A Reason for Being
The Fringe Dweller's Guide to the Universe
It continues to amaze me, how few people can express their raison d'être - their reason for being. I believe this has to do with the generalized fear many people have of not being approved of. We have been conditioned to believe that "fitting in" is preferable to expressing uniqueness of self, which is another way of talking about our reason for being.
It seems to me that there are at least three ways to position oneself upon the planet - points of reference if you will. In The NEW Manual for Life, Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen provide a list of opposing points of reference, and two that we'll be talking about are "Standing Out" and "Standing Forth." To this, I'll add a third - "Blending In."
The pull to blend in runs deep. We hear the term "approval rating" bandied about a lot, and everything from "this year's colour" to which shows remain on TV is dependent on what the "masses" think. This has elsewhere been described as "the dumbing down of (North) America." This would be so because any time you make the middle of the road the norm, you have chosen, ipso facto, mediocrity.
This approach might be thought of as the herd mentality. There is safety in numbers, we're told. Don't rock the boat. The psychobabble for this positioning is "field dependency." Which is the opposite of "field awareness."
Field dependency happens when I spend inordinate periods of time looking for approval, guidance, direction and purpose from outside of myself. My identity becomes tied into my "approval rating." It's pretty easy to tell when someone is working from this place. I have one client that shows up monthly. He isn't particularly happy in his marriage, and when I press him on how he makes his choices, he'll say, "My wife says I'm too passive, and my best friend thinks I need to be on my own." When I ask him, "And what do you think?" he replies, (with a confused and blank look on his face,) "I don’t know. What do you think?"
It doesn't take rocket science to understand that the western consumerist society is built upon the fact that people have been conditioned to let others make decisions for them. We read an ad or watch a commercial and there's an almost automatic "yes, I need that" response. Our moral judgements, career choices and ways of being in relationship are often dictated more by "everyone does it this way," or "everyone knows…" than by a logical process of determining what best serves my particular needs.
The easiest way to differentiate between field dependency and field awareness is this: field awareness is self-determining while taking into consideration the perspectives of others, while field dependency is all about allowing others (the field) to dictate my awareness, understandings and behaviour.
Standing out is a ploy to differentiate from others by "being special." Outlandish, larger-than-life behaviour is coupled with copious doses of both overblown egotism and raging insecurity. To stand out is to do whatever is necessary to draw attention to oneself. Which, of course, makes it a field dependent position. Rather than trying to blend in and go through life unnoticed, doing what one is told and checking one's every move with others, the person "standing out" purposely becomes "different." The field dependency is this: my identity is still tied up in approval ratings. I'm not special unless you declare me to be special.
So, rather than being authentic and real, I simply set things up so that I am noticed. The person who is "standing out" wants attention, and it doesn't particularly matter what kind. In Hollywood, the expression is, "Any publicity is good publicity." Or, it's Sally Field accepting her Oscar and gushing, "You like me! You really like me!" I'm trying to imagine a similar pile of pap flowing from the elegant lips of, say, Jodie Foster.
A third approach is standing forth. Let me just fire up the scanner and give you a paragraph or two from Ben & Jock:
People who stand forth become autonomous and individuated. They derive their self-esteem from their own sense of jobs well done, from their own appreciation of their having given a task their best effort, being all they can be. To them, the result is not nearly as important as the quality of the process of their doing. They are fully involved in whatever they undertake, and experience life as being full of interesting possibilities for exploration and growth. True, they are self-centred (centred within themselves), but not at the expense of others. They remain connected, sensitive to the needs of others as well as to their own. They have a great capacity for empathy, while rejecting any temptation to feel sympathy (which involves a condescension from an attitude of superiority). They recognize and respect the boundaries of others, yet are always interested in vulnerability and intimacy. They care about others while refusing to take care of them, recognizing everyone’s potential for being responsible for themselves.
Only when people fail to be fully who they are do they revert to the irresponsibility of resentment and blame. Hence people who stand forth manifest very little resentment or blame for others.
To stand forth requires the courage to be oneself. Standing forth involves creativity, awareness, presence, and focused attention, without sentimentalism (that is, overreaction or dramatization) or self-pity. Such individuals keep in touch with themselves while entering the world with a fullness; they remain connected with the background from which they are standing forth. They express the best of the human condition, evoking inspiration in others. In such a distinguished presence, people commonly desire to be connected with one another, being reminded of their own potential to be fuller and more of who they are.
NMFL, pgs. 46-47
Notice the italicized words, autonomous and individuated. Into the Centre stresses these contexts as being crucial for meaningful self-knowing. That you are reading Into the Centre indicates that this idea interests you. You will have a hard time, however, finding any reference, anywhere, to our declaring this position to be "right." In other words, to be autonomous and individuated is a choice one might make. It is a choice that Dar and I make regularly. This choice, by its very definition, does not need the approval of others. To be as autonomous and individuated as one can be means to be both field-aware and self-defining.
Now, this approach will not suit everyone. Nor "should" it. Ken Wilber makes this point repeatedly. In, among other places, A Brief History of Everything, Wilber proposes a Quadrant System for looking at Individual, Collective, Right Hand and Left Hand (exterior and interior) paths. On page 77, Wilber positions philosophers and therapists within one of the four quadrants. While Wilber may posit a hierarchy to all of this ("Transcend and include!") he judges that each quadrant is, intrinsically, valuable. For example, the scientific method is great for doing chemistry, and is a lousy choice for exploring the interior landscape.
There are tons of philosophies, therapies and faith practices - approaches to life. We gravitate toward an expression that "fits" for us. The principle of Utility holds. If it works for you (and only you can judge that, no matter how desperately you want to fob that task off on someone else!) then that path is fruitful. If, on the other hand, you are getting meaningless or lousy results, the only way out is to change both your understanding and your actions.
I long ago ceased trying to be everything to all people. I take responsibility for myself and for my choices. Period. I bring that perspective forth as I stand forth. I invite others to join me where I stand and to contract to explore the landscape. Some will join me, most will not. And this is as it "should" be.
Each contract is unique. I choose to be, as much as is humanly possible, intimate and present with Dar, 24/7. With others, we negotiate. Standing forth means that I am not endlessly available any time anyone wants me. That would be field dependency.
All philosophies and therapies are directed toward self-awareness. Different paths, same destination. Some resonate for me, others don't. I am emphatically not interested in blending in or attention getting (standing out). I am quite interested in digging deep and finding more of myself to bring forth. And this is the work I choose to do with clients. This is a process of guidance, or, as I said last week, teaching, as opposed to traditional "therapy."
This week, explore what you motivate yourself with. Are you field dependent? Are you into control? Are you simply fumbling around? Trying to be important? Confused? Where are you, this week? Sink into what you understand about yourself, and see what binds you, what needs letting go of. Then, find a guide and start walking.
Your life depends on it.
This was sent to me some time ago, and I quite enjoyed the accuracy of the stereotypes presented. Consider it a Canada Day Treat. And thanks, Norm!!
Taken from, Guide to Guys, Dave Barry:
Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.
And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?" And then there is silence in the car.
To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: "Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of."
And Roger is thinking: "Gosh. Six months."
And Elaine is thinking: "But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward... I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?"
And Roger is thinking: "...so that means it was... let's see... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means ... lemme check the odometer ... Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change!"
And Elaine is thinking: "He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed- even before I sensed it-that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected."
And Roger is thinking: "And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600."
And Elaine is thinking: "He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure."
And Roger is thinking: "They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs."
And Elaine is thinking: "Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self- centred, schoolgirl romantic fantasy."
And Roger is thinking: "Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their..."
"Roger," Elaine says aloud.
"What?" says Roger, startled.
"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have . . . Oh God, I feel so ... . " (She breaks down, sobbing.)
"What?" says Roger.
"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."
"There's no horse?" says Roger.
"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Elaine says.
"No!" says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
"It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time," Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)
"Yes," he says.
(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)
"Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?" she says.
"What way?" says Roger.
"That way about time," says Elaine.
"Oh," says Roger. "Yes."
(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)
"Thank you, Roger," she says.
"Thank you," says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"