Tag Archives: Deference

shot down-3Have you been asked, "Who said you could do that?" Ask yourself how many times this has happened to you. You’ve just decided that you’re going to take some kind of action. It probably won’t fall within agreement with some of the other people involved. You announce what you’re going to do and someone asks you why you’re going to do it. You convey your reason and the other person proceeds to shred your reasoning convincing you that it’s not a valid premise for your choice. Not only do you begin to doubt yourself but now you feel obligated to concede to your interrogator’s preferences and refrain from acting on your own decision.

With our western culture having grown into being so technical, scientific and materialistic we have slowly fallen into the need of having a reason or justification for everything that we do. We find ourselves making excuses and apologizing for acting in our own interest while others accuse us of stepping on their toes or not doing things in a “reasonable” way; reasonable translating to their benefit. Why have we allowed ourselves to become so self-effacing and deferent? We now consider it politically correct to defer to others before we service ourselves. Board Certified-1And even there, we must now be board certified, licensed, validated, approved, screwed, glued and tattooed.  Why is it now so important to gain approval from others? Where did this mandatory deference come from? The answer is, you guessed it, our childhood programming. Think I’m wrong? Remember all the way back to grammar school where we heard, “If you didn’t bring enough to share with everyone else in the class, you’re not allowed to have any yourself.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since our culture is devoid of any tangible Rights of Passage, we remain stuck in our childhood personas still needing permission from our parents (transferred to those we give over our authority to in adulthood) to do anything. We have not “put away childish things.” They linger like an infectious undercurrent sabotaging any heartfelt urgings that contradict the needs of our families and surrounding peer groups.

valid-2This kind of head space we find ourselves in, that is in conceding to external “validation”, comes back at us through many different expressions, all challenging the personal authority and Self-Trust of our own adequacy that we’ve earned through our own personal experience giving us license to decide things for ourselves. The following expressions are just a few of the things we hear thrown at us creating a self-staining tailspin while bringing us under the judgment of those who feel just as little personal authority and Self-Trust as we are allowed to. Literally, we are the blind led by the blind.

  1. “What’s your reasoning behind your decision?” – Aside from plain curiosity, this usually is indicative of someone wanting to have some say over what we do. This could either come from their need to confirm their own beliefs or to maneuver us and our decision into a perspective that’s beneficial mostly to them.
  2. “What’s the meaning of this?” – This statement is a bit more aggressive and attempts to assert a measure of authority over us. Its most commonly heard in career and work environments which are more forgiving to an attempted dominance assertion due to it being a work environment and under the leadership and authority we accept as being appropriate there.
  3. “What were you thinking?” – Asserts the same type of authority as number two but from a more personal and familiar perspective. We most often hear this coming from family members who are either honestly concerned about our choices or who are attempting to undermine or coerce us over to their way of thinking in order to put themselves in a superior family position. In this position they are more able to expect obedience of other family members…including us. This could also be applied to siblings attempting to usurp parental influence.
  4. “How could you…(do that to me)?” – This statement is even more familiar and aggressive than number two or three. It usually involves a more intimate connection with us thereby implying some sort of agreement or obligation that we are assumed to have betrayed. The accuser can then expect us to become subservient or penitent after our acceptance of responsibility for our “transgression.”
  5. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself” – This statement aligns with “How could you” but from a more general perspective. It not only implies an obligation that must be atoned for but also partially removes our accuser’s accountability for its application. If they are confronted, they simply reply citing generally accepted values and moral set in place by other than our accusers that they believe that we will also adhere to.
  6. “Who said you could?” – This statement is also very aggressive and aligns our accuser with the prevailing authority. If we accept their alignment, it is assumed by them that we will concede to their desires, expectations and opinions. This is, again, another “power play.”
  7. “How could you be so stupid?” or “What were you thinking?” – This is also very aggressive but most often comes from either a parent or someone we have allowed to have authority over us (or someone we have selected as a parental surrogate after leaving our family). Remember, it’s human nature to seek to replace our family and environments with something or someone we’re used to or accustomed to. Even if they are hurtful to us in the long run, we most often seek the familiar; feeling we will know how to handle it.

judges-2All of these statements, and I’m sure there are many more variations, imply our submitting to a level of acceptance judged by others coupled with an abdication of our innate right to think, feel and act pursuant to our own heart and desires. Accepting their premise submits to an almost completely tacit agreement that we owe a “validatable” explanation or excuse to someone else for doing things that benefit us but might run contrary to their preferences, or in other words, receive their permission.

We have fallen into a trap of pursuing personal excellence based on the values and preferences of others. We have an urgent need to begin listening to our own heart and to give ourselves permission to make our own decisions based on our own personal experience. Yet, our childhood habit of waiting or seeking external approval trumps all the efforts we can put into personal motivations that benefit only ourselves. By accepting external dominance we have, essentially, given away our power. But that is only the obvious tip of the iceberg. There is a reason that goes much deeper than that. When we allow external values to dictate what we will Blaming-1permit ourselves to do, we unconsciously abdicate our accountability for the decisions that we make. This exonerates us from any blame. Our deepest contemporary fear is being found at fault and having our personally believed inadequacy become exposed for the entire world to see. Our deepest need is to cast aside blame and avoid deeper scrutiny thereby avoiding exposure. This is why our fascination with super heroes is such a dominant theme in our envy of them.

External authority and blame are paradoxical bed partners. They feed off each other for their survival. Without one, the other dies. If we don’t accept external authority, blame has no place or meaning in our lives. If we don’t accept blame, external authority has no power over us. The best way to obliterate both is to accept and become our own authority through becoming self-accountable for our own lives and decisions according to our own hearts. We’re no longer shown or taught how to do that at home or in school. We are in desperate need of a revitalization of the inner wisdom which we all have. Our current western cultural perspective about accountability is that it has become all about placing blame. We can never achieve peace of any kind until this dynamic is disarmed and discarded.

Path2As humans all of us inevitably come to a juncture in our lives where we contemplate the possibility of there being either a goal or direction that our life “needs” to take for us to feel happy, fulfilled, but most importantly, worthy. This consideration falls into two varieties: either the means justifies the ends or the ends justifies the means. This may seem confusing at first but if we look at those of us who feel that our life is about the journey, we might say that our means justifies the ends. If we feel that our life is about a goal, then most often, our ends will justify our means. Though both methods have equal merit and deserve equal consideration, the underlying common thread is a feeling of destiny connected to a vague expectation that our path through life is to somehow have a purpose, reason or an “end result.” For those of us who believe purpose or reason is self-determined, we might assume that we had some sort of previous intention before we came into this life. For those of us who believe that we were “created” by someone or something other than ourselves, we might assume that there is a role that we are required to fulfill. Again and either way, both assumptions imply a path or direction that must be traversed if we are to fulfill either of these journeys by arriving at a place of worthiness relative to our original intention.

What is The Path? Since, in this world, we have no way of “verifying” those intentions or expectations, we often find ourselves looking for milestones along the way confirming that we are truly on target resonating with and toward our original intentions. This path is generally called Dharma in the east, God’s Will in the west and The Path of Heart in the domain of metaphysics and popular spirituality. But again, regardless of what we call it, The Path is still comprised of a seemingly vague and almost elusive quality requiring deep insights and focused quiet time that can only be achieved when we are disconnected from the commotion generated Alone time-1by our busy physical world. We reach an awareness of “it” through meditation, prayer, communion with nature and, sometimes, even through sex. The awareness of or connection to it often comes at unexpected times and “rides” unbidden and uncontrollable currents which I will label as feelings and intuition (please note that feelings are slightly different from emotions and are discussed elsewhere). Its elusiveness can be attributed to the fact that feelings and intuition are not time bound and what we tend to call eternal. The fact that our minds are temporal only adds often to our feeling frustration in dealing with them. There are questions that we can ask ourselves that will “tune us into” this elusive frequency bringing the elements of The Path to a mentally cohesive perception. When this occurs it’s like “seeing” the invisible wind but only as if by virtue of it’s passing through a field of wheat. Through asking focused questions we mentally gather pertinent life circumstances forming our own field of wheat revealing our being on The Path or off. In doing so we might sense a feeling of calm. This will tell us that we ARE on our Path. If we sense a feeling of uncomfortableness, agitation or panic, this will tell us that we are NOT on our Path. Our feelings are the gauge we use to determine the reliability of our internal compass. Our intuition is the channel for the incoming information. We must allow ourselves to have faith in these intangible parts of ourselves since our mental logic and acuity cannot effectively operate in the timeless environment of feelings or intuition. Feelings and intuition were the principle venues of our “movement” before the forming of our minds and even before we came into this life. Let’s take a look at the questions that will bring us insight as to our position on or off The Path.

Hold the Door 4 UThe First Question to Ask - Do you follow your inner urges or do you defer to the convenience and preferences of others? Many of us have been raised with manners that stipulate that our guests, our elders and those considered to be “infirm” should proceed ahead of us in our activities as a matter of courtesy. This is in line with the belief that we are here on this earth to serve each other. Where this might serve to make our daily comings and goings run smoothly and give us a planned choreography for how we should interact with each other, it does not give us a clear definition of how much deference we should be giving each other. As a result, those of us who have an overly humble opinion of ourselves often deprive ourselves of our own preferences when presented with our assumed deference to others. This has the effect of eclipsing our personal urges for expression and action that are based on our own preferences. Since our direction for action on The Path comes through our feelings and intuition, this short circuits our inner compass and we end up moving in directions that don’t resonate with where we need to be. We’re off The Path.

Excessive Humility-1Excessive humility can be a function of low self-esteem and poor Self-Trust. The more we lack Self-Trust and the more we don’t answer our own inner urgings toward our preferences through deferring excessively to others for their convenience and toward their preferences, the further off The Path we stray. It is extremely important that we listen to and follow our inner urges that we may remain on course for what our life path was originally intended. Of course we must consider a reasonable balance between our needs and the needs and preference of others. When we reach the balance point between both, a sense of calm and accomplishment will wash over us and we will know that we are where we need to be to resonate with our own path.

judges-2The Second Question to Ask - Who do you answer to and why? As we are raised as children we are taught that our parents and elders hold authority over us. They tell us what we can do, what we can’t, how we should behave, what we should pay attention to, how we should perceive ourselves and a whole host rules and requirements. As children, we know that this is necessary to initially preserve our safety and wellbeing. But our parents are people too. And they have their own issues and insecurities. Sometimes their own insecurities are so strong that they need to extend their authority over who we are and what we do in order to give their lives meaning and purpose.

As we get older, our urge for independence and the need to “test” ourselves rise up from within us and become an issue. But when we reach that age where leaving the nest is the next necessary step in our growth and our parents attempt to hold on to their “jurisdiction” over us, we begin to chomp at the bit and strain against the reins. Something deep within us knows when it is time to move on in our own direction under our own power. How much Self-Trust we have been allowed to develop at that point will determine the need for us to choose between whether we fold under family pressure and stay or strike out on our own by leaving. When enough Self-Trust has NOT been developed either path will have troubling consequences. Those who fold will move through life resenting and blaming their parents for their inability to Independent-1“succeed.” Those who escaped the nest will simply find others in the world who resemble their parents and their authority, transfer that authority to them and then blame them for their inability to succeed. Those who stay will exhibit passive aggressiveness and those who move on will exhibit open resistance. All the while and in both venues the culprit for the lack of success is the lack of Self-Trust leading to assigning failure to a scapegoat in order to avoid the exposure of our own perceived shame and self-blame for not listening to our hearts.

The key to understanding why who we answer to is such a strong indicator of whether we are following our own path or not is the fact that when we myopically give our attention to resisting or rebelling against the rules and authority laid down by others, we ignore our own urges and preferences missing the opportunity to follow a line of direction that will move on toward answering our original intentions for coming into this life. If at the bottom line we only answer to ourselves, which is certainly an indicator of strong Self-Trust, odds are we are well on the way toward living our own path. Following our own path has often been quoted as our “following the beat of a different drummer.”

The biggest encouragement toward folding under family pressure is the fear of losing the family’s love, support and acceptance. The biggest encouragement toward escaping is the potential for finding the needed love, support and acceptance outside the family. Both fall away when we have felt the needed love, support and acceptance of the family through being allowed to trust our own judgment.

Bad DogThe Third Question to Ask - How does what you’re doing make you feel? All of us have done things out of deference to others or because doing so would have avoided a ration of #$%& coming from someone important to us. But in acting this way and if we are honest with ourselves, we find ourselves with a sick feeling in our stomach or even a sense of panic knowing that we’re either going to end up in a situation that we will seriously regret or miss an opportunity that would put us on course for what our heart has intended for us.

The point here is that our feelings are our barometer as to whether the “callings of our heart” are being addressed or not. If they are, there usually falls a calm over us. We sleep better. We feel relaxed and purposeful during our daily activities. We feel patience for ourselves and others and a sense that we are not missing something by what were are or aren’t doing. We feel “on target.” When we stray from The Path, this feeling of calm and “rightness” is absent and replaced with fear, panic, regret, agitta, remorse, shame, sadness, and if it has been allowed to progress too far, depression.

Peak-SuccessFollowing our path takes courage, insight and a willingness to go and do where and what others may often find distressing to them. We must walk a fine balance between what our heart tells us to be and do for ourselves and what our compassion demands of us for others, who might be unable to see or find their own path without our assistance. This training should begin in childhood but with the constant and increasing pressure to deal with things of a survival nature, we are often, and sometimes violently, herded or limited into attending things that leave us unable to answer, or sometimes even consider, the song and path of our hearts. Asking these questions and many more variations of them will bring our focus back to listening to the conversation within the deepest parts of us reminding us of why we came here.

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