Tag Archives: Debt

Gratitude-1Gratitude and grateful are words that have been used, misinterpreted and abused by many people, disciplines and philosophies. In speaking of them with others we can never be sure how another will perceive them or apply them to action. In this light I think the best place to begin in order to establish a conventional point of reference for a continuity of our understanding should be with definitions as defined by the academicians. Etymonline.com, who defines the origins and original meanings of words, gives the most basic and original meanings, the cultures they emerged from and the meanings as used by those cultures.

Both words derive from the word grace which was first recorded in 13th century Old French as the word graciier meaning to favor. Favor, also from the 13th century French adds the meanings of to laud, to commend, to flatter or to be partial to, feel mercy for and praise which comes from the Late Latin preciare.

Lastly, grateful also derives from the word grace but its meaning shifted in the 1550s taking on flavor of being disposed to repay favors bestowed. This is where the word blessing came into play involving religion.

I’ve done this so there will be no disagreement in how someone may view gratitude. There are two applications and one assumption that the word is often applied to. Let’s first look at the most mundane and the most tangible. This will set our framework.

IOU-2The first perspective seems to apply to an expected repayment of a shared, given advantage or preference applied by someone else to us. That is, if someone gives us something that might be needed or assists in a way that we either solicited, implied the need for or appeared to need or want in the eyes of the giver, there will be assumed debt on the part of the receiver that they believe must either be repaid or simply acknowledged in the form of thanks, praise, deference or gratitude. Remember, one of the definitions of gratitude is our disposal to repay a favor bestowed.

Scolding-1The second perspective is a little more involved in that it includes being trained by someone into regarding them as someone who is deserving of our attention and deference in all our dealings with them. That is, we should regard them in a way that we accept their indispensability in our lives and always show unconditional gratitude. This is obviously a form of emotional blackmail as our perceived punishment for not doing so or feeling obligated will be either loss of love, inclusion or some form of support from them. This may be the parent that responds to our undesirable behavior with. “After all I’ve done for you go off and…”

The similarity between both these perspectives is that they both include earthly recognizable poles or sides that must be accepted in relating to our obligation and their repayment. They both exist within the time constrained polar opposing physical world. The assumption is that there is to be recognition, attention and or repayment as our gratitude for all the interchanges that can be viewed as their personal sacrifice in the interest of our retaining their favor, or in the case of religion, a deity. The resulting punishment for not acknowledging their efforts or not being grateful is either some form of self-instilled guilt (constructed in childhood training) or an actual loss of favor, approval or assistance from them.

In light of the fact that no one does anything by virtue of only one motivation, a play for gratitude or repayment is often disguised as a “noble” deed on the part of the “giver” which will serve as a sacrifice in the eyes of their peers but must be perceived as an accepted obligation on the part of the receiver. A simple example would be our eating in a restaurant, over tipping, being socially perceived by our peer group as being overly generous while conditioning the future behavior of the waiter or waitress into feeling that they “owe” us deference in our future Tipping-1visits.This dynamic may either be conscious or below the threshold of a perpetrator. Accusation of their doing so may receive a staunch denial due to their lack of awareness and thorough childhood training received directly or through unconscious emulation.

When we apply these perspectives and divisive rapport to the way that we apply our essence to the world we become extremely destructive and cripple our abilities and accountability in being Fencing-1creative and effective in how we move through this mentally polarized world. We begin to see ourselves in an adversarial relationship with our essence through applying the polarizing principles of repayment, owing, obligation and sometimes subjugation by personifying the dynamics of the universe with the mentally polarized perspectives of give and take, have and not have, want and not want.This becomes the most blatant when we construct a deity personified with demands and expectations of us that we believe ourselves to be unequal to if not inadequate in accomplishing. This also becomes applicable but less obvious in metaphysics when we apply the same polarized personification to natural universe giving it the quality of judgment overus that demands that we be grateful to it for circumstances that we put into motion ourselves through our own actions and choices. This same dynamic is resonant with the psychological dynamic that we call our Shadow where we would apply admirable Shadowqualities to an external hero or idol instead of ourselves, keeping them at a distance from our own egoic persona and feeling petrified that if we actualized them within ourselves we would lose our perceived security in our present circumstances and known behaviors while having to actualize those characteristics within ourselves and finding ourselves in unknown and “out of control” egoic territory. We have to understand that the mind is extremely clever in creating its own logic in separating us from parts of ourselves that might sabotage our preferred and perceivably secure image of ourselves. We simply bury the qualities in our unconscious or apply them to a deity or the universe around us.

in-utero-babyTo understand this dynamic a little better, please consider that before we were born we were in a state where there was no need for food, warmth, shelter or nurturance. They were all intrinsic to the state of not being incarnate. This is our essence: all inclusive, whole, complete and without any need or requirement. To the simplistic mind we might call this Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise. Then a curious thing happens. We emerge into an environment where everything becomes divided. We experience the traumatic separation of birth. I say traumatic because it divides our world into previously unknown polarities; warm versus cold, loud versus quiet, sated versus hungry, bright versus dark, nurtured versus lonely. We translate this division into pain and pleasure. To distinguish between these two states, the mind is born in tandem with our physical birth giving us the capacity to register this division in the forms of thought and language in order to describe and manage ourselves in the new environment. Our mentally polarized mind rapidly develops overshadowing the remembrance of our previous unity and essence rapidly burying it in an avalanche of divisive and separative mental assessments. We now have the foundation for our polarized rapport with our world. Now, in the same way that if we only have a hammer we see everything as a nail, our mind sees the world in terms of division and separation as that is the dynamic that the mind was formed in and only has the capacity to operate within. So, let’s now move back to our concept of gratitude.

So, when we say we are grateful to someone, we can easily understand the dynamic because we understand and accept our separation from the person that we are grateful to. But when we say we feel gratitude or are grateful to a deity or the universe for our circumstances, what are we actually doing by saying so? We are creating a separation and dividing ourselves off from our own ability and accountability in creating our own circumstances. We are creating a metaphysical Shadow where there was none before. We are, literally and perceptually, separating ourselves from our own essence.

yoda-1As many of the enlightened souls of the world have attempted, mostly in vain, to teach us that we are never separated from our essence, the mind of the common man is virtually incompetent in making the connection to his essence without seeing it through the separation inherent in an adversarial format. So we have become so ingrained and mentally accustomed to being of the world that we can no longer see that our essence is actually in the world but not of it. Showing gratitude to a deity or the universe is actually enforcing our separation from them.

As adults and relating to our childhood, it’s easy for us to see and understand the need for the authority, the guidance and how our acceptance of our parents as an external director is Training wheelsnecessary for the assurance of our safety and tutelage into becoming accountable adults. We can even see the continuation and sometimes even the necessity of transferring that stewardship to an external deity or discipline…temporarily. But there comes a time in our lives where we must accept the responsibility for our own creations and choices by acknowledging the essence within us that is constantly steering us toward our own pre-birth unity, through feeling and intuition, that still exists within us and was buried after our birth under a mountain of mental constructs.

Being gratuitous to our earthly brothers and sisters is understandable and even acceptable in the context of our physically polarized and worldly lives. But when we conceive of the universe and our essence, gratitude and gratefulness are not the rapports that activate our essence but Brotherhood-1rather divides and fractures the unity to which we all have access. To rest into our essence, simply be aware and in the moment. There’s nothing and no one to be thankful for or grateful to. Life simply is. Our essence is eternal. It’s always “there.” So are we. We are all creators. It’s time that we acknowledge that and accept the responsibility for our creations, not pass them off to making a universe or deity responsible for them. We must acknowledge our own power. Don’t defer. We are all gods in the making.

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Scrooge & Marley-2Almost everyone feels that there are things that we have to do, be, say or contribute to others, especially after we have received something from them. Our trained hyper-awareness to the affairs of others contributes heavily to our weight of perceived obligations. I have no interest in defining why we might feel obligated. My coverage in past articles of our preoccupation with how others perceive, assess and judge us has receive an overabundance of attention. What I would like to focus on here is what it is that we feel we might lose if we don’t address our accepted obligations. Notice, I said accepted. There are many obligations that others attempt to impose on us that we might ignore or blow off owing to the fact that their assumption has no merit or that we recognize that it is simply a ploy to extort favors or preferred behaviors of us. When we accept an obligation, whether by desire, need or social expectation, we go through a process that determines what it is that must be returned or repaid. Within that assessment is also a consideration of what we will be faced with should we neither acknowledge nor repay our perceived “debt.”

It would seem obvious to most of us that if we neglected to repay or return favors that future favors from the same person would not be forthcoming. We would also recognize that our reputation with that person and others they are connected to might suffer. But there is still an assessment or judgment that occurs within us on a deeper level.

family chaos-1Our interplay with others is always a factoring of our regard, or lack of same, for the person we’re interacting with. Do we like them? Do we respect them? Do we need them for survival? Our social connections? For future favors? It’s a constant process of balancing and weighing our options on continuous changes. Because our interpersonal relations are so fluid and life circumstances seem to change just as quickly, our standards for judging how we decide to behave can be difficult, erratic and sometimes downright unnerving. Because of this fluidity we are encouraged to move our focus toward establishing some sort of value system or code within which we can feel some sense of consistency in order to base our decisions on. Sometimes the boundaries we’ve set up for our behavior can also be challenged and we find ourselves having to compromise on things that leave us feeling very uncomfortable about where and to whom we’ve assigned our value. If we are a person who tends to put more stock in what others think of us than what we think about ourselves, our compromising may feel much more compelling and limited as we’re being held hostage by our beliefs.

IOU-2According to Etymonline.com obligation is defined as a binding or a pledging. We can understand what a binding implies. All of us are familiar with the term as it applies to contracts. However, the pledging implies a voluntary agreement. So, there are things that we agree to do or be and there are other things that we feel bound or constrained to have to do. We will juggle these two approaches depending on how the person we’re obliged to feels and whether they feel that we may evade the “payback.”

If we believe that we lack self-esteem or Self-Trust, we may tend to substitute for our perceived inferiority or inadequacy with an obligation where it acts as a justification of our value and competency in the eyes of others. Or, simply put, we may tend to acquiesce more toward being obligated as an opportunity or even requirement to compensate for our perceived inadequacy. In even a simpler form, we might tend to more readily agree to being over committed to others if we believe that we lack value, Self-Trust or competence. In this case I think we would see our obligation as more based on our choices and beliefs than anything else. If we feel that we have been cornered into agreeing with an obligation, we will see it more in terms of a coercion. This second perspective will foster a corresponding anger, indignation and resentment in us toward the person to whom we’ve become indebted. This anger will subconsciously be felt at ourselves for allowing the obligation to take effect but will be directed at the person “imposing” it. The lack of Self-Trust and feeling of inadequacy will be what create the feeling that we should have known better. This all feels very convoluted but I think you get the idea.

Giri-1The Japanese have a name for obligation. They call it giri (pronounced giddee). The basic perspective is that if you don’t feel an obligation, you don’t have one. Failure to follow through on your acknowledged obligations will result in shame which dovetails with the effects of a lack of Self-Trust. However, fulfilling obligations in old Japan was seen more in terms of applying honor rather than confirming inadequacy and its existence through feeling obligated to compensate for it.

In our culture it seems like committing to a new obligation is to be avoided like the plague except where we’ve already committed. Being seen as moving toward fulfilling one is seen as work or a counter to being lazy. This is so deeply ingrained in us that we even find it difficult accepting a compliment due to fear that an additional obligation or request may not far behind.

It is not uncommon to find individuals who perfect ways of obligating others in order to be “kept” and taken care through creating a reservoir of people from whom they are owed “favors.” They do this by strategically and socially manipulating coerced commitments. We see this, the stocks-4accept it, allow it and even expect it business. It is also carried over by most of the same people in their personal relationships but is generally hidden and vehemently denied if exposed to others. It’s almost like an unwritten rule that it is perceived as shameful by most if carried over into their personal lives. In a twisted way, there are some who are proud of its carry over. This practice in business and its carry over is able to occur due to two distinct reasons. First, because we are such a materialistic culture we have come to only seeing giving and receiving in terms of tangible rewards and advantages and, second, because most of us have been raised with such battered self-esteem our perceived feelings of unworthiness leave us no other option than to manipulate others into tending our needs so we can feel valued, loved and responsible. This type of reasoning may seem radical and outrageous but we must realize that there is a plethora of undercurrents occurring within our social structure that allow “wiggle room” for absolving ourselves of our accountability. This is due to the existence of so many conflicting moral imperatives in our “melting pot” culture.

buddha-1So, is obligation a necessary “evil” in our culture? I think not. I believe it is simply a response or counter social evolution created to compensate for our tendency to evade accountability due to our fear of inadequacy which has been inbred throughout our contemporary child-rearing practices. Is there another way? Yes. If we were to be raised to have trust in our own judgment and decision making potential, the need for obligation, especially the coercive brand, would evaporate into the love, compassion and consideration that naturally develops when we can feel loved, valued and competent about who we are and can truly believe that about ourselves. To wit: healthy people have no need to obligate others. They simply follow their heart and all that is needed is taken care of.