Tag Archives: Obligation

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.

compassion-1Seems like every day we find someone saying this to us or “feeling” it at us. What’s very interesting to note is that those who actually might need our compassion or assistance are usually those people who are so absorbed by the difficulties that they are encountering that our participation is almost never considered let alone recognized that we might be able to help by easing their challenges.

Before we get into what compassion actually is it would be prudent to first expose the two perspectives that most of us might have pertaining to its implementation. These two perspectives exist at either extreme of how it’s identified and used. At the first extreme we have those of us who were raised permeated with an altruistic outlook on life. That is, we were raised believing that it is our responsibility to make up for what others, who appear less fortunate or more challenged than we, might require in order to simply make it through their lives with a Go kicking & screamingminimum of potential damage to their well-being. The more deeply this outlook has been implanted and incorporated into our value system, the more likely and more easily we will be convinced to offer our assistance, even to the extent that the welfare of others will take precedence over our own needs or interests. In those of us having this disposition, the empathy we were born with has been well activated and “farmed” by those attempting to teach us compassion. This may sound a bit derogatory or even mercenary but we must realize that we are still part animal and that a lot of this type of training is accomplished on a subliminal or instinctual level, that is, below our usual threshold of conscious awareness. At this point, many of you are now asking, “But aren’t empathy and compassion the same thing?” In a word, no. Empathy is innate, involuntary and always in gear but moves mostly below our threshold of awareness. Compassion is learned, voluntary and intermittent depending on where our current thoughts are focusing. Let me explain how and why.

in-utero-babyIn Utero or even before, we have no perceived need of anything. Lack or absence of anything is non-existent. We have no lack of food, we have no need of closeness or nurturance. We have no awareness of the existence of anything but what we feel. Our senses, which tell us what we have or not has not yet been formed or activated nor is it needed as we haven’t a physical body yet to require or build them. We exist in an ocean of feeling with no beginning and no end, no borders, no points of reference. In this feeling “soup,” whatever we feel is felt by anyone else in this same existence. Call it being in spirit, being etheric, being un-incarnated, discorporate or whatever in your mind would be considered as being unattached, undefined and not yet incarnated. When we feel a rush of happy, everyone else in the “soup” feels the same happy we do at the same time. When we feel a rush sadness, everyone else feels the same also. What we feel, everyone else also does simultaneously and vice versa. This is empathy; feeling what another soul feels. It is innate, involuntary, uncontrollable and always in motion.

Traumatic birthThen, we pop out of the womb, our bottom is slapped, we take our first breath and we feel the traumatic difference between being in a warm, safe nurturing place requiring nothing to a cold, loud, sense assaulting place making us painfully aware of having lost something and now feeling separated from. It’s possible to reduce the trauma associated with birth but the separation from a completely self-contained existence cannot be eased. We still have our empathy but it is completely overwhelmed by the pain of our separation. As we grow, our thoughts and language are formed enabling us to negotiate between what we have and feel and what we don’t. Our feelings become slowly overwhelmed and submerged beneath our thinking and the stark differences in our loud and voluminous newly polarized physical world. The subtle energies of our empathy no longer have the power to pierce the volume and intensity of our rapidly expanding materialistic and physical world. Yet, it still exists, almost dormant and moving well beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. Our only evidence of it is experienced through instinctively “knowing” and reacting to what our mother feels. For the majority of our childhood it remains existing well below our threshold of awareness.

Childhood TrainingThen, one day if we’re lucky, our parents assist us in recalling our attention to the feelings moving well beneath the surface and awareness of our daily lives. If they have learned to access and identify their own, they slowly help us to access and identify ours. Slowly they draw our attention to the fact that everyone else also has those same feelings and at the same time teaching us to recognize that what we feel are what others may be feeling and perhaps not recognizing. Over a long period of time they teach us how to recognize what others are feeling and teach us that there are things we might be able to do or say to assist others in easing some of the pain they’re feeling through what they’re dealing with. They teach us that we can decide to assist or not. It’s our choice. In experiencing this, compassion is born. It’s learned, voluntary, controllable and in motion only when we set it as such.

Compassion is a separate entity from altruism but they are mutually influential. The more altruism we have ingested, the more compassion we feel compelled to administer. The less we have ingested, the more choice we feel we have in whether to involve ourselves with others and the pain they might be feeling that we might be able to ease.

But now we move on to our second or alternate extreme of how compassion is identified and used. These are the people that have not been taught compassion nor have they been able to reach or sense the empathy that was buried while they were growing up. They are only aware of their own immediate or surface feelings and when they do empathize they are convinced that what they are feeling is either their own, self-generated or caused by others. These are also children whose inner feelings were neither acknowledged nor allowed expression when they Ignored childwere growing up. The parental neglect or prohibition of their feelings and expression has produced an undercurrent of unworthiness that has translated into becoming exploitative and manipulative in order to get whatever they desire. With that has also been produced a profound sense of shame but very deeply buried. As they practice physical and emotional acquisition their abilities to sense those who respond to altruism and perception of those who appear to be less aware are honed to a razor sharp sensitivity. They can almost literally “smell out” those who are easily manipulatable through their perceived obligations and training. They then utilize either guilt or helplessness to extort “assistance” from those who feel empathy and act on their compassion. Sometimes these Poor-me-2manipulators and those manipulated establish long term relationships built on codependency and perceived obligation. They become what we commonly refer to as givers and takers. Because this dynamic most often resides beneath the threshold of awareness for most people, both the manipulators and those manipulated “feel” at times that there is something “off” in their relationship but can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong. Eventually, the feeling fades with the progression into daily circumstances and they just continue on thinking it was just a “phase” and is “normal.”

Nursing Home-1With the slow and progressive dissolution of the family, or more specifically, extended families, let alone nuclear, no longer living together, the ability for children to observe empathy, compassion and intimacy first hand is slowly being lost. The teaching of how to recognize our empathy and the implementation of compassion by way of enforced intimacy through close family cohabitation has been shrinking dramatically as even the nuclear family disintegrates. Many of us find ourselves in a world where we feel lost, deserted, unloved, undeserving and unimportant without ever learning or understanding why.

So back to our theme of requested compassion. We’ve seen the two extremes that we all work between and based on our child rearing we find ourselves compelled to be compassionate, believe that it is strictly our choice or have never been taught and see it as an avenue for exploiting others. I think the most difficult part for those of us who have learned to recognize our empathy and apply our compassion is to sense or gauge who actually needs it. That ability Three card montycan only come from continued practice and experience. There are times where we will be successful and feel good about what we’ve done and there will be times that we feel badly because we realized that we’ve been played. We must accept both and grown in experience. We know that most of those who actually don’t need assistance are those who most often ask for it with their outer edges being populated by those who would use it to exploit us. They both are usually people who are either too lazy to handle accountability for their own creations or perhaps are too afraid to risk exposing their perceived lack of ability or deservedness by failing at any attempt to do it themselves. We also know that those who honestly need the assistance are usually those who are so involved in handling their stress and pain that they feel overwhelmed and infrequently observe who around them might be of assistance.

We have to judge for ourselves where to apply what we’ve learned and feel compelled to offer. But we must also recognize when that compulsion is a one sided product of our upbringing and runs contrary to what our heart tells us. Those who feel compelled to judge us on where we apply compassion or not have no right or place to administer “punishment” for what we do that might not fit their values, what they’ve learned or what is proper or necessary for our own heart. Our emotional and spiritual maturity is our own concern and cannot be assessed by others who haven’t walked in our shoes. Administer compassion when it feels “right” and comfortable for you to do so and when it answers your heart…not your learned requirements. Your exploration of life and experience is what you are here for. Following your own path is enough to serve and New Ideasshare with others by your personal example and personal benefit. Serving others intentionally is a choice not a necessity, unless you put an inordinate amount of stock exclusively in political, parental or religious training. Then it becomes required in order for you to belong. There is only earthly security and your personal path. You must choose.

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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.