The Beliefs We Hold

The beliefs we hold limit the reality we experience.

Say one of our qualities is courage. But somewhere along the line we have an experience where we draw the conclusion that we must never make mistakes. The belief is not made conscious but it guides our behavior. Then, because of this belief, our innate quality of courage turns into its opposite: cowardice or a distortion of it, recklessness.

So you have courage radiating…
And then you place the filter of belief/fear in front of it.
And it comes out distorted and destructive.

The difficult part is that the belief is unconscious, which means we are not aware of it. But we can only recognize it through self observation. It’s like getting to know yourself by the effects.

And all this is only because of an idea in your unconscious!
Belief creating the reality you experience, bidirectionally. It limits what you can do and it limits what you perceive.

Amazing!

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On Coming Out of the Vicious Circle

“For quite a long while at the beginning of the path, it seems as though you are going around in circles, always encountering the same scenery, apparently not moving from the spot you started from. This would be discouraging if you didn’t know that it is an illusion. Actually, you are moving on, and the circle is what I call “the spiral.”  This is an inevitable experience on the path.

All your faults, errors, ignorances, and their complexities create one big vicious circle in your soul. This circle consists of individual faults which affect and interact with one another and cause a chain reaction. To break this vicious circle, you have to understand thoroughly the individual faults that constitute your vicious circle. You have to concentrate on one after the other so as to find the link of cause and effect within your circle. The whole circle cannot possibly be understood completely from having made the round only once. When you complete the first round, you start again. Each time you start again, you gain a slightly profounder understanding of the various highlights and individual points in the circle until eventually you see the whole circle in your mind and understand the interdependence of all your negative qualities. Then you will cease to experience your faults as unconnected. Until you reach this perspective, you have to repeat the round often. At the beginning this seems to you like senseless repetition, lacking in progress. It is not!  Without going through this most important part on the path you cannot become free and reach the light. Thus the circle becomes a spiral leading upward very gradually.

Some of you may think you know your faults already. This will be so only to the extent you have been active on the path. You may know some of your faults, but others you have not yet discovered. As I have said before, there is a vast difference between knowing and knowing. To what depth do you know?  How much can you connect your faults with your good qualities?  And your faults with each other?  Can you really grasp and understand your fears, insecurities, and complexes from the point of view of your faults in relation to their deviation from the divine laws?  Until you reach such understanding, you must go around and around in your particular vicious circle.

By now you know that all faults come from pride, self-will, and fear. It is essential that you see and feel how each and every one of your faults derives from one or all of these three basic faults. Find the common denominator. This is not easy if you are to understand it emotionally. For that you have to go through the faults and their connections step by step, again and again; you have to follow the vicious circle through until you grasp it well enough so that you can break it at one point. Every time you conclude one round and start the next, you follow an upward-winding spiral. At the beginning the upward slant is so slight that you do not even notice it. But later on, you will clearly feel that every time you start anew, you have gained a profounder insight into your problems, and you will not be discouraged anymore by an apparent standstill.

At the very beginning you do not know or feel that there is such a vicious circle in you. You experience such confusion that you do not even know where to begin. Although you know some of your faults and all of your outer problems, you cannot as yet connect the one with the other. That is the most difficult part at the beginning. Everything within yourself is still disorganized. You do not know where to begin, what to hold on to. The moment you focus your attention on one complexity or problem, other things come up that apparently have no connection, and you become confused. Only self-discipline and perseverance will get you to the point when you finally can see the whole picture of the vicious circle, how one defect is caused by another in a chain reaction. When you get to the point of clarity, you are moving into a major phase. You must not get discouraged when at first the disorganization is so great that you do not know where or how to start. After a while everything will no longer be running like sand through your fingers. You will have something definite to hold on to, a clear picture of this cycle.

The vicious circle consists of a multiplicity of character defects which, at various points, will draw together and show you major problems that can be looked at and worked with. When you progress further, you will find one major point that is the key to your entire personality and to all your problems. You must find that key yourself, and you must do it through your own labor. To tell it to you would not do you any good.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Prayer, Pathwork Lecture #36

Conflict and Misperceptions

The difficulties/challenges/conflicts we experience occur most often due to misperceptions. It may seem on the surface level that the external trigger is responsible for our emotional response, yet on a closer examination we will find that there was actually something within us – some pre-existing fear, some pre-existing pain – that responded to the trigger. If we go even further with our examination we will find that behind the fear and behind the pain there are false assumptions, misperceptions.

Many if not most of these misperceptions originate from childhood experiences when our concept of reality was narrow and so we drew wrong conclusions about our painful experiences. These wrong conclusions can look like:

  • If I disagree with people, they will withdraw their love from me

Or…

  • I need to defend myself or else people will take from me what I don’t want to give

Or…

  • I have to always be in control, otherwise I am not safe

We often carry these beliefs and attitudes with us into adulthood without realizing, that is unless we are confronted with situations that bring them to the surface. Intellectually we may know that these are not true, yet the emotions have a reality of their own. It is the emotions that need to learn the new reality.

If we use the trigger as an opportunity to look within ourselves, we can trace the emotions back to when they were initially brought up. And by understanding the context in which our coping mechanisms were adopted, we can understand their unreality in our current circumstances. We can understand that they seemed appropriate at the time and that they were based on a false interpretation of reality.

It can be difficult to unearth these attitudes and feelings as they hide in our unconscious. And being aware of them can be challenging too. Yet once they are seen and felt, it is as though you step into a new reality, as though a heaviness is lifted from your shoulders.

And that is so worth it.

On Trust and Responsibility

A couple of days ago I woke up with the thought: “It’s about knowing what you are responsible for.”

This came as a response to a feeling of self doubt I’ve been experiencing lately.

Upon further reflection it started to dawn on me that there is a link between confidence/trust and responsibility. It goes as follows: what you take responsibility for is what you feel in control of, which gives you a feeling of confidence and trust. Doubt/fear, aside from lack of self knowledge, is due to refusal of responsibility, which results in anxiety because if you’re not responsible for your experience, then you have to be at the mercy of circumstance. Then the feelings you have must be due to somebody else’s actions, the decisions you make are because of somebody else’s expectations or because of an ideology you shift responsibility on and the environment you’re in hurts you because it is imperfect.

So I believe confidence arises as a shift from the perspective of being a victim of circumstance to that of being responsible for everything you experience, which allows you to go into any situation with a feeling of safety, of being in control.

And then you can take the reins of your being back from the hands of the external world… where you have placed it : )

There is no need to despair

If you find a negative trait or quality within you, do no despair, it’s only temporary. Through self-observation you can bring the underlying attitude to the surface and examine it. You can use your daily occurrences and interactions to note the reactions that arise within you. And then change arises by itself as a result of understanding (though it takes time).

If you try to force your emotions into how they should be, change won’t truly occur as this would be a superimposition, much like putting a band-aid over a gunshot wound.

Rather than blame, cover up, suppress or deny, it is much more useful to trace these emotions back to their origin, to see why they’re there, not as provoked from outside but as emerging from within (from a certain self-perception). Emotions are information about the inner reality and they don’t respond to shoulds. They are to be experienced just as they are, as dark as they may be.

It is my experience that stuck emotions (which often make us reactive) are often tangled up with false perceptions both of self and the world. We may intellectually know the truth of why we are experiencing certain difficulties, yet the emotions have a “perception” of their own, often causing an inner split. It is the “perception” of these emotions that needs to be made conscious.

[Habits of Confusion] 7. Choosing out of Negative Motivations

“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

More here:
https://pathwork.org/lectures/finding-true-abundance-by-going-through-your-fear/

[Habits of Confusion] 6. Shoulds

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.