Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Life is not as it is. Life is as you are. Part 2


A while back, I mentioned that our friends Debashis (he of the excellent business articles) and Adrienne gave birth to our "niece" Anjuli Maya.  Debashis wrote an article for the local paper re. the home birth. I've "borrowed" the photo from the article, so you can see three of our favourite people.

Last week's article has certainly touched some of you, and we are choosing to continue with this topic.

What follows is taken from a new book I'm working on. We'll look at some beliefs that we could well do without over the next few weeks. This is a bit of  the introductory stuff.

A myth is defined as "a theme or character type embodying an idea." In other words, a story that conveniently explains how some aspect of the world works. For example, virtually all cultures have a creation myth, and a myth about how people came to be. And even myths about how people are blessed by God or the gods, and have dominion  over the earth. We have created political myths, hero myths, myths about wealth creation (typically called "economic theories,") and assuredly scientific myths. Those of you born in the early 50's will remember being taught, in grade school, the solar system model for the atom. Big nucleus, little electrons circling in orbits. Then, in High School, we got to learn how many electrons could occupy each orbit.

Now, we know that there are no such things as orbits, that sub atomic particles make up the atom, that they are actually waves, that we cannot know both their speed and their location, making them sort of not there, and then, we find out that atoms are 99.9999999 per cent nothing. At least, that's this decade's myth. We seem to need someone in authority to tell us what is real, as opposed to understanding that nothing and everything is real. When asked what is real, a good, truthful scientist (the shamans of our age) will say, "That depends."

Let's explore a couple of our cultural myths.

The Myth of Comfort

We would only have to go back to the Depression and the generation after, up to and including World War II to find the opposite to the Myth of Comfort. Up until that point, people would, in general, let you know that life is hard, that there would be a struggle, that simple survival was what it was all about. When tragedy struck, families rallied, and life went on.

Today, the Myth of Comfort says that nothing should be painful. There should be no lessons, other than easy ones. School should not make demands. God forbid we give little Suzie the grade she deserves, or hold her back because she blew 9th grade. Never mind that she was popping pills and drinking. Never mind that she was hanging around with a group of losers. Her failure was the fault of the teachers, the school system. No, pass her. Lest her precious little ego be damaged.

And then its 5 years later, and a professor at University or a boss actually makes a demand for work, and little Susie flips. "No one told me it was like this!"

We of the 50s and later grew up under the Myth of Comfort, Security and Having it Better than Dad. Remember raises? We got them because that's what happened each year. Our right, remember? And we whine because now raises might never come, or might be tied to performance or some actual standard imposed by a bureaucrat.

Personal growth was the buzzword of the 60's. It, too, was to be easy and quick. One est weekend here, one colonic there, a chant and a mantra and everything would be different. When anyone suggested that enlightenment came in fits and starts, after much effort and with painful, continued effort, the Cult of Comfort said, "If I give you more money, can you speed up the process?"

So, now, at the beginning of the new century, many are cocooned in their Lazy Boys, hoping that the pain will stop. They figure, "It wasn't supposed to be this way."

Well, baloney. As Scott Peck reminded us in The Road Less Traveled, "life is difficult." Learning, changing, healing, all come at a price. As a matter of fact, no learning happens without pain. The pain may be nothing more than the pain of having to give something - some behaviour - up, or it may be a "shaken to the foundations" type of pain, but it is a necessary component of growth.

We do a disservice to suggest that the Cult of Comfort has any relevance vis a vis Wholeness. As I read other books (and believe me, I read a lot of them!) I am struck by a couple of things.

  • good books on wholeness all say the same thing.
  • many authors downplay the effort required to make the changes necessary. The times when a writer presents autobiographical material, if carefully read, reflects the struggle inherent in changing the way we are into a way that works.

Of course, we all wish it were different. Most people are stuck in one of the following "comfort" loops. 

Happy vs. Right

Many folk want to be declared right. They want others to agree with their point of view. They see their mission as changing others. This is a comfortable place, as it never involves self-reflection. It simply involves judging others and finding them lacking.

A minister once had a man in his congregation who was absolutely messed up. His behaviour was atrocious. Finally, the minister decided to preach about this man. He started off subtly, making allusions to the aberrant behaviour. Each week the man would walk up to the minister, shake her hand, and say, "That's telling them, preacher!"

Went on week after week. Finally, there was a snowstorm, and the only two people in church were the minister and this man. She decided to go for broke. She preached right at the man. Spelled it all out. End of the service, she's at the door. The man walks up, looking real sad, Grasps the minister's hand. Says, "That's telling them, preacher. If only they'd been here!"

Happiness is inversely proportional to judging. The more you judge others and try to change them, the less happy you are. The wise person learns that the first and greatest discipline is to focus on simply observing others, rather than trying to change them.

Manipulating others into changing 

This one is a second cousin to the first. It goes, If others would change, then I could be happy." It's different from the first in this way. The person does not tell the other person how to act from a position of superiority. The person wants others to change from a position of "one down." "If only you would see the pain you are causing in me, if you really loved me, you would change."

Again, we think that way because we want others to do all the work. That way, we can keep doing all sorts of silly stuff, and the other person lets us.

I had a couple for clients. He worked evenings, she worked days, and they had a one year old. She expected three things of him:

  1. That he do the laundry, every day.
  2. That he vacuum the rugs, every day.
  3. That he polish the kitchen taps and sink, after every use.

She declared that these were the rules she'd learned, and if he loved her, he'd do these things for her. Of course, there were always other items on the list, items that changed. And he was expected to watch their son.

I worked with her for some weeks, trying to help her to see that perhaps such rules were not graven in stone. She refused to budge. Finally, the husband agreed to the three things, plus the rest of his tasks. He figured it was better than fighting.

What turned out to be our last session happened like this: he walked in. He was sick. Had been, all week. He announced that he had been too sick on Monday to do his jobs, but she'd forgiven him. He'd crawled out of bed on Tuesday, and done everything. Today, Wednesday, he'd managed to vacuum and do the laundry. She walked in, glared at both of us, said; "I went home ahead of our session. You wilfully neglected the taps and sink. The marriage is over." And so it was.

We want to be able to blame others for our distress. It is easy to blame, harder to take responsibility for the things that are happening in our lives. Because of the Cult of Comfort, we think others should have our best interest in mind. It is quite a shock to discover they don't. Many people "solve" this problem by changing people. The brave few simply recognize that wholeness is not about getting others to behave themselves.

"I'm No Good!"

Another variant. I have a client who will always burst into tears and say, "It's all my fault. I'm not a good person. I'm to blame." This is not as bad as it seems, as at least the person is using the right pronoun. It is, however, a comfort zone technique.

Feeling bad about oneself gets to be a habit, just like everything else. It requires no effort, because people who use such lines seldom conclude with - "and so here is what I am going to do differently."  This technique allows you to sit back, tell yourself off, feel bad, sulk, maybe get some attention from those around you, and not have to change a thing. As opposed to the truth of wholeness. "You are responsible for your life, and only you can change the way you see life, respond to others and treat your self." You are "response able" -- able to respond.

 More next week!

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