Tag Archives: Independence

Do you remember when you were young and you used to play the stare game to see who could stare at each other the longest without blinking? Granted, it was a challenge physically, but did you ever recognize, let alone remember, the feelings that came and went while you were doing it? Looking into someone else’s eyes is one of the first steps to becoming intimate with someone. And when you did, did you stop? Did you feel paranoid, self-conscious, or maybe even embarrassed? Or did you enjoy it and even get a rush from it?

There’s a lot more to intimacy than just facing off. Although, if you asked anyone of the younger generations what they thought intimacy was, the number one response you would probably receive would be, “Having sex.” So, what is intimacy? How is it different now than from what we’ve known it to be in the past? Does the younger generation really have a different understanding of what it means to be intimate from previous generations?  I believe so. Our culture has gone through a dramatic shift in how we perceive each other and how much we will let others “see into us.” What’s the difference? How could this come to be? Depending on how old we are and how we were raised, we may, even now, still have no awareness or depth in our understanding of what it means to be intimate with someone. There are many changes in the way we live that have contributed to the change in how we perceive and understand it. Let’s look first at its definition and then the history that brought it into its current generational context.

The word intimate comes from the Latin word intimus (1630s) meaning “inmost, inner most, deepest” and "closely acquainted, very familiar." We can see very easily how most people can assume that this can relate to anything sexual. Since many people are primarily physically oriented to their world, this may be the only way that they understand how to allow another to know them. Being solely oriented to the physical may be simply due to the inexperience of not having learned and accepted life in its depth yet.

Even in light of their having been experienced in intimacy, they may still purposely shut down from exposing their deepest darkest secrets to anyone else as a result of being physically or emotionally wounded.

We can all understand the second concept of being wounded but the first reason, youth, is becoming more the case as our culture socially and technologically “evolves” us into becoming more emotionally isolated. The augmentation of emotional isolation is becoming a very potent cause for many of the growing human atrocities that are taking place. Let’s take a look at how and why we have been “progressing” in this way.

If we turn back the way back machine to about sixty or seventy years ago, we see whole families living together under one roof. Imagine, if you will, that you’re twelve years old and living at home with your family. The house is fairly large. Living together are your parents, brother and sister, a pair of grandparents and an aunt and uncle. The house has four bedrooms and one bathroom. Your parents live in one room, you and your siblings share the second, your uncle and grandfather the third and your grandmother and aunt in the fourth. In one house this will be close quarters, especially with nine people sharing one bathroom. Before the 1960s, this was not uncommon.

With so many people living together, especially scattered through three generations, everyone is privy to many more varied aspects of each other’s lives than we might realize. If we were to “throw back” to living in that type of environment, many of us would feel extremely uncomfortable with the feeling that our privacy is constantly being challenged. Privacy and our luxury of having it involuntarily regulates our potential for intimacy. How? Living apart, as more and more of us do, there are more aspects of our lives that are not exposed to other members of our family. This is precisely the point that has enabled any talent, let alone the need, for intimacy to dwindle into the shallowness that it seems to be growing into.

The fact that living as an extended family together in one house does expose many of its members to each other’s private business is a catalyst enabling the necessity and our opportunity to learn, grow and become intimate with each other. If we live in close quarters with other family members, we are going to see and learn things about them that we wouldn’t have had we lived separately. This “enforced proximity” makes it necessary to learn behaviors and social protocols so everyone can comfortably live together without the threat of what we now perceive as a fear of embarrassment or exposure. Learning to be intimate in this way develops not only depth but comfortability in dealing with close personal matters that family members who live apart might never have the necessity or opportunity to experience with each other. The fear of exposure that I speak of is not only the fear of having someone know intimate details about us but the fear of them being used to manipulate us, almost like blackmail. However, this fear goes much deeper in leaving us feeling out of control with intimacy issues because when so many of us live outside of a close family group we don’t have the opportunity to learn how to handle them. When we live in close proximity of other family members, it teaches us how to deal with intimacy almost to the point where handling it becomes second nature. The younger generations who have moved out at an early age have never been trained or exposed as how to deal with the embarrassment that comes with feeling exposed, embarrassed or out of control.

Another dimension lost by living separately is that children raised in a close proximal family situation have the modeling of the adults in the family to show them how to deal with issues of intimacy. In this they learn that the world won’t end if they feel embarrassed and they witness the responses that they may choose to use to help them feel comfortable with it.

Even though technology and the internet seem to be “keeping people connected,” that connection appears to be a quality devoid of any depth in terms of how people relate to each other now. The connection seems to be one of following each other and aspiring toward independence, self-sufficiency and projected influence over others rather than any expression of anything deeper or internal. In messaging or texting very little of anything personal emerges other than a sense of belonging to a group or party affiliation. This is most evident in the political bashing that occurs on Facebook. What is the least obvious to the average individual are the clues that are lost when we relate to one another in person. That is, expressions, body language and the overall feel that can be picked up from each other in person are completely lost when either messaging or texting. Most of us have seen how easily our meaning and intention can be completely misinterpreted through the generic transcription that messaging and texting provide. What’s both sad and frightening is that our youth not only lives in their phones and cyberspace but perceives this method as being an “expression” of what they perceive as personal emotional depth. Having never been raised in closely enforced proximity to their family and others, how could they ever know that anything’s been lost?

Another contributor to the fading of intimacy is speed. The faster we move, the less time we have to think or assess what we’re feeling, let alone where it’s coming from or why. These days, everything has to be done at top speed. If you’re not fast, you’re accused of being not smart enough, slow on the uptake, have no ambition or even lazy.

It’s sad but many years ago salesmen were trained how to create the “bum’s rush” to push their customers off kilter so they would be inclined to make hasty decisions in the salesman’s favor while not understanding the implications or limits involved in what they were buying. When was the last time you encountered a used car salesman? We all know that when we are in a rush or get pushed into a rush, we often forget or not notice things that might be important. How can we recognize and listen to our feelings when we always feel like we’re being pushed or in a lather trying to get things done at lightning speed? At lightning speed, thoroughness becomes a virtual impossibility. These days most people have no patience with themselves, let alone with anyone else. Hype has become the heart’s enemy.   Intimacy requires patience.

The ability to know and feel intimacy has all but disappeared from our socially learned pantheon of recognized behaviors. Machismo and posturing have taken their place as the primary defense mechanism and as a distraction from the exposure of our perceived embarrassment or exposure. Due to the loss of becoming unable to experience or understand intimacy, almost all measures of humility, compassion and appreciation have rapidly been replaced with feelings of entitlement, outrage, persecution and belittlement. These operate as a distraction from our perceived exposure simply because we’ve never learned to handle the intimacy that allows for their proper integration and development. Most of the younger generations, although they’d never admit it, are now afraid of intimacy since their inability to handle it now signals such a threat for embarrassment through the exposure of their sensed but unrecognized lack of experience in being open with people. Because most of the younger generation hasn’t had the experience of living in the close proximity with an extended family and learning how to deal with intimacy, their perception and scope of it has been reduced to seeing and feeling it almost solely as an expression of sex.

Being intimate with another includes trusting others with our hopes, fears and perceived inadequacies while putting ourselves at the mercy of their potential manipulation and hoping instead that they will express their love by allowing our frailties to go acknowledged and unabused. Perhaps much of the violence perpetrated by so many is a reaction to their feeling of isolation and being exposed to the point of having to trust others by being intimate.

Chained in the dungeon-2These are two words that have been tremendously “buzzed” and exhausted in terms of content. Before we plunge into contemporary semantics and get lost in perspective, let’s look at their origins.

Independence comes from the 15th century French root dependre meaning “to hang from or hang down.” Freedom comes from the Old English word freogan meaning “to liberate, to rid” or to be “not in bondage.” We can easily see that both words have an underlying meaning of not being bound or to be cut loose from if bound. But to feel this type of perception we must first have or feel a condition(s) that somehow makes us feel bound, limited or restricted. We need to understand that the origins of these perceived restrictions are probably much more subtle and not easily observable when it comes to our contemporary culture and our daily attitudes in life. In our surface understanding of the words we almost invariably apply them to national concerns and then apply them to personal and social conditions. We can see them as being, essentially the same but on a different scale. The major difference between the application of their meanings is that adolescents and people who feel oppressed see them as a need defined by their personal conditions where as a politician sees them as concepts to be used to promote bondage and commitment of their constituents while quoting them in terms of the oppressed conditions to which the people are to be subjugated. This may take a bit to clarify but the dynamic, which remains the same in both cases, but is approached differently by each. Let’s first look at the similarities and origins between adolescents and oppressed peoples.

Freedom and independence have become the battle cry of every adolescent and oppressed person. We can also include persecution under the heading, however, it is an extreme of the condition but with a much deeper and more desperate motivation. I’d rather not delve into that too deeply here as there are more complicated dynamics at work than just perceived oppression or subjugation.

Love & ApprovalLet’s start with the adolescent. But to understand the adolescent perspective we must begin with their childhood. When we come into this world we learn to obey our parents as they hold the keys to all that we need: food, comfort, love and guidance. As children this is all we know as we’ve never been exposed to more. Because they provide all that we need we accept their domination in showing us what to do, how to behave, how to feel, how to think and what to expect. If we are abused by them, we still know no different as they are still the only game in town. They are our world. They are god to us. It is also during this time that we are told that there exists a deity outside the family running the show that we must also abide by. Eventually, we are told that this deity runs our parent’s show too. Based on our initial dependency on our parents and the extension of their authority into the world through aligning with a deity we now have a complete setup for external domination. The world now dictates who we should be, want, need and believe. We learn that our own feelings are not important and that it is more important how we appear to the world than how we feel or what our conditions are. Then something happens.

Children Rich & poorWe begin school in the outside world. Eventually through our exposure to other children we begin to realize that not all family worlds are run the same way. Some kids have more toys than we do. Some kids are allowed out later than we are. Some parents don’t keep track of their homework and chores. We start to question why we are different from other kids. We start to wonder why they are entitled to so much more or less than we are. By the time we reach puberty this line of thinking takes off like a rocket as our hormones supercharge what we feel. We begin to rebel against our family and the world. We feel oppressed and restricted. It is this awareness that not everyone lives by the same rules and guidelines that contributes to our urge to free ourselves from circumstance that we believe curtail our energy and movement. This is where adolescents become similar to any oppressed peoples; the awareness that not everyone lives by the same rules leading us to the need to break free. But there is another belief that has subtlety and efficiently moved into place; the belief that the world determines our circumstances and not the other way around. This makes us easy pickings for any outside authority, such as government and religion, to manipulate us into conforming to whatever behavior will generate and continue their support, approval and inclusion in the national “family.” Religion goes one step further. Required behavior for their continued support and inclusion demands that we behave altruistically by committing to putting the welfare of others, mostly theirs, ahead of our own benefit. The stage is set.

New car keysEnter the media. Showing that we could be driving new cars on country roads with no traffic. Showing us how we can be “successful” people having our own business free from family, regulation and taxes. Superheroes and vigilantes defying the law “doing it their way” and becoming social heroes gaining the approval and acceptance of the “masses” while “saving the world.” “Ordinary” people acquiring money, power and command over the opposite sex confirming their worthiness and desirability simply by buying a product.

The media has capitalized tremendously on the desperate need for the love, approval and acceptance we believe we might not have received as children. We can have love, approval and acceptance simply by buying a product, taking a course, allowing financial advisement, using the right deodorant, buying the right car, using the right breath mints, wearing the right clothing. Shall I go on? Yet, there is another underlying assumption in all this externally generated push for us to buy more. It’s the allure of being unobligated to anyone else for us to be able to “find and keep” happiness.

Envy-1What’s ironic is that this push for love, approval and acceptance has only made us more aware and more attentive to its absence. According to the Law of Attraction, where we put our energy (attention) only serves to feed and grow what it is we’re focusing on. So in following the commercial media, that is, watching TV with commercials, we end up feeling worse about ourselves than before we started watching.

Consider an example if you will. Statistically, and oddly enough in conjunction with the Law of Attraction, one gas station on one corner will earn a finite amount of revenue. However, if three additional gas stations occupy all four corners, the amount of revenue collected at that corner will be much more than just the sum of the four despite fears of individual competition. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The point is, added focus on gas on that corner has increased universal returns.

So, let’s now apply this law to applying our focus on being unloved, approved of or accepted. The more we feed those thoughts and feelings, the larger the perceived deficit grows. The universe says, “This is where you’re putting your energy? Then this is what I shall give you more returns on.” The universe is mindless. It simply responds to what we focus on.

Cross-on-MountainNow. Let’s look at freedom and independence. The more we focus on not having them, the more the universe will bring us circumstances affirming and emphasizing what it is that we don’t have thereby confirming our belief! As we think, so we are. Whether you are religious, atheist or agnostic, you cannot deny the logic of the dynamics of energy. Those who are religious have been trained to believe that the “lord will provide.” As fatalistic as that may sound, the universe, lord, god, devil or whomever we believe is in charge will provide whatever we energize. They (those we worship, as imaginary as they may be) are only the universe operating according to the Law of Attraction. If we emphasize the need for freedom and independence, the universe will bring us more circumstances that support that need, aka, more restrictive circumstances that verify our beliefs.

So, based on this, you’re probably saying to yourself, “So what do I focus on?” The answer is simple. The law works no matter where we focus. What to do? Focus on what we do have that is working. Talk about what you can do. Talk about the things you do have that you appreciate. Talk about the things that you have that are aligned with what you want to have, be or do. This does not mean tell yourself you are rich and competent when in your heart you actually believe that you’re not. You cannot fool the universe. It resonates to what is actually in your heart and belief system. As you believe, so you are. Or, more appropriately, as you feel, so you are. If you Kayak on rapids-1feel that you are not confident, rather say to yourself, “I am becoming more confident every day.” In acknowledging both you are allowing the energy to flow through both. That means the having of confidence is also getting play. You’re not saying something that your mind can’t accept or won’t believe. You’re acknowledging the potential for both failure AND success. Your heart and mind can accept and believe this and the universe will support it. What you feel will manifest. It may take a little time for the “universal manager” to catch up to prior programming and arrange circumstances that will confirm your new chosen belief but it will eventually manifest as you gradually remove your resistance to its existence by terminating focusing on what you aren’t or don’t have.

TV-Advertising-1In the same light, if the media you’re watching does not confirm projecting energy and focus in the direction of what you want to be, have or do…turn the channel until you can find a station that does. If you can’t find one, turn it off. Surround yourself with people that support what you’re working toward. Do NOT commiserate with others about what you don’t have. It will only serve to show the universe what you don’t want more of…and you’ll get it.

Simply put, if you focus on what you don’t have (freedom and independence), the Law of Attraction will provide you with more of the same. If you focus on what you do have (freedom and independence), the Law of Attraction will provide you with more of the same. Energy simply follows thought. It’s up to you to choose.

man behind the curtainIn this day and age we give a tremendous amount of attention and admiration to those of us who appear to be independent, self-starting and entrepreneurs. Our desire to be socially autonomous also reflects through what we see in our media, music and public notice. But we have to ask ourselves how feasible is it to actually be autonomous and independent? After all, we don’t live in a vacuum…or do we?

Most of us are brought up with our parents emphasizing how important it is for us not to be beholding or obligated to others for their support and favors, yet, our dynamic family training produces an emotional component that programs us to still be responsible and accountable for our family and its circumstances. The truth is that we’re taught by our parents that it’s desirable to be independent and entrepreneurial where the outside world is concerned but we still remain intimately connected and accountable to our parents and our family circumstances. The truth is double standards transfer poorly in personally chosen values. We usually tend to keep things simple by choosing one set of values or the other that appear to benefit our current circumstances. Unless we’re severely abused by our family and recognize it enough to detach from our family and further abuse, most of us usually take on and maintaining an obligation of loyalty to our parents and family while still believing in our independence in the outside world. There’s nothing wrong with having a loyalty to our family and their welfare but we usually end up unconsciously transferring our accountability to our parents to expectations of us by the outside world. On other words, we accept the outer world authority the same way we would accept our authoritative parents and we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Hence, we allow the outer world to have a say in how we run our lives. How can this be? Because as emotional humans we seek out people and life situations that are similar to who and what we grew up with. Why? Because it feels familiar and comfortable even if it might feel abusive or hurtful. The key is, it’s familiar. The problem is, it makes us lazy. Let’s go deeper.

Puppet-4So now, let’s look at our interactions with the world after we’ve “grown up” and claim to be “responsible” and independent of the outer world in the decisions we make. How do we now relate to others? What and who determines how we live our lives? What values determine the choices we make? We can see very clearly where those decisions come from. All we have to do is listen to some of the statements we make about why we choose to do what we do. If you find yourself making some of the statements you find below, you can be sure that you’re still playing by the contradictory rules we were trained with as children while thinking and claiming that you’re operating independently. The more you find yourself saying the statements you find below, the more work you’ll have to do clarifying what of your decisions you’re calling independent and self-starting. Let’s look at some.

Muddy Road-1It’s the way I’ve always done things. This one’s easy. There’s no doubt as to where the rationale for your actions is coming from. This statement almost exclusively asserts that your past family involvement and training still has a profound effect on what you do and why. Look at the situation and ask yourself, if I never had the family that I had, would I behave any differently? If I then do something different from what I usually do, would I catch disapproval from anyone in my family if they were around? In family situations we usually accommodate family members, especially parents, with our deference. After all, they were the original authority and their needs had to be accommodated if we wanted to maintain their support and stay in their good graces. So, is this still happening here? If so, family expectations are, most likely, still dictating how you run your life and what values underlie your current decisions. They may not be compatible with your current life situations and level of maturity.

I don’t want to disappoint my {family, wife, husband, peers…}. It’s plain to see that there’s no independence here. You are entirely subject to the judgment of someone other than you. Their values are the ones that are determining your decisions and efforts. At the least the issue is on the surface and can easily be reconciled if you choose.

King's fool-1I don’t want to look like a fool. Your self-image was the first thing constructed through your interaction with your parents once you realized that everything you needed and wanted must come through them. Have you transferred the pleasing of your parents to the outside world? Is what you’re doing now is intended to stay in the good graces of friends, bosses or onlookers? Guess what. Your parents are still determining who you should be and how you should act. Ask yourself now, what are you afraid of? Labeling? Terminated benefits? Banishment from the in-crowd? Do you really need the approval and acceptance of those friends, bosses and onlookers? Why is it that you feel that they will judge you the same way your parents did? We all begin life believing that the world runs the same way as it did when we grew up. Then, we have many rude awakenings when we don’t get the desired approval or someone in the outside world doesn’t react the way we expect. That’s a sure sign that our assumptions are not in line with personally chosen values that might work better in our current situations.

It’s the “right” thing to do. The question is, where did this idea of “right” come from? Is it what you were taught? Is it what your elders expect of you? Are you still carrying the needs and wants of those who raised you? Are you still fearing their disapproval and punishment? Many of us still look at life this way even though our parents might have been long gone.

If I don’t do it, no one else will. This is a tricky one. Early on your parents wanted you to feel obligated to them without the direct connection of them being viewed as the authority. They will have claimed that it’s not the way that they would have done it but that an authority larger than them (their parents, god, teachers, pastors, congressmen) dictate how things should be. It’s “not their fault.” As a result, you “can’t” be angry at your parents for demanding your submission. They stay in the clear while the “outside world” larger authority or the proverbial “they” takes the heat. So you now approach the world, encounter a situation that in your parent’s eyes would require “fixing” and feel that the “they” or the “larger authority” your parents claimed is watching you too. If you don’t perform, you know that “they” will see you as without honor and not “good enough.” It will also give you an ego boost if you do perform when “no one else will.”

Table Setting DiagramThere are many situations that we encounter that we just naturally assume that there is a “proper” way to do things. But often the “proper” way includes stipulations and requirements dictated by our parents making them feel comfortable and in charge of the home environment. There’s nothing wrong with accommodating our parents’ wishes requirements when we are young, especially, since a lot of those requirements deal with our safety and welfare. But when we get older, a lot of those requirements no longer have as much of a bearing on our safety since when we’re older we have usually learned to take care of ourselves and have had enough experience to realize when a situation might be unsafe or detrimental to us. Simple things we hear when we’re younger may stick with us like, “Don’t talk to strangers” or “Don’t walk home alone.” This will invariably plant an unconscious fear of new people and situations and make us hesitant to talk to new and interesting people or begin new endeavors previously unknown to our parents.

LongevityWe should also note that our parents, especially as they get older, still have many of their own issues as many of us will as we age. Humans usually don’t changed unless forced to. Much of our parents’ encouragement for us in doing things the way they did when they were younger is an unconscious need for them to feel a continuity in their way of life which often and conveniently avoids confronting the oncoming need to consider their own longevity and usefulness to the younger generations as they get older. Many people still fear leaving this plane of life.

The life approaches and philosophies that our parents lived by are appropriate for their generation since most of their generation was brought up in the same era and under the same circumstances. Additionally, a lot of their cautions to us are based on not only the fears and situations they’ve encountered but what their parents may have taught them based on what they felt, feared and experienced. Not only is it the sins of the father that are transferred to the younger generations but their fears, loves and cautions also. This can be emotionally detrimental, especially, since each succeeding generation coming into power develops ways of perceiving and doing things commensurate with ongoing change and their need to accommodate life’s new and exciting circumstances.

So what’s the best way to determine if your decisions are based on a history or training that is no longer applicable to your present circumstances? First, ask yourself, “Is it truly your responsibility to handle what you’re currently encountering? Who will it appease? You or someone else?” Second, what will you personally lose or who will say what about you if you don’t handle it the way that is expected? Will you lose face if you don’t do it their way? If you gave up the “benefit” of their approval, will it work out better for you in the long run? Will it teach them something if you do? After all, we never stop learning, even if its something we don't care to know or admit.

Master Po & Kwai ChangThe thing with awareness is that each situation in life must be dealt with as if we’re seeing it for the first time. The sage says, “See the world with the eyes of a child.” That does not imply childishness or an exaggerated innocence but with a freshness, a newness free of preconceived ideas and limitations.

To some of you it may appear as if I’m supporting anarchy. But the pendulum of our need to acquiesce to the peace and security of others has ended up where we are now essentially dumbing ourselves down so others won’t feel bad about themselves. The pendulum has swung way too far into the land of deference and accommodation. It is my belief that we have become so oversensitive to the needs of others and the avoidance of potentially insulting others that we have royally sabotaged the larger extent of our own opportunities for our growth, life and our pursuit of happiness. Perhaps it’s time to halt the incessant and metastasizing march of selflessness and altruism and allow our own heart and intuition to take more of a front seat relative to where our own desires and goals are concerned….