“It is extremely important for all of you who work on this path to find where you fear the negative and therefore grab for the positive alternative. When you find the areas of fear, and see how you want the positive for negative motivations, you will be able to accept the rich abundance of life with a raised head, as a free person. It is this soul movement that makes all the difference.
The soul condition of fearlessness produces the conviction that nothing negative is ever necessary and that the human entity’s fate is bliss, unfoldment, and dynamic life. And where such conviction exists, outer facts must follow suit. Shrinking away from a feared alternative and wanting the positive alternative because of that, makes the latter an unreachable illusion. This may explain to many of my friends why a number of doors have remained closed for them, in spite of much progress and insight. However, it requires an extended awareness to notice the existence of fear, and to be aware of the fine differentiation between wanting happiness for the sake of happiness, or wanting it in order to avoid unhappiness.
I have discussed general aims, but your specific desires, with the fear of their opposites, have to be ascertained in your personal work. Nothing is too big or too little, important or unimportant, when it comes to the human psyche. For anything that may appear to be an insignificant aspect is, in the last analysis, connected with the great questions of life. When you find these elements, new doors will open to you, my friends. Even before you can shed the fear itself, ascertaining it and knowing what it means must make a great difference in your attitude to yourself, to life, and to the particular desire that has remained unfulfilled because you have overlooked the shift in motivation. This is an all-important key.
Don’t overlook either that the presence of a fear of the negative does not necessarily annul a healthy wish for the positive for its own sake. It is absolutely possible — in fact, it is frequent — that a healthy wish exists simultaneously with the distorted motivation.
Once you put your finger on the fear, you can directly treat it in your meditations. This will make a great deal of difference on your path. It can be a solution to many problems that have remained stubbornly locked so far. The mere realization, “I cannot step out into freedom because I want freedom not for itself, but because I fear to be imprisoned,” will bring liberation a great step closer. If you realize that you cannot be free because you fear unfreedom, in that realization greater freedom is yours. This may sound complicated and quite paradoxical, but if you deeply think about it, you will understand how true it is.”
– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Lecture 130: Finding True Abundance by Going Through Your Fear
I haven’t yet come out the other side, but these are some things that I found important when making decisions/ figuring things out.
1. Find your real motivations for doing something:
“As you view what is at stake in an issue, you will seldom find an answer by asking whether the action you contemplate is right or wrong. Since none of you would ever consider committing an antisocial or sinful act, the decisions you are faced with could be right either way in principle. Yet, for each individual there is always only one right way and many, many wrong ways possible. So you have to consider your honest motives behind your apparent good motives; that will determine the right or wrong action for you, not the ethical value of the action itself. As long as you have not found all the motives behind a desire, you will not be able to know the right action for you. The right procedure is not to ask God simply to let you know whether to do such and such, thus avoiding the work of self-knowledge on your part. There may be isolated instances where this can be the right thing to do, but not generally, not when there seems to be a repetitive pattern and a conflict involved. The right procedure is to decide wholeheartedly that you wish to find all the motives behind the conscious motive, and for that you should pray for God’s help.” – Eva Pierrakos
“People who do not recognize their hidden motives cannot conduct their lives freely. They are enslaved to their lower selves, to their unrecognized desires, which push and pull them backwards and forward, left and right.” – Eva Pierrakos
2. Consider whether you are ready to pay the price:
“You often desire the impossible, like a child: you find yourself desiring something that cannot be had, or for which you are not prepared to pay the price.” – Eva Pierrakos
“In your unwillingness to pay the necessary price for a desired goal, you leave the issue in the unconscious, thinking childishly to go around it.” – Eva Pierrakos
3. Don’t expect the Divine to solve your problems without your active participation:
“If your present situation feels unsatisfactory in any way, or if you are not clear about a decision you are called upon to make, do not expect God to decide for you or to alter an unpleasant situation without your active participation in the process. You have to realize that there must be something in you that contributed to the undesirable circumstance to begin with and be willing to find what it is and change it. Do not forget that the wrong is not necessarily a sinful action or thought, but an unrecognized emotion that surges in a wrong channel or violates a spiritual law. God recognizes your goodwill, and if you combine prayer with the work of self-examination and tearing down your masks, His answer will become ever more clear, so that there will be no possible room for doubt in you. But as long as your resistance against this way of working persists, no matter what the pretexts and excuses are, the sluggishness and the immaturity of your lower self has the better of you. You will have wrong reactions and distorted instincts, which you will then want to interpret to fit the resistance of your lower self.” – Eva Pierrakos
“Those who will not make a decision are often the same who most sincerely strive to follow their soul’s yearning. Although they truly want to do what is right and just, they shy away from doing something because it may not please God. They are afraid of doing wrong so they do not do anything. They do not understand that by not making a decision they also make a decision. The world, and what you call time, never stands still. Everything is in the stream of life, and whatever you do, including not doing anything, must have a consequence. When you shy away from making a decision, it means you have not yet found a key to your soul. You live, possibly without being aware of it, in fear. You do not take command of your ship, believing and hoping—again unconsciously—that God or fate will make the decision for you. Once in a while this may even happen, but, in general, God’s world is not permitted to interfere, since one of the things you have to learn is to take responsibility for your decisions. You have to learn to pierce the dark cloud which obscures the truth and creates confusion. You must do so by your own effort, by your personal spiritual endeavor, by your increasing self-awareness.” – Eva Pierrakos
“The answer and the key to God’s will are within you.” – Eva Pierrakos
This makes me realize that words of wisdom need to unlocked. It’s like you receive a treasure chest, but you have to find the key within yourself to open it. The tricky part is that we may interpret certain words to mean something that appeals to the lower self, so experience/reflection is needed.
4. A shift in perspective can bring about change on its own:
“So you overlook the simple fact that first your ideas have to change before the vexing conditions have a chance to change too. Thus you find yourself at a certain crucial point on this path in a vicious circle: you wait for a change in your conditions, while the conditions wait for you to change your ideas.” – Eva Pierrakos
“But whatever the problem is, be aware that this problem is in direct connection with an inner wrong attitude of yours and pray for recognition, for guidance, for enlightenment in this respect. If you search in this direction at all and if you are really open to find your particular answer and to see the connection of your outer problem with the inner one, guidance can be given; or rather, the recognition will come to you, for often the guidance is there but you refuse to see it! You refuse to see the signs, the many pointed signs, that are constantly given you.” – Eva Pierrakos
5. Abundance needs to be cultivated from within:
“The open energy system which creates richness flowing into you both from within and without must come from your own richness that can afford to lose at the moment. Then you can afford to tolerate the temporary pain of finding what really obstructs the fulfillment of the unfulfilled need, and ultimately remove it by changing an inner attitude. This is the way to create richness from poverty.
A sequence of steps must be undertaken in this process. Step number one: recognize the conflict we have just discussed where you struggle between resorting to hopelessness or to pushing, holding, and applying pressure from above. Step number two: see that this conflict exists because you operate from the premise of an imaginary poverty, convinced that you could not have what you need if you gave up the pushing, holding, pressuring struggle. You believe that you are condemned never to experience the fulfillment you long for, without which your personality cannot thrive. Step number three: commit yourself totally to working out the real reasons for your unfulfillment in the usual way you learn on this path. This must be done in a spirit of honesty, perseverance, patience, and humility. Humility means not blaming the universe for your poverty in a particular area of your life, but instead searching for your distortions that have created this poverty.” – Eva Pierrakos
“You must first create the inner attitude in which you can accept the not having with good grace and still feel, perhaps even because of it, your inner wealth.” – Eva Pierrakos
6. See the connection between freedom and self-responsibilty:
“The infant in you desires everything the way it wants it, how it wants it, and when it wants it. But it goes further than that. This desire includes wanting complete freedom without responsibility. You may not be aware that you desire just this. But I am sure that by investigating some of your reactions and asking yourself what they truly mean, when you come to the root, you will undoubtedly find that this childish part of your being desires just that. You want to have a benign authority above you who steers your life in all ways as you desire. You wish complete freedom in every way; you want to make independent decisions and choices. If these prove good, it is to your credit. However, you do not wish to be responsible for anything bad that happens. Then you refuse to see the connection between such a happening and your own actions and attitudes. You are so successful in covering up these connections that, after a time, it takes a great deal of effort indeed to bring the connection out into the open. This is so because you wish to make this authority responsible for the negative things only.” – Eva Pierrakos
“It is not only the pain of unfulfillment that you cringe away from, however. You also do not want to take upon yourself mature self-responsibility. This may not apply to all your outer material life, but may affect the emotional plane. If you do not wish to love, and live in fear of being hurt, if you do not wish to take the risk of living upon yourself, you wish to remain the child who waits helplessly for life to fulfill its needs without the necessity of self-involvement. The price you pay for such evasion is very high. Many of you do not yet realize how high that price is. This running away from self-responsibility and from the apparent risk of living and feeling is caused by an original sense of inadequacy, and continuing to run away increases that sense of inadequacy. Only as you change this pattern will you find your sense of adequacy and self-confidence. The psychic law that says that running away from the original pain of unfulfillment increases the unfulfillment, and therefore the pain, operates here, too.” – Eva Pierrakos
7. Identify dual either/or thinking (rebellion vs submission) / Accept current limitations:
“As you accept the narrow structure and recognize it for what it is—the product of your limited thinking—so will your scope of freedom widen. But it does not widen by rebelling against the necessary outer boundaries, and against what appear to be restrictions. Freedom comes from an intelligent recognition of the structure and from the choice to accept it. This choice is made not out of fear and weakness, dependency and submission, nor is it a rebellion of the inner tyrant, which disregards reason and wisdom. It is made with the will to see the truth and meaning and lovingly accept, on those grounds, the narrow structure of the present, even if this seems at first to restrict personal desires. This is the act of love and freedom. The first two alternatives of fearful acceptance and blind rebellion are obviously unloving and unfree. They are not deliberate choices, but blind, automatic reactions, and they bear the seed of hate, distrust, suspicion, selfish demands, maligning of truth.” – Eva Pierrakos
8. Save yourself:
“When I cast my mind back to my upbringing and my life overall, I recognize the times when I was hostage to factors which set me desperately searching for rescue. Rescue implied to me that an outside force, person or persons, would appear to help me out of my unhappy circumstances. But no one would appear. No rescue was at hand. I could have sat on the “rock” of my solitude until I was a very old man, awaiting some nameless, faceless rescue “party”, like someone lost in the wilderness. But when I realized that the wilderness was the landscape of my own making – and of my own mind – I began to feel a strong impetus to take action to get out of the uncomfortable place in which I had somehow landed. That rescue, I eventually concluded, could only come from within myself.” – J. Paul Nadeau, Hostage to Myself
9. Use your willpower wisely:
“You can use your willpower in two very distinct ways. One creates a pressure and tension that will rob you of your peace; it leads you away from the state of detachment so necessary for attaining spiritual and emotional maturity. The other flows freely, strongly, and vitally and will never hamper your serenity; it works deep inside and yet quite consciously; it wills strongly and yet patiently; it leaves you free and detached, yet never passive and resigned. One will-stream comes out of your higher self, the other out of your lower self. If you will something that is against divine law and divine will, it will never give you peace. However, it is also possible for you to will something that is utterly right for you, but to do so in the wrong way, thereby mingling in wrong currents or wrong motives.” – Eva Pierrakos
10. Choose wholeheartedly:
“unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.
when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.”
– Charles Bukowski
“Wherever conflicts exist, in one way or another, you have not made your decisions properly. Do not remain on the surface level; you will have to dig deeper into your emotions in order to find the answer. Within your emotions, sooner or later you must find—provided you search honestly—that you have somehow not made a whole decision; you had somehow hoped to gain the advantage without accepting the disadvantage. And often you even hope—again without thinking it through clearly—to at the same time gain the advantage of both alternatives and to be spared the disadvantage of either. This amounts to cheating life, and the result must inevitably be that life will teach you a lesson and you will reap the disadvantages of both or all sides which you wished to avoid.” – Eva Pierrakos
11. It’s ok to admit that you don’t yet have the answer:
“If, after taking on the problem, you come to the conclusion that you are not yet capable of making a decision because you are not yet able to perceive which direction to take, you are in a totally different state. Then you can ask God for inspiration and knowledge and thus be ready to receive it and act accordingly. The needed recognition will come to you when you have prepared yourself through your own endeavors. It is one thing to avoid a decision, cover up everything that relates to it, and turn away from the problem altogether. It is quite another to strive for truth and knowingly and willingly decide not to make a decision until, after more personal effort, you are ready to take the right course. And when the decision is truly the right one, no shadow of a doubt will be left in you. The result will be ever-increasing inner peace and harmony in your soul. Only in this way can you become the captain of your ship.” – Eva Pierrakos
12. There is a difference between intuition and resonance:
Ideas can resonate with the lower self or with the higher self. They can resonate with hidden motivations and fears that haven’t been made conscious and they can feel ‘right’ too, although from my experience they have a more temporary nature.
13. Being aware of your fears helps:
“The great enemy is fear, and the best way to meet and conquer this enemy is first to ascertain, admit, and articulate it. This approach will diminish fear to a considerable degree and open the way to further measures for ousting it. Of course, the desire to do so must, as always, be clearly expressed in one’s thinking and intentions. However, if you struggle against fear out of fear of fear, this will be difficult. Therefore, the calm admission and the momentary acceptance of it will do more toward its elimination than fighting against it would.” – Eva Pierrakos
14. Ideas of right and wrong (should/must/have to) can delay/hinder progress:
One time during meditation I had the following thought:
“I want to… because… ! I don’t wanna hear any I have tos! ”
And I believe that the motivation for doing something is where it’s at.
“As long as your “right” conduct is motivated by stringent self-moralizing, based on “good or bad,” your goodness or righteousness is not genuine. It does not come from natural insight and inner growth but from fear: the fear about your imperfection. Therefore, such “goodness” is ineffectual, unconvincing to yourself as well as to others. It is a compulsion, not a choice. And you cannot be in reality when you are compulsive, for reality cannot be evaluated in the extreme terms of good or bad. When these terms cease to apply to anything but very crass issues, the borderlines become subtle and hazy. The issue is no longer capable of being settled by quick judgment about what is good or bad. Then the truth can be found only deep within yourself, instead of in the rigid laws and rules you borrow because you are too insecure to delve into your own soul. But since you don’t dare to find the truth there, you adhere to ready-made rules, and the moment you do you moralize.” – Eva Pierrakos
“This moral structure actually takes the place of the self: you trust in rules rather than in yourself. This is a very shaky trust, for such rules may often be inapplicable to certain real situations. You may often have to grope when you find yourself not knowing what is right. However, if you cannot accept yourself as a human being, fallible and often confused, then this unavoidable confusion has the power to disrupt you completely. You may attribute the disruption to the situation itself, but in reality, it stems from your attitude about yourself. You will always want to find the final solution at once. And this urge is dictated by the false belief that you prove yourself unworthy if you admit that you do not know the answer, or simply have negative, undeveloped reactions.
So the first thing to learn on this path now is the ability to accept not only your fallibility but that you often do not know the answer. If you learn this and at the same time still like yourself, then slowly but surely your emotions will mature and your reactions will change, and a healthy trust in yourself, in your natural, spontaneous reactions, will follow. You will become more lenient with yourself and will no longer need perfection as the only basis for respect.” – Eva Pierrakos
15. Difficulties can be linked with personal defects:
“Although you really want to claim your goal, you still feel it is impossible. There is some wall that does not let you get through. This wall must never, under any circumstances, be disregarded or glossed over. You must never use pressure from your will to overcome the “no” of this wall. Such forcing will remove you further from your real self within and hence from the reality of the life where all good is available. Instead, you have to interpret the meaning of the wall. Translate it into clear words. Whether you doubt that you can have your goal or feel guilty about getting it, or have a sense of not deserving it, or are afraid of life’s demands when you do have it, these still do not add up to the final answer. The reservation within yourself must be linked with a character defect you have not really faced, nor do you wish to, because you do not want to abandon it.” – Eva Pierrakos
This theme of ideals and shoulds has been coming up a lot lately for me. I have been watching myself and I have noticed some things I didn’t know were there. Like immaturity, expectations of perfection from both myself and others and a desire to control reality.
You see, when things go well, it is easier not to entertain aspects of your lower self. Anybody can be generous when they live in abundance. But when you fail or fall or mess up, that is when the aspects of your lower self start to reveal themselves. That is when your fears start running amok. That is when you start noticing that your strength, happiness and sense of security stemmed not from within, but from external validations. You also notice that your value derived from the way you were perceived by others, from your high-paying job or from the image you had built. It takes failure to reveal those as illusions, which can be a blessing in disguise.
I’m not saying that everybody who lives in abundance has these things lurking underneath, they may very well have transcended these internal attitudes and have no attachment to their wealth or status. I’m saying that losing these things gives us the opportunity to learn where we place our sense of power outside of ourselves, where we unconsciously believe that our worth is dictated by our external circumstances. And it allows us to understand our erroneous assumptions about ourselves and the world.
I started writing this article because of a post I saw earlier on a Philosophy group on Facebook which reminded me of ideals and shoulds. It was a topic of discussion that was proposed by someone:
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Discuss.
I replied the following:
I think this is along the lines of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. It ties into being so blinded by what should be that we don’t see what is. Like forcing things to fit into our narrow definitions of perfection.
This is something I have been contemplating a lot lately. Ideals, shoulds, personal responsibility, stubbornness and immaturity. There is a link between them. Let me see if I can figure it out…
We hold ideals in our minds, abstractions like love and truth and equality and fairness and acceptance. We aspire towards them, we want both to receive them and to give them. But as long as we don’t link them with our personal experiences and see how they apply to ourselves, they become shoulds, images that make us guilty for not being there yet or rules to follow according to our interpretations of what those ideals are. And there is a big difference between love, for instance, and the way love can look like. Love can look like duty, self-sacrifice, accepting bad behavior or submitting to someone’s will. But it is not those things. Those things are erroneous interpretations we give to love.
An example that comes to mind to exemplify this is that when we think of inner peace, we may imagine a Buddhist monk, unshakable and unflinching in the face of the ups and downs of life. Being used to judge solely by results, we do not pause to wonder what sort of life experiences bring forth the lessons necessary to cause such a shift in perspective so that no matter what comes your way you can maintain your peace. Instead, we observe the attitude, the posture, the philosophy, the words , the mannerisms and we try to adopt them ourselves.
We may even understand it at an intellectual level, but what is not immediately apparent are the roots these ideas have grown in the minds of those who experienced what those ideals were or were not, the associations with painful and memorable moments, the trials and errors and the deep understanding they provide. We only see the surface and often it is the surface we try to imitate.
So what is the problem with this approach? Well, there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just that it does not deliver what we want. The fact is that we build mental images of how peace is supposed to look like and instead of honoring our own experiences by accepting them as messengers of who we are or “where” we are with our progress or what we want and need, we resist our experiences in order to make them fit the mental projections of who we think we should be. We say NO to our own selves and that reflects into us saying NO to the world. We deny reality because it doesn’t match our high expectations for who we’re supposed to be. And we miss important revelations that would otherwise come to us if we accepted what is and if we observed it impartially, like a scientist curious about the result of his latest experiment.
The stubbornness comes in because we tend to cling on to our shoulds and enforce them, which is a sign of immaturity. We want to be loved a certain way, we want to be taken care of a certain way and we want people to accept us unconditionally. We demand a kind of perfection that even we are not capable of offering. And we punish people for not being able to provide us with what we think we need, sometimes even through hurting ourselves. A lot of this happens unconsciously, because we have distorted notions of what love is or what acceptance is. Whereas, if we were honest with ourselves and didn’t try to force reality to bend to our will, we could make decisions that empowered us, decisions that acknowledged the truth of the situation we found ourselves in.
And that is where self-responsibility can help us. Self-responsibility is the affirmation that whatever we experience is our responsibility. Self-responsibility does not let us point fingers and instead places the focus back on us. It asks the question “given this experience, what can YOU do about it if you had to accept that you cannot change it?” It’s like taking all the build up of tension and directing it on a positive channel, one that reminds you of your power.
You see, when you go through difficult situations the child within comes to the surface, seeking to be taken care of. If she does not get what she wants when she asks for it, there are other ways to go about it. Temper tantrums, manipulation, punishment, helplessness, all sort of attitudes and behaviors that she thinks will work. All to get the love that she thinks she needs, or rather her interpretation of what that love is. These attitudes are most often subtle and unconscious and they can be destructive if not made conscious.
“Self‑will is too bent upon its own insistence that it is unwilling to accept present reality. It wishes to be already in a different state of consciousness; it wants to be better than it is now. But it fails to accomplish this goal because it is impossible to grow out of something one is too self‑willed to admit. Self‑will makes one rigid, and rigidity is contrary to the flow of life movement. Self‑will says, “I do not accept the reality as it is now, it must be now as I insist it is.” This makes truthful admission impossible.”
– Eva Pierrakos, The Pathwork Lectures
I know this from my own experiences. I unconsciously hurt myself to make the people around me feel guilty about not loving me the way I stubbornly demanded. I refused to take responsibility and I blamed others for what I was going through. The thought process went like ‘If only they accepted all of my demands, then that would mean they loved me and I could succeed in my endeavors because they accepted me the way I was.’
I linked love with people bending to my will. And I learned that I had a lot of distorted notions of what love meant. I didn’t know I had this within me. I think that ideals are important, they are the expression of the highest values there are. They are aspects of divinity. But our understanding of them is limited and that is why we must hold them loosely in our minds, open to learn what they really are.
I can understand now why Jordan Peterson insists so much on the idea of self-responsibility. Life will likely knock you down at some point and when it does, all these things that you didn’t know you had in you will come to the surface. If you go into it with a mindset that the world is responsible for your problems, you will not know that you have the power to get yourself out of that situation and you might instead fight the situation you are in.
There is a quote that says “with great power comes great responsibility”. I find that the reverse is true as well: “with great responsibility comes great power.” The moment we take responsibility for everything we experience is the moment we take our power back from wherever we have scattered it. And then we can really change.
Another thing that seems to affect clarity of thought is losing sight of the things we want and need. Sometimes we tend to get so absorbed by what other people want and need or we get so concerned about what the right thing to do is in a situation that we forget about what interests us. This often leads to self-sabotage, self-sacrifice, overthinking and frustration and it ends up being confusing not only to ourselves but also to those around us. It’s difficult for people to know how to react when we aren’t consistent in our behavior and when our intentions are unclear. But bringing awareness to this fact and understanding the importance of keeping in touch with the things we want and need can help us make better decisions and express ourselves better.
I started writing this article because of something that happened recently. I was selling a dress on the Romanian equivalent of ebay and someone wrote to me about a week ago that they wanted to buy it, let’s call this person Person A. When I asked them about how we were going to do the shipping, Person A seemed unsure about how to proceed next. A couple of times they said they’d think about it and get back to me and they didn’t seem sure about the whole thing. In the meantime I got a message from somebody else, Person B, who was sure they wanted to buy my item. I decided to ask Person A if they wanted to reserve the dress, yet when I saw that I didn’t get an answer the next day, I agreed to sell it to Person B. Soon after this happened, I got an answer from Person A that they agreed to reserve my item. I had to tell them I had already sold it. *Long sigh* Right here I started wondering…. did I do the right thing? What is the right thing to do here? Yet I found that a more important question was… ‘how did this happen?’
I found the answer to be threefold:
- I rush things. I want to find a resolution too soon.
- I forget about what I want.
- I am not transparent with people. I keep too much to myself.
The first was clear, since I didn’t even wait 24h to get an answer back. I felt pressured by having to answer to Person B person in reasonable time, a pressure I conjured up myself that was completely unnecessary.
The second manifested as me not considering what I wanted to do. The first person lived in the same city as I did, a bit on the outskirts. I wanted to meet so that I could give the dress personally, but they seemed unsure about when and where they were going to do that. Person B was from another city and I had to use a paid shipping method to send the dress to them, so clearly I would have preferred the first option. However, I didn’t give much weight to this fact, since I was too worried about what the right thing to do was.
The third thing manifested as me not telling Person B that I had a prior engagement and that they had to wait for a confirmation. Many times it is important to be transparent about the situation you are in. People can be more understanding than you’d expect.
Edit: What happened in the end was that Person B postponed the transaction until it just didn’t happen so in the end I didn’t sell my dress.
The state of confusion we find ourselves in can be like sending mixed signals to the world and the world does not know how to respond to that. If you don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it, then the world doesn’t know what to give you. It’s like a dance between two partners who don’t know how to synchronize their movements, because neither is clear about what steps they want to take. Even though you may aim for an artistic choreography and conscious intelligent movement, what can result instead is awkward stumbling because of uncertain intentions. It’s like not seeing how puzzle pieces match or like the Yin and the Yang disengaged from each other, not acting in unison, but as separate, independent forces.
So… it is good to ask sometimes… what do I want? And then tell the world about it. Or show the world, or live it. Your intentions, wants and needs are your own magnetic field, the more they concentrate in your words and actions, the easier it is to be recognized by others who live the same things or on the contrary, by those who don’t. Expressing who you are is like electrifying your field which can stir that which resonates with it.
I recently signed up for a course in Scriptwriting. The guy teaching the course said something that made an impression on me. He said that in a movie we want as a protagonist someone who wants something ardently, someone who is driven, because that is what is interesting to watch. He said that nobody wants to watch a passive main character and that the audience is engaged with the story when the main character wants something really badly and perseveres in getting it throughout the story. That made an impact on me and it made me feel a bit ashamed because most of the things I want are too abstract and undefined to give me an idea of what direction I’m going in.
But I believe that in clarifying the things we want, in defining our purposes, even if at first they take the form of small goals like cleaning the kitchen or getting a haircut, that can build a momentum of intention which can in turn become the vehicle through which we make bigger positive changes in our lives. I find that making lists helps and journaling helps and setting short term and long term goals helps also. But the most important part is – just like the scriptwriting instructor said – perseverance, the capacity to keep moving forward in spite of the difficulties we encounter (most often through our self-defeating attitudes) and find a way to do that which matters to us.
At first we may be uncertain about the things we are pursuing or that we want to pursue, but we can recognize within us the desire to fulfill a certain mission, to dedicate ourselves to a certain endeavor, even if it may be subtle in the beginning. This recognition, as faint as it may be, can become the foundation on which we build our visions. We may not have a clear outline of the things we want to do, but as long as we are willing to overcome all the obstacles that we find within ourselves which prevent us from manifesting our potentials, as long as we take responsibility and stop finding excuses about why we are not succeeding, we may just have the chance to bring our visions to reality.
“We are not a helpless victim of our circumstances. We all have within us the power to make that to which we are committed happen.
When we have circumstantial reasons why we could not keep our commitment, usually it is because our commitment was not authentic.
We manifest our commitment if it is authentic. Therefore, when we want to know what a person is truly committed to, what we need to do is to look at his/her action and result, not what he/she says.
Inauthentic commitment comes from your mind, your socially conditioned mind. Living your life with the pretense of inauthentic commitment is a form of deception and irresponsibility.
Your conditioned mind thinks that you should be committed to something worthy or good to prove your self-worth. The idea of doing something great or participating in some good cause makes you feel worthy and therefore you think that you should do it.
Nothing that is intended to make you feel worthy or good is ever a genuine commitment coming from your heart and soul. True commitment has nothing to do with proving your worth, greatness, goodness, or virtue.
Authentic commitment is the creative expression of who you are—i.e., your authentic self. When you are truly committed, you will never try to prove how worthy, good, or great you are but will be moved from within to creatively express your soul’s passion and your heart’s love.”
Now, I intended to end this article right there but then I went to the second lesson of the Scriptwriting course where I learned another important principle that I want to share. We had been assigned a homework of writing five movies ideas and sending them to our instructor via email. The ideas had to be written a specific way, each had to be one phrase that would contain three important pieces of information: who the protagonist was, what his problem was (the conflict) and a hint to a potential solution. The instructor went through all of our ideas during class and offered important criticism to each one of us about the way we phrased our premises, since he said that most movies fail from the premise stage. Then he said something that, again, made an impact on me. He said that the main character has to have a GOOD REASON to do something. He said that the objective of the main character must come after a major problem and that a character cannot just do something without a GOOD REASON. The audience wouldn’t be as engaged in the story.
That made perfect sense and I love a good idea that has many ramifications. I reflected upon it and I realized that the motivations for doing something, the reason for initiating any action – and I mean in real life – frames the way we will relate to that experience once it happens. It’s like that experiment with the selective attention test where two groups of people wearing different colored T-shirts pass the ball to each other and you have to count how many times the team in white passed the ball, but then at the end of the video you are asked “did you see the gorilla?” and you didn’t because you weren’t actively seeking for it.
So… if you don’t know your reasons, then where will your focus be? I often find myself distracted in situations where I don’t know my reasons for being there or where my reasons are too abstract and I start placing my attention on my fears, which isn’t very productive. It’s good to give the mind something to focus on, like letting your kids play on the PlayStation because you have some important work to attend to. It’s like, OK, amuse yourself with this just for a bit, while I deal with this other thing. Or maybe more like, OK brain, I’ll gather the information, but you organize it and link it with our whys.
“We live within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better. If we did not see things this way, we would not act at all. We wouldn’t even be able to see, because to see we must focus, and to focus we must pick one thing above all else on which to focus.”
– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life
Lastly, this Pathwork Lecture (No. 74) explains hazy motivations and how to dissolve them:
“All suffering comes from ignorance, from lack of wanting to face the truth. Therefore, those who honestly do this work must ultimately, in one way or another, affect those who are still submerged in unawareness about themselves and also about their relationship to the entire universe. Those of you who walk this path so courageously should know that all of us in the spirit world thank you for your efforts, not only on our behalf, but on behalf of all other beings.
And now, my friends, I should like to say a few words which may prove helpful for those of you who struggle and try, but always encounter new difficulties within themselves. These words may help you to overcome them and give you a clearer overall view. Such clarification is often necessary at certain stages of your path.
One of the most important things in the course of this work is to recognize when you are confused about a particular subject. Perhaps a confusion exists in you and you do not even know about what. I can see a great need for elaborating on this subject.
You know from our previous talks that any inner problem, in one way or another, manifests as an outer problem sooner or later. The outer problem is the result of the inner one and, at the same time, it can become the tool with which to correct the wrong attitudes which create both the inner and the outer problem. When outer manifestations occur that make you feel disharmonious, unpleasant, anxious or angry, you often forget that there is some confusion in you. You do not know exactly what the confusion is or what is incorrect in your conscious or unconscious thinking.
I cannot emphasize too strongly that you need first to find out exactly what the confusion is. Whenever something bothers you, be it merely a mood, an unpleasant inner reaction, or an actual outer happening apparently caused by other people, try to find out how you are confused; how your thoughts are muddled; how you are not clear about an idea, a supposedly right reaction, about a principle of general conduct. Ascertain if there is a contradiction of right principles. Put this confusion down concisely, in writing: “I am confused because I do not know…” whatever it may be. Break it down into several questions. The more concise your questions are, the more aware you will become of exactly what your confusion is.
Writing contributes most constructively toward eliminating the confusion, even long before you are able to find the exact answers to your questions. If you then pray for the answers and work with the questions — at the same time checking your inner resistance to receiving the answers — you will make great advances and prepare for most important new insights that will give you new freedom. My friends, never forget the importance of becoming aware of your questions concerning a particular complexity, problem, or confusion. The moment you have the concise question clearly crystallized, you will already feel relief. You will have smoothed the way toward complete clarification.
You who have progressed a little on this path should now stop for a moment and turn around to get an overall view, just as the climber occasionally does when making an ascent. While going forward, your glance is directed toward a particular or partial goal on the way. In doing so, you may forget the distance already covered, the obstacles surmounted, and lose the encompassing view of the whole picture. It is very useful to turn around occasionally and make an overall survey of the terrain.
I say this now with a particular aim. Once again you should investigate what your main problems in life are, but with a more comprehensive view. Write the problems down concisely, describing in clear-cut words whatever area of your life they may deal with. With your findings so far, you may now be in a better position than when you started on the path to determine that wherever your aim is confused and your life-goal muddled with mixed motivations, is where you will find the troublesome area of your life. This recognition will do much to help you further.
The deep-rooted emotional reactions brought to light always show the child operating in you. And that child is self-centered and ignorant. Out of this self-centeredness and ignorance selfish motives arise, unconsciously or sometimes even half-consciously. You are unclear as to what you want in life, or in a particular area of your life. You drift, and all goals are in a fog of confusion and unawareness. Even genuinely unselfish motives are not expressed clearly in your thinking. Whenever or wherever such a condition exists, you are bound to have difficulties, unfulfillment and frustration. The difficulties may either be outer obstacles, or if outer obstacles are not yet on the horizon, you may inwardly feel ill at ease, guilty, tense, full of anxiety or impatience. In other words, even if for the time being things go well outwardly, your inner peace is lacking in this area of your life.
Whenever such condition exists, your motives must be mixed with unconscious selfish motives that produce the negative result. Survey your life once again. See exactly where you have either manifest problems, or inner feelings of anxiety or disharmony. Then check out what your motives really are. Look behind the apparent positive outer appearances. Use your findings, your images and wrong conclusions. Try to crystallize out of them any negative or confused motives and apply them to the trouble area. Or determine if you perhaps have drifted into a certain course without even knowing whether you wanted this particular goal or why you wanted it. Such indetermination is often more damaging than clear-cut negative motives and may apply to any area of life, like professional fulfillment, marriage, or friendship. Indetermination may create tension and conflict in a particular personal relationship.
Check your real motivations behind the conscious ones. Check whether or not you have a clear-cut aim. Check your reason for living. What is your purpose in life? What do you want it to be, apart from developing yourself to the best of your ability? Then see what you really want. Why do you want it? Beware of the error that one motivation necessarily excludes another. You know this is not so. Try to be honest with yourself, in this respect as well as in any other. The relief and the reward you will get from honest answers to your own questions will be tremendous, regardless how negative the answers may prove to be.
One of the most outstanding features of such a procedure will be that the moment you recognize your lack of clear-cut motivations, or the presence of destructive ones, you will see the law of cause and effect operating in your own life. You will thereby instantly lose the feeling of injustice, which may be conscious in some people but is perhaps unconscious in most. When we discussed the general fear of life, fear of the unknown, you learned that it is always the distorted God-image which is responsible for that fear. You may unconsciously fear that there is an arbitrary god who metes out punishment and reward according to his whim. And even if you do not actually believe in such a god, that is your concept of life and your role in it. If you regard yourself as lost, helpless, a prey to circumstances beyond your control, you grasp for “chance” and “luck.” You feel like a lost little boat on a big ocean. Sometimes the waters are wild and the waves carry you against the current, meaning that life produces unhappiness, and sometimes the waves may be smooth and carry you into “lucky circumstances.” You say, “There is nothing I can do about either.” This is a deep-rooted feeling in almost everyone, and it is of utmost importance to make such concepts of life conscious. Some of you have succeeded in doing so, but you do not as yet see the way out. You may say, “All right, and what now?”
You will find the answer by recognizing your hazy or mixed goals that are responsible for whatever it is you lack. This particular confusion and lack of motivation is directly responsible for unfulfillment or lack of success, if you want to call it that. If you then realize that it is you who have caused it, and not a chaotic universe or God, you will automatically lose some of your fear and insecurity. You will know that you are capable of producing favorable conditions, even if you are not yet doing so. You will at least see the road. You will start to think about clarifying your motives and establishing those that you really want, and not those in accord with what you believe you ought to want. Keep such established motivations conscious and clearly defined, working toward their goals. While you may not yet be able to shed the selfish motives, the very admission that they exist, the very honesty and clear vision about yourself will, on the one hand, release an entirely new inner force and energy, and, on the other, you will see your own responsibility for your fate. You will then cease being afraid of an unknown fate, whether your fears be conscious or unconscious.
My friends, it is very important for all of you to consider these questions at this point. What I said today may not be entirely new to those of you who have been following these teachings, but perhaps you will now understand my words in a different light and make better use of them. Now they will sink in deeper and enable you to work more constructively.”
– Eva Pierrakos, The Pathwork Lectures
We often find ourselves having to make difficult choices. But what makes them difficult? A part of us wants to choose something, yet another one wants to choose something else. What are these parts of us and why do they have different perspectives on what the right choice is? Why are we split in such a way that we are unable to act as a unified whole?
It is as though we can feel the pull of opposing forces, each having a strong claim and we tend to agree with both views, because both views have legitimacy. How are we able to carry these contradictory tendencies and how can we expect to find clarity without elucidating the motivations and reasons of each of these split personalities?
If these sub-personalities had a voice what would they say? What would they really say, if they were radically honest? If they didn’t hide behind good intentions, obligations and blame? If they took full responsibility for the way they feel?
I think they would sound much different than what they would appear initially. Many of our internal conflicts stem from the way we frame our problems, from the lack of willingness to take ownership for our problems and from not listening to our intuitive guidance. We often aren’t able to recognize our true motivations for the way we act, because we are blinded by ideas of how things are supposed to be, by what is expected of us and by unconscious fears.
Two of the things that guide our behaviors without us realizing are guilt and shame. We want to do something that would be good for us, yet that would mean letting people down. This conflict causes anxiety, because provoking negative emotions in another person creates the impression that we would be doing something bad. We would have to be bad to disappoint somebody like that, they counted on us for this. If we are used to taking on other people’s emotions, then we feel responsible for the way they feel. We forget that everybody is in charge of their own state of mind and we make it our mission to do whatever is in our power to keep other people’s approval. Then we start getting resentful and bitter because in essence we are shifting responsibilities, we take on the responsibility of other people’s emotions, yet we hold them accountable for our lack of happiness.
The thought behind it is something like ‘fine, I’ll do this to keep you happy, but just so you know, I hate it and you are responsible for making me do this.’ If we were honest about what was happening we would find feelings of obligation, duty, shame and guilt beneath this attitude. If they can be recognized as such, then we need not act on them, since we know that our actions do not stem from love, but from wounding. We would liberate ourselves from these feelings and we would liberate the other person as well from deriving strength/value/security from outside of themselves. They would no longer rely on our actions for those things which would give them the chance to empower themselves. When we take responsibility for the way we feel, we help other people to do the same.
“There’s such a thing as healthy shame. Such shame, which is directed at our behavior, catalyzes our conscience. In stark contrast, unhealthy shame, which is directed at our being, catalyzes our inner critic, which commonly masquerades as our conscience.”
– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Our Shadow Out Of The Dark
Sometimes it is difficult to identify these emotions because the mind can engage in rationalizations and justifications for the way we behave, thinking it is acting on good intentions. But there is a difference between doing something out of love and doing the same thing out of obligation. The former is done wholeheartedly, without any regrets or resistance while the latter needs plenty of convincing to do and plenty of assurances to be given in order to be done. The former feels right and fills you up with joy, while the latter is done in order to be congruent with your idea of what the right thing to do is.
For instance, I once had to decide whether I was going to go back to my old job. I was extremely confused about it and I didn’t know what to do. I spent a whole month trying to figure it out. I knew I needed money, since I was pretty much broke, yet I didn’t really want to do it anymore. In my mind I kept telling myself how I needed to be financially independent and how other people needed to know I was self-reliant and I found all sorts of reasons to justify to myself that going back was the right thing to do. But this didn’t last, because these lies had caused so much friction that I couldn’t take it any longer and I finally decided, in spite of all opposition, that I wasn’t going to go back regardless the consequences. Of course, being independent is important, it’s just that for me going back at that point would not have been a good decision since I needed to move forward.
Other times, I would continue to live up to other people’s expectations and always feel guilty when I wasn’t be able to live up to them. I would find myself feeling suffocated by obligation and I would feel guilty about not being able to do things out of love. The more I did them, the more my feelings grew into resentment and bitterness. And I found myself getting more and more drained and weakened by having to do those things that seemed like the right thing to do. But they weren’t, they were just the shoulds I had internalized to justify the fact that I was doing these things with good intentions.
Shame and guilt can take various disguises. Robert Augustus Masters identified in his book Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark three disguises that they can take: aggression, emotional disconnection and narcissism. Aggression can be elicited when we feel ashamed, yet we are unable to accept that part of ourselves that makes mistakes and so we try to control the world around us into not disturbing us with these perceptions of wrongdoing that we find so difficult to accept in ourselves. Emotional disconnection is another strategy we can employ when we feel shame. Our emotions can be so overwhelming that we cannot accept the things we have said and done and so we resort to emotional disconnection as a form of self-preservation. We unconsciously believe that numbing our shame can stop the pain, but all it does is anesthetize us to the richness of life. The third means of escape from shame is narcissism, where we inflate our sense of self to such a degree that we cannot accept any criticism. We don’t want to feel shame, we associate it with a feeling of being bad, of being annihilated and instead of accepting these feelings, we often try to hide beneath a mask of authority or competence or importance in order to discourage others from questioning us ever again.
“When I was eight or nine, I proudly brought home my report card. It was packed with As. I showed it to my father, and without looking at me he muttered something about “What the hell good is this when you can’t even screw in a bolt straight?” I slouched beneath the crushing shame I felt at hearing these words. I’d already learned that if I couldn’t master a skill, such as screwing in a bolt straight, right away, he wouldn’t give me a second chance. The lesson, which he drove into me over and over, was that being successful meant being competent in skills that he valued and being incompetent in such skills meant being rejected, hurt, blasted with shame. And the more shame I felt, the more I was pulled to be aggressive with others, especially with regard to besting them physically and academically. I had zero awareness of this connection between shame and aggression at the time, it was completely hidden in my shadow.”
– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark
When we act according to our internalized shoulds we only have two options: either we do what is expected of us and breed resentment or we don’t do those things and we feel guilty. That doesn’t seem like a fair choice, does it? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You are allowed to not want to do something without feeling guilty or ashamed. You are allowed to have your own boundaries. And you are allowed to say no to things that drain you. That doesn’t make you a bad person. You can use your creative energy to build the life that you want, the life that brings you joy. And you can choose to direct this energy on a channel that is free from resistance.
The problem with shoulds is that they do seem to have a strong claim on the way you behave and act. But the best indicator of it being the right thing to do for you is whether you can do those things with love, without complaining or blaming other people, if you can do it without any feeling of guilt and shame, obligation or duty, whether you can do it because you simply want to.
I once had a workmate whom the other coworkers regarded as strange. Not the kind of strange that you want to keep away from, but the kind of strange that is like daydreaming, partly immersed in his own reality, not caring too much to explain himself to the world. Like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. The guys were telling me that one time he was staring out the window for like 10 minutes and they were laughing about it, not so much in a mean way, but more like in a curious and endearing sort of way. I was both amused and intrigued by it. I think perhaps I would be that kind of strange too, if I weren’t so self conscious. But this made me think… what if some people are able to receive other types of information than those that are delivered by the 5 senses? What if they can access something else, which makes them behave in ways that appear to be irrational? What if there is another type of logic guiding their actions, which can seem random and meaningless to those that are not familiar with it? And what if many of us receive it too, but we don’t act upon it because we need evidence that it is worthy of being considered?
I believe that most of us have this capacity for sensing things that are outside of the 5 senses. This can manifest as a good or bad feeling about something, as an internal resistance or as a feeling of anxiety, giving us information that is not logical, but that still impacts us.
Part of it relates to the subconscious. The brain does much more than we are aware of, it organizes our experiences and makes all sorts of connections and associations that we may not be consciously aware of. Then, when it encounters things that remind it of those associations, it can bring forth the same feelings that were elicited by the initial experience. For instance, say we had a bad break up in a restaurant where an obscure song was playing at the time. After a while we may hear the same song without realizing we’ve heard it before and start feeling sad or angry because of the connection our brain makes with the unpleasant past experience. Or even more, say we’ve been fooled by someone to get into a bad deal which made us lose money. Later on we may meet someone that we are cautious about or that we dislike instantly without knowing why. Perhaps this person has some of those same traits as the person that tricked us and our subconscious is able to recognize them without us being consciously aware of it. Ignoring these feelings because they seem irrational can lead us to repeat past mistakes.
The second more important part relates to intuition. Everything looks nice and perfect yet something about it feels off. The conditions are great, it has everything you want and need and yet you can’t help feeling that something is wrong. Intuition is the ability to feel the truth of a situation without a factual basis for supporting that impression. It does not originate from thinking, though it can manifest as thought and it appears to be irrational. It is like an intervention in what appears to be the logical and predictable course of events. Intuition is a fragment of knowledge delivered to you as an impression or as a feeling. Sometimes it can manifest as a mental image, as a song that suddenly pops in your head or as a line from a movie that seems to be relevant to your situation. Of course, there are all sorts of influences we are subjected to and it takes a lot of discernment to distinguish between true intuition and conditioned responses, but through experience and a commitment to self-observation and reflection, we can learn to differentiate between the two.
This learning may come through difficult experiences, where we explore through trial and error the way our intuition works. It is true that some people are more attuned to their inner guidance and they are able to flow with the necessities of each moment, but usually in the beginning we may strongly feel the pull of our conditioned behaviors preventing us from connecting with our intuition. Our minds may go crazy with overthinking things, trying to gain control, trying to analyze all aspects of the situation and attempting to remove all uncertainties from the equation. We may confuse ourselves with projecting into the future, worrying about the consequences of our actions and fearing to listen to that inner voice because of how it might impact those around us. And we do this because we don’t want to act in irrational ways, we want to be able to justify our behaviors, we want to be able to put forward the facts and we are afraid to count on our subtle impressions to make important decisions.
Depending on the importance of each decision, our intuition can be strong, or it can be subtle. Whereas subtle intuition can be easier to miss, strong intuition can be pretty blatant. For me it can manifests as pain or unpleasant sensations in my solar plexus, a feeling that something bad is going to happen, an unwillingness to move forward with that decision, crying, feeling like I’m forcing myself to do something I don’t want to, mechanical preparations for that decision that I know I don’t want to do, numbness and depression and a weakening of my immune system, getting sick. Of course, this is an intuition for negative potentials, but intuition can also manifest on the positive side. It manifests in quite the opposite way, it can make you feel excited and joyful, it can fill you up with good emotions and it just feels right. When you act on the positive intuition you feel relieved, determined and clearheaded as opposed to acting on the intuition of a negative potential where you feel unsettled and confused.
“I found that going against heart/intuition and then doing something out of obligation despite screaming on the inside, that can have damaging effects on one’s spirit or spiritual connection, similar to throwing a car in reverse while going forward can damage the transmission.”
– Tom Montalk
Caroline Myss wrote in her amazing book Anatomy of the Spirit about how we can develop what is called a symbolic sight in relation to the world around us. This means that the external world is regarded as a reflection of the internal world, and so we can develop the ability to read the symbols of our daily existence and derive meaning from them, which can help us understand ourselves better. The symbols may take literal forms like that one time I saw an image in a Facebook post with a sign that said WRONG WAY as I was contemplating doing something stupid, more specifically going somewhere. Other times it may take the form of a song that pops in your head, like when Billie Joel’s Vienna kept playing in my mind with the lyrics “slow down, you crazy child, you’re too ambitious for a juvenile” when I was desperate about finding a way out of a situation that I felt afraid to be in. The guidance is not meant to tell you what to do, it is meant to make you reflect on what you are doing and question your reasons so that you may develop a wider perspective on what is happening and make better decisions that don’t stem from fear.
Not all guidance, however, is of a positive nature and this is where we need to train our discernment. We may find that the miracle solution to our problems that seemed too good to be true wasn’t that miraculous after all and that it created other bigger problems. Or we may find ourselves feeling discouraged from pursuing a course of action that would be beneficial because someone said something that seemed tailor made for our fears. In his brilliant article Battle of Opposites, Tom Montalk of montalk.net reflected upon how we can discern between positive and negative influences. In it he divided the various types of influences we can receive into 8 categories, based on where the influence originates from (internal or external), the nature or polarity of the influence (positive or negative) and the response it can elicit from us (resistance or encouragement). These categories help differentiate between the signs of true intuition and positive guidance which appeal to our higher nature and those of misguiding forces which appeal to our lower nature. I thoroughly recommend reading it. You can find it here.
Intuition asks you to have faith and not seek answers too soon. The answers come after you make the decision. What you can do is reflect upon your motivations, intentions and aspirations, seeing whether they stem from conditioned responses or genuine interest. If you are too adamant to act only on the basis of logical deductions, while at the same time ignoring the way you feel, the unsettling feelings will persist. Intuition is linked to the things you want and need at a deeper level and it can contradict that which you believe you should do. It stands solemnly as the truth that you avoid to see because you confuse yourself too much with ideas of duty, acts of desperation, misguided impressions of what the right thing to do is and feelings of guilt and shame. It confronts you with the reasons for which you act the way you do, it compels you to question yourself and understand yourself better and it encourages you to trust the way you feel as opposed to the way you think should feel.
I strongly believe that ignoring intuition clouds the judgement and disconnects us from our needs and wants, from our sense of self. I believe that confusion primarily arises from this state of disconnection. Our intuitive guidance exerts a pull that we can attune to and it is always guiding us towards a fuller expression of who we are if we only let go of our need to be in control of how the process unfolds.
Back when I worked as a programmer my favorite tasks involved cleaning up code. I liked removing redundancies, organizing functions for better accessibility and simplifying things for better clarity. I think this preference of mine originated from my need for being more organized in real life.
While being messy can be a sign of a creative mind, it can also be a cause for anxiety, confusion and lack of inspiration. After all, the environment we live in is a reflection of who we are, influencing us as much as we influence it. Our inner state manifests in the way we live and its effects become causes for our state of mind and being. Our habits therefore, tend to create feedback loops of experience and the environments we live in become like extensions of who we are, reflecting back to us our personalities, emotional states and habits of thinking. Living in an environment that is nurturing, safe, clean, bright and organized can help improve our state of being because when the environment is not a distraction, then we have the external conditions for being able to think clearly.
I have often felt after difficult experiences the need to clean my room. I didn’t question this need, I just knew that I had to put everything in order, I needed to put myself together and I had to start somewhere. Cleaning your room is the easiest and quickest form of improving yourself, because it’s a clear, practical thing you can do. You want to clean up, because you want to be able to think clearly, you want to be able to see how things really are and from that space, you want to be able to make better decisions.
But we don’t always know how to clean up and organize, how to remove clutter and improve our homes. I have tried numerous times to find the best way to set up my environment so that I would enjoy it, yet it always seemed to end up messy and disorganized, which made me feel really anxious. It got so bad, that I had to remove a piece of furniture from my room, and ended up creating clutter in another room. I just couldn’t bear it in there any longer.
Just about the time this was happening, the Universe brought to my attention the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In it I found the answers to why I couldn’t keep my environment clean and organized. And it has helped me tremendously, not only in cleaning up, but also in understanding myself better.
Marie Kondo created a cleaning up method called KonMari that has had great success in not only creating order in the environments it is applied, but also maintaining order indefinitely. There are two main rules that need to be followed:
- Keep only those objects that give you joy
- Have a designated place for every object you have
This is all you need to keep your place as organized as you want it, because if you only have objects that give you joy, then you will feel good in your environment and if you have a place for each and every object, then you know where to put it back after you use it. The most common reason for untidiness, after all, is misplacing objects.
Moreover, the KonMari method provides a great way to declutter and to organize objects too. It says that the best way to declutter is by category. First you start with books, then with clothes, then papers, then miscellaneous objects, and finally objects to which you have an emotional attachment. The way you go about it is to collect all objects in the same category on the floor and go through each of them, touching them and asking yourself if they really bring you joy, keeping only those for which the answer is yes. Then, you thank the objects that you want to give away or throw out for having served you, and then you release them.
When you are done decluttering, all that remains is for you to find a place for each and every object and the best way to do it is again by category. After you do this you will feel much better, as you will be surrounded only by objects that bring you joy and you will know where each object goes, so that your environment doesn’t end up in chaos anymore.
One very important thing I started noticing when I decluttered was that many books I had bought I didn’t buy for good reasons, many clothes I had I didn’t like to wear and many things I had, I never used. For instance, some books I had bought because I liked someone who was interested in those topics. Others I had bought because I was too ambitious about learning things that I wasn’t that interested in. And others no longer represented me. The same with clothes, some I had bought from second hand and I realized I just didn’t like to wear second hand clothes because I am sensitive to other people’s energy, other clothes I had bought because I had created a false image about myself and they didn’t really suit me. And others were just colorful and I like color, but they were too flashy to be worn.
I realized that more than half the things I owned I no longer identified with. The biggest realization I had was that I didn’t really like music production. I liked the outcome of it, psybient music, but I didn’t like the process of creating it. I got angry and frustrated when I tried making music and I just didn’t find peace or joy doing it. I had bought a Korg Minilogue synthesizer, understood its functions, connected it with my computer, and just when I got to the first bigger obstacle, I realized I didn’t really like to do it. I had spent a lot of 2018 learning about music production, bought an audio interface and a professioal microphone, took lessons on Udemy on piano and music production, bought a Korg Volca Beats drum machine and a Yamaha Reface CS that I sold because I felt I was limited by them, bought the Korg Minilogue, only to find after almost a year, that I didn’t really enjoy it that much.
That is the power of cleaning up and decluttering. You start seeing the ways in which you have fooled yourself about your identity. You start to understand what you really like and dislike, who you are and what you want to appear like to the outside world. You start to see yourself clearer and it puts you in touch with your wants and needs. Thus, decluttering really helps to relieve the state of confusion you may find yourself in. It creates the space needed for self-observation. That’s why that Jordan Peterson meme about cleaning your room is so powerful. You need to sort yourself out before you can impact the world in a meaningful manner that is based on true understanding.
When you create this space you may start seeing the things in your life that are good or bad for you. You may find the cause of your anxiety, you may realize that certain activities don’t bring you joy, that certain things no longer work for you anymore or that you are no longer willing to accept certain behaviors in other people. What starts out as minor decisions on your home environment, can turn into radical changes in your life.
There is also an esoteric perspective on cleaning up. Clutter and uncleanliness is a magnet for negative energies. I experienced this first hand. When I decluttered I didn’t want to throw things away because I had a lot of books and clothes in new condition that I could sell or give away. So I put them in bags and deposited them in another room. There were like 8 to 10 bags of stuff. Then, after a while, when I decided to sell them on the Romanian equivalent of ebay, I had to unpack them and that is when I started feeling sick, like needing to purge. It’s as if I had bothered the stale energies that had settled there and they started to run amok.
Light is also very important for your state of mind, not only from a biological and psychological perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective. The Sun is after all the life giver and it heals the aura. We need natural sunlight for our well-being and a room that is well lit really helps improve your state.
Fresh air is another thing that helps with anxiety. During a time when I had trouble sleeping, I would leave the window open over the night. The air needs to be renewed and even 5 minutes of fresh air/day can improve the quality of your experience at home.
Lastly, I will leave you with a fragment of a lecture by Jordan Peterson that perfectly illustrates the idea that the environments we live in are an extension of who we are.
“Jung said first of all you unite your mind with your emotions so that makes one thing instead of two fighting things. That’s a good one! And then the next conjunction he talked about was that it isn’t enough to unite your mind and your emotions and he thought about that as a male-female pairing symbolically. That’s how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. So you take the masculine element and the feminine element, the thinking and the emotion, unite those and that makes you more like one thing. Ok, now all of a sudden that’s represented as symbolically male, that one thing. And it unites with something else that is now represented symbolically female, that’s the body. So you take the mind-emotion integration and integrate that with your body. So what does that mean? You act it out instead of just thinking!
So there’s this philosophical idea called a… now I’m gonna forget what it’s called, it’s a contradiction in action, there’s actually a technical term for it but that’s when you think and believe something but you don’t act it out. And so that means there’s a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. Well, that’s another form of discontinuity that isn’t doing you any good! You know, the driver’s going one way and the car is going the other and you won’t even be able to understand yourself if you do that. But even more, you’re not putting your principles into practice so your being is dissociated. So once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistently. So that was the second conjunction as far as Jung was concerned.
And then the third one was – this is the tough one and this is the one that is related to phenomenology – you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. That’s a tough one. So imagine you’re dealing with someone who is hoarding. People who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder. But then you walk into their house and there’s like 10000 things into their house. There’s maybe 100 boxes and you open up a box and in the box there’s some pens and some old passports and some checks and their collection of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and you know, a dead mouse. And there’s boxes and boxes and boxes, it’s like that in the house, it’s absolute chaos in there, absolute chaos, not order. Chaos! And then you think ‘is that their house, or is that their being, is that their mind?’ and the answer is there’s no difference. There’s no difference! So you know, I can say if you want to organize your psyche you could start by organizing your room, if that would be easier, because maybe you’re more a concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So you go clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk and you think well, just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you organizing your field of being like your field of total experience? And Jung believed – and I think there’s a Buddhist doctrine that’s sort of nested in there – that at the highest level of psychological integration there’s no difference between you and what you experience.
Now you think, well, I can’t control everything I experience but that’s no objection because you can’t control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you can’t extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself. So let’s say you have a long standing feud with your brother. Well, is that a psychological problem, is that him, is it a problem in the objective world or is that a problem in your field of being? And it’s very useful to think that way because you might ask what could you do to improve yourself? Well, let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be ‘why should you even bother improving yourself?’ and I think the answer to that is that so you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to and maybe so others don’t have to either. It’s something like that. There’s a real injunction at the bottom of it, it’s not some casual self-help doctrine.”