The Pathless Path http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog Wayne C. Allen - a simple Zen guy - writes about living and relating elegantly Sun, 11 Sep 2016 21:04:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://i0.wp.com/www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-waynezenwebnew-Copy.jpg?fit=32%2C32 The Pathless Path http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog 32 32 The Myth of Absolute Truth http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/09/11/myth-absolute-truth/ http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/09/11/myth-absolute-truth/#respond Sun, 11 Sep 2016 21:04:35 +0000 http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/?p=5289 The Myth of Absolute Truth -- we hate not knowing, but the reality is, most of life is a mystery to be lived, not a puzzle to be solved. Read More

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This is post 4 of 4 in the series “The Myths Series”

Synopsis: The Myth of Absolute Truth — we hate not knowing, but the reality is, most of life is a mystery to be lived, not a puzzle to be solved.

Of Wayne’s many books, the one closest to today’s topic is: This Endless Moment
absolute truth

Einstein made his significant discoveries by the time he was in his early 30’s.

From that point on, he spent his time frustrating himself trying to discover what is called the “Unified Field Theory.” To quote Compton’s On-Line Encyclopaedia,

In their work some physicists have tried to construct a unified field theory that would describe all fundamental forces in nature and the relationships between elementary particles in terms of a single theory. So far, all such attempts have failed, though experiments and tests of several hypotheses are still under investigation. Gravity has not yet been accounted for in a unified field theory … In physics, forces can be described by fields that mediate interactions between separate objects, such as between planets or between electrons…in the early 20th century, Albert Einstein developed general relativity, his field theory of gravitation. Einstein and others later unsuccessfully attempted to construct a unified field theory in which electromagnetism and gravity would emerge as different aspects of a single fundamental field.

Loose Ends — when the pieces won’t fit

Human beings hate loose ends — those unsolvable moments that actually surround us. our hatred of the unknown or unsolvable is almost pathological.

As infants, we were told how to view things. This conditioning is necessary, as we need explanations for… well… everything. Of course, we don’t realize that we are not being given “the truth.” We are being given one version of many.

But parents are big, and tribes are powerful — the message comes across that there is only one way to see things — and “coincidentally” it’s the way our parents, tribe and educational system see things.

For many people, this restrictive view of the universe, faith, life-perspective — never changes.

wayne 1973

Now, some will argue that there is change during adolescence. Adolescents are notorious for thinking that their opinions are totally unique. This is, of course, crap. Adolescence is nothing more than a time for trading one “herd” for another. For example, when I look at photos of myself from University in the late 60s, I certainly looked different from my parents. But I perfectly blended in with my peers.

For most, the main thing is “belonging” and to belong is to accept the “Absolute Truth” of the group to which one belongs.

We play the absolute truth game so that we don’t scare ourselves with how unpredictable life is. We don’t want to think about how “different” each of our world-views are — going there, doing that, and your head might explode. We desperately want “people” to “get it.” The “it” we want them to “get,” is how we see the world.

Many people continually frustrate themselves over how stupid other people are.

Being in Costa Rica is a great demonstration. Many are the expats down here who bemoan the “Tico way.” I do this every time I repair something plugged into the electrical grid. Back home in Canada, I “wire to code” — a euphemism for following the rules. Here, wires poke out of drywall, are taped together, no boxes, etc. I want to fix it all, and then I calm down and just put things back the way they were, only working.

But others loudly proclaim how slow and backward things and people are. I just laugh and remind them that “You ain’t in Kansas any more.”

This also plays out in “field dependency. (FD)”

FD is defined as continually monitoring “the field,” and then adapting one’s self and one’s view to that “field” — to the people around us. It’s what we’re describing above, under adolescence, but broader. It’s captured in the line, “What would people think?” The FD person will move mountains to fit in, even if what they are choosing to do flies in the face of who they are.

So, we end up going off in two directions at once.

We attempt to become the people we choose to relate to while at the same time we attempt to create universal rules that others “should” abide by, never noticing that those rules “just happen” to be what we already believe to be so. The stronger the latter belief, the more arrogant the person becomes. And the more closed.

The solution to this “myth” is to “get over yourself.” The getting over involves letting go of thinking that there is a “Unified Field Theory of Behaviour.” If there is one, it is this: “Everything is changing and nothing is true.”

Here’s a long quote from Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty, on this topic: (pg. 239f)

How Things Are

None of us are ever really looking at how it is out there. I have my view of “how things are.” You have your view of “how things are.” We have to depend, in case of disagreement, on another nut like ourselves (a friend, therapist, or judge) with some other view of “how things are” to arbitrate for us. And it’s no accident that “arbitrate” comes form the same root word arbitrary. The truth is, none of us ever know what is going on. We just agree to have beliefs in common as a way of keeping things together. It’s amazing how we copy each other’s views so well that we can have such organized living. It’s pretty amazing how groups of us are willing to defend to the death our interpretations against other groups’ interpretations, or punish “crooked” interpretations within our own groups. It’s amazing because there is really no way to tell if “out there” is out there or not. But whatever it is, it’s all created by individual beings, who then get together and agree what to call it. Assuming that seeing, hearing, smelling and so on are chemical reactions in organisms, then each individual organism, as I argued in Chapter One, is the creator of the world. We have to see if our creations agree with each other by doing a lot of cross-checking in the course of growing up. Even then, just at the perceptual level, it’s hard to get agreement among people about what the world really is and what it is like. Science is a formal attempt to agree on the criteria we are willing to accept as a basis of agreement, in advance of any agreements. In that way the laws and agreed-upon assumptions of science are just like the laws and agreed-upon assumptions of the U.S. Constitution. We humans have spent a lot of time and energy for the past several thousand years trying to get clear on our agreements about perception and our agreements about value.

People kill each other by the minute over what it all means. The solution probably won’t ever be just having everyone believe the same thing. Instead of working toward commonality of views, we need to work toward common acceptance of the principle of variety. We need a variety of ways to look at how things are, because ultimately we have a better chance of supporting each other with a lot of ways of viewing things. It may feel less secure than if everyone agrees on what is true, but feeling of security is just that – a feeling, not the real thing. Less secure is often more reliable. If there is not enough variety preserved in the gardens of illusion about “how things are,” then some version of 1984 totalitarianism will come true. This scenario is almost as bad as the more tragic one of being blown away or dying of poison. I think communal acceptance of variety of illusions, with less murderous defence of belief, is a better solution.

Blanton’s book was published in 1994. Those last few lines, about totalitarianism, so perfectly fit with the rise of The Donald. He’s doing what we’re talking about: providing simple, facile arguments about reality (Mexicans, Arabs, women, etc.) that some people are desperate to swallow — in order to feel a part of “the in group” they feel excluded from. Diversity of thought scares the shit out of many of his followers.

Please note that I am not declaring Blanton’s view “true,” (nor am I declaring the prior paragraph “true…”)

His idea fits well with The Pathless Path. He invites us to question everything, to recognize that our “answers” are provisional, and that anything and everything is in a state of flux. And that this includes everything that we believe to be “absolute.”

With each of the myths in this series, I’m trying to get you to stretch your mind enough so that you’ll simply let go — that you’ll notice how your beliefs, and your beliefs alone, have the power to keep you stuck. I have faith that “answers,” such as they are, often reside in the body — at the level of perception of experience.

That I experience something is significant. Why I experience something as I do is a head game with no helpful outcome. Such head “answers” change all the time, if we are honest, and absolutely do not tell you anything about anyone else. My thoughts about others are all about me.

Notice your absolutes. You’ll find them by listening for “everyone” or “no one.” Beyond “everyone is born and dies,” (and other biological absolutes) there is nothing “everyone or no one” does. Social consensus is simply that. We used to be into slavery, remember?

When it comes to behaviour, anything and everything is possible. The only authentic question is, “is this behaviour accomplishing something I want to accomplish?”

It’s scary, and it’s the way it is… nonetheless.


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The Myth of Sex Equalling Intimacy http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/09/04/the-myth-of-sex-equalling-intimacy/ http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/09/04/the-myth-of-sex-equalling-intimacy/#respond Sun, 04 Sep 2016 23:42:36 +0000 http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/?p=5273 The Myth of Sex Equalling Intimacy--Intimacy is an act of continual stripping away -- of revealing who we are, with total honesty. Read More

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This is post 3 of 4 in the series “The Myths Series”

Synopsis: The Myth of Sex Equalling Intimacy–Intimacy is an act of continual stripping away — of revealing who we are, with total honesty.

Of Wayne’s many books, the one closest to today’s topic is: The. Best. Relationship. Ever.
intimacy

Intimacy, it seems to me, is something that many people say they are seeking, at least in the abstract.

Intimacy is not solely about dialogue nor using the Communication Model. It’s not about long walks or shared interests. It’s not about raising kids together and contributing to the running of the household. Intimacy may contain all or many of the above, but intimacy is about, first and foremost, vulnerability and trust.

Intimacy – is about openness, honesty and vulnerability.

In my book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. I wrote:

Confusing sex with intimacy

In my book This Endless Moment, I wrote about a woman who broke off her engagement because she’d had sex (on a pool table!) with a friend. She talked about how hot and chargy it was.

I asked her why she’d broken off her engagement.

“I can’t stay with my fiancé, because I must love [pool table guy] a lot! After all, I had great sex with him!”

I said, “Or you just got really horny, and had good sex. It was just sex.”

She: “Oh no! I’d never have sex with someone just because he turns me on. I only have sex with people I love, and I must love him a lot, given how good the sex was.”

Enough said? The problem is not having sex with a friend on a pool table. The problem comes from not being willing to admit that having sex is fun, in and of itself.

“I had sex with him/her, it must be love!” is idiocy. Unfortunately, it’s really prevalent. And that’s because we have such a hard time accepting ourselves as sexual beings.

It’s so weird. People have such trouble saying. “I’m horny, and love to have sex!” This coyness around matters sexual originates in our fear of being “seen” as sexual. Most people are afraid to declare their sexual side, for fear of being judged as “perverse.”

• True intimacy (being seen) encompasses sexuality, but is not equal to it.
• Sexuality is an intimate act – true intimacy is so much more.
• True intimacy is the act of becoming open, honest, and vulnerable.
• True intimacy is the activity of sharing deeply and with verve.
• Most couples have sex, while never achieving true intimacy.

Because of our embarrassment over our sexual nature, we quickly mislabel sexual charge as ‘love’

Sex is not equivalent to romance or love, and yet romance and love often contain, or provide a container for, our sexuality.

Sexuality is a simple and very basic part of our being. It is what it is, and nothing more.

Intimacy, on the other hand, is the ability (to use the language of The Haven in BC) to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

  • Openness is the willingness to shine a light on me. If I am open, I am willing to be clear about all aspects of myself.
  • Honesty is just what it sounds like. It means telling the truth as opposed to half-truths, manipulations, or even “little white lies.”
  • Vulnerability adds to this: I am even willing to admit to the scary, strange, weird, nasty, manipulative parts. I am willing to tell you how I hurt myself. I am willing to risk it because this is what true dialogue, communication and relationship require.

This is scary stuff for most, so other things intrude:

Many moons ago there was a series of TV commercial in Canada, from Star Choice, a satellite TV company. In one commercial, a man and a woman are sitting on a couch. The woman turns to the man and says something like, “Tell me about how you are really feeling about our relationship.”

The guy looks like he’s having his prostate checked. The announcer walks on screen and says, “This disaster could have been avoided, if only he had gotten Star Choice TV.” We then see the couple sitting next to each other, staring blissfully at the TV screen. There’s a romance playing, the woman is teary eyed and smiling, and they guy is also smiling and looking altogether too clever by half. Moral: watching satellite TV averts a disaster – the very scary intimate communication.

Leading me to an off ramp on the highway of today’s Myth.

There’s a great book called Radical Honesty, by Brad Blanton. His theory and I would concur, is that living in our head and spending all our time “thinking” is something to be escaped from, as our head lies, all the time. Of course, this is also Buddhism 101.

He describes how we tell others lies about our past, our present, our thinking, about whom we are and what we know. Blanton calls lying “bullshit,” and prescribes total honesty as a cure. This core of honesty leads to a feeling of nakedness before others. When I am vulnerable I am placing myself naked before another, by choice, in order to be seen and known.

This requires trust. Trust is about having faith that the person I am being vulnerable with will not attempt to take advantage of me.

As I tell my partner something, I trust that they will treat my revelation with dignity and respect. They will not try to hurt me with what I’ve said, call me names, nor use what I’ve shared as a weapon. They will never try to control me, or the relationship. They want to be with me as I am, and that “as I am” grows with each revelation. As I develop more and more trust, I learn to be more and more open and vulnerable.

Contrast that to most relationships.

Most couples, when they reach an impasse, fight by dredging up something the partner said in a moment of vulnerability. This is designed to hurt, to wound – not to resolve whatever issue the couple first disagreed about. This flinging back and forth of vulnerabilities naturally leads to less and less intimacy.

Another favourite avoidance tack taken by couples is:

“I’ve been hurt in the past (either by you or by someone else,) so I won’t risk being completely open with you. You’ll have to wait for intimacy.”

Excuses abound over why intimacy will take a long time. And often there’s some expectation that, first, the other person “should” fix whatever happened in the past.

Most of this comes from our upbringing, naturally, as we’ve been saying throughout this myth series. Parents often cut off the sharing of emotions. Babies who scream or cry are rocked or fed. Children and teens are punished / disciplined / or talked out of emotional outbursts. Seldom do parents have the skills to teach their kids how to communicate elegantly… obviously, they can’t do it with each other, so how can they model it for their kids?

And it gets even worse when something goes wrong for the kid / teen. I had a 17-year-old client. Her parents, like most, had told her repeatedly, “You can tell us anything. We won’t get mad. We’ll just help you sort it out.” So, she took them up on it and had told them that she’d become sexually active.

All hell broke loose. Yelling. Both parents name-calling. Dad even slapped her. The parents (who know me from working with them previously) sent her to me to “sort out.” During our session, she cried, a lot. I helped her get that, and no little anger, out.

Then, I said, “Tell me about your experience. That’s a big moment!” She did, with relief, pride, awe and a bit of fear. Too bad mom and dad had chosen not to experience all of that with her, by communicating instead of browbeating.

Needless to say, the 17-year-old learned a lesson about the dangers of being honest, open and vulnerable, but hopefully also learned from our conversation what intimate dialogue could be like.

Sadly, though, most adults have precious little experience with full-blown intimacy.

It takes work to trust, to risk, to open, and it takes acceptance, because it’s not always going to work out. And few have had it modelled, so that’s a problem too.

So, many people substitute sex for intimacy, without even noticing.

We were taught to be modest — to think that being naked is an intimate act. (Beginning to see the connection?) So, we hide (behind clothes) and resist the pull to be seen. (Of course, I’m also talking about intimate communication here…)

I suspect that most people have a “young adolescence” attitude about sex–sort of a leftover from the first 2 years of puberty. Back then, sex was something joked about, whispered about. Kids teaching kids.

Adults sense the need for closeness and intimacy — we want to be intimate, to share who we are, at the core of us. But we lack the skill-set to do so… and often the best we can do is to have sex while being embarrassed about our bodies. This is left-over from adolescence (for many of us) and our first sexual encounters.

it's just sexDo you wanna?

Remember being blown away by the intensity? Our minds go, “Wow. That was so… so… special!!! I came, (s)he came, and (s)he treated me as if I was… special!!! I must be in love! That was so… so… intimate! S(he) saw all of me, liked me, loved me!!! (S)he must be… oh!!!… my… soul mate!”

Well, phooey. Sex is a marker, an indicator, in and of itself, of exactly nothing.

Having sex is simply a way to find out whether or not you’ll let your body experience pleasure. It only seems to be “special” because sex, our bodies and passionate horizontal encounters are so so pleasurable and much easier than communicating intimately:

“I want to be close to someone without having to open up to them, to be honest. I know! I’ve been told that being naked and having sex with someone is special… and I’m sure that I’d only do it with someone special! This must mean we’re in an intimate relationship!!!”

This is what happened for pool table girl.

I tried, oh how I tried to get her to talk about sex, relationships, and communication. After all, she’d condemned her fiancé for doing the same things she did. All she could keep saying was, “He did it for sex, I did it for love.” So sex-shy was she that she was reluctant to discuss how much she enjoyed it. She ended up leaving her fiancé, and therapy, because “You just don’t understand about true love!”

After a while, though, people get browned off when they wake up one day and realise that sex doesn’t produce intimacy.

But because it’s the only item in most couple’s intimacy bag of tricks, (since they don’t have deep and meaningful conversations, and thus vulnerability and openness and trust aren’t happening) people feel cheated. But remember: they decided, long ago, that sex should equal intimacy, so they run off and screw someone else. And miss that they’re really screwing themselves.

Intimacy has little or nothing to do with sex

Intimacy is an act of continual stripping away — of revealing who we are, with total honesty. There can be no element of one person trying to control the other, no holding back, no blaming. Intimacy is an ongoing process or deep communication, not an isolated, single act.

Sex, on the other hand, is a great way to let someone know you find them attractive and, practised as “safer sex,” is simply fun. And rarely, when sex is combined with intimate relating, the result transcends both intimacy and sexuality and becomes a sacred act.

If you’re trying to use sex to find intimacy, you’ll most likely fail. If you refuse to be fully, deeply, vulnerably, out-of-control intimate with your partner, sex will never be what it could be. It will either become a weapon, boring, or non-existent. If you think that fidelity means your relationship is solid, think again.

In the end, intimacy produces the energy of life. Sex, in and of itself, is simply an activity. Combined with true, honest intimacy, it’s a symphony. At its best, it’s experienced nakedly and openly – without shame.


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The Myth of No Consequences http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/08/30/myth-no-consequences/ http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/08/30/myth-no-consequences/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 20:00:43 +0000 http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/?p=5264 The Myth of No Consequences -- the consequence, or result, is caused by the actions preceding it, 100% of the time
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This is post 2 of 4 in the series “The Myths Series”

Synopsis: The Myth of No Consequences — the consequence, or result, is caused by the actions preceding it, 100% of the time

Of Wayne’s many books, the one closest to today’s topic is: This Endless Moment
no consequences

In Buddhism, there is endless talk about the myth of independent origin. Usually, it’s put the other way around: the reality of dependent origin.

Briefly, one of the marks of Buddhism is its insistence on the inter-relatedness of all things. This means that no matter how unique and “singular” an event seems, it is tied into a long string of other things.

Here’s a Soto Zen Gatha that expresses this (especially in the first paragraph)

First, seventy-two labors brought us this food,
We should know how it comes to us.
Second, as we receive this offering,
We should consider
Whether our virtue and practice deserve it.
Third, as we desire the natural order of mind,
To be free from clinging,
We must be free from greed.
Fourth, to support our life, we receive this food.
Fifth, to realize the way, we accept this food.

First, this food is for the Three Treasures.
Second, it is for our teachers, parents, nation,
And all sentient beings.
Third, it is for all beings in the six worlds.
Thus, we eat this food with everyone.
We eat to stop all evil, to practice good,
To save all sentient beings,
And to accomplish our Buddha Way.

OK, so here’s the kicker. The idea of dependent origin also applies to each of us.

We are not unique, nor self-sufficient. We are the result of a long train of genetics and choices. The events of our life have formed us, much as a potter forms a pot on a wheel. It is what it is made; it has no independent being.

What this actually means is that we are the consequence of our choices.

Let us consider the lump of clay that is a newborn. The child is a genetic amalgam of both parents, who each are an amalgam, and back and back to when we climbed down from the trees.

Infants are hard-wired, for example, to nurse — to “latch on.” Many are the instinctual behaviours. Some brain scientists would argue that mood and temperament are equally hard-wired in — our baseline view of the world, for example.

The rest is learned.

Our parents and tribes set us on a path; we — little bundles of “no-nothing” autism — are given structure, explanations, and examples. Each of these things is dictated by our culture (i.e. most of us eat what our culture or religion eats — we didn’t choose this — we absorbed it.)

Then, there are the quirks of our parents.

From within the allowable parameters of each child’s culture, parents have the freedom to tilt us in particular (peculiar) directions. They promote certain aspects of our arising personalities, and block others (or at least try to.) Because this structuring is happening to us from infancy on, we tend to believe the story we are told, and at some level, become the people our parents want us to be.

So, what about no consequences?

When we are children, consequences are typically expressed in the form of punishments. “You hit your sister, you’re having a time out!”

I once, age 3 and at the chiropractor’s, wouldn’t stop acting up. I think I did an entire vaudeville routine. Mom, non-violent mom, warned me that there would be consequences if I didn’t stop. I didn’t. We got home, and I met the wooden spoon. Consequences.

Where this went off the rails for me is here: I never really “got” that my behaviour led to the application of the wooden spoon. I got it intellectually, but never got past the “It’s not fair!” response.

To repeat:

  • We learned a skewed view of consequences as kids, when we found out about punishments. We’d break something and get sent to our room. Most kids have trouble thinking, “Gee, I broke that, and this is a fair consequence.” No, we come up with, “It’s not my fault. I didn’t know better.” Or, we go to: “They don’t love / appreciate me.”
  • And then, because something else will always happen, we learn to lie. We blame others. “I didn’t do it, Tommy did!”
  • If no one else is around, we’re limited to “It wasn’t me!” or “It was an accident. I shouldn’t have to pay the price of an accident!”

Kids hate consequences. And most kids never grow up.

Despite the wooden spoon, my upbringing was positive; I would now say overly-positive. My mom especially would intervene so I wouldn’t fail. As a result, I got all the way to University thinking I could do any dumb thing, and somehow, magically, I’d get what I wanted.

And then, because mommy wasn’t there, I started experiencing consequences. I handed in a paper late, I got a bad grade. And low and behold, my profs didn’t care if I was “supposed to” get a good grade.

I slowly started to figure out the connection between “this” and “that.” And I do mean slowly. This “endless learning” thing is another thing that does not set well with “modern” people. So it becomes a compound problem — the game is a game of a lifetime, and where you are and who you are is about where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

Back in my counselling days, I briefly worked with a guy who was the spouse of a long-term client. He came in twice. He also had a PhD, which says something — I’m not sure what.

I never had time to learn how he developed his world-view, because, two sessions. But his was very much the life of Peter Pan — the boy who never grew up. He fervently believed that Never-never Land was real — that he was destined for greatness, bliss, endless great sex, and no issues — and all of this would happen with no effort on his part. All of this would happen no matter what he did.

He loudly declared that he knew for a fact that relationships were easy. All you had to do was meet the right person and there would be no problems, great sex and nothing to resolve.

I tried to help him to understand that his beliefs and behaviours were the cause of his dilemmas, but he couldn’t see it. He really believed in Never-land. We briefly decided to talk about marriage and sex, as this was really on his mind.

He was in his 50s when I saw him, and was baffled that his vision of “how things should be” did not match with “how things are.” He told me that he wasn’t happy in his marriage with my client, because “her” issues kept arising and “bad things kept happening.” Oh. And the sex was mediocre at best.

His marriage to my client was his fourth marriage, and he’d had several relationships on the side during all of them, and had yet to find “Ms. Perfect.” I again tried the, “It is your beliefs that have led you to this place,” but he wasn’t buying it. Who he was and where he was was not his responsibility — he had no responsibility. All the women he chose and lived with mysteriously ended up to be somehow “wrong.” Peter Pan-like, he left therapy, and left Canada to search the world for “the perfect woman, which will mean no consequences, no hassle.”

It’s all so easy — be a kid, look around, find someone to blame, and to ignore where you are “now.” Yet doing so means remaining forever a kid. Act, get lousy results, and just keep doing that, because that’s what you do. Figure everyone ought to cut you some slack, because “That’s who I am.” Because, of course, you are where you are by magic, or you got dragged where you are by others. “It’s not my fault!!”

Or, you can see the wisdom of dependent origin, the wisdom of consequences (my choice — my behaviour — led to this, and this leads to this…) Still confused? Let me simplify:

The consequences of your behaviour are simple to discover. The consequence of your behaviour is your life.

mud.jpg
What consequences?

Yet it’s oh so easy to justify ourselves to ourselves, to believe anything about ourselves, and to completely miss how we, and we alone, get ourselves into the messes we find ourselves in.

We get all dewy-eyed when we begin… whatever… and congratulate ourselves for what we have (single-handedly and perfectly, of course!) set in motion. Then, as time goes by and the novelty wears off, and the inevitable difficulties arise, well, that’s the fault of others.

Some years ago two drunk University students climbed over a fence at the top of a mountain on their campus, this being the University of Colorado. They went down the hill on a toboggan, despite prominent warning signs. The fence itself was 8 feet high. They crashed into a tree; one was killed the other became a quadriplegic. The survivor sued. She won. 8 million or so. Reason? The University didn’t do “everything possible” to stop her. I wonder if she expected machine gun turrets?

See, to me, here’s a couple of adults, making choices, disregarding warnings, because, hey, everyone knows they have rights!!!!! They have the right to a drunken slide down a mountain on a toboggan. How dare the University put up signs and fences. Don’t they know they’re adults, wise in the ways of the world?

Well, spare me from the self-declared wise. They usually can’t find their ass with both hands and a map.

Then, crash. “Hey! Wait a minute! I didn’t know better. I’m just a kid. I shouldn’t be paralysed. It’s your fault. You should have stopped me, posted a guard, tackled me and dragged me, kicking and screaming (so I could sue you for dragging me, touching me, something) from the hill.

In other words, I have unlimited freedom of action, and absolutely no responsibility when I screw up.

And our world condones this crap.

Every choice, every action, has consequences. They are your consequences, created when you chose and/or acted. The state of your job, your relationships (all of them) your health — all of it is a consequence of your choices. No exemptions, no excuses.

And if you want to scream, “It’s not fair!” see last week’s issue.

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The Myth of Fairness http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/08/22/the-myth-of-fairness/ http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/2016/08/22/the-myth-of-fairness/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2016 21:39:47 +0000 http://www.phoenixcentre.com/blog/?p=5255 The Myth of Fairness--getting over thinking life should be fair is, for some, a life-long task. Read More

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This is post 1 of 4 in the series “The Myths Series”

Synopsis: The Myth of Fairness–getting over thinking life should be fair is, for some, a life-long task.

Of Wayne’s many books, the one closest to today’s topic is: This Endless Moment
The myth of fairness

“Hey! Wait a Minute! That’s not fair!”

If you hang around kids long enough, or if you ever were one ;-), you’ll remember hearing or speaking that phrase. When those words are uttered, it’s pretty clear that the speaker thinks that “something hasn’t worked out like it was supposed to.”

A rule, the speaker thinks, clearly has been violated.

Because of the squabbles that result over fairness, parents are known to devise elaborate ploys to preserve the illusion of fairness. For example, Darbella remembers this gambit regarding sharing: while growing up with her sister. Whenever dessert was divided between them, one got to do the cutting, and the other person got to choose “which piece” first. Dar describes how carefully the cutter would measure and cut, lest they give the other the “unfair” advantage of getting 1% more pie.

Because of course, everyone knows that life (and pie sharing) is supposed to be perfectly fair and absolutely equal.

jump
Aren’t I Just so special?

A long time ago I counselled a teen; she I one of three kids. She declared–often and loudly–that her father loved her sister best, her mother loved her brother best, and that meant that she was left out of being “loved” best by a parent… and… wait for it… that wasn’t fair!!! More on this one later.

So, all of this talk of fairness makes sense when we’re talking about the hurt feelings of little kids. We do what we can to soothe them, and put in time until they grow up.

Because “fair, not fair” – is how a child thinks. At the same time, we, as adults, know that concepts such as fairness do not actually function in the real world.

Where this gets a little odd is when adults spout “fairness” as a valid model for life. Back when I was counselling, I got a call from another psychotherapist who worked in the same town. Apparently the Employee Assistance Plan we both got client referrals from had referred the same client to both of us. We were unaware of this.

He called her and made an appointment, then I called, and he was able to book with me sooner, so he did. He arrived at my office, we did a session, and at the end of the session he told me what had happened. I suggested he see the other person, since he’d booked with her first, but he decided to continue to see me.

Not a perfect scenario, but not the end of the world, either.

Anyway, he called the other therapist and cancelled his first session with her, explaining what had happened. She was not pleased. So, she called to find out why I’d seen the guy.

I said, “He called me and we booked an appointment. During his session, he mentioned he booked one with you. I suggested he see you instead of me, but he chose to continue to see me.”

She sputtered, “But . . . but … that’s not fair!” I managed not to spray coffee out my nose. I said, “Hmm.” She said, “Well, at least the insurance company admitted they were wrong for referring him to both of us, and are going to pay me for the cancelled session.” I said, “Um hmm.”

She paused, she waited. I said nothing. Unsatisfied that I hadn’t made the world fair for her, she rung off.

I was mostly confused as to how a therapist hadn’t figured out that the world isn’t fair.

On the other side of the “fairness” coin, friends of ours successfully brought their kids up not to expect fairness. I remember one story when Dar, who taught with the mom, drove her and her daughter to the kid’s daycare, drop off the daughter and then carry on to school. The mom buckled the kid into the back seat, and climbed into the front. The kid pouted and wailed, “I thought you’d sit back here with me.” The mom said she’d chosen to sit up front. The kid went, “That’s not fair!” Mom replied, “Well, life is shit and then you die.” The kid cried, “I know!!!!” Clearly the kid had heard that bit of wisdom before.

What’s important about that story is that, from an early age (the kid was 3 at the time) she was learning not to expect people to treat her as being special. While she is “special” as in “a unique being,” she is not “special” as in “more important that others.”

Here’s the key. When people scream, “That’s not fair!” they don’t want fairness, as in equality. They want special treatment.

Back to the teen. She felt like the “odd man out”–no parent loved her best. So, what’s she really looking for? Well, on one level she was saying, “Parents should love all their children the same.” Parents do, of course, spout that nonsense to their kids, to stop them from fighting over, “Mommy loves you best!” but parents don’t love their children the same. They relate to each child as they perceive the kid to be–the parents’ way of dealing with each kid is the result of their own thoughts, compassion and prejudices.

What the teen really meant, and later admitted, was, “I want my parents to love me most. I don’t want to share their love with my younger siblings. I had them to myself for the year before my brother was born, and I still want their total devotion and attention.”

This helps us to unpack what “fair” means for most people and in most situations.

prize
I’m so special I have awards!

Fair means, “I want to be treated as special, never have anything go wrong and always get my way. I want my needs considered before and above everyone else’s. I want all sickness, war, poverty and pestilence to stop, at least as it affects me, and I want it to stop now! My parents should be perfect, my partner perfect, my kids perfect. What I mean by perfect is that they act like I want them to, never get sick or die on me, and always strive to keep me happy. Anything less just isn’t fair.”

Such thinking makes sense for a three-year-old who wants mommy in the back seat. It is a tad lame coming from a teen wanting to be an only child. It is pathetic coming from an adult who expects deferential, preferential treatment and then whines because “life is shit and then you die.”

Doesn’t matter what your justification, nor how you put it. “My husband works all the time and won’t help with the kids. I need time for myself and he’s not pulling his weight.” Message? “It’s not fair.”

“We’re supposed to be co-parenting, and he keeps disagreeing with me, when all I want is what’s best for the kids!” Message? “It’s not fair… he should do it my way.”

Have a look at your “fairness list.” Write it out and notice how hard-done-by you feel. Then, give yourself a shake, burn the list and decide what you’re going to do to get over the need to have more, to get your way, to be protected from life, and to be treated as special.

It won’t work, because you’re not.


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