What I’ve learned from my dreams: If you are the director of your life’s story is it time for a rewrite? It depends on who you think is producing and showing the movie.

 

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“I am the light.” “You are the light of the world”. Are these just quotes from a biblical text or something much more profound?

When you hear people use phrases such as “You are the light” or “All is light” or “The light within” what is meant by Light? The Light, being talked about is the metaphysical essence of all life e.g. the soul or spirit– basically what we are.

Think of a movie being shown on a screen. What’s on the screen isn’t real but there is a light coming from a projector behind you and it is that light that is being projected onto the screen. Our natural level of consciousness is like that screen. What we think is real is actually a projection of light upon this screen we call life. But where’s the projector, behind us or is it in us? I contend that we are the projector of our own light upon the screen of our lives and therefore the producer of our reality.

We keep projecting all kinds of silly stuff onto our screens, the list is long for example, such things as, “I’m too helpless and small to make a difference in the world”, or “I only have so much time, life is short, we can’t get it all done, take what I can before it runs out”, and don’t forget the iconic, “I am separate from everyone and everything”, “The circumstances of my life determine what I do or don’t do”, “The best way to deal with things that make me anxious is to put them out of sight”, or “God hasn’t got time for us little people.”

This list and way of thinking assumes that the projector is behind us in the theater of our lives and that something else is the producer of this project called life. The list of course is very much longer than what I’ve laid out. I could fill several books with these falsehoods and fantasies. It would be folly to try to deal with each as a means to gaining enlightenment. To try is to make the false assumption that the solution to all our problems lies at the level of the problem. Though most self-development gurus, advertisers, and politicians would like you to believe that this is so, it is not.

But if you were to think of yourself as the projector, the one responsible for the pictures that are produced on your personal picture screen i.e. your life, perhaps you’d have more control over the picture being viewed? Better yet, what if you were the light itself that shines through your projector and animates the figures on the screen? Then no matter where you pointed your projector you would see only your light and it is only your light you know. Everything on your screen is the light you are projecting.

Very much like all the images and characters in your sleeping dreams everything you see is an aspect of you and you have the power to adjust what it is you’re focusing on i.e. you can focus on the real you or a facsimile. Do you focus on the you that you were born with or the you of your parents and the society and culture you grew up in?

Bring your full light to the image and you’ll begin to be aware of what you really are– you are the light. This is your true self and we’re all projecting some part of it. What you see “out there” is a projection of your own light. If you are seeing it half darkly know that you need only shift the focus to bring greater light to the image. I’m talking about ‘awareness’, looking beneath what appears obvious, and adjusting your lens so that the picture becomes clearer. The outside world isn’t out of focus it is your projection that is out of focus. By refocusing your awareness away from the image on the screen and more toward your inner self you can begin to notice what it is that’s running this film.

So how does one begin to see the show differently? How does one take the focus in hand? Remember that everything is an aspect of you and with this in mind one way might be to give greater attention to the subtleties of everyday life e.g. you know the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, you know that you like that smell, but how is it making you feel, what images, thoughts, and feelings in your mind does it bring up, what does that first taste of the hot brew hitting your tongue do to your body, your mood, your outlook on the moment?

Furthermore what are you projecting onto the first person you meet in the morning? What part of you are you shining onto them, your light or some part of your darkness? Look closer, who is that really out there? If you adjust your focus a little does that clear them up somewhat?

In short, expand your awareness, look beyond the obvious. Look what else you are projecting and look at what else is in the light. Do this until it becomes second nature.

Great Expectations: The unconscious influence on perception and action

 

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Line drawings of our expectations on the left with reality on the right. Note that anywhere along the line on the right one could compare progress with the expectation on the left and be disappointed and/or angry even though the outcome is exactly as hoped for.

 

Last night I had a dream. In the dream things that I expected did not happen and I started to get upset, then angry, with how things weren’t happening the way I thought they should. In the dream I found myself yelling, “Stop doing that, that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it!” When I awoke I realized that this was a reflection of my unexamined feelings associated with being disappointed with something someone had done. I had been chewing on my judgments of them all the day preceding the dream so it was only natural that the issue should show up in a dream.

The issue wasn’t really about the unexplored feelings however, they were important but something else was affecting those feelings. The issue was really about my expectations for their behavior and it was these that were coloring my inner dialogue. And it was my expectations that were affecting what I was feeling about them.

So what about an unmet expectation was causing trouble in my mind or to put it another way when someone or something doesn’t live up to my expectation of the way they should be, why do I find that upsetting? Whoa, the onus of the problem just shifted radically from “it’s their fault” to “It’s mine”. My expectations are affecting how I see the world and then how I react to it.

There have been many studies about the effects of expectations in fields as varied as science, teaching, marketing, and politics. Expectations affect not only the findings of a scientist but on what they choose to study. They affect a journalist, a jury and a judge on what facts or non facts they choose to believe in and they also affect how a teacher perceives a student that can cause the teacher to either not expect much from a student or to expect more. Our expectations affect how we vote, listen to talk show hosts on T.V. / radio, and the products we buy and all of this opens us to manipulation the kind marketers and politicians use to get us to think their way instead of for ourselves. These real world perceptions also affect the decisions and pronouncements that a politician makes once in office and even affect when a policeman chooses to make an arrest or pull his weapon from its holster.

When I was a Freshman in High School we read Charles Dickens’ book “Great Expectations”. I loved the story but don’t think I really understood how the expectations of both the protagonist of the story, Pip, and the adults and others around him were affected by their expectations and how these judgments of the way life should or had to be ran their lives.

And behind every expectation there lays a judgment, a judgment that anything other than ones expectation is less– less important, valuable, honorable, patriotic, or correct… well you get the idea.

But let me narrow the field a little. In my dream as well as in my waking life I tend to let my judgments get in the way of what I am seeing. All too often I let my labels of what something is or should be affect what it actually is. All too often I will let my labels get in the way of my love for someone or something. This is true for not only how I see others and treat them, but for how I see myself that then will often lead to how I treat myself.

But I will always have judgments, I am like most people a “judgment machine” either judging something “good” (meaning it agrees with my point-of-view) or that it is “bad” (meaning that it doesn’t agree with my point-of-view)– yes I can choose to be tolerant of the so-called “bad” but often that’s just a personal expectation that I hold for myself because I judge myself to be a “good” and tolerant person. See? I’m a judgment machine!

One way that I deal with my judgments that affect my expectations, that affect how I feel about and how I interact with others, is to first become aware that that’s what I’m doing. For example, if I were to have the judgment that what someone is doing is stupid I just say to myself, “I’m having that “stupid judgment” thought again. What this does is to take the thought out of the automatic mode of perceiving the world and allows me then to shift my perspective and to look at myself to see what of myself that I may be projecting onto the event or the person.

Sometimes my judgments lead me to evil thoughts where I play a game in my head of tit-for-tat or an eye for an eye and I spiral down into negativity. What has helped me here is another expectation for myself i.e. that when I notice that I’m playing this negative scenario in my head that I will notice and never meet or counter evil with evil, negativity only breeds more negativity. I can use this negative energy to protest the evil in such a way that it makes some people stop and think about their actions or the actions of others.

But mostly I find that I just make these automatic judgments, expectations and decisions without assessing them and that of course doesn’t allow me to be at choice with either the perception or the response to them. This begs the question as to what degree am I really at choice with anything in my life, especially if I’ve allowed most of it to be run by my unconscious points-of-view – those unconscious points-of-view that the sleeping brain presents to us in our dreams in an attempt at trying to bring consciousness to our choices?

Ah, “free choice”, real choice, of what to think, what to feel, or how to act, how much do we really have? That’s a topic for another time.

Living in the realm of the “Box-world” and afraid to live outside its illusion of safety

 

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Not too long ago I was dreaming of walking around in a box, wandering the inside edges looking for an exit, longing for something different, and unable to find my way out. The box is symbolic of the context of my life, the milieu within which I live my life.

Context, the beliefs we have about life and about ourselves including our judgments of self and our worries, embarrassments, and self-criticisms all affect how we see others. Look at another person and we pretty much only see ourselves. As a matter of fact if you want to know about yourself, note what it is you see in the people you meet.

Challenging our context expands it and it becomes more inclusive and broadens the amount of material and experience we have to draw on to interact efficiently with the only thing that we truly own, the here and now. The human psyche is always trying to expand its context whether the conscious self wants to or not though many folks pride themselves in being able to resist that expansion– they call it loyalty, or unyielding faith, or being true to ones values and beliefs. Basically its just laziness in that it’s easier to not critique ones beliefs or allow for pesky change.

It’s as though this little-self built a box around itself in a misguided (or cynical?) attempt to keep it (you) safe.

Most of us treat our lives in a very narrow manner and get all upset when it’s suggested that we let go of our comforts and seek change i.e. when we are asked to broaden our context.

“Dear me, no. We, Hobbits, are plain quiet folk. Adventures make one late for dinner.”

–Bilbo Baggins (JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit)

I’m sorry fellow humans but we were built for wholeness and change is what leads to wholeness. Rigid, or doctrinal thinking creates an illusion of safety, it is of the small-minded ego and is, I suspect, contrary to the wishes of God or the goal of the universe. Ultimately life is not safe, you don’t have to be reckless with it, but life can be pretty durable and can allow for one to explore all kinds of options. Why would a powerful being such as God want anything less from its creation? Why would it create something so much smaller than itself? God is not of the small-minded and simpering ego, nor is this ego a reflection of God i.e. it’s not the ego self that is made in the image of God. There’s a much bigger you that gives you life, that animates your being and manifests the wishes of that which created it. Do it justice, give it honor by functioning bigger than the “little self”.

Don’t let the “little self” be the leader of your life, point to where you were meant to go and it will follow.

Where were you meant to go? An answer to that question may lie in listening to something other than your ego-self because this little ego-self will always choose the lower easy or self-enhancing road, always. And when I say listen to ‘something other than’, I’m not talking about reading some book or following some guru, priest or priestess, because nothing outside yourself has the same authority and wisdom as your bigger self– your soul. The books and priests are of the box and can only preach to you of what’s in that box.

When in the box of the little-self there are all kinds of things designed to divert ones attention away from the real power in one’s life. There are holy books and all kinds of preachers and gurus who have painstakingly written about or have been trained in the tradition of boxes to make sure that you don’t get outside the box.

What box, you say? One of the best ways of discovering the parameters of the box is to listen carefully to the “box-people”, the box keepers so to speak. They will gladly show you what the box looks like. Once you see it, then you can work out a way to get outside of it and begin the real journey toward authenticity.

For too long we humans have mistrusted our own divinity in favor for the con of the outside world. That’s because we’ve been hoodwinked into believing that the small-minded ego-self had the answers or at least knew where to find them. The ego-self is noisy, boisterous, incessantly verbose, and self-absorbed and effectively hides the quieter voice of the divine within us. This is because the small self doesn’t think that it will survive if the bigger self were to become dominant. But it’s quite the opposite because the bigger self knows that it cannot attain its wholeness without the little-self remaining intact.

 “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

 –Luke 9:23-24

 Give your bigger-self a chance to make good on the promise of that which created you– listen to it, it actually makes more sense.

 

 

What determines what reality is or is not?

 

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As I’ve so often said we each project so much of ourselves onto the world that we see that  reality becomes rather complicated. Because reality has no meaning other than what we as individuals assign to it or what we collectively assign to it we have an empty journal or a blank script or canvas if you will with which to work.

Essentially we get to stand before every moment of our lives and paint our world using whatever colors we like. We also have the ability to just be curators or patrons of the art that others create, or to paint pictures for others to enjoy, or to paint just for ourselves. Like an artist we can become so immersed in the process that we forget to step back from the canvas now and then to admire the work or to evaluate it in the context of an even greater picture.

The picture that we each create is the story of us, what’s inside of us, all our dreams, hopes and fears. Sometimes the pallet has many colors, sometimes only grays, blacks and muddy browns, but it is us who wield the brush through the pigmented oils given to each by virtue of our being here.

I have found that for me the ego-self flashes and flares, fumes and stews sometimes mixing so many colors that the balance skews or the mix becomes muddied. But when I can get this part of myself out of the way amazing creativity and clarity can show up. When the soul is hidden, oppressed, or damaged there is no art, just a confusing mud.

Now I’m not talking about chaos because even in what seems chaotic there’s a rhyme, an underlying beauty. I’m talking about the dull, soggy, sloppy mess we accept as life and that once in a while we escape from through some form of distraction. This isn’t the life of the creative soul but the confused state of the limited, and limiting, persona– the sleeping consciousness. And this part of us represents so little of what we are that it scarcely qualifies to be called an “I”,  “me”, “you” or an “us”.

There is so much hidden behind the walls erected by the fearful and arrogant ego that we’ve begun to think that this wasteland is all there is.

Not so!

We, that is you and I, are going on an expedition to find who we really are. But this expedition’s purpose is not to arrive at a predetermined destination, for where we are going nothing is predetermined and doesn’t exist in any one place. We are going to uncover that part of us that doesn’t exist in time or place. It is that part of us that will never die for it’s never been born– that which came before the physical us and will continue long after the physical ceases. It’s the still, quiet place in all of us, that knows the real us.

A Buddha dream

 

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Some time ago for a men’s group I agreed to give an overview of Buddhism. Now, what I know about Buddhism you could fit in a shot glass and still have room left for the shot. But I didn’t let that stop me, primarily because I wanted to learn something and have long since discovered that it is through the teaching of something that I learn best. What I learned is that by letting go of all my notions about what is real I could quite possibly gain a sense of true happiness.

Self-trust is a theme here as is forgiveness and being responsible–to act as though you are responsible for all there is. Want a good job? Want a good relationship? Want peace in the world? Who’s responsible for that? “But I can’t be responsible for all that!” You might cry. No you can’t, if you define responsibility as a burden, or as blame, or if your image of yourself is too small to include it. If your view of the world is that there is you and then there is everything else, then you are most definitely outnumbered. But what if you held yourself as bigger than your image?

Now, I’m not talking about your ego-image, that’s always small and can only be inflated through and by itself, including only itself, excluding everything else. What I’m talking about is something much bigger than your personal identity–your personal consciousness. I’m talking about the awakening of something primordial, always becoming, life affirming, and inclusive–inclusive from the point-of-view that everything is already connected and reflecting everything else.

It has been said that the consciousness of a Kingdom can be seen in an individual. Truly powerful kingdoms affirm the individual who, in turn, affirms the collective. When I act as though I am you, my responsibility for your well-being shifts because it is my well being that is at stake.

Part of the process of becoming a fully actualized human being includes the rectification of the opposites that exist within us and that we project onto the outside world. As long as we continue to act as though we have no responsibility for the conflicts that are a result of the faux separations we have created in our psyches, then the peacefulness that grows from being connected will struggle to be realized. I say realized because the peace is there–it’s not as though we have to create it. It is, however, hidden beneath all our fears, unacceptance and rigid adherence to personal point-of-view–all things that separate us from each other.

Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) set out on a journey to eradicate suffering. What I think he discovered is the real cause of suffering, us, the ego us, the illusory separate us. He preached a way of reconnecting with what is real in order to reveal the rightness of this greater spirit. In this place of the here and now we can experience the happiness, the joy, that is Being.

A world out of balance

 

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The archetypal union of the masculine and feminine aspects of all humans.

In earlier blogs I have discussed the role of the archetypical symbols inherent in dreams. Carl Jung believed that an inherent dichotomy or dualist quality exists with human beings, if not all reality and that to lean too much one way or the other, that is to allow one aspect to dominate its opposite aspect, will create a destructive imbalance.

In short, Jung believed that what was needed in the world was balance between these dualist opposites. Because the world is dualistic, meaning for every A there’s a B, Masculine/feminine, up/down, conscious/unconscious, spirit/body, soul/ego, light/dark, or intuition/knowledge, or liberal/conservative. Existence of one suggests the existence of its opposite i.e. they generate each other and cannot exist alone.

One of Jung’s favorite oppositions was the masculine/feminine (most likely one of yours as well). He used two mythical figures to describe these traits, Eros for the feminine and Logos for the masculine. Eros represents the intuitive, feeling (including mood), relationship, caring and playfulness. Logos represents logic, progress, reason, knowledge, and order. The world has for sometime been overwhelmed by a masculine dominated ego that has looked upon the emotional feminine as representing chaos and therefore the need for controlling it.

However, within each man is a feminine aspect that allows him to express the characteristics of caring, inclusiveness, thoughtfulness, emotional attachment and intuition. The more “masculine” (controlled by his masculine traits) a man becomes, and the more he represses his Eros qualities, the more likely that he will become unbalanced and fall prey to a lack of objectivity, literally losing touch with the “reality” he holds so dear. Hurt easily turns to anger and resentment because he can no longer see the reality. Contentment and security weakens and the overly masculine male begins to control his external world in ever increasingly violent ways. He is also cut off from meaning and is then forced to look for it in very bizarre ways e.g. through over-control, domination, drinking, lying, drugs, fighting, hyper-sexuality, and/or indulging in risky behaviors.

Women who are cut off from their masculinity frequently connect with men who show enough masculinity to compensate for their loss and will put up with a lot of abuse so as to not lose this compensating link with what they lack. This lack also may reinforce a woman’s greater attachment to family and home and suppress the urge to go outside the home to get her needs met, thus imprisoning her.

On the collective (national, worldwide) level*, this imbalance seems to create an environment where men are dominant and women submissive. But both are unsatisfied in the arrangement. When unsatisfied (unbalanced), the male usually ups the masculine gradient for he knows little else and because, for him, the inner world either doesn’t exist, or is to be feared, so he tries to master his lack of satisfaction by controlling the outer world, through force and manipulation. The female does the same often through passive force and manipulation.

So we’re all running around in a world searching for satisfaction, i.e. happiness, in all the wrong places and desperately trying to gain it through manipulation of the world around us. This is what happens when you leave everything up to the ego by detaching yourself from the spirit/soul. This is what happens when you cut yourself off from your opposite aspects. This is what happens when you treat half of yourself unequally.

 

You can’t find happiness through domination and control, or their

         opposites: avoid-domination and avoid-control!

 

Happiness has the greatest success of being found through a personality that has discovered its opposite and has learned to integrate it into a whole and then project this wholeness into its relationships with others.

My book The Archipelago of Dreams: The Island of the Dream Healer is a story about the imbalance in mankind and how one man finds an entry into the mysterious world of the Dream. Forced to let go of his Being he enters the Otherworld of the Spirit where at the potential cost of his life he will be challenged to right the imbalance and set a new course for mankind.

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*I’ve also explored this social imbalance in a May 2017 blog entry Causes-of-world-unrest-thinking-that-only-your-point-of-view-is-the-right-one

10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them.

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10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them. (based on an article from Reddit.com)

We are living in a time of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information and of much over-the-top rhetoric with questionable fact delivery and weakened logic that seems to be driving a fear-based narrative. Part of what reinforces this negative stream are what are called errors of cognition or just thinking errors. These show up more often than not when we are in fight or flight mode and weary of all the negative input that inundates us at every turn.

Note that these are “errors” and not necessarily “disorders” unless of course one uses them all the time and in a way that affects their ability to function effectively and appropriately.

In September of 2016 I wrote about the effects that fear has on our thinking in Fear breeds bigotry and bullying .

The following is a deepening of this idea:

Based on the work of Aaron Beck and others, in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.

  • ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Also called Black and White Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every” or “never”. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all bad, or all good, we all have grades (I call this ‘absolutism’ and I find that I use it most often when I’m having an argument with my spouse. Nope, it doesn’t work).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way?” (all or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions so if even one exception can be found, it’s no longer “all” or “nothing”)
    • Ask yourself, “Never?” or “Always?” (depending upon what you are thinking)
  • OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat: “She yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”
 I’ve also seen this when people support or discount a reality because they “Knew someone who…” or “Read about someone…” or “I have it from a ‘good’ source and then apply that info globally. This falls into the category of “There are huge drug cartels in Mexico, therefore all or most Mexicans are drug dealers”. 
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • When you catch yourself overgeneralizing say to yourself, “Just because one event happened, does not necessarily
 mean I am (or you are or he/she is…[some way of being])”
  • MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For example, you selectively hear the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the HUGE POSITIVE STUFF. Often this includes being associated in negative (“I am so stupid!”), and dissociated in positive (“You have to be pretty smart to do my job”). Boy do I over use this one! Both on myself and on certain politicians and political parties.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud
    • Count up your negatives vs your positives – for every negative event,
stack up a positive against it. Make a list of both negative and positive
character attributes and behaviors.
  • DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. The good stuff doesn’t count because the rest of your life is a miserable pile of doo-doo. “That doesn’t count because my life sucks!” To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “So what does count then?” “In what way?”
    • Accept compliments with a simple, “Thank you.”
    • Make lists of personal strengths and accomplishments (I’ve found this to be particularly helpful though you may need to keep it nearby to remind yourself.)
  • JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
    • Mind reading – assuming the intentions of others. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check it out. To beat this one, you need to let go of your need for approval – you can’t please everyone all the time. Ask yourself, “How do you know that…?” Check out “supporting” facts with an open mind.
    • Fortune telling – anticipating that things will turn out badly, you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. To beat this, ask, “How do you know it will turn out in that way?” Again, check out the facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • When the conclusion is based on a prior cause (for example, the last time your spouse behaved in this manner s/he said it was because s/he felt angry so s/he must be angry this time, too), ask yourself, “What evidence do you have to support your notion that s/he feels…” “How did you arrive at that understanding” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?”
    • When the conclusion is based on a future consequence (“I’ll die for sure if she keeps harping on this…”) Ask yourself, “How does this conclusion serve you?” and “If you continue to think that way… [what will happen to you]?” and “Imagine 5 years from now…” (Future Pace)
  • MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION–
    • Exaggerating negatives and understating positives (I do this when I’m going down the rabbit hole of ‘absolutism’). Often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negatives understated. There is one subtype of magnification/catastrophizing – focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable: “I can’t stand this.”
    • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What would happen if you did [stand this]?”
    • Ask yourself, “How specifically is [this/that/he/she] so good/too much/too many/etc. or so bad/not good enough/too little/etc.?”
    • After asking the second question, ask yourself, “Compared to what/whom?”
  • EMOTIONAL REASONING –
  • Making decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. People who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) patterning interrupts and creates new ‘anchors’ that are the most powerful state changers – interrupt anything negative: “X makes me mad” “How does what I do cause you to choose to feel mad?” Interrupt: “How could you believe that?”
  • SHOULDING ( or Oughting)–  “Must”, or “Can’t” thinking.
  • Shoulding is focusing on what
 you can’t control. For example, you try to enlighten another’s unconscious – they should get it (for me this comes from my self-centered ego self, after all I got it why can’t you? This assumes that I actually got it). Concentrating on what you think “should” or ought to be rather than the actual situation you are faced with will simply stress you out. What you choose to do, and then do, will (to some degree, at least) change the world. What you “should” do will just make you miserable.
 Often these come from the expectations (values?) we were fed as we grew up.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “What would it feel like, look like, sound like if you could/did or could not/did not?” or, “What would happen if you did/didn’t?” or, “What prevents you from just doing it then?” or, “What rule or law says you/I SHOULD?” or, “Why should I?” or, “Could you just prefer instead?” or, “Why SHOULD I/YOU?”
  • LABELLING and MISLABELLING – Related to overgeneralization, explaining by naming. Rather than describing the specific behavior, you assign a label to someone or yourself that puts them in absolute and unalterable negative terms. This is a logic level error in that we make a logic leap from behavior/action (“he called me a name…”) to identity (“therefore, he’s a jerk”).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What could be a better way of looking at this that would truly empower you/me?” or, “Is there another possible more positive meaning for this?”
    • When you recognize you are labeling or are being labeled, ask, “How specifically?” Example: “How specifically am I a jerk?” – which will evoke behaviors rather than identity (what helps is for me to see where the other fellow’s “jerk” shows up in me because it almost always does to some degree).
    • Remember who you/others are in spite of behaviors: “Even though I failed the test, I’m still a worthy person.”
  • PERSONALIZATION & BLAME – Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.” Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. For example, “My son is doing poorly in school. I must be a bad mother…” and “What’s that say about you as a person?” – instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “lf only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. On the flip side of personalization is blame. Some people blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” – instead of investigating their own behavior and beliefs that can be changed. I will use this one just about every Father’s day to explain any problem facing my kids.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “How do you know [I am to blame]?” “SAYS WHO?”
    • Ask, “Who/what else is involved in this problem?”
    • Ask yourself, “Realistically, how much of this problem is actually my
responsibility?”
    • Ask, “If there was no blame involved here, what would be left for me/us
to look at?”

These 10 cognitive errors are all habits of thinking that are deeply ingrained. The good news is, like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice.

 

Sources:

Captive Hearts: Captive Minds, by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, Hunter House, 1994; pgs 101-103

Take Back Your Life Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns, M.D.

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, by Anthony Robbins, Joseph McClendon

Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding, by Robert Dilts & Judith DeLozier

 

The script for our lives

 

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Good morning! Before we start I just want to inform you that this post is not primarily for human beings.

For those of you who may be humans or who are trying not to be human the post might be a bit confusing, but it’s okay you’re still welcome.

I also want to establish a truth that this post is based on.

The basic truth is… we are all liars!

Now I know that doesn’t sound hospitable and may even be seen as being a little rude, I mean after all I don’t know you so how could I make such an outrageous judgment?

First of all it’s not a judgment it’s a fact. If as you are as you claim to be because you are still reading this post, a human being, then you are indeed a liar because all human beings are liars.

Let me explain, each of us wears two masks, each a lie. One of these masks we wear outwardly. This mask is made up to look like what we want everyone to think we are. It’s also made up of what we want to think we are.

What makes this first mask a lie is simply that no matter what we make the mask look like it’s a lie because simply put the mask is not us.

So what about the second mask? This is the mask that we turn inward. It’s the one that reflects all those stories about the way we are i.e. who and what we are and why we are that way. You know what I’m talking about, it’s all those stories about what your parents did or didn’t do, the culture you’re born into, your experiences, feelings, beliefs, and genetics.

Again, simply put, they’re all lies, because we, you, are not any of that!

Oh, I know, you want me to tell you what you are so that you can either embrace it or reject it, but it’s not going to be that easy.

When you’re in the mode of either rejection or acceptance and wanting to change you’re inside the lie and when inside the lie all you can do is…well…lie! While being human you have no choice. Dogs bark, humans lie it’s just what they do.

“But a dog isn’t self-aware like we are!” You might say. “He can’t be anything other than a dog.” Ah, but we aren’t self-aware either, at least not while we are being human and inside the lie.

Again, simply put, we aren’t what we think we are.

The masks we wear are a ruse, a lie designed to make us believe that 1) the body/mind is real and to 2) hide what we really are.

You see if I can convince my real self that what I think the mask I’m wearing is the real me I can also convince myself that I am not you, and if I’m not you, then I must be all those stories about who I am that aren’t about you.

But who made up those stories?

Who indeed!

It’s like we’re all actors reading from a script. But it’s a script that we wrote ourselves– a fantasy that you and I forgot we wrote and think that the protagonist or hero character is actually who we are (the antagonist is also us but that’s another story).

So who’s the audience? I short, we are each others audience, we are also our own audience.

So right about now some of you are wondering how you can transcend, that is “get beyond”, the lie.

Simply put, you can’t. As a liar you can’t change anything. You can create a new lie (e.g. “I am a spirit experiencing a human being”) or write a new script (e.g. “I’m a loving, creative being”) but you can’t stop being a liar. You see it’s the liar that wants to transcend the lie, it’s the liar that wants change, but as a liar you can’t change anything.

Bottom line, when you’re not being who or what you really are nothing changes and when you are being who or what you really are nothing needs to change. What or who you really are is just fine the way it is, it’s only the liar that want’s change. Why? Because it wants to tell a better more convincing lie.

What you really are has always been and will still be when the script has finished.

 

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Dreams as portals to the divine

 

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I’ve said this for quite some time that we are made up of divine stuff, though I’ll admit that I rarely experience the energy of this “source-being” save with one fairly consistent exception in my dreams.

In my dreams I often find myself square in the middle of my soul-self.

It has been my attention to my dreams that has partially awakened me from the sleep of my so-called waking world. Yes, we are asleep as we walk through our waking dream. The images of our every day are just as illusory as those of our sleeping dream though mostly we aren’t as yet lucid enough to notice.

Dreams are normal occurrences, we all have them whether we recall them or not, and if remembered and worked with appropriately they can provide an expanded way of perceiving. They are quite literally a way for the soul to speak to us and given how much of our life is spent giving the loud voice of our ego-self the podium of our existence it is one of a very limited number of portals into the divine.1

It’s one of the best ways of connecting us with our true self.

It’s only our ego-self, the self that we imagine us to be e.g. the self seen in the mirror either the one we stand before or that we see in the mirror of our mind, that thinks it can fulfill itself, its hopes, dreams, and desires. It’s the part of our nature that desperately wants to make a difference but no matter how much money is gained, or fame that is acquired, or number of degrees, awards, and recognitions bestowed upon us we never fully experience making a real difference not for any sustainable period of time at least .

Why is that? I’m not sure, but I think it’s because “making a difference” is an illusion created by the illusion of the ego-self; an illusion of an illusion if you will. While “asleep” all images are but illusions. While asleep in our every day we are out of touch with our soul, isn’t that so? Just look and see. Are you really in touch with your essence or just in touch with your mind’s image– your idea– of it? I’ll bet that if you are in touch with anything it is just your familial, societal or cultural images and hardly the authentic soul of yourself.

But when you are really in touch with your authentic self you become a magnet to your deepest desires and regardless of the outcomes of life, or how it looks to others, there is a profound, effortless, and deep quiet that you are in touch with and you are able to hear your intuitive voice and start to fulfill your innate potential.

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw 

 

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1The other portals include art (in all its forms), meditation, and deep prayer and though controversial– psychedelics; actually entering these portals are facilitated by anything that suspends the chatter of the mind e.g. I have had this happen during a strenuous long distance run, as a consequence of extreme fatigue, and as a result of extended fasting.

More Barriers to love and the spirit within: The seeds of our own destruction

 

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Not too long ago my wife and I presented a Cornerstone class on conflict resolution at our granddaughter’s elementary school. Project Cornerstone first came to the school district as an anti-bullying program. But over time the use, or over use, of the word “bully” to identify a certain type of behavior has hardened into a type of person rather than a type of behavior i.e. they “are” a bully instead of them “behaving” like one.

When “bully” becomes a label instead of a description of a behavior it leaves little room for the person displaying the behavior to change or even to defend themselves because the use of the word sets them in concrete. The label then becomes a way of excluding someone. Most of us do that with the word “evil”. Once we’ve hung that around someone’s neck they’re no longer a human and they are open to all kinds of abuse.

This isn’t unusual behavior on our part in that we humans often tend to paint each other with a broad paintbrush. It’s easier to do this and doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. This becomes especially noticeable when we are caught up in our fear of something that we don’t understand and begins to escalate radically as the more helpless and fearful we become.

Tribally we humans tend to reject outsiders and behaviors that we don’t understand and when those so-called outsiders seem to be of a particular tribe we tend to paint them all with one color. Even the best of us sometimes fall into this trap as when we condemn a race of people for the actions of some of that race or when we condemn an entire religious group for the horrific behaviors of a certain subgroup.

In recent years we have witnessed the horrific behaviors of a religious subgroup and have rightly labeled their actions as evil, but some people out of their own fear and ignorance have branded all of that religious group as being evil. This is of course a big mistake and totally unhelpful to the cause of peace and our ability to detect what it is that needs to be done to contain the evil behavior and how to lessen the number of those who fall prey to the lure of this subgroup.

While we hold people accountable for their behaviors and while we do what is necessary to end and/or contain the evil we must look at what conditions are enflaming and enabling it and do what is necessary to end those as well.

Yes, we need to fight this, but we need to fight it intelligently and not do it in a way that throws gasoline on the fire thus spreading its damage over a greater area. We need to respond to the presence and actions of evil and not just react.

Reacting is a “lizard brain” action where no thought is required just instinctive animal reactivity. God gave us so much more to work with that lies above the reactionary archaic brain stem and we need to resist the tendency to label everything we’re afraid of or don’t understand as being evil and thus subject to our wrath. We need to stop acting like a frightened snake striking whatever moves and more like the intelligent thinking sons and daughters of a loving God we are.

Simply put, we cannot push back the darkness of evil by simply pouring on more and more darkness– we need to add some light to it. WE (you and I) need to come up with some ways to 1) rein in our own lizard brains and 2) find ways to end the spread of evil and once accomplished deal appropriately with the root causes of it. To do anything else will only perpetuate the evil i.e. you can bloody the land with more killing and that may subdue the evil but only temporarily.

History is rife with lessons on how we humans take the wrong paths toward peace. That’s because we react out of fear instead of responding to it and using it as a motivator to change, a change necessary because we have failed to do what is needed to treat others with the respect we would want for ourselves.

Now, that is not to say that we can end all evil. There will always be those who have been sickened by their own minds and will seek solace from that pain by attempting to dominate and control those outside themselves as though it’s the outsider who causes their sickness. There will always be egos that want to feel bigger and more important and will attempt to subjugate the world around them.

Compassionate Containment may be what is wanted and needed in these cases at least until science can find a successful means of healing them. But each of us who are healthy has the means for controlling our own negative and reactive behaviors. We need to get serious about learning what those means are and start actualizing them.

We need to embrace the real meaning of enlightened civilization and grow beyond our reactive tribal mentality. Currently we seem hell-bent on sewing the seeds of our own destruction.