I’m sad to announce that Darbella and I lost a dear friend a few days ago.
Joann Peterson was one of the key figures at The Haven. She’d had heart issues for decades, and was in for heart surgery last year in August, at the same time as Dar and I were out there teaching. Her recovery was slow, and she did make it back in November, to teach Anger Boundaries, and Safety. In January, she started to weaken, and died January 9th.
Joann was the leader for both my and Dar’s Phase 1, and we considered her a friend of the heart. We are not alone in this — if you knew Joann, have a look at the tribute page at The Haven.
The two things I’ve taken from her death are this:
- who we are and how we act in the world does make a difference. Being clear, open and honest, and getting on with the work we are called to do, is the mark of a life well lived.
- The other thing is to remember to let people who have made a mark on our lives know that we love them, so we are “clear” with the important people in our lives
In that vein, I am glad you are here, and reading!
Remember that your reality is just that — yours
I have to get across to you the importance of this concept. Everything from interpersonal difficulties to warfare arises from the idea that reality is both real, and objectively ‘out there.’ Every difficulty you can describe comes from the idea that “My reality is right and yours is wrong,” as opposed to “I hold this belief and you hold another belief. Each are equally valid.”
By valid, I mean that I understand the belief to “work, or hold water, or be useful.”
Now, as you think about this, you’ll see why I think that everything (the world we perceive) is based upon our individual belief system.
I live my life from within the parameters
of what I already believe to be so.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t add to my beliefs, and thereby learn to approach the way I am differently. That’s certainly why you’re reading this. What it does mean is that the way I behave and what I believe is always and only about me.
Now, most people hate hearing this, as they have been trained from birth to blame others for difficulties, based upon “I’m right, you’re wrong.” We were brought up to think this way by parents who taught us “right from wrong” by demanding our acceptance of their beliefs. We moved from
knowing nothing except what our parents knew,
knowing nothing but what our parents and culture believed.
And then they cut us loose and said we’re adults and know enough to function in the world.
In actuality, we only know enough to repeat the same dumb stuff that got our parents into trouble — the same dumb stuff that’s being fought about all around the world. And then, to add insult to injury, we run around all indignant, trying to force those who disagree with us to see it our way. If persuasion won’t work, there are always guns and bombs.
One of my principal goals is to help people to get over trying to sell their beliefs to others. So, you might be asking, why are you writing this? I am not writing this to get you to adopt my way of thinking. I am writing this to ask you to consider one question: how well is your belief system actually working — in terms of your vocation, your relationships, your self-esteem?
If you are content, you have likely adopted a form of what I am writing about. If you are not content, I can assure you that your belief system is non-functional. So, trying to sell it to another is kind of stupid, right?
I don’t care what that belief system is. I only care whether it works.
The first step in this process is to let go of the concept of right and wrong. Shift your thinking to “is how I think and how I act getting me the results I want?”
Life can be simple, if I measure myself against myself.
Ah, but this flies in the face of our”¦ wait for it”¦ beliefs.
Or all of the above.
Now, whip your head around. Where are mom or dad right now? (If you are still living with them, heaven help us all”¦) Mom and dad are gone, and the mom and dad in your head is you, talking to yourself. There is nothing going on from your past. In fact, you don’t even have a past. It’s all just a story you’re telling yourself, and not a very interesting one, to boot.
All there is, is now.
At some point, you have to let go of all of that stuff, and stand on your own two feet. And you begin that process by letting go of everything that is not working. Start to shift your thinking and your behaviour. The battles of life are unnecessary, as there is no way you’ll ever have consensus, even with your nearest and dearest.
And why, really, do we think we need people to agree with us? To declare us right? To put us first when, of course, we would never put the other person first in exchange…?
I especially love that one — it’s like that scene in “Annie Hall.” Split screen, Woody on one side, Diane Keaton on the other. Woody: “We never have sex. Only 3 times a week.” Diane: “We always have sex. Three times a week!”
So, you may be asking, how does anything get resolved? Resolution (not compromise!) comes through dialog that is completely devoid of demands and pressure. My desires are not more important than Darbella’s and hers aren’t more important than mine. So, there’s no “I win / You lose.” Our goal, and we’ve managed to do this every time for 24 years, is agreement without compromise.
Now, some of our issues have taken years to resolve, and even seem to evolve (the present one is the date of our move to Costa Rica — that one has shifted a few times 😉 but no decision is worth fighting over. Plain and simple.
Great patience is required, because what is obvious to me will not necessarily be obvious, or even important, to another. I, and I alone, am privy to the contents of my mind, where I put together the pieces of my life, and the stories I tell myself, and most critically, the way I interpret reality.
The interior theatre of each person on the planet is radically different from mine, as each person’s internal theatre is based upon their evaluative processes, cultural norms, and life experiences. Even when we think we agree, we do not agree 100%.
Once I understand this — the impossibility of seeing things the same way — I can let go of desiring this impossible thing. I can stop thinking that, just because someone sees life differently (of course they do) they don’t like me or are disrespecting or dis-empowering me. We simply see things differently.
Notice how you frame your reality, and how often you expect others to give in to your interpretations. See what happens when you stop making that demand of others, and instead engage in dialog designed to seek commonalities and ways to proceed without drama or manipulation.