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] 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/

On Decision Making

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Decision Making
Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958
by Eva Pierrakos

“Now I wish to speak on another subject. The subject of decision-making is very important in everyone’s life, for everything is a decision. This is true not only of your deeds, your obvious and material choices, but also of every emotional attitude a decision holds. The majority of human beings are incapable of making clear-cut, mature decisions. That is why their souls become sick and suffering. Great disorder is created in the soul, which, of course, leads to confusion and conflicts. For you who are on this path, it might be very beneficial to start to view your life, particularly your conflicts, from this point of view. Have you made real decisions? Or do you sometimes make superficial decisions, not weighing or facing what is involved in them, and then thwarted when things naturally do not turn out to your satisfaction? Do you revolt against your self, your surroundings, and life in general?

As long as you are living in this sphere of matter, every decision offers two and sometimes more alternatives. In some cases, there can be several wrong choices and one that is right. Only mature and responsible searching will eventually show you what the right way is. However, in many instances, it will not matter what you actually decide, provided the decision has been made wholeheartedly, awarely, responsibly, not shirking any issues or possible results. Even if one alternative would be better for you than the other, it is infinitely healthier for your soul, strange as this may appear at first, if you choose the wrong way but with the right attitude.

Now what is the right and mature attitude with which to decide? The answer is simply to know what you want and to know what the price is; to realize that you cannot fully have what you want on this earth sphere because there is always a price or a disadvantage to any alternative; and to be wholly willing to pay the price even before it becomes a certainty that the possible disadvantage may turn out to be real. On the other hand, let us assume you chose the right alternative by accident. When I say by accident, I mean that you have chosen as most people do—immaturely, with half-closed eyes, not accepting beforehand the disadvantage implicit in your choice. In this way, you harm your soul a great deal more than by taking on a needlessly more difficult alternative. By deciding with the right attitude, you responsibly accept the price to be paid. So beware of making your decisions half-heartedly like a child, going into them with closed eyes, wishfully thinking that the price can be evaded. Each alternative will have an advantage and also a disadvantage, as long as you live in the world of matter.

In high spiritual spheres and realms, the negative side does not exist anymore. In the lower spheres of darkness, however, no alternative carries with it a so-called advantage. For you, an advantage and a disadvantage will continue to exist until you have worked yourself up to those higher spheres where no disadvantage can befall you, even while still in the body, in the world of matter. To reach such a point you have to go through the laws governing this lower sphere that is rightfully yours for the moment: you have to accept the laws fully and keep them willingly, not because life forces you to do so. Then, and only then, will you reach that point. Trying to avoid the laws of your own world, no matter what spiritual acrobatics you may try, will not work. By the same token, a human being bound to the world of darkness will have to accept the conditions that govern that world, although still on this earth plane.

This ties in with the first words of tonight’s lecture, my friends. To love God means naturally, among many other things, to abide by these various laws—and not only to abide by them, but also to accept them willingly. And one of these laws is that the disadvantageous side of each decision has to be faced and accepted. To make a mature decision means therefore to deliberate each alternative thoroughly; to face not only the advantageous sides of all alternatives in making your choice, but also and equally the disadvantageous. When you have done that, knowing that whatever you choose there is a price to be paid, you can ask yourself which price you prefer to pay; you can think it over, and see if perhaps you prefer to risk a higher price because the possible advantage seems worthwhile. You will then have accepted another one of this earth life’s rules, that the uncertainty also has to be accepted. This includes the risk, the shortcomings of life, which offers you no risk-proof plan. This, too, is important for emotional health, my friends. In that way you act as a mature being and your soul must benefit from it.

No one who makes a decision in this way will ever come to grief because of it! Nor will they ever have to meet the conflicts that result from not making decisions in this way. Conflicts are created not because of a possible wrong or less advantageous decision, but because you go into the decision blindly, not ready and willing to pay the price. This, my friends, happens with each one of you. I do not see anyone who always makes emotional decisions maturely.

I am again giving you strong material to work with on your path. Wherever conflicts exist, in one way or another, you have not made your decisions properly. Do not remain on the surface level; you will have to dig deeper into your emotions in order to find the answer. Within your emotions, sooner or later you must find—provided you search honestly—that you have somehow not made a whole decision; you had somehow hoped to gain the advantage without accepting the disadvantage. And often you even hope—again without thinking it through clearly—to at the same time gain the advantage of both alternatives and to be spared the disadvantage of either. This amounts to cheating life, and the result must inevitably be that life will teach you a lesson and you will reap the disadvantages of both or all sides which you wished to avoid. If you test this emotional, and for the most part unconscious, current, what does this amount to? It amounts to greed.

On this earth sphere most people are greedy, not necessarily in the material sense, but emotionally. And when I say greedy, I mean you want to amass advantages without shouldering the responsibility of paying the price for them. That, needless to say, is a violation of one spiritual law.

Think about the words I have spoken tonight, my friends. This has not been a long lecture, but what I have said will add to the material you need for your progress, if you assimilate it properly and work with it in a very personal way.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958

I recommend reading the full lecture at:
https://pathwork.org/lectures/decision-making/

[Habits of Confusion] 5. Unclear Wants and Needs

Another thing that seems to affect clarity of thought is losing sight of the things we want and need. Sometimes we tend to get so absorbed by what other people want and need or we get so concerned about what the right thing to do is in a situation that we forget about what interests us. This often leads to self-sabotage, self-sacrifice, overthinking and frustration and it ends up being confusing not only to ourselves but also to those around us. It’s difficult for people to know how to react when we aren’t consistent in our behavior and when our intentions are unclear. But bringing awareness to this fact and understanding the importance of keeping in touch with the things we want and need can help us make better decisions and express ourselves better.

I started writing this article because of something that happened recently. I was selling a dress on the Romanian equivalent of ebay and someone wrote to me about a week ago that they wanted to buy it, let’s call this person Person A. When I asked them about how we were going to do the shipping,  Person A seemed unsure about how to proceed next. A couple of times they said they’d think about it and get back to me and they didn’t seem sure about the whole thing. In the meantime I got a message from somebody else, Person B, who was sure they wanted to buy my item. I decided to ask Person A if they wanted to reserve the dress, yet when I saw that I didn’t get an answer the next day, I agreed to sell it to Person B. Soon after this happened, I got an answer from Person A that they agreed to reserve my item. I had to tell them I had already sold it. *Long sigh* Right here I started wondering…. did I do the right thing? What is the right thing to do here? Yet I found that a more important question was… ‘how did this happen?’

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Vortex of Creation by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

I found the answer to be threefold:

  1. I rush things. I want to find a resolution too soon.
  2. I forget about what I want.
  3. I am not transparent with people. I keep too much to myself.

The first was clear, since I didn’t even wait 24h to get an answer back. I felt pressured by having to answer to Person B person in reasonable time, a pressure I conjured up myself that was completely unnecessary.

The second manifested as me not considering what I wanted to do. The first person lived in the same city as I did, a bit on the outskirts. I wanted to meet so that I could give the dress personally, but they seemed unsure about when and where they were going to do that. Person B was from another city and I had to use a paid shipping method to send the dress to them, so clearly I would have preferred the first option. However, I didn’t give much weight to this fact, since I was too worried about what the right thing to do was.

The third thing manifested as me not telling Person B that I had a prior engagement and that they had to wait for a confirmation. Many times it is important to be transparent about the situation you are in. People can be more understanding than you’d expect.

Edit: What happened in the end was that Person B postponed the transaction until it just didn’t happen so in the end I didn’t sell my dress.

The state of confusion we find ourselves in can be like sending mixed signals to the world and the world does not know how to respond to that. If you don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it, then the world doesn’t know what to give you. It’s like a dance between two partners who don’t know how to synchronize their movements, because neither is clear about what steps they want to take. Even though you may aim for an artistic choreography and conscious intelligent movement, what can result instead is awkward stumbling because of uncertain intentions. It’s like not seeing how puzzle pieces match or like the Yin and the Yang disengaged from each other, not acting in unison, but as separate, independent forces.

So… it is good to ask sometimes… what do I want? And then tell the world about it. Or show the world, or live it. Your intentions, wants and needs are your own magnetic field, the more they concentrate in your words and actions, the easier it is to be recognized by others who live the same things or on the contrary, by those who don’t. Expressing who you are is like electrifying your field which can stir that which resonates with it.

I recently signed up for a course in Scriptwriting. The guy teaching the course said something that made an impression on me. He said that in a movie we want as a protagonist someone who wants something ardently, someone who is driven, because that is what is interesting to watch. He said that nobody wants to watch a passive main character and that the audience is engaged with the story when the main character wants something really badly and perseveres in getting it throughout the story. That made an impact on me and it made me feel a bit ashamed because most of the things I want are too abstract and undefined to give me an idea of what direction I’m going in.

But I believe that in clarifying the things we want, in defining our purposes, even if at first they take the form of small goals like cleaning the kitchen or getting a haircut, that can build a momentum of intention which can in turn become the vehicle through which we make bigger positive changes in our lives. I find that making lists helps and journaling helps and setting short term and long term goals helps also. But the most important part is – just like the scriptwriting instructor said – perseverance, the capacity to keep moving forward in spite of the difficulties we encounter (most often through our self-defeating attitudes) and find a way to do that which matters to us.

At first we may be uncertain about the things we are pursuing or that we want to pursue, but we can recognize within us the desire to fulfill a certain mission, to dedicate ourselves to a certain endeavor, even if it may be subtle in the beginning. This recognition, as faint as it may be, can become the foundation on which we build our visions. We may not have a clear outline of the things we want to do, but as long as we are willing to overcome all the obstacles that we find within ourselves which prevent us from manifesting our potentials, as long as we take responsibility and stop finding excuses about why we are not succeeding, we may just have the chance to bring our visions to reality.

“We are not a helpless victim of our circumstances. We all have within us the power to make that to which we are committed happen.

When we have circumstantial reasons why we could not keep our commitment, usually it is because our commitment was not authentic.

We manifest our commitment if it is authentic. Therefore, when we want to know what a person is truly committed to, what we need to do is to look at his/her action and result, not what he/she says.

Inauthentic commitment comes from your mind, your socially conditioned mind. Living your life with the pretense of inauthentic commitment is a form of deception and irresponsibility.

Your conditioned mind thinks that you should be committed to something worthy or good to prove your self-worth. The idea of doing something great or participating in some good cause makes you feel worthy and therefore you think that you should do it.

Nothing that is intended to make you feel worthy or good is ever a genuine commitment coming from your heart and soul. True commitment has nothing to do with proving your worth, greatness, goodness, or virtue.

Authentic commitment is the creative expression of who you are—i.e., your authentic self. When you are truly committed, you will never try to prove how worthy, good, or great you are but will be moved from within to creatively express your soul’s passion and your heart’s love.”

~ Yasuhiko Genku Kimura

Now, I intended to end this article right there but then I went to the second lesson of the Scriptwriting course where I learned another important principle that I want to share. We had been assigned a homework of writing five movies ideas and sending them to our instructor via email. The ideas had to be written a specific way, each had to be one phrase that would contain three important pieces of information: who the protagonist was, what his problem was (the conflict) and a hint to a potential solution. The instructor went through all of our ideas during class and offered important criticism to each one of us about the way we phrased our premises, since he said that most movies fail from the premise stage. Then he said something that, again, made an impact on me. He said that the main character has to have a GOOD REASON to do something. He said that the objective of the main character must come after a major problem and that a character cannot just do something without a GOOD REASON. The audience wouldn’t be as engaged in the story.

That made perfect sense and I love a good idea that has many ramifications. I reflected upon it and I realized that the motivations for doing something, the reason for initiating any action – and I mean in real life – frames the way we will relate to that experience once it happens. It’s like that experiment with the selective attention test where two groups of people wearing different colored T-shirts pass the ball to each other and you have to count how many times the team in white passed the ball, but then at the end of the video you are asked “did you see the gorilla?” and you didn’t because you weren’t actively seeking for it.

 

So… if you don’t know your reasons, then where will your focus be? I often find myself distracted in situations where I don’t know my reasons for being there or where my reasons are too abstract and I start placing my attention on my fears, which isn’t very productive. It’s good to give the mind something to focus on, like letting your kids play on the PlayStation because you have some important work to attend to. It’s like, OK, amuse yourself with this just for a bit, while I deal with this other thing. Or maybe more like, OK brain, I’ll gather the information, but you organize it and link it with our whys.

“We live within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better. If we did not see things this way, we would not act at all. We wouldn’t even be able to see, because to see we must focus, and to focus we must pick one thing above all else on which to focus.”

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Lastly, this Pathwork Lecture (No. 74) explains hazy motivations and how to dissolve them:

All suffering comes from ignorance, from lack of wanting to face the truth. Therefore, those who honestly do this work must ultimately, in one way or another, affect those who are still submerged in unawareness about themselves and also about their relationship to the entire universe. Those of you who walk this path so courageously should know that all of us in the spirit world thank you for your efforts, not only on our behalf, but on behalf of all other beings.

And now, my friends, I should like to say a few words which may prove helpful for those of you who struggle and try, but always encounter new difficulties within themselves. These words may help you to overcome them and give you a clearer overall view. Such clarification is often necessary at certain stages of your path.

One of the most important things in the course of this work is to recognize when you are confused about a particular subject. Perhaps a confusion exists in you and you do not even know about what. I can see a great need for elaborating on this subject.

You know from our previous talks that any inner problem, in one way or another, manifests as an outer problem sooner or later. The outer problem is the result of the inner one and, at the same time, it can become the tool with which to correct the wrong attitudes which create both the inner and the outer problem. When outer manifestations occur that make you feel disharmonious, unpleasant, anxious or angry, you often forget that there is some confusion in you. You do not know exactly what the confusion is or what is incorrect in your conscious or unconscious thinking.

I cannot emphasize too strongly that you need first to find out exactly what the confusion is. Whenever something bothers you, be it merely a mood, an unpleasant inner reaction, or an actual outer happening apparently caused by other people, try to find out how you are confused; how your thoughts are muddled; how you are not clear about an idea, a supposedly right reaction, about a principle of general conduct. Ascertain if there is a contradiction of right principles. Put this confusion down concisely, in writing:  “I am confused because I do not know…” whatever it may be. Break it down into several questions. The more concise your questions are, the more aware you will become of exactly what your confusion is.

Writing contributes most constructively toward eliminating the confusion, even long before you are able to find the exact answers to your questions. If you then pray for the answers and work with the questions — at the same time checking your inner resistance to receiving the answers — you will make great advances and prepare for most important new insights that will give you new freedom. My friends, never forget the importance of becoming aware of your questions concerning a particular complexity, problem, or confusion. The moment you have the concise question clearly crystallized, you will already feel relief. You will have smoothed the way toward complete clarification.

You who have progressed a little on this path should now stop for a moment and turn around to get an overall view, just as the climber occasionally does when making an ascent. While going forward, your glance is directed toward a particular or partial goal on the way. In doing so, you may forget the distance already covered, the obstacles surmounted, and lose the encompassing view of the whole picture. It is very useful to turn around occasionally and make an overall survey of the terrain.

I say this now with a particular aim. Once again you should investigate what your main problems in life are, but with a more comprehensive view. Write the problems down concisely, describing in clear-cut words whatever area of your life they may deal with. With your findings so far, you may now be in a better position than when you started on the path to determine that wherever your aim is confused and your life-goal muddled with mixed motivations, is where you will find the troublesome area of your life. This recognition will do much to help you further.

The deep-rooted emotional reactions brought to light always show the child operating in you. And that child is self-centered and ignorant. Out of this self-centeredness and ignorance selfish motives arise, unconsciously or sometimes even half-consciously. You are unclear as to what you want in life, or in a particular area of your life. You drift, and all goals are in a fog of confusion and unawareness. Even genuinely unselfish motives are not expressed clearly in your thinking. Whenever or wherever such a condition exists, you are bound to have difficulties, unfulfillment and frustration. The difficulties may either be outer obstacles, or if outer obstacles are not yet on the horizon, you may inwardly feel ill at ease, guilty, tense, full of anxiety or impatience. In other words, even if for the time being things go well outwardly, your inner peace is lacking in this area of your life.

Whenever such condition exists, your motives must be mixed with unconscious selfish motives that produce the negative result. Survey your life once again. See exactly where you have either manifest problems, or inner feelings of anxiety or disharmony. Then check out what your motives really are. Look behind the apparent positive outer appearances. Use your findings, your images and wrong conclusions. Try to crystallize out of them any negative or confused motives and apply them to the trouble area. Or determine if you perhaps have drifted into a certain course without even knowing whether you wanted this particular goal or why you wanted it. Such indetermination is often more damaging than clear-cut negative motives and may apply to any area of life, like professional fulfillment, marriage, or friendship. Indetermination may create tension and conflict in a particular personal relationship.

Check your real motivations behind the conscious ones. Check whether or not you have a clear-cut aim. Check your reason for living. What is your purpose in life?  What do you want it to be, apart from developing yourself to the best of your ability?  Then see what you really want. Why do you want it?  Beware of the error that one motivation necessarily excludes another. You know this is not so. Try to be honest with yourself, in this respect as well as in any other. The relief and the reward you will get from honest answers to your own questions will be tremendous, regardless how negative the answers may prove to be.

One of the most outstanding features of such a procedure will be that the moment you recognize your lack of clear-cut motivations, or the presence of destructive ones, you will see the law of cause and effect operating in your own life. You will thereby instantly lose the feeling of injustice, which may be conscious in some people but is perhaps unconscious in most. When we discussed the general fear of life, fear of the unknown, you learned that it is always the distorted God-image which is responsible for that fear. You may unconsciously fear that there is an arbitrary god who metes out punishment and reward according to his whim. And even if you do not actually believe in such a god, that is your concept of life and your role in it. If you regard yourself as lost, helpless, a prey to circumstances beyond your control, you grasp for “chance” and “luck.”  You feel like a lost little boat on a big ocean. Sometimes the waters are wild and the waves carry you against the current, meaning that life produces unhappiness, and sometimes the waves may be smooth and carry you into “lucky circumstances.”  You say, “There is nothing I can do about either.”  This is a deep-rooted feeling in almost everyone, and it is of utmost importance to make such concepts of life conscious. Some of you have succeeded in doing so, but you do not as yet see the way out. You may say, “All right, and what now?”

You will find the answer by recognizing your hazy or mixed goals that are responsible for whatever it is you lack. This particular confusion and lack of motivation is directly responsible for unfulfillment or lack of success, if you want to call it that. If you then realize that it is you who have caused it, and not a chaotic universe or God, you will automatically lose some of your fear and insecurity. You will know that you are capable of producing favorable conditions, even if you are not yet doing so. You will at least see the road. You will start to think about clarifying your motives and establishing those that you really want, and not those in accord with what you believe you ought to want. Keep such established motivations conscious and clearly defined, working toward their goals. While you may not yet be able to shed the selfish motives, the very admission that they exist, the very honesty and clear vision about yourself will, on the one hand, release an entirely new inner force and energy, and, on the other, you will see your own responsibility for your fate. You will then cease being afraid of an unknown fate, whether your fears be conscious or unconscious.

My friends, it is very important for all of you to consider these questions at this point. What I said today may not be entirely new to those of you who have been following these teachings, but perhaps you will now understand my words in a different light and make better use of them. Now they will sink in deeper and enable you to work more constructively.”

– Eva Pierrakos, The Pathwork Lectures

[Habits of Confusion] 4. Shame and Guilt

We often find ourselves having to make difficult choices. But what makes them difficult? A part of us wants to choose something, yet another one wants to choose something else. What are these parts of us and why do they have different perspectives on what the right choice is? Why are we split in such a way that we are unable to act as a unified whole?

It is as though we can feel the pull of opposing forces, each having a strong claim and we tend to agree with both views, because both views have legitimacy. How are we able to carry these contradictory tendencies and how can we expect to find clarity without elucidating the motivations and reasons of each of these split personalities?

If these sub-personalities had a voice what would they say? What would they really say, if they were radically honest? If they didn’t hide behind good intentions, obligations and blame? If they took full responsibility for the way they feel?

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I think they would sound much different than what they would appear initially.  Many of our internal conflicts stem from the way we frame our problems, from the lack of willingness to take ownership for our problems and from not listening to our intuitive guidance. We often aren’t able to recognize our true motivations for the way we act, because we are blinded by ideas of how things are supposed to be, by what is expected of us and by unconscious fears.

Two of the things that guide our behaviors without us realizing are guilt and shame. We want to do something that would be good for us, yet that would mean letting people down. This conflict causes anxiety, because provoking negative emotions in another person creates the impression that we would be doing something bad. We would have to be bad to disappoint somebody like that, they counted on us for this. If we are used to taking on other people’s emotions, then we feel responsible for the way they feel. We forget that everybody is in charge of their own state of mind and we make it our mission to do whatever is in our power to keep other people’s approval. Then we start getting resentful and bitter because in essence we are shifting responsibilities, we take on the responsibility of other people’s emotions, yet we hold them accountable for our lack of happiness.

The thought behind it is something like ‘fine, I’ll do this to keep you happy, but just so you know, I hate it and you are responsible for making me do this.’ If we were honest about what was happening we would find feelings of obligation, duty, shame and guilt beneath this attitude. If they can be recognized as such, then we need not act on them, since we know that our actions do not stem from love, but from wounding. We would liberate ourselves from these feelings and we would liberate the other person as well from deriving strength/value/security from outside of themselves. They would no longer rely on our actions for those things which would give them the chance to empower themselves. When we take responsibility for the way we feel, we help other people to do the same.

“There’s such a thing as healthy shame. Such shame, which is directed at our behavior, catalyzes our conscience. In stark contrast, unhealthy shame, which is directed at our being, catalyzes our inner critic, which commonly masquerades as our conscience.”

– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Our Shadow Out Of The Dark

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Sometimes it is difficult to identify these emotions because the mind can engage in rationalizations and justifications for the way we behave, thinking it is acting on good intentions. But there is a difference between doing something out of love and doing the same thing out of obligation. The former is done wholeheartedly, without any regrets or resistance while the latter needs plenty of convincing to do and plenty of assurances to be given in order to be done. The former feels right and fills you up with joy, while the latter is done in order to be congruent with your idea of what the right thing to do is.

For instance, I once had to decide whether I was going to go back to my old job. I was extremely confused about it and I didn’t know what to do. I spent a whole month trying to figure it out. I knew I needed money, since I was pretty much broke, yet I didn’t really want to do it anymore. In my mind I kept telling myself how I needed to be financially independent and how other people needed to know I was self-reliant and I found all sorts of reasons to justify to myself that going back was the right thing to do. But this didn’t last, because these lies had caused so much friction that I couldn’t take it any longer and I finally decided, in spite of all opposition, that I wasn’t going to go back regardless the consequences. Of course, being independent is important, it’s just that for me going back at that point would not have been a good decision since I needed to move forward.

Other times, I would continue to live up to other people’s expectations and always feel guilty when I wasn’t be able to live up to them. I would find myself feeling suffocated by obligation and I would feel guilty about not being able to do things out of love. The more I did them, the more my feelings grew into resentment and bitterness. And I found myself getting more and more drained and weakened by having to do those things that seemed like the right thing to do. But they weren’t, they were just the shoulds I had internalized to justify the fact that I was doing these things with good intentions.

Shame and guilt can take various disguises. Robert Augustus Masters identified in his book Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark three disguises that they can take: aggression, emotional disconnection and narcissism. Aggression can be elicited when we feel ashamed, yet we are unable to accept that part of ourselves that makes mistakes and so we try to control the world around us into not disturbing us with these perceptions of wrongdoing that we find so difficult to accept in ourselves. Emotional disconnection is another strategy we can employ when we feel shame. Our emotions can be so overwhelming that we cannot accept the things we have said and done and so we resort to emotional disconnection as a form of self-preservation. We unconsciously believe that numbing our shame can stop the pain, but all it does is anesthetize us to the richness of life. The third means of escape from shame is narcissism, where we inflate our sense of self to such a degree that we cannot accept any criticism.  We don’t want to feel shame, we associate it with a feeling of being bad, of being annihilated and instead of accepting these feelings, we often try to hide beneath a mask of authority or competence or importance in order to discourage others from questioning us ever again.

“When I was eight or nine, I proudly brought home my report card. It was packed with As. I showed it to my father, and without looking at me he muttered something about “What the hell good is this when you can’t even screw in a bolt straight?” I slouched beneath the crushing shame I felt at hearing these words. I’d already learned that if I couldn’t master a skill, such as screwing in a bolt straight, right away, he wouldn’t give me a second chance. The lesson, which he drove into me over and over, was that being successful meant being competent in skills that he valued and being incompetent in such skills meant being rejected, hurt, blasted with shame. And the more shame I felt, the more I was pulled to be aggressive with others, especially with regard to besting them physically and academically. I had zero awareness of this connection between shame and aggression at the time, it was completely hidden in my shadow.”

– Robert Augustus Masters, Bringing Your Shadow Out Of The Dark

When we act according to our internalized shoulds we only have two options: either we do what is expected of us and breed resentment or we don’t do those things and we feel guilty. That doesn’t seem like a fair choice, does it? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You are allowed to not want to do something without feeling guilty or ashamed. You are allowed to have your own boundaries. And you are allowed to say no to things that drain you. That doesn’t make you a bad person. You can use your creative energy to build the life that you want, the life that brings you joy. And you can choose to direct this energy on a channel that is free from resistance.

The problem with shoulds is that they do seem to have a strong claim on the way you behave and act. But the best indicator of it being the right thing to do for you is whether you can do those things with love, without complaining or blaming other people, if you can do it without any feeling of guilt and shame, obligation or duty, whether you can do it because you simply want to.

[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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