The Link Between Freedom and Self-Responsibility

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“When you cannot let go of your self-will [stubbornness to have things your way], which may not necessarily mean that you want something bad or harmful, or when you cannot accept the imperfection of this world, which means that you cannot have life and people be according to your very own way, even though yours may be the right way, it seems to you that you have fallen into an abyss. You may never have translated these feelings into such terms. But, if you analyze your feelings, you will see that this is so. There is a strong fear in you that whatever happens contrary to your will means danger. Needless to say, this does not apply to every situation, to your entire personality, or to every area of your life.

By working in this direction and examining your emotional reactions to certain incidents, you will become aware of the abyss of illusion in you. I ask you not to take my word for it. Experience the truth of it!

This abyss varies in depth and in width. Only by becoming aware of its existence and gradually discovering its unreality will this form dissolve, little by little. This can happen only if, at one time or another, you give yourself up to it. In other words, what seems so hard to yield to, what seems like a personal threat, is really no threat at all. If someone else does not accept you, or acts contrary to your expectation, this in itself is not a threat. Neither is it a disaster if you have to accept your own inadequacy. Yet you cannot find out that this is so unless you go right through the experience. Only after accepting your own or the other’s inadequacy in the areas where heretofore you could hardly do so, only after giving up your own will where you hung onto it as though your life were at stake, will you be able to truly convince yourself that nothing adverse happens to you. As long as this abyss exists in your soul, it seems to you that you are gravely endangered if you yield or let go. You seem to fall down into the abyss. The abyss can only disappear if you let yourself drop into it. Then and then only will you learn that you do not crash and perish, but that you float beautifully. You will then see that what made you tense with fear and anxiety was as illusory as this abyss.

I hope I will not be misunderstood. I do not refer to giving up something needlessly, or merely because it is something that makes you happy. I do not even refer to giving up something you have or possess. Nor do I speak of realistic fears that you can face constructively. I refer only to the subtle little fears in your soul, to the frustration and anxiety you cannot quite understand and for which you often find such poor rationalizations. When a person near you does not agree with you or has certain faults, you may feel all tense and full of anxiety. If you analyze these feelings, you will discover that it amounts to feeling endangered because your world of Utopia is proven unreal. This is the phantom fear which makes you believe your life is at stake. Otherwise you would not be so fearful. This is the abyss into which you should plunge so as to find yourself floating instead of perishing.

Last time I discussed the function of Utopia in the human personality. I said that 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.

Many of my friends who are well advanced on this path will readily confirm that this part exists in them. In the final analysis this unconscious thought or attitude amounts to just that: you wish freedom without self-responsibility. Thus you wish for a pampering, indulgent god, like a parent who spoils his child. If this god cannot be found — and of course he cannot — he becomes a monster in your eyes and you turn away from God altogether.

The expectations you have of this god you also project onto human beings, either to a specific person or a group of human beings, or onto a philosophy, creed, or teacher. It does not matter who or what. At any rate, your understanding the unconscious God-image[1] will not be complete unless you include this very basic element in it.

It is of great importance that you find in yourself the part where you desire freedom without self-responsibility. With the method of our work, it should not be too difficult to find the many areas where you desire just that. This desire can be extreme, although it is often hidden and can only be approached in an indirect way. I cannot show you now how it should be done because the approach varies with each individual. I shall be glad, however, to point out the way to each of you if you so desire. There cannot be a single exception. You all have just this hope and desire at least in some way: freedom without self-responsibility to the full extent. You may wish to assume self-responsibility in some areas of your life, often in superficial and outer actions. But in the last and deepest and most important attitude toward life as a whole you still refuse self-responsibility, yet you desire utter freedom.

If you think this through thoroughly, you will surely see that this is an impossibility. It is Utopia! You cannot be free and at the same time have no responsibility. To the extent you shift responsibility from yourself onto others you curtail your own freedom. You put yourself in slavery. It is as simple as that.

You will observe the same law at work even in the animal world. A pet has no freedom but it is not responsible for obtaining its own food and shelter. A wild animal is free, or freer, but it is responsible to look out for itself. This must apply much more to humanity. Wherever you look, you will see that it cannot be otherwise: the more freedom, the more responsibility. If you do not desire responsibility according to the degree of your capacity, you have to forfeit freedom. In a superficial way this applies to practically everything from your choice of profession to your choice of government. But the area where humanity has overlooked the basic truth, that freedom cannot exist without self-responsibility, is not outside but within the human soul, and in the human attitude toward life as such.

The infant in you does not see and does not want to see that connection. It wants one without the other, and what it wants does not exist; it is illusion or Utopia. The price for illusion is extremely high. The more you want to evade paying the natural and fair price — in this case self-responsibility for freedom — the heavier the toll becomes. This, too, is unalterable law. The more you understand about the human soul, the more clearly you will observe this. All diseases of the soul are based on just that: on evasion of the payment of the rightful price. There is a strong desire and insistence on having both ways, the easy way.

Ultimately, the price you pay for the evasion is so heavy, so steep, my friends. You are not aware of it yet, but you will be if you follow this particular road. A part of the price is the constant effort you waste in trying to force life into the mold of your illusion in this respect. If you could but see all the inner, emotional effort, you would shudder, because all this strength could be used quite differently. To let go of the illusion and to assume full self-responsibility seems so hard to you that fear of it becomes a good part of the abyss. You seem to think that you will fall right in if you really assume self-responsibility. Therefore, you constantly strain away from it, stemming against it, and this consumes strength.

You can see now that giving up the world of Utopia appears to you as the abyss. Giving up Utopia seems to you the greatest danger and you stem against it with all the might of your spiritual muscles. You lean away from the abyss, losing valuable strength for nothing. To give up your Utopia seems dire misery. The world becomes bleak and hopeless with no chance for happiness, because your concept of happiness in one part of your unconscious mind means utter perfection in all ways. But all this is not true. To give up Utopia does not make for a bleak world. You need not despair over letting go of a desire and venturing into what often seems fearsome to you. The only way you can discover the illusion of this fear, this abyss and its phantom quality, is first to visualize, feel, and experience its existence in you in the various manifestations and reactions of your daily life, and then to jump into it. Otherwise it cannot dissolve.

There is a very important general misconception about life. It constitutes the main result of the unreasonable desire for freedom without self-responsibility. It is the idea that you can come to harm through the arbitrariness of the god-of-your-image, of life, or fate, or through the cruelty, the ignorance, and the selfishness of others. This fear is as illusory as the abyss. This fear can exist only because you deny your self-responsibility. Therefore, others must be responsible. If you did not cling tenaciously to the Utopia of having freedom and refusing self-responsibility, you could easily perceive that you are indeed independent. You are the master of your life and fate; you — and no one else — create your own happiness and unhappiness. Observation of the manifold connections and chain reactions would automatically eliminate your fear of others, of becoming a victim. You could link up all unfavorable incidents with your own wrong attitudes, no matter how wrong the other people may be. But their wrongness cannot affect you. This would become clear to you and you would then lose your fear of being helpless. You are helpless because you make yourself that way by trying to shift responsibility away from yourself. So you see that fear is the heavy price you must pay for insisting on your Utopia.

In truth, you cannot possibly come to harm by any shortcomings or wrong actions of another person, no matter how much it may seem that way at first glance. Those who judge only on the surface will not find either truth or reality. Many of you are capable of judging profoundly in some ways, going to the roots of things. In other ways, however, you are conditioned to judge on the surface. In this particular respect many of you refuse to let go of judging on the surface because you still hope that the world of Utopia can actually exist. Therefore, you have to fear other people, their judgement, their wrongdoings. In this part of your being, you like to consider yourself a victim for the very reason I stated previously. This trend in itself is a sign of refusal to accept self-responsibility.

If you are truly willing and prepared to accept full self-responsibility, the vision of truth will prove to you that harm cannot come to you through others. I can foresee many questions coming up in this connection. But let me assure you my friends, that even a mass disaster, of which there have been many in the history of humanity, will miraculously spare some and not others. This cannot be explained away either by coincidence or by the act of a monstrous god-of-your-image who arbitrarily favors a few and punishes some less fortunate creatures. The other imagined god who rewards you for being a good child and spares you a difficult fate, while another person has to be tested and go through hardships is also a distortion, no less monstrous than the first.

God is in you, and that godlike part of the divine in you regulates things in such a wonderful way that all your wrong attitudes will come to the fore, more strongly at some times, less strongly at other times of your life. The apparent faults and misdeeds of others will affect your own wrong attitudes and inner errors. You cannot be affected by any wrongdoing or action of other people if you do not have within yourself something that responds to it, as one note resonates to another.

Again, you certainly should not take my word for it. All who are on the path are bound to find out the truth if they really want to. Investigate sincerely the everyday occurrences, irritations, and annoyances in your life. Find out what in yourself responds, or corresponds either to a similar characteristic — although perhaps on a quite different plane — or to the exactly opposite extreme of the person who has provoked you. If you truly find the corresponding note in yourself, you will automatically cease to feel victimized. Although a part of you enjoys just that, it is a doubtful joy. It weakens you and is bound to make you fearful. It enchains you utterly. By seeing the connection between your inner wrong currents and attitudes and the outer unwelcome occurrence, you will come face to face with your inadequacy, but this encounter, instead of weakening you will make you strong and free. You are so conditioned to the habit of going through life concentrating on the apparent wrong of the other person that you feel victimized by it. You put blame on everybody left and right and never find the corresponding note in yourself. This explains how you could be adversely affected. Even those of my friends who have learned to investigate themselves with some degree of honesty often fail to do so in the most apparent everyday incidents. It takes training to condition yourself to follow this road all the way. When you discover your own contribution, no matter how subtle, as you go through an unwelcome experience, you will cease being afraid of the world.

If your fear of life and the inadequacy of others is not to some degree eliminated after such findings, you have not even scratched the surface. You may have found some contributing factor, but if it did not have the desired effect on you, you are still dealing with subterfuges. What you find must increase the knowledge in you that you cannot be truly affected by others, and that you are the master of your life. Therefore you need have no fear. In other words, your findings must make you see the truth and the importance of self-responsibility. In addition, self-responsibility will cease to be something to shy away from.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Lecture #60: The Abyss of Illusion – Freedom and Self-Responsibility

On Spiritual Influences

“Wherever a human being is, a number of spirit beings of various stages of development are also close by. In every sphere there are specialists of all kinds. I have said this before and repeat it here because its significance is not yet fully understood. The world of spirit, in all its gradations, is much more specialized than your earthly sphere. This applies to the divine order and to the world of darkness as well as all the variations in-between. Each one of you attracts those specialists whose particular qualities, good or bad, you possess. For like attracts like inevitably, magnetically. When a human being grows up, he or she is surrounded by guardian spirits who belong to the order and organization of divine worlds, and they can come close to their protege only if he or she asks for divine truth and will, and tries to strive higher. Otherwise they have to stand back and watch from a distance. They will interfere only to protect according to past merits, following exact spiritual laws about which they are very careful and which they do not ever break, because these laws are perfection, love, wisdom and justice. This very same person is also surrounded by a number of other spirits not incorporated into the divine order. Some may belong to the world of darkness. If this person is not a criminal or a really sinful soul, very evil spirits will keep away, for they could not accomplish their specialty with such a person.

However, even the specialists of the so-called minor or everyday human faults belong to the world of darkness. They also operate according to their own laws, and accomplish just as much for their purposes as, let us say, a spirit of murder who influences a human being. If your fault is selfishness, there will be a selfishness specialist attached to you. If your fault is that you are inclined to furious outbursts, you will have a specialist around you of a type who will wait for you to permit it to take over, influence you and thus live through you. This gives it a great deal of satisfaction, not only because it thus fulfills its task, but also because it can indulge in its particular weakness. On the other hand, you may be completely void of envy, so you do not have a specialist of envy attached to you. But another person, not inferior to you in his or her overall development, may have this envy specialist around because of this fault.

So you must bear in mind that it is your own faults that pull the particular specialists close to you in the first place, and that they constantly wait for an opportunity to live through you. Thus you collude with them, and can get rid of them only through your personal endeavor to overcome your faults. But before you can do this, you first have to recognize all your faults, of which you are often unaware simply because you do not want to be burdened with such unflattering knowledge. Few people really want to know their faults. Most people admit that they have some faults, but to admit faults in a superficial way and to become fully aware of them are two different things.

So, for your own protection, each one of you should face himself or herself in utter honesty. You can be sure that whatever your particular faults are, you will carry with you and around you the corresponding spirit specialists who are waiting for an opportunity to inspire you to give in to your particular faults. And since it does not take a lot of pressure to succumb, and it is the easy and comfortable way, very often you follow these inspirations. The stronger the fault is within you and the less aware you are of its full significance, the closer this specialist will be to you! Thus it is at the same time both correct and incorrect for people who know about the existence of the beyond and the spirit-creatures to say that an evil spirit influenced them. When they say this, and mean by it that they are taking full responsibility for their own input, it is correct; but when they say it because they want to absolve themselves of personal responsibility and guilt, it is incorrect.

Between these low creatures and the higher entities of the world of God there are many spirits who are very similar to yourselves in their attitudes. They may be deceased people who mean well and are not particularly bad, but who do not yet belong to the divine order and are thus blind in many respects. They often seek to influence human beings because it helps them in some way, or simply because they have nothing better to do. They can learn from you if you take the spiritual path of self-development. However, if you are not stronger than they are, they will influence you, sometimes not harmfully, but, even though they may mean well, they do not inspire you to the best of your spiritual advantage because they are blind. Sometimes their guidance may be to your material advantage, which may or may not interfere with your spiritual progress, and sometimes their influence may be harmless, or appear harmless, but is ultimately to your disadvantage. When and to what degree this can happen is again no coincidence: their influence is inevitably called forth by your own inner attitudes.

If you meditate about this, about yourself, your life and your desires, you can find out what spirits are around you. Those of you who walk on the path of perfection, which is the only real protection you have, will not be bothered or influenced by spirits who do not fulfill the will of God in all respects. There are other means of protection, but they have only a temporary effect. If you are in disharmony—for instance when you feel a quarrel brewing with your fellow-creatures—and have the presence of mind to bring yourself to pray, to reach out for God within you, or to ask for spiritual guidance, this will surely help, and I recommend it strongly. But it will help only in this particular instance, because you do not always have such presence of mind. Sometimes you will be tired and will let yourself go, and then you become prey to these influences which, as we said, can have an effect on you only because of what is already within you. Therefore, the only definite and permanent cure and protection for you is to tear out the bad growths at their roots. This happens on the path of perfection and self-development, the path of happiness. If you are willing to take this path, you will be guided and helped. But first this will and decision must be clearly formulated within you; then it will be recognized. At that point your divine guidance can automatically and immediately get close to you and can, among other things, guide you to the proper human help which you also need in order to take this path. You will be guided to the place and the person best suited to your temperament and character.

This is how the different spiritual spheres with their respective creatures influence humans. Human beings are not helpless prey to these influences, but determine them. And by rejecting any influence that does not come from the divine world, a person not only takes hold of his or her own life but also weakens the forces of darkness, for the less they have to work with in the material world, the more power they must eventually lose.”

– Eva Pierrakos

Full lecture here: https://pathwork.org/lectures/influence-between-the-spiritual-world-and-the-material-world/

On Shame and Self-Love

There is a biblical episode where God calls for Adam to join him for a walk. Yet because Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge he became aware of his own nakedness and so he hid in the bushes and refused to come out. What had been natural before was now viewed through different eyes. The same action was charged with ideas of rightness or wrongness. He could no longer reveal himself to God in his nakedness anymore as he had learned about shame.

I believe that shame is strongly linked to a lack of self love. Well… there is a good kind of shame and a bad kind of shame. The good kind of shame is the shame where we are able to recognize that we are responsible for the negative consequences of something we did, accepting that fully, having compassion for ourselves, understanding that ignorance leads to mistakes – even with the best of intentions – and then learning from these mistakes. The not so good kind of shame is the kind where we are still able to recognize that we were responsible for a negative situation, but we take two approaches to it:

  1. either we try to cover it up or deny it because we cannot allow ourselves to feel this shame – this is because we find it too painful to accept that we have caused harm or that our imperfections have been exposed.
  2. or we are so overwhelmed by the fact that we have caused harm that we cannot accept ourselves and cannot have compassion for ourselves and so we hate ourselves for what we have done.

Both of these approaches are ways of avoiding to feel that shame. And they both keep us from accepting ourselves and loving ourselves, because in order to love ourselves, we need to have compassion for ourselves and our ignorance. In order to love ourselves, we need to accept that we often make mistakes. And in order to love ourselves, we have to accept the things we have done and this cannot be done unless we first feel the shame that arose in us and learn its lessons.

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There are so many unconscious attitudes we hold that show a lack of self love. We may not be aware of them, but they become apparent – if we pay attention – when we chase after love. This chase may take the form of trying to manipulate others, pleasing others, seeking external validation, trying to impress others, not saying what needs to be said because we fear we will lose approval, forcing ourselves into things we don’t want to do, and so on. Yet true, Divine Love is unconditional. It is us who raise blocks against it because we feel unworthy of receiving it. When we love ourselves, we accept that love that is always extended to us for us to tap into and, in doing so, we do not need to seek for it outside of ourselves.

In a sense God is always calling for us to join Him, yet it is us who feel unworthy of walking beside Him. We are ashamed of ourselves and so we deny ourselves love. We prefer to hide that which we cannot accept in ourselves because we fear we are imperfect and therefore bad and undeserving of love because of it. We mask it with qualities we struggle to maintain the illusion of because we believe that we can fake it till we make it. But the need to cover up parts of ourselves is only a confirmation of the existence of those things in the first place. It’s giving them more legitimacy.

Like for instance, if you believe yourself to be bad, you will try to overcompensate through only displaying that which you perceive to be good. So if you find yourself being angry, you will try to suppress it and only display positive emotions. The problem is that we are ashamed of the reality of our being because we believe that certain emotions are bad and we shouldn’t feel them. But struggling against them, is an affirmation of their existence. And denying parts of yourselves becomes a punishment in itself which shows a lack of self love.

I have found that I didn’t really understand the idea of loving and accepting yourself. Whenever I allowed myself to feel things, I would do so with an underlying feeling of shame or guilt, which shifted the focus from my raw emotions, to my “wrongness”, therefore keeping the emotions stuck in my body, because they were not accepted and transmuted. Or I’d get so caught up in the thoughts behind the emotions that I’d become distracted from feeling them.

I’ve come to believe that loving and accepting yourself is about understanding the irrational needs you have, the longings, the pain, the unreasonable expectations you have from both yourself and others, the shame and the guilt and then being there for yourself, allowing yourself to feel those things, to feel the grief of not having experienced the kind of love you needed and realizing that many of these things stem from unfulfilled childhood needs that are no longer real but that have remained stuck and keep resurfacing in present situations and furthermore understanding that now you’re responsible for yourself and you need to take care of yourself. It’s also having compassion for yourself and even for those you may believe were responsible for your experience because you understand that there was no conscious ill intent behind their words and actions, behind them not being there for you as you needed as they also acted on their own wounding and lack of understanding.

The moment we accept, understand and love ourselves is the moment we will feel worthy to walk with God again. And then, all those ideals like bliss and joy and love and compassion that we try to embody through effort – and sometimes through imitation and pretense – will come naturally to us. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t aim towards those things or make any effort to become better people, these things are necessary because they lead to a better understanding of ourselves and they put us on the path to self discovery. But it is self-love that gives us the key to those things that we aim for.

[Habits of Confusion] 5. Unclear Wants and Needs

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?’

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Vortex of Creation by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

I found the answer to be threefold:

  1. I rush things. I want to find a resolution too soon.
  2. I forget about what I want.
  3. 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.”

~ Yasuhiko Genku Kimura

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

[Habits of Confusion] 4. Shame and Guilt

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?

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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

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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.