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Monday, May 7, 2012

I Want to Tell You a Secret



Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly a secret but I wanted to get your attention so you’d read something I came across today.  I saw one line of the piece below on someone’s website and was intrigued, so I clicked the link.  As I read, thoughts filled me from this piece which was so simply expressed. 

Whether you believe in G-d, a higher power or force or even something extraordinary within each person that has the power to make us greater than our natural abilities would portend.  But it’s up to us to find a way to access it, to find the key that will free us from whatever hinders us.  We seek for it far and wide when in reality we’ve had it all along.   I think this speaks to everyone

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EscapeDescription: http://w2.chabad.org/images/global/spacer.gif

Man, on his own, cannot reach higher than his own fingertips.
He cannot break out of his own skin;
he cannot lift himself up by pulling at his own hair;
all of his achievements are tied to his ego;
all that he may comprehend is defined by his own subjective perception.

He is a prisoner by virtue of existence.
So G‑d threw Man a rope:
He gave him tasks to fulfill that are beyond his grasp;
thoughts to fathom that take him outside the hollow of his subjective universe.

All that is needed is his willingness to leave himself.
We are all prisoners. But we sit on the keys.

-      Tzvi Freeman, 2007
Based on the Teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
(Complete reference at end)
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For myself, after some introspection, I realized just how many challenges I’ve let pass by because I felt I just wasn’t up to them at the time.  But I think if we come into contact with an obvious challenge that seems too coincidental to not be meant for to us we can react in one of three ways.  I’ll start off with the first response today and move the next two on subsequent days to give us all time to think in between.

Put Blinders on and never Leave the Starting Gate

First, we not may not allow ourselves to perceive whatever challenges may come our way.  We have reached a comfortable place and are determined to remain there such that we put on blinders so as not to see any opportunities for further development.  While we can acknowledge development is good, we feel we’re just fine in the development department and know anything new is bound to upset our sense of comfort which we’d really prefer not to do. 

Internally we feel uneasy over our lack of willingness to struggle with new challenges.  But put blinders on, purposefully blocking such opportunities from our minds.  This prevent unease from growing into guilt over refusing to acknowledge that there is always more we can strive to attain to better ourselves and the world around us.   We tell ourselves, “I don’t have to think of this now.  There’s plenty of time in the future to try that out.  I can always come back to it if I so choose.” 

Yet once a challenge has passed us by it is rare the same one will return to give us a second chance.  And having blocked it from memory there is no trace in our minds that it ever presented itself to begin with.  In this way, we will never have to acknowledge that we have greater potential to reach for, avoiding the risk of being pulled away from our comfort zone.  So we sit where we are most at ease, our mindset that of one who refuses to question their personal status quoi. 

Tomorrow I’ll tell you my thoughts on another way we may respond to challenges.  As I have been writing these I recognize myself in one of the three options.  As you read see you recognize yourself also.  Have I already hit on it with the first?  If so, keep reading the next posts and perhaps, if so inclined to do so, you may learn something that will lead you to a place you’d prefer to be.

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Passage from:

Freeman, T., (2007).  Bringing Heaven Down to Earth I.  New York:  Class One Press. 347 pp.





Saturday, April 28, 2012

A List of Traits That Lead to Success Every Time

Rudyard Kipling

I haven’t written in some time because of getting caught by various due dates that seemed to come one upon the other (I think if for no one but myself, I shall have to write a post on the psychological benefits of time management skills).  

There is much I could write about, however, I know once begun I shall continue long past dusk and with another deadline looming I can’t risk placing my attention elsewhere for too long -  I would most certainly ail Kipling’s last condition: If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds' worth of distance run”.  My distance run can meander with many stops along the way to appreciate what I’ve passed, as I assure myself there’s still plenty of time to complete the task at hand until there no longer is.

For some reason today this poem spoke to me and I hope some part of it will speak to you as well.  The world can be harsh at times and where I speak of coping skills, I think Kipling expects much more of us – he doesn’t seem to be providing techniques but instead absolutes for achieving what he seems to intimate is maturity.  

However,  upon reading each stanza and realizing he’s assuming achievement of each condition, I’m thinking he was more in line with suggesting having reached his own version of the top of Maslow’s pyramid:  Self Actualization (another topic for a later post).  Yet for Kipling, it seems all those character traits he mentions are necessary if one is to reach a state of maturity.  I must admit I find that quite off putting when assessing my own progress based on his list of fundamental characteristics.

If any readers out there have managed to fulfill the specifications of adulthood described by Kipling – or even just one or two please let me know.  I seem to struggle with each, at times feeling I have this one or that one down pat only to find a short while later from my emotional response to something that has occurred that perhaps I erred in that initial belief.

Read through once just for beauty of Kipling’s verse, then go through once more, slowly this time, and think about where you fall in regard to each stanza.  Any psychologist who has discovered how to help others reach the end having been successful at each step should win a Nobel Peace Prize.  But then again, any psychologist who can discover how they themselves can successfully reach the end may finally be worthy of the trust clients place in us when asking for our help.

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If
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 
─ Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thoughts on Personal Revenge Writing & Catharsis


A few thoughts that came to me when producing my own fiction piece from the previous post written in the pursuit of catharsis. 

Keep in mind that to ensure your writing will result in the desired cathartic experience enabling you to put the experience to rest for good, you need to have put enough space between yourself and the situation.  This will enable you to deal with the situation in a manner that generates the outcome you desire as opposed to experiencing the sense of being overtaken once more by the memories you will be purposely calling up. 

Yes, writing from some degree of emotion is appropriate for this type of expression, but not if it causes you to revert to the same state of mind you were experiencing when the situation was at its worst.  If after some introspection you decide it’s not time yet, put the memories back in a box, wrap it up tightly and put it back on the top shelf at the back of the closet until a later date.  You can always revisit it from time to time, until you are know you are ready to unwrap it and expose the whole ugly affair without it having the power to overwhelm you anymore.

From responses I’ve received when arguing the advantages of such an approach, it appears that using fiction writing to create a revenge sequence may not be universally accepted as an appropriate coping strategy.  However, while many would argue coping strategies must help you adjust in a socially acceptable manner, I would argue they simply have to be adaptive.  (Don’t get me started on the term “socially acceptable” – it will likely appear as a theme in a future post when someone has thrown the phrase in my path like a gauntlet). 

So the ability to use your revenge fantasies to create something that might actually have staying power, in the form of a short story, or perhaps even lead to something bigger such as a novel, I feel is highly adaptive.  You’ll ultimately have turned your feelings of victimization into triumph, and maybe land a book contract in the process. 

Even if it’s only a means to an end, weaving a story that lets you recreate the situation any way you choose, will result not only in catharsis, but it’s completion will lead to a sense of accomplishment.  That, I also find, is adaptive.  And one of the greatest benefits of fiction writing is you can craft as many versions of a story as you want, creating alternate scenarios until you’ve got the eliciting situation fully out of your system.  Do I hear another book contract calling, this time for a collection of similarly themed short stories?

Developing coping strategies to help us through life’s turmoil makes the difference between the ability to continue to function during tough times and winding up as nothing more than a puddle on the floor. It is vital that we know the specifics of our own personal safety valves.  Just like a water heater, we all need a functioning safety valve that we can open at will when the pressure we have trapped inside us becomes too high.  This can prevent us from exploding like a water heater with a malfunctioning safety mechanism, the consequences of which can be devastating.  Fiction writing can function as just such a safety valve, relieving built up pressure and channeling it in a safe direction preventing an unanticipated blow up and protecting friends and family from flying shrapnel.

______________________________________________________

“Exploding water heater rocks suburban Seattle shopping center, injuring three

The water heater . . . rocketed through the building's roof, over a Taco Bell restaurant and into a Pizza Hut parking lot 460 feet away.  The whole front of the Mexican restaurant, the video store and the grocery store blew out. . . All the windows are gone.”

─ Mia Penta, Associated Press, 2001, theplumber.com.  


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Get Revenge . . . On Paper - Catharsis Through Fiction Writing


Asked to contribute a guest post to a blog on writing, I decided to discuss the use of fiction writing to address times when we can think of nothing but revenge and thus achieve Catharsis.   [This post can be found at http://rickbylina.blogspot.com/2012/03/guest-blog-catharsis-anyone-by-dr.html]. 

As luck would have it, shortly after writing it, WHAMO!  You guessed it.  One of those unpredictable, uncontrollable situations – in essence a repeat performance from a place I thought could no longer hurt me - reared its ugly head.
 
Let’s just say it involved some place I had worked for some period of time at some point in my life that I was convinced I had moved well past.  But if I was over it why did I keep hearing the theme song from “Deliverance” playing in my head? 

“Not okay,” I determine.  I’d arrived at that place I speak about in the guest blog – the desire for revenge, which as a writer I can best carry out on paper in the hopes of experiencing catharsis, ridding me of my anger.  The resulting passage?  Read for yourself.

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The Obituary

Done with the paper, Nicole closed it and placed it on the table in front of her.  Getting up to make herself another cup of coffee, she froze halfway to the kitchen.  She flipped around and half ran - half skidded back to the table, remnants of coffee sloshing everywhere as she all but dropped it missing the coaster entirely.  Grabbing the paper, she quickly turned to the obituary section, certain she couldn’t have seen what she thought she had.  Not even they could stoop that low.

But there it was.  Center page, the large, bold name couldn’t be missed.  Her large, bold name couldn’t be missed.  Collapsing onto the couch, she attempted to brace herself for what she knew was more than merely a coincidence or mistake.
_______________________
Nicole Anderson Helped From This World
Nicole Anderson died under circumstances of her own choosing on an unreported date, with the help of a member of an unnamed euthanasia society.  Ms. Anderson was praised for finally allowing herself to perceive her many limitations and accept the necessity of asking for help in order to successfully end her life despite being a recognized coward and multi-phobic.  She was known to be irrationally terrified of needles, blood, injuries, inability to breath (once when briefly employed using all her sick time in a single month due to a simple cough leading to the belief she would stop breathing any minute), heights, drowning (even refusing a free cruise paid for by her generous employers to decrease her mental distress, because of her inability to see land at all times making it impossible to  maintain the delusion that she could swim back to shore if necessary), and swallowing pills, becoming hysterical when required to do so. 

Believed to have lost her way very early in life, she none-the-less developed the ability to cope with this sad state of affairs, even managing to maintain a relatively happy existence through reliance on an active fantasy life.  Unfortunately, this protective shield began to deteriorate when confronted with numerous false claims she’d made based on her fantasy world such as having earned a Ph.D., formerly serving as the Director of a Graduate Program, and working as a Senior Clinical Supervisor at an institution said to have never heard of her.   Sadly she suddenly found herself unable to make her way back to the fantasies that had sustained her throughout her life, and was forced to face the facts that truly defined her years.

Coming to realize that she had only managed to work for brief periods in unskilled positions, a homeless shelter her only known place of residence, she sought out assistance to end her misery.  While, at least in her mind, she’d worked tirelessly to help others, it is profoundly sad that she wasn’t able to find a way to help herself, at least  in the real world.  Due to there being no know survivors or friends, no burial information is currently available as it has not yet been determined how the costs will be covered.
___________________________

Nicole knew exactly where it had come from and also knew she’d never prove it.  Though she probably should have been furious, she found laughter bubbling out of her in response to such an over the top attempt to get to her.  She’d be sure to tack it on the bulletin board at work in the break room with a handwritten note stating, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  Of course, her failure to respond with increased despondency over what her employers undoubtedly believed to be a brilliant ploy to further twist the knife, would only cause them to yet again turn up the heat. 

“Well, let them,” she thought throwing the offending item across the room to land in a heap.
 
Their pitiful attempts to hurt her would never gain hold.  She had inner resources they hadn’t even begun to suspect existed yet.  But they’d learn.  Oh, how they’d learn.  As ideas began to form and swirl in her head she seriously considered taking up the banjo. 

_______________________________________________________________________________

"So did it work?” I hear you asking.  “Is the anger truly gone?”

I’ll be honest – not entirely.

But there is good news.   Writing this passage has given me a great idea for a complete novel.   And one thing you can be certain of  – figured prominently will be a banjoist on the roof.




Friday, April 6, 2012

Death Penalty Cruel and Ineffective: Well Is It or Isn’t it?


I’ve been watching the debates over whether Connecticut should abolish the death penalty.  The arguments are nothing new, despite the unprecedented public emotion displayed by several senators who related personal struggles based on their moral views, ultimately reversing their previous positions and voting to repeal the law.

The arguments against the death penalty are what you’d expect:

  • The possibility that innocent people who were wrongly convicted will be executed, especially after the multiple cases where this has been proven to have occurred through DNA testing 
  • Concerns that as more advanced genetic techniques are developed, we’ll discover numerous others who were mistakenly executed
  • The fact that research has failed to support the argument the death penalty serves as a deterrent
  • That cruel and unusual punishment is not allowed in this country yet we fail to consider forcing someone to sit on death row while ruminating on their own execution for years and sometimes even decades, as cruel
  • Concerns that by executing people we have become the embodiment of the same evil we’re trying to eliminate
  • The position that you can’t punish murder with murder and expect this to result in a better society
  • That the death penalty is randomly applied and discriminatory in terms of who receives the sentence

The proposed repeal was passed by the Senate with a vote of 20-16 and is expected to sail through the House of Representatives with a promise from the Governor that he will sign it.

Up to here, I’m fine, never being in favor of the death penalty based on many of the same arguments already listed.  My problem comes when, after passing a bill getting rid of a punishment because it is considered inhumane, immoral with the possibility that innocent people may mistakenly be executed, the same Bill adds the defining qualifier “prospective” to its application.  In other words, it will only apply to those convicted after the Bill is passed.

Admittedly not great in logic, I still think something is amiss here.  I can’t seem to figure out how something is considered wrong but at the same time, in regards to a few people is also considered right.  I always believed right and wrong were mutually exclusive.  Yet here we have two different realities existing simultaneously.  It’s like our perception of starlight – We stargaze and from our point of view perceive stars which we feel exist despite being told that the light we see has traveled so far before reaching us that the star that was its source died long ago.  Alive and Dead.  Exists and Doesn’t Exist.

According to all appearance, we are on the brink of passing a Bill stating that due to a number of unacceptable moral and ethical reasons, the death penalty is no longer a legal punishment in Connecticut.  Yet at the same time apparently it either isn’t believed to be inhumane or immoral when applied to the 11 men currently on death row or the basis of the repeal is still accepted as the absolute law of the land prohibiting the use of the punishment, except in regards to these men.

Many prosecutors strongly oppose the bill, arguing that abolishing the death penalty will prevent the 11 men currently on death row from being executed.   Despite the assurance of the Governor that the abolished law would only apply to future cases not those already sentenced, prosecutors have said that the only way to make sure that these sentences aren’t eventually commuted is to retain the death penalty until after all have been executed.   At that point, these prosecutors have stated they would fully support repealing the punishment.

Have we entered the Twilight Zone?  Or simply lost the conviction of our beliefs to the point of compromising what we have so strongly asserted only moments before?  We can’t decide that a practice is wrong but then act in a way that indicates we find the practice only sometimes wrong, at least for now, but that it will become entirely wrong at some point in the future.  Even Dr. Seuss’s rhymes make more sense than this.

Senator Len Suzio said it best.  “The bill is predicated on the idea that the death penalty is always wrong under any and all circumstances.  If you're going to say that taking human life in the form of a legal execution is wrong going forward, then its wrong going backward."   

Thank goodness there’s at least one individual who represents the voice of reason in the midst of irrationality.  I only hope it’s airborne. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Follow Your Bliss


I noticed as the months passed while I looked for work, trying to make ends meet in the meantime with whatever I could find, I was increasingly distracting myself from the frustration with hobbies.  But I always felt guilty that I was enjoying myself while doing something like knitting, when it wasn't getting me any closer to a job.
 
I had figured knitting was worthless since I wasn’t making money from it, it wouldn't lead to income, and the time could be better spent completing an online assignment.  Even if the pay was minimal at least it was something.
 
But I also found my hobbies made me feel calmer, happier, and that there was even a degree of joy that resulted from seeing something I’d finished that had turned out well.  “Isn’t that the whole point of having a hobby?” I thought.  “Taking a break from life’s stress and doing something we love?” 

So I knitted when I felt overwhelmed or needed a breather and let myself enjoy that time.  I noticed when I went back to doing something “productive”, my mind was clearer, the doubts that had been building had disappeared and I worked at a faster pace and the outcome was better quality than my previous unfinished attempt. 

Then, unexpectedly, my hobby turned into something more.  There was this local gallery I’d fallen in love with, always awed by the vast collection of incredible art on display, especially the stained glass.  One day I had stopped by and before leaving, asked the owner out of the blue, “Do you represent any fiber artists?”
 
 “No,” he replied.  “But we’re looking for one.  You wouldn’t happen to be a fiber artist would you?”

Unprepared for the question, and only recently trying out some new felting techniques just for fun, my instinct was to dismiss it, replying I was only an amateur, knitting a bit of this or that.

Yet when I opened my mouth, I was shocked to hear what came out.  “Yes, actually I am.  What are you looking for?”

Turning it back on me, he asked, “Well, what types of fiber art do you create?”

Art?  Create?  Think, think, think.  What would be unusual enough for a gallery, might sell and be something I could actually make?

“I am focusing primarily on felting at the moment,” I began, stalling for time.

“Great,” he replied.  “What kinds of things do you felt?”

Thinking of items I’d finished, now piled on the guest bed, and trying to figure out what they could possibly be used for, I heard myself say, “Uniquely shaped gift containers of different sizes,” specifics -- what could I make quickly and easily, “and I’ve had a degree of success with my felted wine bags which are embellished with special ornamental decorations.”  

What possessed me to say that?  My felted wine bags?  Degree of success?  Special ornamental decorations? Oh God, I’m channeling Martha Stewart!



“Okay, keep calm,” the devil on my left shoulder said.  “It’s called selling yourself.  Everyone who’s a success does it and if he likes them and actually sells some, then what’s the harm?”

“Well, other than the fact it implies something entirely untrue . . . ,” the angle perched on my right shoulder said. 

“Also felted purses,” I added.  I had a couple of those on the bed, didn't I? 


Before I knew it the owner had asked me to bring by some samples and I was suddenly a fiber artist represented by a high end gallery.  And what do you know?  To date, almost every piece has sold, the owner has become a valued friend and I’ve been asked to start bringing in pieces from my summer line.

“You don’t have a summer line,” the angel said.  “In fact, you don’t have a line at all.”

Mentally flicking her off my shoulder, I said I’d be sure to do that.

The lesson I'd learned?  Always follow your bliss.  It’s bound to improve your state of mind, distract you from a tough spot you may be in and replenish your energy to do whatever needs doing better and faster.  

And you never know – someone you meet just may need someone to fill a niche, and with a bit of twisting and redefining, your hobby turned niche filler, could become an income generator while that “someone” just might become a new friend.



Monday, March 26, 2012

                     Did You Ever Notice – 

                         Hearsay & Heresy 

              Differ by a Mere Two Letters?


The Self Psychology of Gossip





Our credulity is greatest concerning the things we know least about. And since we know least about ourselves, we are ready to believe all that is said about us. Hence the mysterious power of both flattery and calumny.                                                                                              
                                                                                      Eric Hoffer (1902–1983)
                             U.S. philosopher. The Passionate State of Mind,(1955)



Criticism is sacrilege, doubt is heresy.

                                                                                                                               Ben Hecht (1893–1964)
                                                                            U.S. journalist, author, screenwriter. "The Captive Muse,” (1954)



There is no worse heresy than when the identity of the person alone is enough to validate their hearsay in the eyes of others                                                                                         
                                                                                        Natalie Frank, Writer, 2012




A Brief Thought from the Land of Alternatives

Lest you have experienced it firsthand, it is naught by hearsay
Choosing to believe naught but hearsay
gives birth to the power of destruction
If I refuse to play by the rules of your hearsay,
rejecting your assertions of groundless hatred
with all my senses & thoughts & feelings
I render you powerless over me
your hearsay negated everywhere that matters
It is not that your hearsay no longer exists
It is that it never came into being to begin with
Now that all which maintained you never existed
It is you who are naught
And I pity you

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Morality Dead?

So did you see anything in the mirror?  Did you look?  (See previous post).  As for me there were several things that came to mind not all of them necessarily complimentary or positive, including the necessity to make some decisions that have been a long time in coming and are well overdo. 

Last post I discussed the increasing belief that living a pleasing life and getting whatever we wanted had been transformed into a right and the growing number and kinds of justifications that allowed us to continue doing whatever it took to make this happen.  I also mentioned how we have learned to stretch of the “within reason” boundary to include what never would have been previously.  The more “modern” we become the better we get at compartmentalizing such that what was wrong yesterday just may be right today.
Yet as things always flow downhill, we couldn't stop rolling and gaining momentum until we shattered the boundary of a dual polarity categorization of morality - that of right and wrong.  This gave birth to the doing-allowing distinction.  The distinction here is between doing something bad ourselves and standing aside while allowing something bad to happen. 
The former, we decided is far worse than the latter.  Murdering someone is horrific, not preventing someone from being murdered - not actually so bad.  That made things far simpler.  Most of us can go about our lives doing what we need to do without murdering anyone.  Yet working towards preventing all those who are dying for lack of food or medical care around the world by joining Doctors Without Borders, well now we’ve just made things a whole lot more difficult.  But we had entered an era where it was considered perfectly fine to say, “I’d prefer to stick with door #1 please, Alex.”
There are those who are extremely socially adept, able to read exactly what another wants to hear, use an innate ability to act in a way that attracts attention.  They can cause others to become attached to them by gaining trust until they are automatically and instantly believed even when contradicting themselves.  Many such individuals are so desperate for the attention this behavior attracts that they are willing to create a hated other, causing the social network they are within to come to see the person based on whatever they were told. 

In terms of the doing-allowing distinction, for such individuals, it isn’t enough that they don’t use their skills to manipulate other, or  hurt others in the process, to obtain the attention and reputation they desire. Unless they do everything they can to use truthful, accurate information and deal fairly with others based on who they really are not who they pretend to be, rectifying any perceptions that are falsehoods, they are failing and badly.

Being good, or moral – doing the right thing – isn’t necessarily going to get you what you want or make you happy all the time.    Plus it’s hard predominantly because doing the right thing doesn’t just mean not doing the wrong thing.  It means taking definitive action to prevent yourself and others when appropriate from acting in a manner that is wrong.   
At times that may mean we don’t get what we want or are unhappy.  

When others are treating us badly for doing the right thing, we realize that the reality is that this idea we have that doing the right thing always results in positive outcomes is a bunch of bunk.  It sucks to be abused for taking the high ground.  Those rewards we all seek – most often it’s not the virtuous they go to but those who seemingly have no conscience.  Sometimes the life of being the good guy is miserable and incomprehensible.

I suppose it all boils down to one thing – who do you want to be?  Are you willing to become one of the immoral beings walking this earth illogicality your calling card, the prospect of hurting others to get what you want easily justified?  Or will you refuse to give in to your baser nature refusing to sink down to the level which may seem at times to be where everyone around you is hanging out? 

Who among us has the strength to become and remain this morally grounded person?  The truth will out.  









Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Morality Isn’t So Hard – The Psychology of Self Protection


In the previous post I talked about how far we’ve traveled away from the time when doing the right thing was what truly made us happy, until we have become a race that defines right through justifications that legitimize our own happiness without taking into account how we might be hurting others.   So what happened to us?  It seems we lost our understanding of logical reasoning and failed to see the flaws, even as we introduced them into our moral code.

The changes began with an ego flare.  This sudden eruption of ego caused us to question the accepted belief that if the only way to get what we wanted or what would make us happy was to do the wrong thing, then we didn’t actually want what we thought we did and it would never lead to true happiness. 

All of a sudden we started asking ourselves, “Who said I don’t really want that or that it won’t make me happy?   It seems like it will.  So if the Moral Life and the Pleasing Life are the same, gaining pleasure will not affect who I am morally.”  You don’t have to be students of logic to see the flaws in this reasoning.  It’s a simple transformation from A is a necessary condition for B although they exist simultaneously, to A and B are the same so when B exists A must also exist. 

Luckily, before we’d traveled too far off into the wilderness, religion stepped in to clean up this misconception.  Religious leaders admitted that doing the right thing wouldn’t always make us happy or get us what we wanted and that it was indeed a hard path to follow.  What religion added was that despite all this, doing the right thing was still in our best interests.  This was accomplished by introducing us to the concept of Heaven and Hell.  So while we may actually lose what we want and not be happy all the time in this world, doing the right thing will get us into Heaven, a very good thing, while doing wrong will send us to hell, a very bad thing.

But then we lost our footing once again when our intellect became dominant and faith without proof was no longer enough for us.  We entered an era when we believed nothing was required to earn being happy or getting what we wanted, because we had come to label these things “rights”.   Everyone had the right to be happy and have what they wanted.  So those running around talking about responsibility to ourselves and others just didn’t get it.  Morality was supposed to be natural not hard. 

We’d done a 360, arriving back at the belief that doing what it took, at least within reason, to be able to experience the pleasing life, now an actual right for all, was the proper order of things.  And since the moral life and the pleasing life go hand in hand, morality couldn’t really be compromised by exercising our right to happiness, to advancement, to admiration, to attention, to gain in all manner of things.  Logical flaws, anyone?
Unfortunately, although by this point we’d significantly shifted our moral code regarding what we believed defined the members of that magic circle, to the point of overcrowding, we weren’t done yet.  We had begun our struggle with what was becoming the ever expanding “within reason” criteria for what was morally right and there’d be no regaining control of the reigns in the foreseeable future. 

And then there’s the contribution of psychology which suddenly began to fascinate everyone so they learned just enough about the topic to create a huge amount of trouble.  As each day passed, more and more psychological verbiage was thrown around as justifications despite the complete lack of understanding of what we were holding up as to champion our words and behavior. 

And if others were hurt by what we did or say that wasn’t our fault it was theirs.  Entirely blameless, our moral selves could not be touched.  We created the adage that no one could be hurt unless they let themselves.  This allowed us to take it another step further.  Since we weren’t responsible for others pain, we became convinced it was our moral right to judge, deemed fully within reason (alas the slippery slope).  

However, we also refused others the same right.  Thus, any attempts at working through an issue or problem which entailed the slightest suggestion that we possibly could have played some part in whatever had gone wrong triggered our defenses.  Out they came in full force, disguised by what were now automatic justifications though accepted as absolute truth.  
First, the other was clearly, undeniably wrong.  Then came the reasoning or attack showing just why they were wrong.  Their oh so obviously incorrect position was based on low self-confidence, self-hatred creating the inability to respond to others in any manner other than hate, lack of self-esteem and poor self-concept.  Add a few maladaptive coping strategies the individual was clearly using to cover all this up in particular repression of self awareness and projection of their negative traits onto others.  Now mix well and bake.  What comes out of the over is the justification of all justifications, “Well, heck that person should be hurt, needs to be hurt so they can self-actualize.” 
While I find I’m still working through this topic, I’ll end here for tonight, but not before I challenge you to perform one task when you finish reading this.  Don’t worry, it’s simple, at least on the surface.  Take out a mirror, and look into to it for at least several minutes, longer if you dare.  For some nothing may happen other than confirming the exercise was as stupid as originally thought; for others it may trigger something.  I can’t say what exactly, as its specific to each person.  But the results are up to you.  For you will only see what you allow yourself to see.   Do you have the courage to permit even a sliver of the illusionary self we all hide beneath to be revealed?   And lest you think I hold myself apart as being above such things, be assured that you won’t be alone.  I’ll see you at the mirror.