Tag Archives: Self-Trust

Tremendous attention and outrage has been applied to the act of bullying. Unfortunately, almost all of the energy has been directed toward reacting to the act with punishment for the perpetrator and sympathy and counseling for the victim. Its contemporary handling has been focused primarily on the prevention of the action, yet, almost no attention has been given to the causes that would encourage one to do so,to what the victim broadcasts to attract his perpetrator or what kind of education or training would contribute to its prevention for the perpetrator and the victim.

Nothing happens at random. Because we live and grow in the physical world, we deal with our experience from an action/reaction perspective. For most of us, these understandings and perceptions are understandable and seem even reasonable. But, closing the barn door after the horses have escaped does little to prevent their escape in the first place. In the same light, punishing the perpetrator and counseling the victim from a victim perspective does little to prevent future occurrences. Their predisposition toward bullying or being bullied emanate from a deeply ingrained behavior learned in childhood. For us to be effective in our handling of this type of event something more must be come into play than to simply to punish or console. I’d like to offer some options for understanding but I must warn you ahead of time. Those who have been bullied, have children who have been bullied or have done the bullying themselves may take great offense at what I’m about to say. Please put aside your indignation and allow this to unfold in your understanding before you fold your arms and shut the door on what I’m about to say. It takes two to Tango. It also takes two to bully and to be bullied. Both the perpetrator and victim are implicated in what occurs, whether we or they are aware of it or not.

Let’s first start off by examining the old adage “birds of a feather flock together.” The more modern version of this is “like attracts like.” We can certainly see that people who like or do the same things will have an attraction for each other and are often found in the same groupings of people. Artists attract artists. Business people attract business people and so on. But can we also understand that people who are, say, very frugal with their money will also be drawn to people who throw money away? Yes! Why? Because both character types have a learned problematic attitude toward the handling of their money. In this light we can also say that people who are overly compassionate also attract people who are not and users always seem to find people who are easily used. It’s just a fact of life that we also attract our opposites. Why? Because an imbalance in issues draws us together more than which side or polarity of the imbalance we take our perspective from. Included in this perspective is the understanding that extroverts and introverts are opposites and are also attracted to each other in the same way. Both have an opposing tendency in how and how much they will tend to allow or seek contact with the “outside” world. Opposites attract as nature’s way of attempting to rebalance an issue that has become polarized. However, people who are a little more evolved and finely balanced than we will, most likely, not be perceived by us as being extroverted or introverted. For them, attention will be given to the degree to which they do or don’t project according to the appropriateness of the response required, not that they are opposites. We won’t see the polarity because their action will be in line and appropriate for what is needed.

For those of us who might not be quite as evolved, and that’s most of us, people who either advance into or retreat from contact will be perceived by us as being either extroverted or introverted. Let’s take this one step further. Bullies will appear to us as being more extroverted and those who are victims will appear to be more introverted. The issue creating the “difference” between them, outward projection or inward retreat, can be as strongly polarized for us as we compare male to female; active and receptive again reinforcing the fact that opposites attract. Our awareness is triggered by the perception of extremes. To us, the issue appears secondary.

So, now that we can see that like attracts like as much as opposites attract as a function of the issues not because of the sides or extremes we take in or perspective. The sides we take are simply symptoms of an issue that is unbalanced. Let’s move on and fill in some other factors in the dynamic picture that’s forming.

In examining how we handle contact with others we must look at character. We can initially assume that our tendencies toward exhibiting certain types of character may be either innate or hereditary. To some degree, I will agree with this. We most certainly seem to bring some forms of character and tendencies into life with us. But this may not be the only reason for our exhibited behaviors. Our tendency to either project toward or retreat from contact with others can also be trained or encouraged in us by those in our early environment such as parents or siblings. If we project a behavior that displeases someone in our early environment, their negatively perceived reaction may encourage us to refrain from using that same behavior, not only in the family, but in other circumstances outside the family. If we feel is frightened or intimidated by someone in our early environment, this will also intensify our reluctance to express ourselves the same way within and outside the family nucleus. Someone who is not innately introverted may then be shown that introversion may be the best behavior to exhibit within and outside the family to assure their emotional and physical safety. Parents who are extremely authoritarian or exhibit fits of anger when they are not pleased may very easily discourage their children into introversion thereby preventing them from exhibiting their innate behavior for fear that they will elicit unpleasant reactions. The child’s innate emotional strength has a lot to do with their responses. We must also understand that a strong spirited child may act out against discouragement of unwanted behaviors by the parents and not be subdued.

Contrarily, a child who may be innately introverted may feel encouraged by their parents to be more extroverted simply because their parental encouragement may give them enough confidence and courage to step outside their comfort zone, and perhaps even past ethical boundaries, to try new things. This will also be true with abusive parents when the child is taught or modeled that abusive behavior is appropriate to get what they want.

In both cases, hereditarily and environmentally, we’re working with nature verses nurture; also known as genetics verses environment. We all respond to both but in many varying degrees depending on their mix. What is environmentally trained depends on the mix between how we as parents respond to the behaviors we perceive in our children, our own level of emotional maturity and the emotional strength and resiliency of our child. We have the power to create balanced adults, narcissistic monsters (spoiled children feeling entitled) or people pleasers (fear induced submissives) depending on our behavior and what we encourage or discourage in our children’s behavior. Bullying is often a consequence of a pairing between apparent narcissists and people pleasers as opposites. Both the parent and child may be either. A submissive will create a narcissistic monster and a parent behaving narcissistically will create a submissive.

Children learn by example. They not only react but also emulate what they observe as “effective” behavior. The “effectiveness” will usually be paired with a purpose or intention, whether they are conscious of it or not. If a child sees that kind and tender behavior elicits a loving reaction, they will emulate that behavior to receive that response from others. If they see that an angry or abusive behavior elicits submission to their preferences, they will emulate that too. Whatever behaviors appear to work in getting the desired response from others will be emulated. A child’s emotional patterns are usually set by age three. An important factor in the development of their character is to realize that the young child as yet has no understanding as to whether their behavior might be nurturing or hurtful. At that age appropriateness never even enters the picture. All they know is that what they see projected by an adult or sibling achieves a result they may want.

There is one additional factor I’d like to talk about which may seem totally unrelated but bear with me. I will tie them all up shortly. This is the fact that animals can sense fear in other animals. When they become afraid they emit pheromones and are simultaneously catalyzed into a “fight or flight” response. This pheromone can be sensed by other animals and has a primary influence on whether one animal will choose to attack another. As part animal, humans have the same tendencies to sense and to emit these pheromones relating to fear. But now it is almost always an unconscious “recognition.” But there is an additional factor that humans have that animals are believed to not have. That is the potential to be able to think about possible future outcomes. In additional to instinct, fear can be generated by our minds by the perceived possibility of what can happen. When we as humans feel the fear, we also emit the pheromone. If we now connect this with a child who is about to be bullied, we can see that his release of pheromones and his fear response concerning what could happen can be sensed by a bully whether the bully is conscious of it or not. It is my belief that a bully will only bully those whom he thinks and senses that he can bully. The important factor to understand is that the bully may operate not only from a perspective of entitlement but also from fear. If a bully feels somehow threatened, they will bully or attack someone who appears or feels to be unable or unwilling to defend themselves. This will go a long way to alleviate any feeling of powerlessness or inadequacy on their part.

There are two types of bullies. Those who feel entitled to their safety and preferences and those who feel the potential loss of them.The first group is raised by parents who cater to the child’s every whim and create a feeling of entitlement within their expectations of the outer world. These children almost always exhibit an absence of compassion or consideration for others. These are the narcissistic bullies.

The second group is usually the recipient of authoritarian or abusive parenting. The modeling of their parents has taught them that the only way they can maintain their safety and preferences is to act aggressively toward those who trigger their feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy. As a consequence of the feelings of worthlessness encouraged by their parents or siblings, they will also tend to seek out, mostly unconsciously, those who emit fear pheromones and feel defenseless and those whom they feel that they can bully and believe won’t fight back. Bullying them into submission enables them to cloak and submerge their own feelings of inadequacy and feel the power they believe they lack. However, the feeling is gained only temporarily. The feeling of power quickly evaporates. What is truly ironic is that due to their unwary projection of their own sense of powerlessness and worthlessness they will constantly attract those who will answer their imbalanced perception of themselves with reminders of their own inadequate feelings. (natural entropy – nature’s tendency to neutralize polarities through their attraction to each other or opposites attract).

Both fear induced bullies and the “victims” of bullies need, essentially, the same kind of counseling; encouragement for worthiness and adequacy. However, the trained narcissists will require a different kind of counseling than bullies who operate from a fear induced aggression. The narcissist feels little or no fear relative to others. They’ve been trained into believing that they are entitled to whatever it is that they prefer in spite of what is brought to their attention by others. Counseling for them would consist, first, of awakening some sort of understanding and acceptance that others have and are allowed their own preferences if different from theirs and, second, that their total lack of awareness or attention to the needs of others should somehow be considered a deficit. The first factor would be mildly difficult to correct as it would require the narcissistic bully to relinquish some of their preferences. The second factor will be much harder to induce since it is irrevocably tied up with the ego. The older the bully, the more ingrained and embedded the feeling of their entitlement as being appropriate. With young children, the change is difficult but not impossible but with adults, the change seems only to be a distant hope. Remember, we are emotionally “coalesced” by age three and by the time puberty is added to the emotional mix, our ego boundaries become rigid and almost impenetrable.

We can now understand where the sense of entitlement comes from but where does the pre-emptive strike come in? When the fear induced bully feels triggered by the victim into feeling his unworthiness and inadequacy, the urge to strike is born. This activates the old adage “the best defense is a good offense.” If the bully can induce submission in the victim, the attention is drawn away from the bully’s own feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy and focused on the power they feel over their victim. If this doesn’t subdue these feelings, their actions will be over-emphasized. The stronger their sense of worthlessness and inadequacy is, the more intense becomes the bullying. The more elusive the submersion or cloaking of the bully’s worthlessness and inadequacy becomes, the more violent their bullying.

So now we have a perspective understanding of the two types of bullies and the victim. All three have their issues applicable to the creation of the problem. It takes two to Tango. Yet, consoling the victim and punishing the perpetrator does little more than to push their feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy further underground. In fact, consoling and punishing has the opposite effect. It intensifies the issue because it often ignores and suppresses its causes. It is common knowledge that anything that is emotionally compressed surfaces more violently in other unexpected areas and circumstances.

Bullying can be prevented in our children by making sure there is a balance between Self-Trust and confidence and their consideration and compassion for others. There must be enough Self-Trust to build worthiness and feelings of adequacy but enough humility and consideration for others to keep their interaction with others balanced and congenial. This must be taught if we wish to decrease the incidences of bullying. This may require some adults to receive some form of counseling if they are to prevent passing on this emotionally destructive and debilitating pattern to their children.

With advent of the media’s blossoming controversy about fake news and the rendering of misinformation by them and private sources we have felt a growing frustration in attempting to find out what’s really happening in the world and obtaining a fair and honest rendering through journalism and news reporting. With the added intensity over the differences in our political landscape and those utilizing it for manipulation, our belief and trust in what we are now being told has diminished significantly. Do we believe what we hear? Who do we trust? Do they have a vested interest in what they’re telling us? Who owns the media? Are they politically biased? Prejudiced? Are they giving us the facts? “Alternate” facts? Misinformation? Who should we put our trust in? The answer has finally and essentially come to the fact that, more than ever, we must now trust ourselves.

This may seem simplistic but it’s been a long time coming. With our social structure being flooded with so many authorities, experts, pundits, licensed providers, vetted officials, approved representatives, isn’t it only natural and inevitable that we must eventually reach a saturation point in our dependency on other people for advice and permission to do only what’s generally accepted by our peer group? Doesn’t it seem like there are so many conflicting edicts presented by so many groups we’ve come to trust, yet, they almost all tell us that we must be or do something other than what we feel? Today salt is good for you. Tomorrow it’s not. Today, one politician is a criminal. The next, they’re a hero. The majority of doctors say this drug is a miracle. The next day we hear of class action lawsuits levied by lawyers on behalf of people who have been irreparably damaged by them. Who do we believe? Who can we trust? The writing on the wall begs for us to begin relearning to trust ourselves. Relearn you say? How can this be? Aren’t we a self-sustaining and self-responsible culture? Haven’t we been trained to listen to and trust our own intuition and feelings? The answer is no. We’ve been trained by our parents and the media to seek outside of ourselves for the answers to all of our important questions.

Through being browbeaten into believing that all the important answers about how and why we are to live our lives comes from an outside authority, through omission it’s been strongly inferred to us that our feelings and intuition can’t and won’t be validated, proven, vetted or authenticated by others. We’ve been trained to put all of our faith into the scientific community and the proofs that it requires. There is a perpetual drive for evidence, evidence and evidence. We must only accept proof, validation and verification by others giving us permission to act even if it doesn’t feel right. Why have we allowed ourselves to believe this? It’s safer. We can be accused of less if we can validate who we are or what we are doing by following the rules and requirements of the social status quo. The underlying expectation is, and to most of us this is unconscious, that in doing so we won’t have to be responsible for the outcome of our choices. If we do something that someone disapproves of, all we have to do is point the finger at the accepted authority and we become vindicated and faultless. We’ve done what we’re told was proper. We’re blameless. We followed "the rules." We can now expect to be loved.

If we view the universe as a self-correcting system, we must understand that all things change and evolve. The snowballing of fake news and misinformation is simply occurring as a self-correction that the universe has been slowly and naturally energizing  as a re-balancing much like a market correction. Not that it is in any way intended, although there are many of us that believe in intelligent design, but that, according to its own nature, energy “seeks” toward simplicity and conservation of itself. Our focus outside of ourselves has reached such an extreme that the pendulum must now swing toward the side of personal and internal judgment simply in order to re-balance itself. The "rub" is that it must also return us toward being accountable for our actions and inactions. We will no longer be able to remain blameless and will now risk the possibility of not being loved or included in our chosen groups, clans or families.

Moving from being externally aligned toward being internally self-directed will seem foreign to many of us and even frightening to some. We have been so indoctrinated into listening to what comes from outside of ourselves that trusting our own feelings and intuition has come to seem unnatural and even treasonous toward the society and culture that has trained us toward, essentially, remaining subservient and obedient to itself. We’ve been relentlessly bombarded with the belief that we are responsible for the welfare of others over our own…even if subconsciously. This outlook heralds all the way back to colonial times when we actually needed the help of others simply to survive. Then, this easily fell in line with Christian principles claiming that we are our “brother’s keeper.” But circumstances change over time and so do the prevailing traditions that evolve from them. So now, when it comes to our contemporary emotional and psychological health, nothing could have evolved further from the truth. Although we claim to be self-sufficient, we do need others to see ourselves “objectively.” We have gravitated so much toward a selfless and personally sacrificial extreme that we are now all in perilous danger of losing ourselves totally simply to obtain the approval and acceptance of our peers through acquiescing to their parroted and, now, obsolete traditional judgments. Yet, this makes us feel safe and blameless. The ironic part of this is that everyone is looking toward each other as an authority which amounts to only each others opinions gathered from everyone else… No longer does anyone actually have or know the necessary truths. Through accepting this mindless echo as our standard for well being, we have simply become the blind leading the blind.

The breakdown in the media is simply one more superficial indicator of how over-invested we have become in the opinions and judgments of others. The recent assertion by our new president promoting “America First” exemplifies a tacit undercurrent moving us toward returning to a sense of balance nationally. We are in dire need of bringing our feelings and intuition back into play as being a valid form of information used for our choices and direction. Our blind acceptance of the need to validate everything scientifically has obliterated the awareness and validation of our own worth except in the context of social service and responsibility. We need to begin to allow ourselves to be selfish at least to the extent that we are able to regenerate ourselves before being subjugated to the socially expected demand of service to others. “Doctor, heal thyself!” We must regain a balance between being responsible to ourselves before we can become effective in being of service to others. A drained social worker is of little use to anyone.

So, now, the recent explosion and exposure of fake news and misinformation is, essentially, providing us with an unexpected side effect and open door encouraging us to reacquaint ourselves with our own feelings and intuition while showing us the necessity of giving ourselves permission to trust our own judgment in spite of the historic and overwhelming pressure levied on us by external authority. Isn’t it funny how life always brings us back to trusting our own heart and intuition? Yet, building the courage required to live according to them is, more often than not, ignored or even buried under the fearful possibility of being socially outcast for non-compliance.

Ironman-1All of us at one time or another has lived vicariously through a hero or heroine on the television or in a captivating book. We’ve felt the power and the gratitude of saving someone in trouble and the adoration and recognition of whole societies for our heartfelt service to them.  Mythology is full of examples of people that we’d like to be like and emulate and people whose places we’d like to be in. There is nothing wrong with feeling this as our emotional participation in that it teaches us things about the experiences that we need to integrate and incorporate into our psyches and self-concept. But then, we're told, "don't plant your feet in someone else's soil." Make your own choices. Conduct your own life. Yet, when we live in the wake of someone else’s boat, we never have to put ourselves at risk for being shown that we feel inadequate in some way as a function of our feared failures. What are we to do?

In someone else's shadowIn the same way that we seek the shade of a tree to protect us from the intensity of the sun, many of us seek people with the skills and capabilities to protect us from others who might take advantage of us or harm us in a way that we believe we should have developed the skills and defenses to handle but have somehow fallen short due to some perceived inadequacy. Our propensity for seeking that sort of person usually comes from experiences that we’ve had that have overwhelmed us in our ability to stand up for our core values and personal integrity. These experiences can come from childhood beatings, sexual abuse, emotional blackmail or any other form of unwanted coercion coming from others, including parents, who have learned, even if unconsciously, that it is easier to find someone else to do their dirty work and take the fall for their own perceived inadequacies and improprieties. These accounts for what many psychologists have called being the scapegoat in a family or close group. Even with people who are accomplished and have personal integrity beyond reproach have been the objects of our sought protection. I believe that this type of seeking behavior on our part is simply an extension of our seeking protection from others as we would from our parents as small children. Until we learn to “defend ourselves” against abuse, erect personal boundaries without feelings of guilt or fear of penetration and have develop skills to make our own way in the world can we pull away from needing to live in and as someone else’s shadow. I use shadow in both the terms of what the tree provides and in terms of that unwanted part and qualities of ourselves that we struggle to repress or project on others so it won’t interfere with the preferred image we wish present to the world. We can do this consciously, like a parent for a child, or unconsciously, as in dependency oriented relationships. This type of role playing, if I can call it that, is one of us being the “protected” one and one of us being the “protector” has devastating consequences on our Self-Trust and confidence. The Parent-Child interplay explained by the theory of Transactional Analysis by Thomas Harris in "I'm Ok, You're OK" holds a key toward understanding the dynamic in play and what needs to be done in order to re-balance the relationship and restore adult status to both individuals. Let’s first look at the dynamic occurring in the “child,” the “protected” one, who is living in the shadow of another. Remember, this is one of two adults fulfilling a role to retain a real or imagined emotional security.

To begin with, remember walking into someone’s house and just feeling comfortable like putting on a pairs of slippers and a robe? Now imagine meeting a person with whom we feel the same way. This is probably the feeling that some of us describe as “finding our other half.” Being in someone else’s space can have dramatic effects on our ability to relax, be creative and feel “at home.” It’s not that they “make” us feel that way. It’s that we resonate with their space and the energy that they emit. There is a spectrum which we all fall into that will tell us if we’re seeking this out on the end which provides protection or on the end that provides an almost literal augmentation of our creativity and excitement in perceiving our effectiveness in the world. The kind of person we seek has everything to do with how we feel about ourselves and our participation in the world around us. If we feel that we are somehow lacking, inadequate or Parents are godsunable to make our way in the world, we will tend to seek someone who will provide a buffer, as our parents most likely did for us as a child, between us and what we perceive as the frightening aspects of dealing with an outside world that we feel no confidence in. In doing this we either remain or become the “child” as in Transactional Analysis. Choosing this role enables us to rely on another’s experience, guidance and accountability. Of course, there are many more dimensions available to us in choosing the role of “child” but for the child protection would be their main focus. I think the advantage of choosing a relationship with someone who could provide these things for us is obvious but for many our selection (choice) is unconscious. Because it is primarily an unconscious choice by those of us seeking protection, when our choice poses subsequent limitations on our freedom and confidence, we never realize that it is our same choice that has caused the construction of our own limitations that has made us dependent on the behavior of those we have selected. But it is only the disadvantages of that choice that we see and never realize the dynamics operating behind it while projecting the causes of our displeasure on our chosen partner. So a potential scenario might go like this. You are an older couple. One of you is afraid to drive so you sell your second car and let your spouse become the primary transporter. Now, as your life loses opportunities for enjoyment outside the house because your spouse may have the car, you now claim that your spouse is hampering your ability to enjoy life and get around. Now the protection you’ve selected seems like an isolation and manipulation. A compounding of that effect would be if we were the driver of the car and like having our spouse under our watchful eye by their being easily within our control. But when the obligation for us to transport them becomes more dominant than we prefer, we claim that our spouse, who doesn’t drive, is always there and cramping our style and taking up our time.

protect me-2The opportunity for our tendency to create co-dependence for personal advantage is always present. If we are self-accountable and take responsibility for our own circumstances, it almost never occurs. But if we aren’t or don’t, we almost always fall into the trap. When this occurs, we see the advantage of “putting our feet in someone else’s soil” but almost never see the disadvantages of the practice until it’s time to “pay” for the advantage that we’ve “bargained” for and then we see it as a limitation or interference. The other part of the codependency dance is played by we the “protector” or “parent” in Transactional Analysis seeking advantage and comfort for ourselves also through manipulation of those we’ve “pledged” to protect. Hence, we do it by putting other people into our service. In doing this we believe that we are eliciting an obligation from the “protectee” on the pretense that we are being noble by providing protection and advantage to those whom we are manipulating. We may also do this unconsciously and then, almost always, flatly deny being manipulative when accused.

In contrast to seeking advantages and encountering “hidden” consequences, this type of connection can be done with both parties consciously consenting to aid our partner with full knowledge and acceptance of not only the advantages gained but of any consequences that might follow. Rarely does the openly agreed sharing elicit difficulties unless it is done with an open agreement on the surface but with an additional hidden agenda underneath with one or both parties being unaware of it.

Puppet-4There is nothing wrong with “planting your feet in someone else’s soil” as long as we do it with accountability involving awareness and an understanding and acceptance of what we offer or even imply, consciously or not, in return. Much of the difficulty we have in assessing what kind of “agreement” we are dealing with has everything to do with what parts of the encounter we are consciously aware of and which parts we are not. And often times, what we are “not aware of” is often rationalized away by utilizing a double meaning where the acknowledged meaning works in our favor and augments our public image and the one that does not is either denied or stripped of applicability through its selective validation. We can see and understand this easily with any action where we can have both a noble and selfish motivation.

At the root of any of these difficulties is always our perception of our accountability. If we are unable to accept accountability for something that is deemed inappropriate, ungracious or selfish, we usually seek the double meaning route to disguise our internally acknowledged motivation through cloaking our shadow (parts of ourselves that we feel are undesirable and then project on others) with socially and self-deceptive reasoning. It only begins to compound as a real problem when we actually start believing our own deceptively contrived scenarios.

Self-Deception-3The need for perpetuating social and self-deception is a direct result of never having developed an adequate sense of Self-Trust. When we’ve been trained not to trust ourselves or our own experience, which our contemporary western culture has most certainly been evolving us toward through exaggerating the importance of science and the physical world over feelings and intuition, we come to see ourselves as being inadequate in the eyes of the world and fear that that same inadequacy will be exposed if we don’t somehow hide it through shifting our accountability toward someone else. In other words, when Self-Trust is lacking, the minimum amount of courage required for becoming voluntarily accountable is never reached. So we resort to subterfuge, conscious or not, to cover ourselves.

Plausible DenialThe art of constructing plausible denial has, undoubtedly, become a serious problem. It has augmented personal acquisition and opportunism through interpersonal and socially and self-deceptive “planning” infecting every part of our culture involving morals, values and etiquette. It is the survival part of our animal nature that has seeped through and undermined our attempts to create distance between our actively denied animal nature and our projected pretense of evolutionary and spiritual superiority. Co-dependence eminently fits the requirement for disguising our self-deception while permitting the allowance of answering our primordial urges without our professed accountability. If we’re going to “plant our feet in someone else’s soil,’ we had best have a clear sense and understanding of what we are doing with a predominant propensity toward being accountable. This means developing a strong sense of Self-Trust. Only then will our emotional psyches be “mature” enough to be able to maintain an honest and mutually beneficial relationship with our chosen partners without any “surprises.”

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Emerald Forest-1We’ve all seen movies with youths from Borneo, Africa, South America or other places we might regard as uncivilized go through horrendous feats of physical endurance just to be accepted as adults in their tribes. Our first comment or impression is almost always, “How barbaric?” especially, since we wouldn’t think of doing such a thing in our own “subdued” culture.  But when we actually think about it, is it really that barbaric? Is it really a travesty to put youths through such a tortuous ordeal just to belong? At first glance we might think so, but the ritual serves as a very important landmark in the youth’s psyche. So then, what is the significance of Adolescents & Rites of passage?

BreakthroughAsk yourself about the difficult physical challenges you’ve been through, anything from birth to a near death experience and ask yourself, did it make an impression on you? Did it bring that period in your life to the forefront of your perception? Was it life changing? Did it mark a new beginning or ending? Odds are, you’ve answered yes. During that time, we all tend to make decisions about ourselves and how we view our lives leading up to making important changes in our life perspective. When we pair a physically challenging situation with an intangible belief or concept, it tends to have a dramatic effect on our life and how we consequently perceive it.

Relative to the uncivilized cultures I’ve cited, and I’m sure that there are many others, those who are part of those cultures have no doubt as to their position and responsibilities within that culture and to their families, neighbors and themselves. Now ask yourself, what experiences do our “advanced civilization” western adolescents have to compare to that could possibly make an equally indelible impression on how they view themselves or to know what their position is in being part of our culture? I presently perceive none of any consequence barring a few exceptions that are, perhaps, vestigial rites which have long lost their teeth due to our over-civilizing influences and gentile preferences for how we now view ourselves as a culture.

First killIn losing our connection to nature we have lost something vital that links us to the natural flow of life tantamount to our residing in these bodies. Even animals in the wild have a first kill as their ascension into becoming an adult and fending for themselves. How can we compare?We are born into these bodies yet, excluding the simple pursuit of personal pleasures, they no longer have significance in how we conduct our lives except in terms of our supporting them to be able to carry us around to every new intangible cultural expectation that we have organized for ourselves to convince ourselves that we are superior to our animal natures; the kingdom to which we still most tangibly belong. And even in that we do a tremendously poor job poisoning ourselves with synthetic foods and pesticides, let alone, never giving ourselves time and space to renew our connections to our true nature. What do our youths have to emulate in us that shows them how to become adults? What, now, does adulthood even mean to them? With our having no holistic view of ourselves, what is it that we expect them to become? We are a lost civilization teaching our young to remain lost with us. How did this happen?

animal masteryThe first factor to contribute to this path was to come to believe that we are superior to the animal kingdom. This exhibits a primarily egotistical need to elevate ourselves above all else. Why? Because we’ve been trained to behave that way.By whom? Predominantly, by western religion.Even the bible tells us that we are to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” So for us, according to the bible, the mark of having value in life is our ability to dominate our environment and those within it. This has also encouraged us to accept and believe that humility, especially in nature and the stewardship of it, are marks of what it is to be inferior.This translates into denying our animal nature as a psychological compensation for our obvious inadequacy within it with a wholehearted encouragement from religion to accept it as being so. Yet, in Sermon on the Mount and other biblical passages, it tells us that humility is a mark of being pure of heart and acceptable to the deity responsible for “writing” the bible. Already, we see a stark contradiction in expected behavior and beliefs.

TREASURE ChestThe second factor is our physical survival coming more to the fore enabling our continued evolution toward becoming more materialistic. This is a function of and comes on the heels of an ever widening gap between the “haves and the have nots” in our culture; the top .1% if you will. You would think that with the advent of our western world and its cultures becoming more physically oriented that the environment would provide more fertile ground to renew the practice of Rite of Passage. But being still so firmly entrenched in our separation from nature as a compensating factor contributing to our perceived personal value and the our total distraction with physical pleasure, our attempted release and distraction from pain and stress and our culture’s promise that following its requirements will free us, its potential, let alone its re-implementation, has eluded us. Even if it were reinstated, it would still be viewed as barbaric. Yet, the media produces super heroes who go through that very process as we vicariously live through them wishing it could part of our lives too in movies such as Hunger games, Star Wars, Dune and the Emerald Forest. Classic and modern mythology is full of example showing personal trials and tribulations contributing to the life changing evolution of value and beliefs. As a result of assigning our own personal authority, trust and accountability to others we have lost, or more appropriately been encouraged to give up, controlling our own fates and destinies. Rites of Passage would have put that power squarely back into our own hands. However, our culture has taught us, through the promise and bribery of support and the comfort and security of group inclusion gained through our acquiescence, to give that up.

Bar_MitzvahThe few remnants of Rite of Passage that exist come in the form of impotent vestigial processes such as Bar mitzvahs, Bas mitzvahs, military service (which is no longer conscripted), Christian Confirmation and probably many more which go unrecognized as having once been effective. The few of us who still seek out the process instinctively recognize the need to find or create an experience which will mark our passage into adulthood doing things that are physically challenging and death defying like survival games and sky diving, desperately searching for a trigger that will confirm our passage into what we perceive as the adult world.

The third factor is the “advent” of adolescence. Adolescence is quoted as being a transitional period between childhood and adulthood or, more precisely, from puberty to acculturation. It is a social position that, in my opinion, has evolved in the wake of our attempts at civilizing cultures or groups of people. Etymonline.com defines civilize as “to bring out of barbarism.”

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01Barbarism is defined as “rudeness, foreign, strange or ignorant.” The use of the word civilizing became “mainstream”around 1868 enabling the submersion of barbarism through the implementation of using social rules for an enforcement of courtesy. The concept of ignorance obviously pertained to those members of the culture, mostly adolescents, who had not yet acquired the tact and finesse necessary to maneuver within and respect the social expectations designed to prevent the exposure of those who were civilized from the rawness of their own innate animal nature. At the onset of puberty in the civilized world it was assumed that these skills had yet to be developed. In other words, civilization was, essentially, awaiting the youth’s being trained into not socially acknowledging the animalistic urges that arose with the onset of puberty except within the strictest guidelines guaranteeing their denial and enabling the society’s compensated superiority to reign over the animal kingdom. I believe a compounding of that practice came on its heels as a desire of those in power to harness the power of youth in a way that would be socially controlled and dominated thereby insuring an extended security for their position of social dominance.

Native americans-2In what we call uncivilized or more primitive cultures, youths who enter puberty are given the opportunity to learn social responsibility and to become part of the tribe’s power structure through Rites of Passage. A primary example of this can be seen in the Native American tribes of the US. Although the youths were not old enough to have the experience necessary to advise and guide the rest of the tribe they were not only taken into apprenticeship learning expected social participation from seasoned members, but they were permitted to act and perceive themselves as adult members of the tribe. This permission and perception was marked by their passing through Rites of Passage. Currently, their relegation to the position of a modern adolescent by civilized society has not only taken away a youth’s potential for perceiving themselves as having become an adult but has also disarmed their capacity for self-determination and for developing Self-Trust by extending their position in perceived uselessness until they “came of age.” Essentially, they are now perceived by our culture as a liability to the rest of the civilized tribe.

Gang-1I find it curious that our contemporary anthropologists and sociologists find it so puzzling as to why the adolescents of our culture appear to be so angry and rebellious. They attribute it almost exclusively to the chaos created by hormones while never fully realizing or analyzing the social implications of the non-person status that the civilized world now holds them to. We only have to imagine ourselves in a position of feeling ineffective and lacking permission for self-determination to comprehend the underlying causes for teenage our perception confusion. This is something that the women’s movement has been battling with for decades. In this light, and as one of the worst examples in our culture, many women are glibly and chauvinistically referred to as  “trophy wives” by egotistically insecure males. Women’s social position in the Middle-Eastern-WomenMiddle East is, essentially, seen as the same as that of adolescents here…ineffectual and essentially regarded as a possession but sadly in those cultures, even a male adolescent has more power and independence than any adult woman.

So where do we go from here? I think that I can safely say that the issue is not so much about restoring Rites of Passage as it is our actual perception of becoming or acknowledging ourselves, and adolescents, as effective and accountable adults. How can we put self-determination and the ability to develop Self-Trust back under the domain of not only adolescents, but back into the hands of adults who have been taught and now believe that their lives are inconsequential except as a vehicle for the benefit of the wealthy and the powerful (whom they have now unwittingly come to view as their parental surrogates)? I have no solution other than to say that we must become more aware of how our actions, based on our own insecurities and our own resulting compulsion to manipulate and control in order to compensate, interfere with the well-being and potential for others, adults included, to grow into a place where it is even feasible for them to develop Self-Trust through being allowed to perceive their lives from the perspective of their own heart’s direction, let alone to receive the opportunities to pursue the emerging of that perception through their own personal bored studentsexperiencing. We can only learn so much from a book and, as it is becoming much more obvious in schools, most poignantly as children grow into adolescents, that words still don’t teach. The old adage actions speak louder than words is even more alive and verifiable than ever. If we treat our adolescents from the place of our own insecurity, preventing them from assuming the positions in life that we fear losing due to our own perceived and trained sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness, they will most certainly grow up to repeat our pattern through emulating what they’ve seen in us. Children learn by example. In fact, everyone does. We must first, ourselves, come to a place of Self-Trust before we can even hope to understand how to raise self-directing adults who feel effective, useful, needed and accepted as part of our culture. Then their mayhem will cease and our confusion about their social position will diminish. But until that time they will remain as an enigma to us and viewed as a liability by most of society.

Child ProdigyThus far the majority of my previous work has been aimed at recognizing and disarming the dis-empowering effects of our childhood programming. Since my own background was an extreme product of this type of scenario, it seemed an obvious and necessary thing for me to do. It’s natural for us to write about what we need to recognize and repair in our own psyches. But what if we, as parents, had been able and willing to work through most of the pitfalls and crippling self-judgments that metastasize from such a debilitating childhood experience? What if we had a child that had not yet been indoctrinated in the emotional behaviors that would hide our perceived inadequacies circulating beneath our interpersonal rapport creating a matrix of subconscious codependence’s that would superficially assert our effective child-rearing skills in the face of social scrutiny? What if our child was starting out with a virtual clean slate? What elements would be necessary to be consecrated to their forming psyches that would enable them to remain free of our potentially compensatory codependence’s and operate effectively and independently in their blossoming world? I have found seven elements that would have made a dramatic difference in my willingness and ability to face the world with all its potential goals and challenges. I think I can safely assume that many of them would have served as an ample prevention for not only me but for a great many of you who have come from similar backgrounds.

trusting child1 - Interpersonal Trust – One of the most important factors that anyone needs to feel in order to allow themselves to be vulnerable to anyone else is a feeling of trust. This is something that is felt but not necessarily recognized by a child until circumstances and adult behaviors have shown them and hurt them enough to realize that there is a need for physical and emotional self-defense. Children are initially and innately trusting until they are shown differently. For most of us who are already adults, we have been through many painful awakenings and losses of innocence leading us to choose to believe that not all people can be trusted with our welfare. It’s not that people innately are malicious. It’s just that after many experiences through childhood and beyond adults have generally already learned to protect ourselves from the behaviors of others that might leave them feeling hurt or denigrated in some way as an after effect of their interactions with them. It’s much like staying out of the way of moving traffic. If someone inadvertently “hits” us, they’re usually not aware and are usually filled with remorse at their transgression when they realize what they have caused. Often times as adults we are so hyper focused on our own survival and daily activities that we don’t notice children getting in our path of travel. Sometimes, we know that they’re there but don’t allow the time or space to address them. The key to preventing their accidentally being harmed is our becoming aware of their presence in the path of travel and making an effort to be in the moment with them while interacting and attentively listening. Although children don’t consciously recognize it, they can feel our concern and consideration through our attention to them and know that we won’t punish or emotionally assault them simply for getting in the way. When feeling our attention to them in the moment they will begin to trust their interactions with us and feel confident that we have their safety and better interests at heart. We put this into play by accepting how they perceive the world, encourage their own decisions about things that concern them and support their efforts even if those decisions and efforts might run contrary to our own feelings and personal experience…as they often do. If we don’t have interpersonal trust with our children, that means trust going both ways, nothing else will initiate their voluntary vulnerability to us. If they feel that they will get run over in our daily movement around them or punished or ignored when they express their own concerns, no matter how childish, they will never permit themselves to trust us. No trust = no positive rapport.

Childhood Training2 - Validation – How do you feel when someone doesn’t believe you, puts you down for something you feel is important and they don’t or ridicules you for the way you perceive your reality? Pretty bad, right? Are you likely to confide in them again after you’ve been made to feel that your thoughts and feelings are of no importance? Of course not! As adults, we sometimes give others the benefit of the doubt that they might have had hurtful incidents occur in their lives or that they’re currently having challenging experiences that prevent them from seeing or feeling us clearly. As adults most of us have developed the ability to rationalize the details of our interpersonal experiences. Children don’t have that yet. They perceive our actions as being honest and up front. They haven’t had enough life experience to know that there can be extenuating circumstances for other people’s perception and treatment of us. If children feel invalidated, they usually shut down when they’re around us, or, if they’re very resilient, will challenge our perceived disapproval or invalidation of them. To prevent this type of misunderstanding and unintentional invalidation of them it’s imperative that we, at the least, acknowledge that what they are feeling is valid and important. Children are extremely perceptive. If they feel that we are patronizing them, they will perceive us as if we are making fun of them. We must be in earnest in our acknowledgement. They are dead serious. In our response we must also offer as clear of a reflection as we can for what they are confiding in us; first, to help them to develop their language skills in order to be able to convey their conclusions to others in the future and, second, to establish an honest one to one rapport with them so that they can feel that they can expect our acceptance and support for what they feel is important. No one feels good about being ignored or overlooked…least of all children.

super-hero-child3 - Personal Confidence – When children feel that they can trust us and that we assign value to their thoughts and feelings, they begin to develop, not only a confidence that we will support them, but a confidence that their thoughts and feeling processes are effective and can be trusted in their dealings with us and their world. This confirmation will allow them to begin to develop a tendency to rely on Self-Trust rather than the need to solicit excessive external approval through their many new experiences. If we fail to allow them to activate the internal process that enables them to choose between listening to their hearts and soliciting our input for every new experience, we will, effectively, train them to become codependent in their decision making process. Evidence of this failure is present in every child who has been used as an unconscious validation for their insecure parent’s child rearing skills and self-image. The more insecure the parent is, the more likely they are to create a codependency with their children by making them solicit confirmation and validation for every choice they make. This will undermine the child’s opportunity to develop self-reliance and trust in their own judgment. To validate this in our own psyches, all we have to do is examine how many times we have felt the need to solicit external approval for anything that we must make a decision about. This will reveal the extent to which codependency operates in our lives. This can be a very sobering realization for many of us to experience. For children, this is one of the building blocks toward establishing personal accountability in lieu of resorting to blame for personally perceived failures.

Training wheels-14 - Personal Experience – There is an old saying that we don’t learn from our successes but that we learn from our failures. And for many, there is a label for a more intense type of experience that this perspective engenders called tough love. If we are rescued from failure by our parents or loved ones every time we attempt something that could be potentially sobering and enlightening about our personal limitations and the need for our practice to overcome them, we are deprived of a valuable experience that enables us to know how to handle the world when our experiences in it doesn’t measure up to childish and irrational expectations. We can see evidence of this in adolescents who run afoul with the law and are literally bailed out by their parents so they can avoid having to be accountable for their own actions. Parental overprotection is a symptom of their attempt to establish codependency in order to hide their own perceived inadequacies in their parenting skills from themselves and the world. This behavior will create the same need in their children as they grow to become parents.

How we feel about ourselves comes directly from what we experience in life and/or from what we’re told about it by someone with whom we have developed trust. If we are prevented from failure at every turn through our externalizing of that trust, we can never develop the Self-Trust, confidence and self-sufficiency needed to get along in the world independently.

Children's feelings5 - Feeling Recognition -  When we as adults are asked how we feel about a situation or a set of circumstances, it is a poignant reminder that we are part of an equation where our participation almost always has an effect. Sometimes we automatically ask ourselves what we feel but we almost always have to train ourselves into recognizing and assessing our feelings consciously. Children don’t ordinarily focus on their feelings which allows them recognition of them. They more often than not simply react while being unaware of them yet still being affected by them. Their reactions are unconscious as are those of adults before we train ourselves into paying attention and recognizing them. Directing and assisting children toward looking internally develops in them a habit of focusing inward more often than attending and responding to external cues and directions. In our culture, especially now with such an intense focus on material needs and endeavors, it has not been a common practice for us to teach a child to listen to their hearts rather than external promptings. For a child to garner Self-Trust that contributes toward self-direction and self-sufficiency, it is extremely important that they listen to what they feel rather than what their told by parents and elders to feel. Learning to recognize their own feelings gives them the impetus for strengthening their own personal judgment. This, in turn, makes them much more likely to become self-directing. For the parent that wants to garner codependency in order to cloak their perceived inadequacies from being exposed by their child’s independent actions and choices, this is a terrifying prospect, especially, when it is more often than not unconsciously directed.

6 - Intuitive Directing – Our culture is so hyper focused on acknowledging and primarily using our mental concentration and attention that our inner urges often go unrecognized. By most of us our intuition has been essentially relegated to being considered an instinct. In doing so we have rationalized to ourselves that it must be pushed far back into our unconscious through our classification of it as part of our innate animal nature thereby falling under the list of aspects of ourselves which should be denied and thought of as immature. Since we also perceive instinct and intuition as being uncontrollable, they become regarded as aspects of ourselves that we are fearful of and that we feel even more compelled to allow them to remain unacknowledged. What is truly unfortunate is that it is through intuition that we are able to sense the inner urges that allow us to know our spiritual path.

childhood urgesLike feeling recognition, intuitive directing is another capacity that we must hone in our children by, again, encouraging them to feel inside themselves to recognize those inner urges which, ultimately, give them a sense of purpose and direction in their lives as they get older. An example of this is evidenced by observing some children who know what their vocation will be at a very young age and then follow through on the urge to manifest the career of their calling. Recognizing our calling comes from paying attention to our inner urges. Children who are essentially forbidden from acknowledging their inner urges in favor of mental prowess often follow paths in their lives that become eminently unfulfilling.

7 - Self-Accountability – In our observation of people in the media and those surrounding us we have all noticed those who tend to blame others for their circumstances. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “You made me feel…” or “If it weren’t for what you did, I could have…” Acknowledging our part in creating our own circumstances is a trained response. The more unsure we are about our own capacity to handle our life situations, the more likely we are to blame others for our shortcomings. Why might we do this? Because this feeling of being inadequate to handle our life circumstance comes from early training that undermines our ability to trust ourselves and our own judgment. Consider; if we are encouraged to take our cues for our actions and choices from the outside world and never consider our own feelings or opinions, we are trained into believing that the responsibility for them must also reside in the external world. What confirms that scenario is when we observe our parents doing the same thing; crediting someone else for their own circumstances.

Blaming-1There is a huge difference between taking blame and being accountable. Being accountable simply means acknowledging our part in the circumstances contributing to a situation regardless of whether it is something that directly affects us or someone else. It is a recognition of our part in an action or inaction and nothing else. Blame is a different animal. Not only must we take responsibility for what might affect us or someone else, but there is an implied obligation that we must atone or be indebted to someone else until the perceived transgression is accepted by us and then restitution of some sort is given to them. Sometimes restitution is not the motivation for them but the need for our constant indebtedness or subservience to them allowing them power over our lives, actions and direction. For example, if someone acts in a way that makes another feel hard pressed or inconvenienced, the inconvenienced person will issue a reminder of that person’s offense every time they again feel inconvenienced or need to adjust that person’s behavior for their own comfort or benefit. This happens frequently when a child acts in a way that reminds the parent of their perceived inadequacy or neglect in their parenting skills. The child will then feel that it is their obligation to “fix” the parent’s mood or change the parent’s feelings toward them. This puts the child on the defensive and undermines their ability to learn to deal with their parents and the world from a balanced point of accountability.

The balance and recognition involved in instilling a capacity for accountability as opposed to feeling the obligation engendered by blame is a very slippery and subtle dimension to implement in a child let alone to recognize in ourselves. With a parent who has not learned to be accountable or accomplished knowing how, a child is literally doomed to repeat the blame cycle in his family heritage unless that training comes from a source elsewhere than the family. Teaching a child to accept blame is tantamount to instilling shame in a child and thereby short circuits any Self-Trust or confidence they might have the opportunity to develop.

confidence-2Raising a child to be self-directing requires patience, observance and a great deal of inner work that must be accomplished by us as parents before we are able to accurately monitor and guide where a child puts their attention and how self-sufficient they can become in their world as they grow. In a large portion of our family culture this never occurs leaving us and our children to perceive the outer world as the governing and directing authority of where we set our efforts and goals in our daily lives. For any of the above steps to be effective, we must first recognize how our behavior affects our children and how our accountability is vitally necessary for us to do an effective job in helping our children to become self-directing and self-sufficient. Necessarily, we must refrain from molding them into a justification for how we view ourselves.

Soldiers in LockstepThere has been so much written and expressed about beliefs. We often find ourselves talking about unshakable beliefs or that someone’s belief has carried them through their hard times. We use the word excessively when defending our position or trying to make a point. It’s also almost always at the root of how we describe ourselves to others second only to our career and the functional capacity others see us in. But are beliefs truly cast in stone? Are they something that are unshakable? Are they truly something we can say that we’d die for? Or is that just lip service spoken to stay in line with what’s expected of us echoing all the way back to when our parents made us swear to keep the rules or promise to behave in a way that would earn and keep their love and respect? And even after all those commitments and dedications to what we’ve been taught to believe, do we even know what the word means let alone where it actually comes from? I think not. Most of us are just parroting what we’ve been told is true and have been blackmailed into aligning ourselves with what we’re told to accept as true and swear to uphold. We say our deepest wish is to “do right thing” and uphold our beliefs. But are they really ours or are they just something that we’re trained into accepting as true by others under threat of losing their emotional and physical support? Is our need to belong so much stronger than our wish to grow and express ourselves and what we believe? Truly, what IS a belief? Where does it come from? And why would we swear to uphold it? The word and its meanings are entwined in an internal dance between our need to belong and our desire to express ourselves combined with our perceived personal accountability underlying any choice we make relative to which way we lean.

EinsteinWhen most of us speak of a belief, we hold an underlying assumption that something is true. But what does that actually mean? How does it relate to how we see and live our lives? For some of us our acceptance of what we consider to be true is based on the assumptions the groups we belong to hold. For others, it’s what we’ve been told by someone whom we’ve either trusted or feared. For others of us, it is what scientists qualify as being true by tangible methods of testing. For others of us, it’s based on our own personal experience. What confuses the issue even more is that we can hold a varied combination of these validations based on the situations we find ourselves in and the level of confidence we have in our own ability to assess what is true and our truth concerning others. Yet we’re still no closer to clarifying what a belief actually is. Bottom line is that we choose what we accept as being true for us and for others. We only have two ways of validating what can be accepted as being true. We personally experience something for ourselves or we accept something as being true because we’ve been told by someone we trust and/or fear. Simply put, we base our decision on what comes from within us or from outside of us. In our culture we have been taught, almost exclusively, that the validity of what is true comes from outside of ourselves. Generally, in order to remain in the good graces of any group we belong to, we must acquiesce to the general consensus. But to assume this does massive harm to our trust in our own experiences. We now come back to the idea that a belief is one of choice. Do we accept what we feel, have experienced and seen, felt and tasted or do we rely on what we’re told by others who most influence the groups we belong to and who will either boycott, excommunicate, eject or withhold support from us if we disagree with them, essentially, weakening or even disarming their influence over the group? It is because of this second scenario why I’ve included those whom we fear with those whom we trust.

Monkey & TigerOur ability to choose comes simply from living in a mostly tangible polarized world where everything is arranged in terms of pairs of opposites offering contrast which is needed for any choice. We all have the ability to choose.Imagine two monkeys who could rationalize. Does a monkey in the grass go for a tasty morsel while a tiger is stalking him or does he climb a tree to prevent being eaten? If he climbs the tree, he many never know of the danger of the tiger, unless he’s told by the second monkey in the tree, whom he trusts and who has personally had a life threatening experience with the tiger and escaped. If the first monkey runs after hearing from the second monkey, they’d both be in the tree; one because of his personal experience and one because he’s been told. Which reason is more valid for now being in the tree? Does the first monkey who climbed the tree now have a belief that he’d be eaten by the tiger if he didn’t climb? Or is that just hearsay? Does the second monkey in the tree have the belief that the tiger would eat him because of his own experience? That’s his assumption based on his own experience. What if the second monkey told the first monkey not to worry because he wanted to eliminate the second monkey as competition from pursuing his possible mate? What if the first monkey on the ground trusted him and then was eaten by the tiger? Now, what is really true? What is now believed? We human monkeys do this all the time to each other. Each of our truths are personal, subjective and experiential. There is no “absolute” truth. The validity of it is assigned from within the perceiver. Trusting ourselves will always be true for us. Trusting what others tell us is sometimes true and sometimes dubious. We can’t always know the difference. Our choice is most securely based when our own experience is the basis for choosing rather than the hearsay of others or even from a large group; even science. On some level we always know our own motivation. Not always so for knowing others. So let’s refine our definition. A belief is our choice based on either whom we trust, our own experience or simply the accepted hearsay of others. Which validation we use for what we accept as being true depends on whom we were trained by to trust more in our childhood; ourselves or our parents. We Book Burningwould expect that in growing up that we would learn to trust ourselves exclusively. We can see that our contemporary culture teaches and purports that we trust ourselves but in reality only accepts and expects our trusting of the status quo if only for the validation, security and the “good of the group.”This usually unperceived double standard has caused tremendous confusion in issues between personal and group accountability.

Once we choose to accept something as true, will it always be so? If we’re always having new experiences and adding to or reframing our beliefs after each new experience, how could it be so?If others are also having new experiences and changing their beliefs and what they tell us based on their new assessments and awareness of themselves and us, how could they not change? Beliefs are fluid. They move and change within us as we grow more aware broadening our own experience and awareness. They establish a constantly expanding framework of reference points for our understanding of the world and for us to operate within it while assessing who we are and how far we’ve come. Now we are faced with the uncomfortable Chess pawnquestion of what happens when people are “unable” or refuse to change their beliefs even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of their own experience? Since expanding our awareness almost always leads to changing our beliefs we must conclude that unalterable beliefs suspend awareness. Think about this for a moment and just let that sink in…

Let’s look a little deeper at an added dimension. This comes, not so much from familial training, but from how we perceive our inner and outer world and when awareness is active.

When we’re having an experience, we’re in the moment. When we think about an experience, we’re no longer having it or, at the least, we’re unaware of its continuing movement. The same is true of beliefs. Beliefs are made up of thoughts and the memory of decisions we’ve made about our prior experiences. When we’re using our thinking (introverted activity), our awareness of the outside world is switched off. We’re often “lost in our thoughts” or in daydream mode so we’re often unaware as to what’s going on around us. The same is true when we’re expressing (extroverted activity) our beliefs. We can become so involved in what we want to say that we may become oblivious to the reactions of others. So, our awareness of the outer world is switched off while we’re thinking or expressing much like the flow in a fire hose. If water is Cell phone distractionshooting out, nothing can track back in unless the flow of moving water is shut off. Based on this we can say that when we’re thinking or expressing our beliefs, we are NOT in the moment. We’re self-absorbed and unaware. Conversely, we can say that when we are in the moment, the mind is quiet. Hence, meditation is being in the moment.

So when we say that someone is “closed minded,” what we mean is that someone is totally absorbed with thinking about or expressing their beliefs based on their prior experiences and the decisions they’ve made concerning them. They are neither open nor listening to you or anyone else. While they’re thinking or expressing, they’re unaware.

So let’s return to our title. Absolute beliefs corrupt absolutely. When someone is solid or unchangeable in their beliefs there is one perceived advantage to those of us who are relating to them. If we know their beliefs, we know where they stand and where we stand concerning the subject of those beliefs. We feel relatively secure and generally know what to expect of them. Bottom line; both of us feel in control. They adhere to their beliefs and we know what to expect in relating to them. But when we both need to be in control, we are not allowing ourselves to open to new experiences related to those beliefs. We also actively work at recreating the prior experiences involved in creating them. For many of us who don’t attempt to control the world based on our beliefs, we find those people who do a danger to themselves and, often, to others not to mention the frustration created in our dealing with them. These Crusades-2type of people dedicated to controlling their environment and others are most often found in disciplines of a religious nature based on scripture written ages ago by others who have chosen beliefs that resonate to an archaic time in our social development. We call these people “true believers.” The danger exists in the fact that unchangeable beliefs cuts them, and sometimes us, off from the universal current. Then, our emotional and spiritual growth becomes severely impaired if not halted.

It’s not just “true believers” that cut off this flow. We also do it to ourselves when we accept truths about ourselves that are essentially only the opinions and perceptions of those who raised us that might be contrary to what we innately feel about ourselves. It’s imperative that changing from accepting the truths and beliefs of our parents and elders must change toward establishing beliefs about ourselves based on our own experiences if we are to emotionally and spiritually mature and broaden our awareness. There are no conclusions about our growth; only our current arrivals at stages of awareness destined to move on to broader perspectives. Absolute beliefs are a poison to our well-being. The beliefs we establish operate best when fluid and changeable based on our own individual experience and are dropped when they no longer serve our higher nature.

Prescription-1...if you’re healthy enough to have sex. Really? Have we slipped so far into not listening to our own body that we have to ask an outside authority for permission to indulge in pleasure? What does it mean that we now feel so compelled to rely on others for personal validation?

Our western culture has become obsessed with experts, specialists, licensed professionals and “board approved” authorities. We pay others dearly for bodily assessments, psychotherapy, emotional coaching, career planning, financial and legal advice, dietary recommendations, performance enhancements, chemically extended sexual prowess, tuition for private instruction in career advancement and a whole host of other capacities that we and previous generations used to perform ourselves. Is it just the time that we feel is needed to “educate” ourselves sufficiently enough to be “qualified” to perform tasks for ourselves? Or is there something else that lies beneath the threshold of our Board Certified-1awareness creating fear and apprehension about anything we might choose to do for ourselves that’s not part of a skill or career offered by others and not sanctioned or legalized by some authority or board approval?

One of the factors underlying this obsession is our fear of “making mistakes.” That is, we doubt ourselves so fully that we are not as much vexed by not being able to perform a particular task or function but that we will feel embarrassed when we have to “call someone in” to assess our actions and make “corrections” so we can feel like we’re “back to normal.” But our fear of “making mistakes” goes much deeper than our perceived helplessness and the shame involved in its observation by others. The perceived self-doubt and the feeling of having to consult 404-errorothers comes from an absence of childhood training in assessing ourselves, our situations and our “qualifications” and coming up short in self-assertion and self validation.

Trusting ourselves and our own judgment is a very elusive quality to be able to pinpoint as to the origins of its enabling. For very few of us this confidence may have been innate but for the majority of us it came from building and accumulating experiences in which we performed tasks and received validation from our parents and caretakers for being proficient if not, at the least, competent. The validation comes from our parents and guardians in the form of their allowing and encouraging our personal choices even if they are not in line with what our confidence-2guardians believe are “the right” choices by conforming to their life experiences. Generally, if a parent has confidence in their own value and proficiency, it will be relatively easy for them to acknowledge and encourage their children’s choices without having to impose and have accepted their own values in order to validate their own self worth.

As second factor, and probably the one which has created the most personal damage to our self-image in our process of gaining and maintaining a feeling of competence and personal validation is the media. There is no doubt that there exists a bank of psychologists and sociologists studying the methods in which the retail and service markets could have the most influential effect on us, the general public, to encourage the purchase of their products and services. It is difficult enough navigating our lives in a confident manner after almost or never having received the encouragement that would have enabled our Self-Trust but the media has Mirror mirror on the wall-44taken this handicap one step further. To intensify the effect of this childhood deficiency they have projected an emphasis on us through their assertion that we are not good enough as we are. We need whiter teeth. We need a better education. We need a flashier car, a bigger house, more money, more free time and, most of all, their products and services that will gain the envy and approval of our friends and enemies alike.After receiving little, if not contrary support and discouragement toward building our own self-sufficiency and a self-sustaining life style and compounded by our parents’ inability to allow us to make our own decisions without appeasing their need for our actions to validate and accommodate their approach to life, we’re now hit with advertisements that only bring our learned perceived shame and incompetence directly to the surface of our awareness and potentially for all to see. Now, we’re petrified of exposure. We do all we can to hide our “imperfections.” In the face of the media and its diminished projected standards for us, we begin to believe that we are less than and that others, our parents, caretakers and the media, know better than we about our own lives and personal experiences. After all, if the outside world says it’s true, and they’re only an extension of our parental authority, then it must be true. So why do we believe that we must have others perform the tasks that we used to perform for ourselves? Because we’ve been taught to believe that we are incompetent and need the assistance of others to bring us to a state of being acceptable.

In deference to some of us who are not fully “in the bag” by believing that we are “imperfect” or even incompetent, and there are a few of us who have retrained ourselves and reprogrammed enough of a competent and self-sufficient self-image through long and hard work on ourselves, a third factor encourages us to seek outside assistance. In our very busy and filled up world there are tasks that we neither have the time to fix nor the opportunity to learn how to better manage. Even then we feel we have to “call in the experts.”

Obey-TV-BRAINWASHING-1So, is it any wonder that most of us have been brainwashed so badly that we have to ask our family doctor if we’re even allowed to seek pleasure for ourselves let alone if we are able or “competent” to do so?Our ability to listen to our own body and our faith in our own judgment has been so thoroughly stamped out under the threat of disapproval, excommunication and the withholding of any support or affection that we now believe that our fate and prosperity rests solely on the approval of those to whom we’ve assigned authority over us and our personal accountability to on the chance that we might make a mistake and expose our imperfections. What’s so ironic is that we all make what we perceive as mistakes. We’re human. It’s inevitable. Then, how is it that we have accepted training that says it is possible not to make mistakes? And what is a mistake anyway but the unmet expectation of those to whom we have assigned authority over us?

There is no one at fault for programming us in this way. Generally, our parents and caretakers did the best they could with what they understood about their own validity as adults. They have also become a victim of poisoned media thinking that perfection is possible, so, now, they naturally expect it of us; their children. And if we’re not perfect like Ozzie and Harriet, Father Ozzie & HarrietKnows Best and the TV portrayals of all the other nightly family situational serials from the 50s and 60s (we now call them sitcoms but they we’re deemed funny then) then there must be something inadequate with our parents’ child-rearing abilities; aka, they must feel left to assume that they are incompetent parents. Now, let me ask you. If you feel discouraged about your own competence and validity as a parent, are you going to be able to encourage your children to be independent and competent, especially, if you no longer know how that feels? Of course not. You’re going to instill the same fear of imperfection and making “mistakes” in them. And so it goes on and on. And now we hear an echo from the bible, and probably many other scriptures, saying, “The sins of the father (and mother) become the sins of their sons (and daughters).”

There are many ways to regain our personal power and Self-Trust. There’s not enough space to go into them all in a small article let alone the time. But in our first steps toward redeeming them it’s extremely important to recognize and understand why and how we have given away our power and Self-Trust in order that we may remain in a feeling that we belong, to feel that we are acceptable, even with all our abhorrent imperfections and that if we follow all the rules and Courage-Cat-Liondo what we’re told, we won’t be called out, exposed, withheld from, excommunicated or deserted. What a terrible price to pay for the illusion of being loved and the elusive security of belonging. The courage we can show in trusting ourselves and risking the exposure and possible disapproval of our personal expression and individuality while allowing others to have the choice to reject them are some of our most important components of loving ourselves and the world…as it is.

Obey-TV-BRAINWASHING-1Raising kids in this day and age is no easy task. And as if that is not enough, you have to know that you have very stiff competition. That competition’s main aim is to find what it is that sets them off, maximize their triggers in order to sell them their wares and ways and to keep them as returning customers. That competition is the media. They’re masters at salesmanship and propagandizing.

The most important factor for any salesman is their knowledge of what it is that their customer, your child, is feeling at the moment and what it is that they want to do or become that answers those feelings. Right now, they’re way more ahead of the game than you are. It’s not that they’re innately better at it than you. It’s that they have taken the time to think through how to reach them. Remember, that’s their job. It is their only goal; to make them addicts for whatever it is that they’re peddling. Right now they’re doing a better job at raising your kids than you are. The key that is their “edge” is that they have the time and ability to listen. But you have an edge too. The media knows this. It’s that you’re their parents and that your children want you to listen and care. So, the media’s best ally is the time that they have available with your child that you don’t. If you don’t believe me, just look at all the influence and advertising above and beyond TV, their biggest tool. Your best ally is that your children want you to care. Knowing this, you’re making the time to listen can be your best ally in regaining the control of their futures for them.

Stressing over billsSo, what is it that thwarts your ability to invest the time? Life. Just life. Paying the mortgage, putting food on the table, clothing you and your children, planning their education, finding the means to pay for it and a whole host of other distracting factors that steal time away from you being able to be with and emotionally support your family. All the terrorism, politics, murders, school shootings, pedophilia and a whole host of other things that the media over-emphasizes in their incessant broadcasts only serve to heighten your fear of protecting your family and doing the “right thing.” They’ve got your number too.

Scolding-1So how can we make up for lost ground in regaining an effective rapport with our kids? We must make the time to re-prioritize our lives so we can have the meaningful conversations with our children that answer their emotional needs showing them that we are listening and that we do care. Telling them all the things that we’re sacrificing for them and all the things that they must do in order to make their lives run better (than we did) only serves to make them feel guilty, resentful, obligated and drives them further away. If that’s all they hear, of course they don’t want to listen! How did you feel when your parents told you what they were sacrificing for you, what to do, how to think, what to want and what will happen if you didn’t follow their lead? Your kids are not stupid. They see the stresses you’re facing. Do you think they want to saddle up for that? I think not. They’re looking for something more meaningful than just advantageous survival, although they’re just not experienced enough to realize it yet. Perhaps you are. Perhaps you realize that if you had had conversations with your parents that would have addressed what you felt and you thought, you might have grown up feeling a little more trusting and confident in your own ability to handle life and its twists and turns a little better than you have up to this point. All I’m saying is that, most likely, your Self-Trust and Confidence were never really addressed or encouraged by your parents. They were just doing and reacting to what they were facing in the outer world and protecting you from it just like you’re doing for your kids right now.

So, how do we converse with our kids so that we hit pay dirt in helping them to find value in something more than what the media is peddling? We can ask the following questions that will do two things; show them that you actually do want them to know that you care about them and are emotionally supportive of what they’re feeling and starting the ball rolling in a direction that gives them the Self-Trust, Confidence and opportunity to develop their ability to direct their own lives through addressing their inner urges and needs…what it is that we didn’t receive from our parents. So, let’s start with the list.

There is one parameter or condition I’d like to set here before we begin. Our kids will all benefit from our encouragement beginning at any age but I’ll address the following questions to children beginning around the age of puberty since they’ve had, at the least, some time in accumulating life experience and are in the process of developing some of the rational capabilities minimally needed to think through what they’ll be facing for the rest of their lives…no easy task for a teenager.

Teenage actor1. Ask them what excites their interest. What it is that excites them and arouses their curiosity in life? What and who would they would like to be like and live like? What is it that they long for? I don’t mean getting a fancy car, having a date with their most preferable partner, having lots of money and freedom or being old enough to stay out late. We all know what most teenagers want at that age. It’s what the media has made them fantasize or romanticize about. But what is it they have an inner burning urge to do or learn about? Every little kid wants to be a fireman or an actress. But, are they draw to archery? Painting? Music? Science? Another culture? When they imagine themselves in that role or doing that activity, what do they feel? What do they think it can do for them?

Teenage archeologist-1Once you’ve asked this question and they’ve answered, and they will probably look very surprised that you did, ask them what they think that they could do now or what can they plan in the future that will put them within the grasp of fulling that imagined role. This question alone will open two doors for both of you. First, it will begin to let them know that you truly do care about them and what they feel. And second, they may realize you as an optional resource or sounding board for bouncing off ideas as to how they might be able to arrive at their most private dreams.

Parents-Report-Card-12. Ask them how they think you’re doing as a parent. This question alone may come as a shock to them. The fact that you care about what they feel relative to how they’re being raised will show them your openness to their feelings and perceptions about your parenting. But it does something more. It puts you on an equal footing, person to person basis rather than a parent/child format. This temporarily puts aside the authority/obeisance rapport that parents and children almost always get locked into producing irreconcilable resistance over a developing autonomy. It doesn’t mean that you have to stay in that space always requiring their input, but it lets them know that you acknowledge that they too are growing and becoming an adult which shows your allowance and encouragement of their self-determination which, in turn, will earn their respect for you and that lets them know that you have respect for them. If your parents showed respect for your growing maturity, this will be easy for you to do. If not, you will have to “feel” your way through this domain sensing when the parent or authority role must take precedence over a person to person equanimity. It lets them know that a parent/child rapport is not always necessary and that a shared adult person to person rapport is possible and in the works.

Archery kid-23. Ask them what they would like you to do with them, and then make time to do it. Time is our most valuable and most evasive resource, especially when we’re so pressed into providing the material support required to maintain our family’s survival. We show love by giving our time and attention to another. By asking and following through with your child’s request for your time and attention will do a whole lot in showing them and helping them to believe that you care about them and that they have support. There are way too many “latch key” children in our culture. When children don’t feel like anyone cares about them, they seek their nurturance from peer groups. This accounts for many of the gangs that kids find themselves in leading them toward acquiescing to hazing and rites of passage simply to earn the loyalty, love and comradeship they’ve been unable to get at home. In doing this they earn a pale reflection of their potential personal worth. It is my belief that the obsession many people feel with Face Book substitutes for much of the family love and intimacy lost through our culture’s dissolving nuclear family and prior felt closeness. The loss and inability to initiate and maintain personal intimacy learned in our earlier historical family structuring is a much more serious issue than current day psychologists allow credit for. For many people, feeling unloved and unlovable has escalated to epidemic proportions. The sad part is that we don’t even know that it is such a dominant part of our contemporary emotional landscape. Is it really any wonder why so many people are on anti-depressants and other mood altering drugs or seek to escape themselves through hallucinogenic and illicit drug use? We can’t even name, let alone recognize, the unworthiness so many of us are feeling. Perhaps, even the increasing advent of teen suicide is testimony to feelings of emotional isolation and desertion being on the rise as they come to feel that they’ve no support in handling what should only be considered the natural ephemerality of our feelings. In other words, having feelings of emotional isolation and unworthiness and feeling that they have no support and one to talk to about it is slowly becoming accepted as being “normal.”

6-fear4. Ask them what makes them happy, sad, angry, afraid or lonely. Doing this will do three things. First, it will allow you to assist them in putting into words and thoughts feelings which are natural and often fleeting as their situations change. Second, it will subtlety let them know that you are an avenue for them to process these feelings so they can, third, allow themselves to relax into them knowing that they are temporary and that they have the ability to reframe how they perceive them or if they feel they can’t, know that “this too will pass.” This line of thinking is an underlying current helping us, and them, into understanding that we are much more than what we perceive about ourselves in the moment. Interacting with your children in this way also eases some of your own emotional residue left from early experiences and faulty perceptions assumed about yourself and your worthiness. The more you are able to process your own self-worth and Self-Trust, the better the job you will be able to do with your kids. Raising them is a two way street for self-awareness and emotional understanding.

Ironman-15. Lastly, but I’m sure there are many more variations of what I’ve described here, ask them whom they respect and why. This will give you valuable insight as to where and how they place value on their lives, you and their interactions with the world in general. Respect is a synonym and reflection of the ideals they’re beginning to form. It can be an indicator of both whom they admire and whom they fear, which often can be the same person(s). Our life experience and what we feel about it are prime movers for how we form our chosen beliefs contributing to how Superman-George-Reeves-1will continue to address the world and how we assess our place in it. This is why every generation has had a fascination with super heroes and why the media has capitalized on our idealization of their abilities. It allows us and our children to see how it’s done, believe that it can be done, imagine ourselves performing the same feats and what Self-Trust and Confidence would look like and feel like in action. The question then becomes, can we, and our children, transfer that respect and admiration to those in the real You can do it-1world around us but, more importantly, can we accept and activate those qualities within ourselves? Listening to our children is one of the best avenues for helping them to develop their Self-Trust and Confidence and assisting them in believing that they can become self-determined in their world. This is probably the most valuable gift that you can give them. Can you be secure enough to allow it?

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Damsel in Distress-2For many of us who are organized and task oriented or even just moderately productive we are viewed by others as have energy and momentum in handling life’s issues and responsibilities. Many people who may feel timid or at a loss for handling their own responsibilities often see us as an opportunity to acquire the completion of their obligations through our efforts. This perception often becomes compounded if we exhibit kindness and consideration for others which is frequently misinterpreted by them as our being an “easy touch” or manipulatable for getting what they want or need with a minimal effort, if any, on their part. Whether this is thought through or simply instinctual on their part is not as important as the fact that we must deal with them in a way that conserves our own energy for our own tasks, obligations and pleasures. Handling these kinds of people can be a real challenge especially for those of us who have been raised in our contemporary culture idolizing altruism. In this article I’d like to cover:

• The origins of helplessness,
• The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy and
• 5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy.

Origins: How might someone find themselves in a situation that they would consider themselves helpless? The simple and assumed answer is that they are simply incompetent or incapable of performing the tasks that are required of them. But it goes much deeper than that. With all the responsibilities we have in our daily lives and aside from those who are obviously handicapped we are all eminently qualified and able to deal with what our life throws at us. The chink in the armor comes when we’ve grown up in an environment where we’ve been subjected and encouraged toward the belief by our caretakers that we ARE incompetent and incapable. This coupled with the need to get on in life leaves us in an untenable position. How do we do what we need to do but avoid exposing our laziness or incompetence? Easy. We just get someone else to do it for us and no one is the wiser.

There are many reasons by which someone may feel incompetent. But, also, their personal ethics often come into play and they may not just use others to hide their perceived lack of ability. They may also have a diminished work ethic or lack consideration for others and their comfort and simply decide that there is nothing wrong with getting others to take care of their responsibilities. Whether through lack of competency or lack of ethics, the methods that others use to manipulate us into performing their obligations basically follow the same pattern. They play on our indoctrinated belief that it is our responsibility to take care of those who appear to be helpless and weaker than us.

Colonial Survivors-1But where did that belief come from? Two places: During colonial times we actually needed the help of others to survive and from our western altruistic and religious foundations declaring that the welfare of others is our responsibility before our own benefit or convenience. It’s a simple jump in our perception to see how easily this might be used to capitalize on our perceived obligations.

The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy: This story has many variations but comes from two basic perspectives: either we believe that we are helpless or incompetent and solicit help or assistance or we know we’re not and simply use the ploys for our own selfish gains. Either way, the ploys are just as effective against us and need to be dealt with in a way that will conserve our energy and efforts so as not to be drained or subjugated.

Ploy #1: “Woe is me. I’ve been deserted and left in a position where the only way for me is down. You're my last hope!” This ploy is based on tapping into our compassion and our capacity to feel guilty if we decide to not assist. Our historically western religious belief that we are expected to be our brother’s keeper plays a major role in how we respond. This ploy has also been quoted as “the tyranny of the weak.” It also includes those who can be perceived as sick and assumedly unable to perform the tasks that are being solicited. We see this ploy Little Red Ridinghood-1primarily operating in family situations. If we accept the premise that the person is incapable or “too sick” to take care of their responsibilities, we’re dead meat. Our compassion will be seen as a weakness and we’ll be played as far as they can take us. Whether they are conscious of what they are doing or not is not as important as the process. The only difference is that if we confront the person who is unconscious of what they are doing we will most certainly solicit an honest denial and, if this is a family member, create a long term resentment on their part. Many elderly parents utilize this type of guilt and will use this ploy to maintain their children in close proximity to them.

Ploy #2: “My goodness! How well you do that! Everyone can see that there is no one as compassionate as you! I would be so grateful if you could do that for me. Where else could I find such perfection and consideration?” This premise is obviously focused on energizing our pride and ego. The controlling and hidden factors in this interchange are that if we don’t submit to what is asked we would, number one, be seen as lacking in compassion, number two, “everyone” else would see and be told that we are lacking and, number three, we would be held in contempt by the solicitor. This is the “build us up to break us down” ploy. This also includes the age old “damsel in distress.” Those of us who have fragile egos are highly susceptible to this ploy. The last thing we want is to be publicly “dissed” and our incompetence and “lack of compassion” exposed. Why incompetence? Because when we are so invested in our ego and its appearance it becomes a predominant factor contributing to how we overcompensate for our perceived lack of personal status. We will do almost anything to keep our publicly perceived image strong and intact.

Out on a limbPloy #3: “It’s your responsibility to have this taken care of. If you don’t, this will leave me in a very untenable situation.” This ploy is a combination of ploy#1 but with the added dimension of bullying us through using the performance of our perceived obligations as a gauge for how others will perceive us. In a sense, this is sort of a blackmail. Much the same as in Ploy #2, if we don’t acquiesce to their demands we risk not only exposure but the spreading of our “dis-commendation” to our family, business or peer groups.

5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy. These three ploys will cover the majority of the ploys that come from the origin of helplessness. We must remember, however, that all these types of ploys derive their effectiveness from our own perceived frailties and failings. The fact that we believe that we have them is ample enough fuel to power our subjugation by them. However, the more Self-Trust that we are in possession of, the less these ploys will have an effect on us. But as adults and humans we all know that we have weak points in our self-confidence and until we are able to “plug the gaps” with the needed confidence building we will need to have strategies to keep the “users,” conscious or instinctual, at bay in order to maintain our energy and self-respect.

Strategy #1: Accept and displace the compliment. This is mostly in response to Ploy #2. Two things are happening here. First, our culture expects us to be humble when being complimented and then to somehow defer the “honor” to another recipient. This is considered a contemporary measure of humility. The second is a play on our desire to maintain our “granted” image of “better than.” Both actions require us to diminish ourselves in order to stay within the limits of “modesty.”

applause-1There is nothing wrong with accepting a compliment. It is only our own self-consciousness and expected modesty that encourage us to deflect it. Our self-consciousness is proportional to the amount of Self-Trust we are in possession of. If it is strong within us the next part is easy. Do project an exaggerated honor on another recipient claiming that their proficiency is better than our own, that they would do a much better job than we would and that they would more likely than we have much more time and consideration to answer the solicitor’s needs. In doing so we will have played into their demand for humility but deflected it to a worthier “contestant.” We’ve effectively acquiesced to their demand of humility and used it against them. Realize that if we can’t diminish our own need to be “better than” this will not work for us. We must remember and accept the fact that we are OK as we are. This will pull the rug out from any solicitor’s exaggerated compliment and free us from any assumed obligation.

Strategy #2: Actually “help” them but put limits on your time and energy. By telling someone that we have commitments to someone else we negate the “responsibility factor” implied in Ploy #3. Then if they threaten us with blackmail we have a counter with an obligation that meets their terms but just not with them. This will also enable us to gauge our time and energy in a way that meets our needs and obligations so our interaction with them can’t be pushed beyond “reasonable” limits. This salves our desire to be helpful and useful but keeps the degree to which we can be manipulated under our control.

You can do it-1Strategy #3: Cite circumstances where the person soliciting help was fully competent and able to complete their obligations without our assistance. This amounts to using ploy #2 against our solicitor. In pointing out circumstances where the solicitor has been competent and able is eminently contradictory to their claim of helplessness. In pointing out their successes they must acknowledge our observation and “compliment” on their proficiency and ability. This, essentially, frees us from feeling obligated to “save them” as well as letting them know that we know that they are able to do it themselves. They cannot, in good conscience, continue to solicit us unless they have neither shame nor self-respect. If that’s the case, or they pose additional reasons for their inability (unwillingness) to perform the task(s), our response would be, “That’s just something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.” We’ve offered a culturally accepted response to their request (demand) and they must acquiesce in order to remain in good standing with us and their peers.

Dumpster Diving-1Strategy #4: Commiserate. This strategy is the easiest and probably the most fun all. I was working for a boss who was very people savvy and could read them like a book. When she responded this way I was shocked at its effectiveness and laughed almost until I peed in my pants. When the solicitor complained about how difficult and how hard her life had been my boss responded with, ”Oh, honey I know. It’s so hard. Dealing with that circumstance has hurt me so much too and put me in such a bad way that I just don’t what to do.” In commiserating with the solicitor she had put herself in the same position as the solicitor and disarmed her ability to put her in a position of having to be responsible for “saving” her. In the same position the solicitor could not reasonably assume that my boss would have anything to do with her “rescue.” What a beautiful and harmless way to turn the tables on being used! (Not to mention funny).

Talk to the handStrategy #5: Simply state “No. I’m not comfortable doing that.” DO NOT give reasons for your decision. That gives your solicitor armament and a door to badger you. If your solicitor threatens you with harm or diminished social standing, just respond with, “Well, that’s just something that I’m going to have to deal with.” Your solicitor will then, most likely, realize that they have misjudged you as an easy touch and move on to easier prey. In these days and times there is a large component of us who simply have no fear or regret in dealing with those who would use and abuse us. Our Self-Trust is developed to a point where our image in the eyes of others is minimally important and our feelings about ourselves and what we do has a lot more sway over how we conduct our lives. This does not mean that we lack compassion. It simply means that we maintain the right to determine where and how we will apply it. But until we reach that point of trusting ourselves and attending our own needs, these strategies will serve to mitigate any “coercive” experiences we might encounter.

These strategies take our time, awareness, practice and patience to be implemented to full effectiveness. We must be patient with ourselves and recognize where we must simply “cut our losses” with certain people who will not acquiesce in favor of our comfort and our necessity to care for ourselves before addressing their needs. Unfortunately, our western altruistic approach to social relationships has metastasized into a voracious cancer eating away at our Self-Trust and confidence through implied obligation. Moving from perceiving ourselves as a victim to being in charge of our own love, work and energy is an ongoing process. Remember, it took a long time to train us into being susceptible to manipulation. It will take a reasonable amount of time, patience, and practice to change us from being reactive to being proactive in our own interest. There is nothing shameful in looking after our own welfare.

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