On Fearing Emotions

When you fear feeling a certain feeling, you set up all sorts of defenses and strategies to keep yourself from feeling that feeling. For instance, if you fear that you might be bad, you will try to convince others of your goodness by not displaying healthy negative emotions and by allowing yourself to be mistreated, thereby bringing to life various formations geared towards obtaining the confirmation from the outside that you are good. The fear of experiencing that emotion of being bad is what sets everything in motion. As always, the difficulty of it is that it is unconscious, which means you are not aware of the force that is driving you into action, appearing as a spontaneous inner impulse. “I just feel that way.”

But if you observe yourself like you are an objective thing in the world you can ask yourself “what am I trying to get from others?” and it is very likely that you will find that you fear the opposite in yourself. So if you try to convince others you are good, you are probably afraid that you are bad.

So what can you do when you find that fear? Agree to it! Fine, I am bad! And feel whatever pain/fear/anger/etc. might arise in association with that. So, ok, fine, I am bad. Game over. But don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself for it or trying to change it, just feel it as it is. And then you can release it.

The thing is that when you fear an experience on the spectrum of emotions, you bind yourself to it and you filter reality through the fear of being that, but the moment you go through the experience, it dissolves. It has nothing on you anymore. The reason you fear it is that you believe it is a permanent, immutable reality when the truth is that you are maintaining it because you fear going through it.

So back in childhood, because you didn’t allow yourself the feeling/experience of being bad, you carried it with you into adulthood, but feelings are there to be felt and let go, they carry information and then they leave. It is us who turn them into verdicts.

“Multiple I’s” by Red Hawk

One of the hardest Work ideas to understand is the claim that, as we are, we are not unified beings inside, a single “I”, always and everywhere the same, but a multitude of “i”s inside, a self divided, fragmented into dozens, even hundreds, of fractious, competing, warring “i”s, each with its own agenda, tone, mood and beliefs. It is impossible to understand this right away in any way except intellectually. I believe I am one, whole, undivided and I am constructed in such a way psychologically that the truth of my inner state is impossible for me to see. Psychology has labeled such a state schizophrenia and called it mental illness. Yet it is the state of the entire humanity; everyone I ever met, without exception, suffers from this inner state.

But we cannot admit to such a thing. To do so would place us in jeopardy. They have a place for people like that. And so to avoid being shot, or jailed, or placed in an institution, we have all developed elaborate disguises, masks, acts, games, false personalities to hide our real inner state of fragmentation. And slowly, slowly I come to believe in this pretense as my real self. I will fight to defend it against attack or exposure.

I am a mass of contradictions. I see this in others, often it is quite obvious, and I cannot understand why they do not see it themselves, even when I point the contradiction out to them. Often they may be quite insulted and defensive when I do so, and deny any such thing in their behavior. I do the same. I cannot believe that inside I am in such a shattered, fragmented state.

And the result is that I act as if myself and everyone else were whole, united, a single, stable, unchanging “I” within. Thus, if X says she will do something and the next day she does not do as she has said, I am insulted, angry and believe that X is a liar, not to be trusted. I may even end my friendship with X if the insult is great enough, or even if it is a small thing. We end relationships all the time over petty grievances. Why? Because in the first place we believe the other to be the same “I” always and in every circumstance, and secondly because I myself am governed by many small “i”s, each of which has its own agenda, and one of them, full of self importance and unable to value my friendship with X, decides to end it; it thinks for me, speaks for me, and acts in my name. Having done so, the damage may be irreparable. I may pay for the rest of my life for the momentary impulsive action of a small “i” in me which the next moment or the next hour or the next day no longer is in charge but has disappeared.

And if you ask me the next day why on earth I said and did such things to X, I will tell you quite honestly, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I could have been thinking.” Or else, I will blame X and justify my behavior towards her with the most transparent and obvious falsehoods and excuses. This is my state and it is the state of every single person I have ever met, without exception. This state of fragmentation runs my life. It is why I cannot follow a single line of action to its logical conclusion, especially if such a line of action must be carried out over a long period of time, days, months, or even years. I will begin a certain line, even one which has great importance to me such as marriage, and will begin at once to deviate from this line into a hundred diversions, many of them directly opposed to the original line, until finally I find myself doing the exact opposite of what the original line of action proposed. I end in divorce, or I whore and drink and do terrible damage to my marriage. How can I do such things? It is simple. The “i” which made its vows before God and man to never part, to be ever faithful until death meant these vows with all its heart, so long as it had control of the human biological instrument. But once another “i” gained control, all was forgotten. Or what is worse, the “i” which now holds sway has not forgotten those vows, but it is diametrically, even violently opposed to them and does not want to have anything to do with them. In fact it curses the position it finds itself in and cannot believe it has gotten into such an awful mess in the first place. “What was I thinking when I married her?”” it will ask, having no memory at all of the state of that other “i”. In its world, the only thing which matters is drinking and whoring. Never mind the consequences to self or others. Each of these “i”s wants only what it wants, when it wants it, and how it wants it. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

This is what is happening in me every moment of every day, for my entire life.

Not just me, every one of us. One small “i” will take control of the instrument momentarily, will choose for me, will speak in my voice, will act in my name, and my whole life and the direction that life takes may hinge on that small and seemingly insignificant moment. And “I” am not even present, “I” don’t know what happened, the implications for me, the importance of the choice, none of that. I am not even present or aware. One of a multitude of “i”s in me has chosen, decided with finality and certitude, a life-changing decision.

This “i” which has chosen has an agenda. All of the “i”s have their own agenda. And their only aim is to fulfill the desire of that agenda, at whatever cost to myself, my life, my relationships. Period. End of story. And because I am not a single, unified, solidified and consistent “I” then I am at the mercy of whichever “i” happens by pure chance to be present at the moment I am faced with choice.

Can I even begin to see what this means for myself? Can I even begin to understand the situation which this places me in as a human being? Seeing this is what Mister Gurdjieff calls, “the terror of the situation”. This is the situation of every single human being on Earth. How can the president of the United States say one thing, directly contradict it, spout what appear to be blatantly obvious lies, and appear to believe them himself, and then do another contradictory thing? Because, he is exactly as you and I – a multitude of “i”s, each with its own agenda, and he is ruled by these “i”s, exactly as you and I are.

And these “i”s are of three types:

1) one type knows very well that such a thing as the Work exists, and it is vehemently, even violently opposed to the aims of the Work; it resists self observation strongly because it understands in some way that to do so would expose its agendas, contradictions and beliefs for what they are;
2) a second type does not even know of the existence of the Work, what it is, or what its aims are; it has no memory at all of the Work, or of any aims other than its own; it is unconscious to everything but itself;
3) a third type knows of the existence of the Work, it is influenced by the Work, it agrees to practice the aims of the Work, and is willing to cooperate with those “i”s which feel otherwise.

The president of the United States operates almost exclusively with “i” number 2, and all the world’s leaders, those who control the destinies of nations, are doing likewise. A disciplined mind is the rarest thing on this Earth. It is one in a million. You watch the rich and famous and powerful (including all heads of state for all nations) on TV and what you see very quickly is this: these people are fools at best; worse, they are crazy; and at their worst, they are dangerously crazy and do real harm. Some of them kill millions. They destroy the Earth. They are us with the handcuffs of social control and peer pressure removed. They are corrupted by power.

This represents another meaning of “the terror of the situation”. But the true “terror of the situation” arises in me when I have observed myself honestly, without judgement or trying to change what is observed, for a very long time and I see that all wars are one war, all terrorists exist in one place only: the war is within me, the terrorists live in hiding in me – and they depend for their lives, their very existence, upon remaining hidden from my attention: when I begin to see them clearly, their cover is blown; seeing them is profound change (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle).

Nothing can remain the same in me once I have seen the fact of my “many i’s” and see how that works in me.

Now real suffering – voluntary suffering – begins in earnest within me: “voluntary” because no human being can make me observe myself, no one. There must develop within me what the Work calls “observing-I” which wishes to see. And as it is remembered and utilized by the inner being more, it begins to strengthen and fuse with the inner being; it becomes more and more active through the power of suffering – pain is the great motivator. More and more “i’s” join forces with this “observing-I”, they begin to coalesce and crystallize around it the way particles gather around a charge. And thus, through years of practice, forgetting for hours or days to observe, resisting meditating for fifteen or thirty minutes in the morning, only now and then remembering my Work, this “observing-I” grows stronger and more active.

Slowly, slowly its aim – to see myself as I am – becomes more active, begins to have real strength and force in me. The suffering produced by the practice actually builds and develops something in me which the Work calls conscience. We are all born with a tiny, microscopic “mustard seed” of conscience within us. But this mustard seed remains in embryo, undeveloped in the ordinary person. I may go to my grave ruled by various “i”s, even perhaps religious “i”s but such religious “i”s have no conscience, all they have is an inherited “belief system”, which cannot think, but only condemn and follow rigidly unproven dogma, borrowed ideas. Such people do not understand, they are often rigid, even very violent and war-like in pursuit of these borrowed unproven misunderstood dogma inherited from their fathers. They are often very judgemental and capable of great harm. They will act in the name of an imaginary, illusory, self-created god and do unspeakable things in the name of this god. History is filled with the acts of such beings.

But from “voluntary suffering”, the seed of real conscience may spring. And this is the result of very patient and slow and careful observation over many years. Once that mustard seed is activated, once real conscience is fed and begins to develop, only then will I learn what true voluntary suffering is. Because the “i”s which I love and identify with ( = I am that) will not go away. Just so long as I choose to believe in them and identify with them, they will have power over me. The mature practitioner simply does not give these “i”s the authority, to speak for me, to choose for me, to act for me. I give my power to aim instead. I choose to live from aim, not from the agenda of small “i”s. And I suffer because I see over and over and over just how easily I refuse to stop whoring and drinking (an example, not a fact) never mind the cost to myself, my relationships, or my life: I refuse. And because there is now in me a mustard seed of conscience – not belief systems borrowed from others, but something which is all my own because I have paid for it – now I suffer most intensely, now I suffer in a whole new way and on a whole new level. And this suffering feeds conscience. This is what the ordinary man can never understand.

Only desperate people, who have suffered “the terror of the situation” for years and years, would be driven to such lengths that they surrendered all that they had to the Creator, in return for this mustard seed, this “pearl of great price”. Do you understand? Do I dare to see how every moment I am making a decision to be ruled by small, selfish, unconscious “i”s and am a slave to their wishes? Do I dare to see how my life is being stolen from me for chump-change, for drinking and whoring (which means any and all of the small “i”s agendas)?

Can I see in myself the true “terror of my situation”? Try to observe in yourself the entire cycle of a single “i” – not only the acting out of its agenda, but the resulting judgement about that action, and the feelings about self which resulted as well; that is, the entire “cycle-of-the-i” not just one half, which is the action, but the other half too, which is the reaction and judgement and feeling about myself. Verify for yourself what is true about your inner state. Try to observe yourself without judgement or changing what is observed. When I am able to be aware of an “i” in me and what it is doing, greed and the “i” which is greedy, this is a moment of real self remembering and self observation.

The effort to change what is observed is the result of identification with what is observed, believing in it, giving it power, feeling “helpless” to do otherwise because “I am that”. Thus, one part of me, one small “i” in me judges another small “i” and says that this “i” must be stopped and “i” will stop it. The result? Civil war, a self divided, and the effort to change what is observed merely serves to further empower that which is observed and which “I” am making effort to change. Result? No change, habitual repetition of act – judgement of act – effort to change act – resulting guilt and condemnation when it does not change – further repression of act. It is a cycle. It repeats. It can be predicted, because it is habitual. All habits are “i”s.

Here is a good example. Yesterday I spent about three hours working out this chapter, writing and rewriting it. I felt that I had a reasonably good first draft. Here I was at home with this borrowed laptop making a few last minute changes when, with a single key stroke, I lost the whole chapter. I tried frantically to find and retrieve it. Nothing.

I sat there in a state, stunned disbelief and despair. Certain well-known “i”s arose in me very forcefully then. One was rage. But who or what to rage against? The laptop? Quickly it morphed to my default position: self-hatred, the blind spot. Then another “i” arose, one which urged me to abandon the whole book project. It went on for several minutes, until I remembered myself, found myself, and managed the body.

I made a conscious decision not to dramatize the event or speak of it right away with my wife. Instead, I shut down the laptop, went to the backyard where my wife was sitting, and joined her in a glass of wine. When she asked me how it went, I said it had been a good day and that I was satisfied. Later that evening at a friend’s house after dinner, I mentioned what had happened, got the appropriate sympathy, we laughed about it, and I let it go. The next day several “i”s with no trust, fear-based and self hating were eager to exploit the available energy. But I was willing to hold to my aim, so I sat down and began. The result is this chapter, better than the first draft by a lot. Perhaps not great, but better. So you see how it goes with me. Sometimes I eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats me. It goes on.

– Self-Observation by Red Hawk, chapter Multiple I’s

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!

No photo description available.

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.

[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.