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 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

Choice and Self-Knowledge

Lately I’ve been thinking about freewill and choice.

I think the choices we make are a function of self-knowledge. The more we know ourselves, the more we are able to recognize what is immovable (even if temporarily) and what is not. So then choice becomes the recognition of what kind of resistance needs to be accepted and which kind of resistance needs to be pushed through. Like flow, engaging the active and passive principles wisely.

Also it is the understanding that doubt means you are not ready yet, that there is still something left to uncover, hiding somewhere in your unconscious. To the extent that you know yourself, there is no choice to be made, because the choice would just be the obvious thing to do. So then choice is like an optical illusion caused by a lack of self-knowledge. Or something : )

Any thoughts?

[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?’

Related image
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.

[Habits of Confusion] 2. Clutter

Back when I worked as a programmer my favorite tasks involved cleaning up code. I liked removing redundancies, organizing functions for better accessibility and simplifying things for better clarity. I think this preference of mine originated from my need for being more organized in real life.

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While being messy can be a sign of a creative mind, it can also be a cause for anxiety, confusion and lack of inspiration. After all, the environment we live in is a reflection of who we are, influencing us as much as we influence it. Our inner state manifests in the way we live and its effects become causes for our state of mind and being. Our habits therefore, tend to create feedback loops of experience and the environments we live in become like extensions of who we are, reflecting back to us our personalities, emotional states and habits of thinking. Living in an environment that is nurturing, safe, clean, bright and organized can help improve our state of being because when the environment is not a distraction, then we have the external conditions for being able to think clearly.

I have often felt after difficult experiences the need to clean my room. I didn’t question this need, I just knew that I had to put everything in order, I needed to put myself together and I had to start somewhere. Cleaning your room is the easiest and quickest form of improving yourself, because it’s a clear, practical thing you can do. You want to clean up, because you want to be able to think clearly, you want to be able to see how things really are and from that space, you want to be able to make better decisions.

But we don’t always know how to clean up and organize, how to remove clutter and improve our homes. I have tried numerous times to find the best way to set up my environment so that I would enjoy it, yet it always seemed to end up messy and disorganized, which made me feel really anxious. It got so bad, that I had to remove a piece of furniture from my room, and ended up creating clutter in another room. I just couldn’t bear it in there any longer.

Just about the time this was happening, the Universe brought to my attention the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In it I found the answers to why I couldn’t keep my environment clean and organized. And it has helped me tremendously, not only in cleaning up, but also in understanding myself better.

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Marie Kondo created a cleaning up method called KonMari that has had great success in not only creating order in the environments it is applied, but also maintaining order indefinitely. There are two main rules that need to be followed:

  1. Keep only those objects that give you joy
  2. Have a designated place for every object you have

This is all you need to keep your place as organized as you want it, because if you only have objects that give you joy, then you will feel good in your environment and if you have a place for each and every object, then you know where to put it back after you use it. The most common reason for untidiness, after all, is misplacing objects.

Moreover, the KonMari method provides a great way to declutter and to organize objects too. It says that the best way to declutter is by category. First you start with books, then with clothes, then papers, then miscellaneous objects, and finally objects to which you have an emotional attachment. The way you go about it is to collect all objects in the same category on the floor and go through each of them, touching them and asking yourself if they really bring you joy, keeping only those for which the answer is yes. Then, you thank the objects that you want to give away or throw out for having served you, and then you release them.

When you are done decluttering, all that remains is for you to find a place for each and every object and the best way to do it is again by category. After you do this you will feel much better, as you will be surrounded only by objects that bring you joy and you will know where each object goes, so that your environment doesn’t end up in chaos anymore.

One very important thing I started noticing when I decluttered was that many books I had bought I didn’t buy for good reasons, many clothes I had I didn’t like to wear and many things I had, I never used. For instance, some books I had bought because I liked someone who was interested in those topics. Others I had bought because I was too ambitious about learning things that I wasn’t that interested in. And others no longer represented me. The same with clothes, some I had bought from second hand and I realized I just didn’t like to wear second hand clothes because I am sensitive to other people’s energy, other clothes I had bought because I had created a false image about myself and they didn’t really suit me. And others were just colorful and I like color, but they were too flashy to be worn.

I realized that more than half the things I owned I no longer identified with. The biggest realization I had was that I didn’t really like music production. I liked the outcome of it, psybient music, but I didn’t like the process of creating it. I got angry and frustrated when I tried making music and I just didn’t find peace or joy doing it. I had bought a Korg Minilogue synthesizer, understood its functions, connected it with my computer, and just when I got to the first bigger obstacle, I realized I didn’t really like to do it. I had spent a lot of 2018 learning about music production, bought an audio interface and a professioal microphone, took lessons on Udemy on piano and music production, bought a Korg Volca Beats drum machine and a Yamaha Reface CS that I sold because I felt I was limited by them, bought the Korg Minilogue, only to find after almost a year, that I didn’t really enjoy it that much.

That is the power of cleaning up and decluttering. You start seeing the ways in which you have fooled yourself about your identity. You start to understand what you really like and dislike, who you are and what you want to appear like to the outside world. You start to see yourself clearer and it puts you in touch with your wants and needs. Thus, decluttering really helps to relieve the state of confusion you may find yourself in. It creates the space needed for self-observation. That’s why that Jordan Peterson meme about cleaning your room is so powerful. You need to sort yourself out before you can impact the world in a meaningful manner that is based on true understanding.

When you create this space you may start seeing the things in your life that are good or bad for you. You may find the cause of your anxiety, you may realize that certain activities don’t bring you joy, that certain things no longer work for you anymore or that you are no longer willing to accept certain behaviors in other people. What starts out as minor decisions on your home environment, can turn into radical changes in your life.

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There is also an esoteric perspective on cleaning up. Clutter and uncleanliness is a magnet for negative energies. I experienced this first hand. When I decluttered I didn’t want to throw things away because I had a lot of books and clothes in new condition that I could sell or give away. So I put them in bags and deposited them in another room. There were like 8 to 10 bags of stuff. Then, after a while, when I decided to sell them on the Romanian equivalent of ebay, I had to unpack them and that is when I started feeling sick, like needing to purge. It’s as if I had bothered the stale energies that had settled there and they started to run amok.

Light is also very important for your state of mind, not only from a biological and psychological perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective. The Sun is after all the life giver and it heals the aura. We need natural sunlight for our well-being and a room that is well lit really helps improve your state.

Fresh air is another thing that helps with anxiety. During a time when I had trouble sleeping, I would leave the window open over the night. The air needs to be renewed and even 5 minutes of fresh air/day can improve the quality of your experience at home.

Lastly, I will leave you with a fragment of a lecture by Jordan Peterson that perfectly illustrates the idea that the environments we live in are an extension of who we are.

“Jung said first of all you unite your mind with your emotions so that makes one thing instead of two fighting things. That’s a good one! And then the next conjunction he talked about was that it isn’t enough to unite your mind and your emotions and he thought about that as a male-female pairing symbolically. That’s how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. So you take the masculine element and the feminine element, the thinking and the emotion, unite those and that makes you more like one thing. Ok, now all of a sudden that’s represented as symbolically male, that one thing. And it unites with something else that is now represented symbolically female, that’s the body. So you take the mind-emotion integration and integrate that with your body. So what does that mean? You act it out instead of just thinking!

So there’s this philosophical idea called a… now I’m gonna forget what it’s called, it’s a contradiction in action, there’s actually a technical term for it but that’s when you think and believe something but you don’t act it out. And so that means there’s a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. Well, that’s another form of discontinuity that isn’t doing you any good! You know, the driver’s going one way and the car is going the other and you won’t even be able to understand yourself if you do that. But even more, you’re not putting your principles into practice so your being is dissociated. So once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistently. So that was the second conjunction as far as Jung was concerned.

And then the third one was – this is the tough one and this is the one that is related to phenomenology – you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. That’s a tough one. So imagine you’re dealing with someone who is hoarding. People who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder. But then you walk into their house and there’s like 10000 things into their house. There’s maybe 100 boxes and you open up a box and in the box there’s some pens and some old passports and some checks and their collection of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and you know, a dead mouse. And there’s boxes and boxes and boxes, it’s like that in the house, it’s absolute chaos in there, absolute chaos, not order. Chaos! And then you think ‘is that their house, or is that their being, is that their mind?’ and the answer is there’s no difference. There’s no difference! So you know, I can say if you want to organize your psyche you could start by organizing your room, if that would be easier, because maybe you’re more a concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So you go clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk and you think well, just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you organizing your field of being like your field of total experience? And Jung believed – and I think there’s a Buddhist doctrine that’s sort of nested in there – that at the highest level of psychological integration there’s no difference between you and what you experience.

Now you think, well, I can’t control everything I experience but that’s no objection because you can’t control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you can’t extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself. So let’s say you have a long standing feud with your brother. Well, is that a psychological problem, is that him, is it a problem in the objective world or is that a problem in your field of being? And it’s very useful to think that way because you might ask what could you do to improve yourself? Well, let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be ‘why should you even bother improving yourself?’ and I think the answer to that is that so you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to and maybe so others don’t have to either. It’s something like that. There’s a real injunction at the bottom of it, it’s not some casual self-help doctrine.”

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