of the person you already know versus the clarity you can achieve when you actually see the stranger. I maintain that this clarity allows me to know if I am dealing with present reality (the stranger) versus the slight fuzziness that occurs when I recall the person I know.

For me, the data of the stranger is always sharp, crisp; the data of the Ghost is slightly fuzzy.

Task #3: How to know your own truths. Question: When have you questioned yourself as to how you should behave, or whether you are certain about some decision? How do you sort this so as to know your own truth? There is the skill to be learned here, at various levels.

The first level is that of resonance. Somehow the decision just feels right!

The second level is sensory testing of consistency — make a series of simple true statements (at least three, e.g., “my car is red,” “I have one sister”), and find the consistent sensation common to all the statements as your Yes response. Do the same for a No response.

The third level is to access other-than-conscious (OOC) sensory signals. Ask, and be patient — this process requires practice and discernment, but is invaluable. I suggest it is Wisdom!

  1. Ask your OOC: “Will you communicate with me?” Wait passively, focused on body sensations to detect the response from the unconscious. Thank your OOC.
  2. Ask: “If the signal just offered means ‘Yes,’ please repeat it.” Wait. Thank OOC.
  3. Ask: “Please give me a signal that means ‘No.’” Wait. Thank OOC.
  4. Ask: “If this second signal means ‘No,’ please repeat it.” Wait. Thank OOC.
  5. Request OOC to remain inactive.
  6. Attempt to reproduce the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ signals. If able to do so, return to #1, and request OOC to provide alternative signals, ones that you will not be able to reproduce.
  7. Repeat this process until reliable signals, not consciously reproducible, are achieved.

These signals can then be used in various ways, and are especially useful when consciously you are indecisive of understanding or appropriate action. For example, suppose you are anxious, and you do not know why (or how to respond), but you suspect it could be due to A or B or C, and a friend also suggest D. Test each by calibrating “x% of my anxiety is due to ‘A,’” varying x until you have a clear Yes signal for a particular x%. Repeat with B, C, and D, seeking to account for at least 95% of the mechanism. (Because of overlap, the total may exceed 100% — what you are seeking is relative proportionality.) If one of A/B/C/D is clearly more than the rest, then undertake appropriate action to deal with the appropriate issue.

Coming next: Managing Yourself While Angry

Anger #21 Perspective

Comment: If you can truly utilize the information of this email, you will have come a long way in the management of any emotional issues, especially those of anger.

Angry#21-3MacQuarrie Email Program #21 — Perspective

This email is about how you create your reality, and some options to do life differently.

First task, look at this accompanying diagram. What do you see in each of the four blocks? Likely you see four different images: a 3, a W, a E, a M. Now, to the extent possible, rotate the diagram. Notice that the images are identical; they have simply been rotated. So which interpretation (3, W, E, M) is right? They all are — it simply depends on how you look at it. It always depends on how you look at it!

Second task: Read the following story, and then answer the questions that follow.

A business man had just turned off the lights in the store when a man appeared, and demanded money. The owner opened the cash register. The contents of the cash register were scooped up, and the man sped away. A member of the police force was notified promptly.

Choose your response (yes-true, no-false, or not sure) to each of these statements about the story.




Not Sure

1.  A man appeared after the owner had turned off the lights.      
2.  The robber was a man.      
3.  The man who opened the cash register was the owner.      
4.  After the man had scooped up the contents of the cash register, he ran away.      
5.  While the cash register contained money, the story does not state how much.      
6.  The story concerns a series of events in which only three persons are referred to: the owner of the store, a man who demanded money and a member of the police force.      

Now see the end of this document for my answers, and compare them with your answers.


Third task: Take a sheet of paper and place a vertical line down the center of the page. On one side, at the top of the page, write STORY. Write out a description of a recent conflict that you have had with someone — in as much detail as you wish, describe what happened.

On the other side, at the top, write WHAT I KNOW. Then on this same side, list in point form, specific sensory-based details of what you actually know: time of day, words you actually said, words the other person actually said, facial expression (without interpretation), voice tone (without interpretation), body sensations you felt, internal dialogue you had, movements the other made, et cetera. Be as detailed as possible.

Now, go back to the Story side, and write out two other (different) stories, each of which uses each and every self-same sensory detail as you listed on the What I Know side. For example, in one story, make yourself the total victim; in the second, make yourself the hero. Be imaginative, but use all the sensory details.

Finally, examine all three stories. Ideally each one uses all the sensory details available to you. Ideally each story could be true. Question: How did you spontaneously arrive at the first story? What underlying beliefs (values, expectations, memories) were present such that you gave preference to the first story?

Do this activity with as many conflicts as you wish, until you are clear that you never have all the data, especially in the heat of the moment (or argument).

Reflect therefore on how you will manage your conflicts in future.


My answers to The Story. Please note that my answers are not right (nor are yours’ wrong if they differ from mine). My answers are simply my best attempt to respond to the data presented (I explain my reasoning below).

  1. A man appeared after the owner had turned off the lights. NOT SURE. A business man turned off the lights. Where does it say that the business man and the owner are the same person? It doesn’t, but alternatively it does not specify. Therefore, for me, not sure.
  2. The robber was a man. NOT SURE. Where does it say there was a robbery? (see below).
  3. The man who opened the cash register was the owner. NOT SURE. Where does it say the owner was a man? Perhaps a woman, or …
  4. After the man had scooped up the contents of the cash register, he ran away. NOT SURE. Two issues. Who scooped up the money? We do not know. He sped away — he ran, he drove, he bicycled?
  5. While the cash register contained money, the story does not state how much. NOT SURE. The contents were scooped up — keys, cheques, money? Where does it say there was money?
  6. The story concerns a series of events in which only three persons are referred to: the owner of the store, a man who demanded money and a member of the police force. The word only limits the answer to true or false; not sure is not an option here. Since there could be three or more people, the answer I choose is false.

I suggest that to the degree that your answers differed from mine, you were adding information that was not part of the story, information that came from your imagination, your expectations. To what extent do you do this in the situations where you become angry with others or yourself? And to what extent does this contaminate the responses you make?

Here is the same story with the blanks filled in with specific possibilities:

A business man had just turned off the lights in the store when a man (a credit collector) appeared and demanded money (owed for outstanding purchases). The owner (a woman, also in the store for closing) opened the cash register (to get the letter of receipts paid, the only remaining contents of the register, normally emptied for the night). The contents of the cash register were scooped up (by the owner and handed to the man) and the man sped away (angrily, in his car). A member of the police force was notified promptly (that the man appeared drunk, and was driving dangerously).

Now what are your answers? It is easy to be clear when you have all the data — but we almost never have all the data! The skill is to know that is the case — we do not have the necessary data.

Coming next: Knowing your own truths.

Post-Truth and The Pre/Trans Fallacy


I have been busy the past few weeks writing a new workshop on Authenticity; hence my contributions have been limited recently to the email anger program. however, a few days ago, I encountered a new word (for me): post-truth, the word of the year (2016) as selected by the Oxford World Dictionary of English. They note[1] it to be: “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief [emphasis added]’”.

PostTruth1They further note:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.


The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant [emphasis added]’.

I am fascinated by this topic for two essential reasons. First, if the political system of democracy is to exist at all, it is mandatory that truth be the basis of negotiation. If truth is unimportant or irrelevant, then the entire basis of what we claim to value collapses. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

The second reason is equally important: the language of post-truth, as presented, posits only two states: truth and post-truth. The presumptions seems to be that truth is rational and post-truth is emotional. As such there is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of emotionality, one that is of major importance to cultural maturity.

The complexity of emotionality can be considered either paradoxical, or prone to confusion, due to the nature of what integral theorist Ken Wilber (1995) called the pre/trans fallacy[2], where we confuse unreflective emotionality with a deep integration of emotion and rationality. In the pre-rational state, emotionality drives behavior; in the trans-rational state, intention drives behavior; emotionality is essential to the trans-rational state, but it is not the driver. In this context, what we need is trans-truth!

In previous posts, I’ve written about how we access information that we trust (the TIC process) and the distinction between ethical approaches to information and emotional approaches. I’ve also written extensively about why we ignore global warming.

It seems that post-truth is another nail in our coffin, influencing from acedia and apathy to the values of democracy.

[1]Oxford Living Dictionaries. Word of the Year 2016 Is . . . Retrieved March 21, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016.

[2] Wilber, K. (n.d.). The Pre/trans fallacy. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from  http://www.praetrans.com/en/ptf.html (this page is no longer available, but there are many other references available with a Google search).

Anger #20 What Gets You Angry? (Values and Beliefs)

Comment: Values and beliefs, especially values, are what drive responses.

MacQuarrie Email Program #20 — What gets you angry? (Values and Beliefs)

In this email, I want to explore what drives your anger, and your conflicts.

angry06a-thepotIn Email #06 The Pot, I indicated that the pot is filled with energetic experience based on values, beliefs, memories and expectations (VBMEs). All four processes are linked to each other in complex ways. For lack of a better term, I designate the entire process of my (or your) anger and conflict as an emotional experience, an experience to which I give meaning (much of which is other-than-conscious) and behavioral direction (matter-energy). It manifests as meaning, emotion, and behavioral expression.

Such experience, especially that of meaning, is driven by my values and my beliefs. My values refer to any concept that I consider important. My beliefs refer to the generalized linkages I make between my experiences. For example, if I have red hair and every person I meet has red hair (my experiences), I am likely to believe (a belief subject to further experience) that “people have red hair.” I may not value this belief, but it will be part of my belief system, one of the thousands of beliefs that influence my behaviors.

I may then meet someone with black hair, and perhaps feel abhorrence—somehow I have unconsciously valued red hair as “normal” or “healthy” or “appropriate,” and the person with black hair has stepped outside my value system, because I value red hair, and they have black.

It is important to realize that both my values and my beliefs are useful fictions—there is no way to prove their validity, although it is possible to disconfirm false beliefs. I can, as well, make agreements with others that certain beliefs or values are more important than others, and that there are consequences to certain beliefs and values. I then have an ethical system by which I choose to live my life, based on what I consider important, and whereby I develop emotional experience. Frequently, when applied to a group, we call this a society based on law or social convention.

But as individuals, we are not uniform. We all have differing values and beliefs, most of which we have learned from parents and family (rather than “society”). Amongst our beliefs and values are many that are self-contradictory and/or dysfunctional — they do not serve us in health.

The task for this email is to explore your values by doing the following exercise created by my wife, a gifted trainer in NeuroLinguistic Programming. (NLP is a very sophisticated exploration of consciousness, and provides many skills to allow therapeutic change.)

  1. Make a list of the values that are important to you. (up to ten values, e.g., respect, kindness, understanding, et cetera), values that you want to maintain concerning your own behaviors, in major relationships. They describe how you would like to be when in relationship with others, not how you would like others to treat you.
  2. Copy these separately onto slips of paper, one per slip. Add two extra (blank) slips of paper to the pile. Thus you will have twelve small pieces of paper. [You could do the exercise with many more values; ten is a practical number for the exercise.]


  1. Remember a time you had a conflict (an argument or fight) wherein you created stress within yourself. Recreate and act out that scene again while holding your slips of paper in your hands. While doing so, consider your values, and drop any value that you yourself do not maintain in the conflict. (Acting out the conflict in an associated mode will give you much more information than doing the task from a dissociated position.)
  2. Take up the position of the other person in the conflict (if any). Act out the conflict again. Explore what you have done from their perspective. Continue to drop any more values that you find you yourself did not maintain (from their perspective).
  3. Stand on a chair and look down at yourself in the scene, from the perspective on a neutral observer. Continue to drop any more values that you did not maintain.
  4. Return to the floor, and leave the values you dropped on the floor. Discover how you feel without them. (NB: On first doing this exercise, most people drop all their values!)


  1. Now, take the two blank pieces of paper, and write down the life values you held (safety, need to be right, et cetera) that allowed you to drop any of the other values. (These will be the values you were holding onto via your other-than-conscious mind, and are probably more important to you than the values you originally wrote down! These values are usually so deep in the other-than-conscious that we do not consider them because in some fashion we want our list of values to “look good,” rather than real.)
  2. Again, leave all values you dropped on the floor. Discover how you feel without them.


  1. Now explore. What needs to happen for you to start dropping your values. I suggest you explore in two ways:
    1. First, re-enact the conflict in an associated position, but this time very slowly, almost millisecond by millisecond. Explore as in the John James Game Plan of Email #10: what happened first? What happened next? Et cetera.
    2. Now question yourself: “I get angry. What needs to happen for me to get angry? What do I see or hear?” Continue to ask until you find the tiniest detail ‘x’ that is the trigger. Test by asking “If this detail ‘x’ was different, would I get angry and drop my values?”
  2. Trace all this back in your life by taking the feeling that the ‘trigger’ gives you, and find out if it is connected with someone or something in your childhood or youth.
  3. Explore this question: “What needs to happen for me to maintain my values? What do I need to change about myself so as to change my triggers?”
  4. Re-enact the scene, this time taking whatever steps necessary to hold onto your values. How does the situation change?

What do you need to change in your life so as to live according to your values?

Coming next: Perspective

Anger #19 Why We Avoid

Comment: In terms of understanding, this is probably the most important section of the program. The basic difficulty is to turn the understanding into action.

MacQuarrie Email Program #19 — Why We Avoid

AcediaEvolutionFor a number of emails, we have been looking at the ways we avoid, and some of the tools for better choice, but the question remains as to why we avoid. For me, the question is important because it gets at the nature of change in our society. Your task for this email is to explore your own process of avoidance, to investigate what stops you from engaging in growth work.

I was a physician-psychotherapist for almost twenty-five years, mainly doing weekend workshops on anger management together with group therapy — the groups were for those individuals who wanted to work with me in more depth.

From extended feedback, I came to believe the workshops were very powerful for inducing change, yet they were only a single weekend. (For example, over the years, a probation officer sent me more than sixty clients, and of those, he was aware of only two individuals who re-offended — an incredible statistic. A senior police officer told me that my program was the most powerful program he had ever experienced: “Through Dave’s approach, a permanent solution is available; through other approaches, the solution is temporary.” Powerful praise, indeed!)

The individuals in the therapy groups met weekly, and spontaneously divided into two streams. One part (about 50%) worked hard; at least every month, each person would identify an issue, and work on it. The other individuals were much more passive; seldom would they do in-depth processing, yet they showed up every week, often for several years. If I gave them small tasks, they would often do them half-heartedly; if I challenged them (albeit gently), they would talk about how afraid they were of the risks of change.

Without intending criticism, I came to think of them as lazy or fearful, and that these issues were spiritual or existential processes, not therapy issues. Gradually I decided that my only option of working with them was passive challenge. When eventually they decided to fully engage with therapy, the work went well, but often it was a waiting game, sometimes for years.

When I was finally considering retirement, the opportunity arose for me to do my PhD, and as a consequence, I decided to research laziness and fearfulness as my dissertation project. By this point, I also came to believe that laziness and fearfulness were underlying issues in global warming. As I proceeded, I became aware of the ancient process called acedia (named by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th century), and I came to believe that modern acedia was any combination of laziness, fearfulness, and self-righteousness, all actions that block the individual from engaging in the processes of emotional maturity (therapy by any other name).

So what is acedia? Imagine that something painful happens to you. If you have enough wisdom (known as sophia — effective knowledge), you will resolve the issue (via phronesis — practical wisdom or judgment), and move on. If not, likely you will have an internal conflict amongst the sailors. If you have enough discipline, you will work through the issues, and move on. If not, you will tend to avoid the pain — but with enough hope, you will continue to explore options, and find resolution. All this will be easier to accomplish if you can remain playful and non-anxious as you explore awareness.

If all this fails, you will move into acedia, and get stuck in a loop of blocking awareness, as well as chronic pain, which you are likely to push below awareness, repressing or denying the pain. Unfortunately, in our technological culture, there is little validation of the processes of wisdom (knowledge per se is not wisdom), discipline (except in sports), hope (except wishful thinking), and playfulness (competitive games per se are not playful). Thus acedia predominates.

Complex mechanisms support acedia; these arise from the centuries of becoming this fast-paced society. From my perspective, society has promised many dreams, but failed to deliver “the good life.” Considering trauma to be “hurt (pain) that overwhelms,” I believe that the chronic irritation of the many hassles of daily life is a form of low-grade trauma, and has accumulated to the extent that now almost everyone in our Western world is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet denial remains the major but surface issue.

A balance of forces, heavily weighted to acedia

When you consider your own anger, what underlies it? How and why are you caught such that you want to engage in this program? Why is there so much divorce in our marital relationships? What is there so much domestic violation? What is happening to our sense of community?

This cultural angst is then fed into our personal lives, both in the ways in which dysfunctional family dynamics further traumatize us, and in the ways in which we individually traumatize ourselves with self-criticism, especially not living up to the shoulds and fantasies of our society.

All this perpetuates a vicious cycle of acedia in response to the hassle and denial of our culture. Is it any wonder then that we are so angry, individually and as a culture? We have trapped ourselves in this cycle, the exit of which requires that we find ways to engage in therapy, perhaps then being labelled as “mentally ill” or somehow emotionally unstable, because we are in therapy. Wow! What a trap we have created.

Having a Captain

So what is the exit. I call it “having a Captain.” For me, an effective captain is a firm compassionate leader of the sailors. I was deeply influenced by two sources: 1) Ed Friedman with his teachings of emotional triangles, and 2) the book Leaders: Strategies For Taking Charge. The Captain is a leader of the sailors, and thus the Captain:

  • has a clear vision of where the ship needs to go, and how to get there.
  • establishes followership, the sailors, who want to cooperate in running the ship.
  • listens to, and negotiates with, the sailors to do the necessary work of cooperation.
  • sets firm boundaries within the functioning of the sailors so as to minimize mutiny.
  • leads the sailors, but attends strongly to self-care as the basis of responding to others.

How do you find your Captain? It is not easy to do so, and it is not easy to describe how to do so. Most important — be a participant-observer of your own internal conflicts, watching for those sailors who demonstrate wisdom. Risk going beyond your normal behaviours (especially beyond your acedia), while making wise choices of these behaviors. You will make mis-takes! Study and learn from them. Learn your own truths! Over time, and trial, your Captain emerges.

Coming next: Living Your Values

Anger #18 Blocks To Awareness, Part 2

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

Angry#17-PatternsThe 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

Anger #17 Blocks To Awareness, Part 1

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 #17 — Blocks To Awareness, Part 1

Angry#17-PatternsAt various times in the past, I have asked individuals if they are aware of what is happening right now. If pressed, most people will tell me what they are thinking; this is specifically NOT what I am seeking as an answer. I am referring to being attentive to the ongoing sensory experience of the moment.

Since the only time I can do something different is right now, then the more I can be present to the moment, the more opportunity I have for change (on any issue, but especially with issues of anger). From my perspective, one of the ways I know I am present right now is that my sensory data is crisp — visual data is clear, sounds are bright, touch is detailed, et cetera. When the data is fuzzy, I am also certainly into my story of the experience, thus somewhat caught in either the past or the future — I am certainly not fully present to the moment.

So, for the next two emails, we are going to explore the various ways in which people block their own awareness (usually as a result of various traumas in childhood) so as to avoid the pain of present experience. These traumas vary from relatively minor (but repeated) criticisms as a child to the horrendous abuse that sometimes occurs. Note: Everyone avoids! We are pain avoiders.

The major blocks are such that the individual then has difficulty maintaining a healthy balance between self and the environment, both in acute and in chronic behaviors. Such improper boundaries then predispose the individual to additional stress that presents itself in a multitude of way: as addictive behaviors, as aches and pains, as chronic diseases, et cetera.

The principal task in this email is for you to identify your own patterns.

There are essentially four patterns, for each of which I will describe (in broad brush strokes):

  • the acute behavior pattern (what happens when in a conflict),
  • the chronic behavior pattern (the overall behavior outside of conflict), and
  • the primary underlying process (the mind-body process).

Please note: Since these patterns are blocks to awareness, you may have difficulty recognizing yourself; if there is someone you trust, sit with them and reflect together on the descriptions that I offer. (We all block in many ways, and we each have our favorites. Hint — the stronger the pattern, the more difficult it will be for you to recognize yourself. It is a block, remember!)

To work with this information, I suggest you associate into a conflict that you have had, and compare what you were feeling and thinking then with the descriptors I am using here. Especially, pretend-act the conflict out. Feel/think which description, which pattern, seems to fit what you were experiencing in this conflict. Do this with several conflicts that you have had. Most people have a favorite pattern amongst the four, and then use a second pattern as a fallback.

When you have a sense of your own pattern(s), consider the other descriptions, and imagine what the other patterns might be like. When might you be in this pattern? Under what circumstances?

I will describe the patterns in the order I consider as reflecting the ease of self-recognition: Introjection, Retroflection, Projection, and Confluence (please see the diagram at the top).

The setting for the descriptions: any conflict. The conflict can be depicted as an Emotional Triangle (Email #12), the apices being any two people and a situation. As well, it can be represented as the Pointing Finger described in Email #09, the thumb and pointing finger being the third limb. And the behaviors can also illustrate the Pressure Cooker effect described in Email #06.

In blocking awareness, the individual generally makes one component (one apex) most important (MP), and the other two of much less importance. In two of the patterns (left side: Projection and Retroflection), the individual functions as if in a position of strength (a dominator — the so-called Top Dog: Blamer and Computer); in the other two (Introjection and Confluence), the person seems much less powerful (the Underdog: Victim and Distractor) — but appearances can be deceiving (more in a future email on intimacy)! Also, the patterns of Projection and Introjection (top patterns) are both heavily invested in responding to shoulds, whereas Retroflection and Distraction (bottom patterns) are both attempting to avoid emotional experience.

Pattern #1: Introjection. In any conflict, the introjector tends to behave as the Victim, acting sad, expressing self-pity (poor me!); on the surface the victim gives power away to the other, disowning self and the situation. He or she catastrophizes about the future, thus Fearfulness is the dominant character. Essentially all of this occurs because the introjector is caught internally with how he or she should be (I should have done better/different/…). The lid of the pressure cooker is very secure, and when stressed, the introjector tends to become depressed (d’pressure is high) as a way to avoid.

Pattern #2:Retroflection. In conflict, the Retroflector is generally calm, cool, and collected, the neutral analyst of the situation, disowning the feelings of both self and other, a good example of a Computer. Stressed, the Retroflector will stonewall or function from Laziness (“Who cares?”). Further stressed, he or she is a Time Bomb, possibly exploding on others, but more likely exploding on self via a heart attack or suicide. Here the avoided pain (the internal conflict, the should) is turned against self, and shows up as nervous tics, headaches, back pain, et cetera. The Retroflector does to self what he or she would like to do to others.

Pattern #3: Projection: The projector makes the environment responsible for what originates in self, becoming the Blamer or the Tyrant or the Boss, disavowing and disowning one’s own contribution, emphasizing the faults of the other. Since story-making of others is a prime characteristic of projection, gossip is a prime place for the projector to function. Stressed, projectors are frequently explosive, potentially violating others, and usually not amenable to rational considerations. Self-righteousness is the arena of the projector. Avoiding the inner pain that characterizes the introjector, the projector shifts the focus to others, in a pattern of suspicion and blame. As a time bomb, the projector explodes.

Pattern #4: Confluence: In the process of confluence, the individual has no boundaries, no separate identity, and uses any form of Distraction so as to avoid contact with others. He or she then appears inappropriate or silly, frequently in a panic, or fully into panic attacks when stressed. Conflict is avoided at all cost. As a time bomb, this is the place of panic attacks.

In the next email, I’ll add more details. And in addition, I’ll give some suggestions that perhaps allow better choices when you recognize yourself as using one or several of these patterns.

Coming next: Blocks To Awareness, Part 2