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Emotional Freedom Techniques [Part 1]

“We do not respond to reality. We respond to our internal representation of reality.”—NLP Presupposition

“Mind precedes everything. All that you are is a result of what you have thought.”—Buddhist Principle

People of great wisdom and insight in both the East and West agree. Our emotional experience has little or nothing to do with external reality. Oh sure—there are plenty of people, events, situations, and injustices that are easy targets for blame. Bad things happen. And while, often people’s lives are the sum total of their choices, often bad things happen to good people through no action or fault of their own. And less dramatically, unpleasant and undeserved things may happen. Only a fool would dispute that. Events occur. That we cannot change. What we do have tremendous choice over is our experience of those events. And yet, take 5 people and have something negative happen to them and they will all react, respond, and characterize it differently—if even slightly. They will have five different emotional experiences.

What is the difference that makes the difference?

One of my favorite examples is when someone does not call when they said they would or we expect them to. Or perhaps they are late or a no-show to some meeting or appointment. When we finally hear from them, how often are they blamed for our negative emotional experience? We say things like, “you made me worry”, or “I was about to call the hospital,” or something of that nature. Perhaps we are relieved when we hear form them. Perhaps we are angry. Perhaps we are both in succession. I love that—“you made me worry”. As if the person forced us to fantasize negative things. The responsible thing to say when we were upset by a lack of information is something like, “I was worried because I lacked facility with my interpretations.” Whether we are conscious of them or not, all of our emotions are a result of our internal maps of reality or our internal representations. How emotionally free are you? To answer that answer this question: how well do you accept or respond to unexpected events—and events that violate your expectations? Here is a simple equation to ponder:

X + Y = E

Where X is the event, Y is your interpretation of the event, and E is the resulting emotion. We have little choice over events. We can interpret them any number of ways. And we usually do—however we usually do it in a negative and disempowering way. That would be bad enough, but we do not stop there, do we? No. We then generalize it out and create a belief about ourselves, people, the world, etc. spreading the madness allowing it to be come one of the filters through which we view the world. To make matters even worse, we do not sort events looking for how they are different than our belief; we look for evidence to buttress it so we feel validated and our small ego gets some satisfaction. Our belief then becomes a conviction. Gather enough “evidence” and it becomes simply the way the world is, or people are. That is, it becomes the truth. Sadly, [for them] most people would rather be right than be accurate. That is, they come to conclusions and then sort for evidence that proves that they are “right” often ignoring evidence to the contrary—actually not even noticing it. Far better to look for how your belief may be inaccurate. Better still, to gather evidence and come to a conclusion after all the information is in. Even better still is to avoid creating global beliefs about anything and any one.

Anger and Stress are Immuno-Supressive

The person who is hurt the most by our lack of facility is our self. There is a greater and greater volume of research to validate the long-held understanding that negative emotions are a drain on your physical resources negatively impacting health and well being; that positive emotions are uplifting and create greater physical health and well being. I recommend The Molecules of EmotionMolecules of Emotion as a good start.

Practical Steps to Emotional Freedom...

 

Read the rest in Part 2 next week... Part 2 is now available herehere.
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Evolutionary Sales: Application Question: Phone Sales

Michael, an Evolutionary Sales listener asks:
My questions are what if the receptionist says that the decision maker doesn’t take incoming calls, you can only reach him by email or leaving a message with me? Also, if the decision maker says there not interested in a sales call, what do you do?
Good questions Michael. There is always a way. Maybe you need to dial another extension and play Columbo and say you were trying to reach so-and-so [decision maker]. You could also ask: what do I need to do to be interesting enough for him/her to take the call? If the decision maker says they are not interested in a sales call then you need to tailor your opening line. What would they be interested in? For instance: "If I could show you how to save 20% on lead generation, would that be interesting to you? Great. Do you have 15 minutes to discuss that?" It is implied you are making a sales call--and you have generated interest and received permission. Thanks Michael. Keep those listener questions coming!
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The Benefit of a Spiritual Practice [Part 2 of 2]

Be sure to read Part 1 of this article herehere.

Taking Responsibility

The more you take responsibility—for your emotions, your actions, your life the more you build self-esteem. It is not the person who upset you, it is that you became triggered—or that you lost facility. It is not that the cost of living is too high; it is that you are not generating enough income. It is not that someone treats you poorly; it is that you are ineffective at drawing appropriate boundaries. The locus of responsibility—and therefore power—is within you. Nothing is external. To blame someone is to give them tremendous power over you. When you forgo blame in favor of responsibility, you give up comfort, but you reap tremendous rewards—gaining power and building self-esteem. Sadly, I have even experienced people whose ego structure [development of self-esteem] is so insufficient that they will severely distort facts to make themselves look better—all unconsciously. That is, they are not even aware they are doing it. Their ego is so small and fragile it can not include possibilities that do not put them in the most positive light. They also cannot hear feedback. They take things personally that take great leaps of irrationality to do so. They will also have trouble telling the truth of their experience—they are too fearful. And they have a strong -- and at times desperate -- need for approval and acknowledgment from others.They are in egoic hell. Fortunately, the solution is simple. Not easy, but simple. And the more you do it the easier it gets and it is the only sure fire way to build your rational self-esteem; taking responsibility for your part in all things inter-personal. Seeing and examining your part—and ignoring the part the other person had to play in it. Blame serves no one. Responsibility gives you tremendous power.

“Do you want to be on the results side of the equation, or the excuses side of the equation? –Christopher Howard

Let’s leave that for now and move to identification. When you identify with an aspect of your experience: possessions, reputation, job, relationship, etc. you will experience extreme fear and perhaps panic if you think it may be taken from you or lost. You will then make choices and take actions out of a fight-or-flight state. Likewise, if it actually is taken from you or lost to you, you will experience loss, perhaps confusion, pain, at times even grief. Often depression and despair are not far behind. Both of these emotional experiences: fear and loss are clear indicators of identification; a case of mistaken identity. Who you truly are is that which is experiencing all of that. Pure awareness. The Witness.

The ultimate spiritual practice is dis-identifying from that which you think is you.”—Ken Wilber

Taking a step back, let’s look at this in more practical terms. The Witness is simply another perceptual position. As we discussed in the Rapport Module, there are at least 3 that you want to become facile in navigating: self, other, observer; or first, second, and third person perceptual positions. Witness is akin to an associated observer. I like to think of the first three as concentric circles, and the Witness as an intersecting circle that crosses all three. Mastery of this and the other perceptual positions will allow you to experience massive internal facility, emotional freedom, and the ability to relate to and understand many and multiple perspectives—even if you do not agree with them. You will have a greater scope of resources emotionally. You will have greater flexibility mentally. You will bounce back from unexpected events far more rapidly, and you will react less and less and respond more and more. Ultimately, you will foster the kind of flexibility and fluidity necessary for the 21st Century Marketplace and frankly, be happier, physically healthier, and more productive. Your clients and prospects will sense the difference—even if they lack the linguistic structures to navigate it or explain it—and that will translate to results for you. So that is what it is and why it is important, and what it makes possible…but how, Jason? How? You have to learn the set of skills that will allow you to observe your experience. That is: to have your experience without your experience having you. Just as in learning a new language, immersion is best at first if you are serious about learning the skill. There is a practice that I recommend. As in all things I recommend to you, I have either done it, am doing it, or practice it continually. I have experienced this particular immersion six times now. It is a meditative practice that has been working for the purpose of teaching witnessing faculties for 2,500 years now. No matter your religion, spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, you will reap many benefits and those around you will take notice. And soon you will realize how critical a skill it is indeed and how positive its results can be. Find out more about scheduling this kind of immersion for yourself HEREHERE. And then you will truly be an Evolutionary professional.
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The Benefit of a Spiritual Practice [Part 1 of 2]

One critical and often overlooked element to a successful professional and personal life is that of a daily spiritual practice. Whether you are an Evolutionary Sales ProfessionalEvolutionary Sales Professional, an entrepreneur, solo-preneur, or the CEO of a global corporation, you will be more effective once you accept this and integrate it into your daily life. Some of you may be thinking, “I listenedlistened to Jason’s podcastsJason’s podcasts for 14 weeks, and suddenly he goes woo-woo on me!” I assure you, nothing could be farther from the truth. What I am about to lay out for you is just as critical a skill as rapport skills, or eliciting values, or finessing the “gatekeeper” on the phone, and is just as tangible a skill—the skill of navigating your own interiors. By “spiritual practice”, I mean a practice that builds the muscle of dis-identification. Let’s examine this together.

 

What is “Spiritual”? Given the current state of the world, I had best define “spiritual” for our purposes here. Typically when someone says spiritual, they mean one of two things:
1. An experience involving some epiphany or outside god or goddess. 2. The revealing of the highest or deepest within each of us
I do not mean the first. Nor do I mean something religious. I do not mean prayer, the lighting of incense, or the saying of some rite or ritual. I am not here to condemn those things—they are just not what I mean. What I mean is dis-identifying from that which you think is you and retreating into that which you truly are—pure awareness. Consciousness. The Witness. Let’s further examine this together.

“Know thyself.”—The Oracle of Delphi

In the professional domain: have you ever felt “rejected” by a prospect? Ever taken something personally in the business context? Have you ever felt dejected, depressed, or defeated as a result of some interaction or a failure to open the relationship as you had intended? Have you ever obsessed over that client you knew was not quite a fit for you or your organization? Have you ever lied about the results you were producing to make yourself look better? Have you ever been intentionally vague for the same purpose? Have you ever lost a job and were thrust into a period of confusion and depression? In the personal domain: have you ever stayed in a relationship after you were clear it did not serve you? out of fear of the social implications? Or out of fear of being alone? Or out of a fear of being uncertain who you would be without him/her in your life? Have you ever been afraid to tell the truth about your self or some aspect of your life, not for the wise practical reasons, but out of a fear of rejection? Have you ever considered suicide over the loss of a large sum of money, a relationship, or a major loss of social reputation? Or stayed in a marriage that was abusive for your familial “obligations”? Have you ever been upset because someone forgot your name? Or mispronounced it? Or could not remember meeting you? Maybe you answered yes to some of these, one of these, all of them, or some variation on the theme not listed here for the sake of expediency. These are all a function of two things [and usually both]:
1. Low self-esteem; an underdeveloped ego 2. Identification with that which is not you
Self-esteem I have written about before, and will continue to do so. Just a few quick thoughts here, now: Self-esteem is so necessary and so misunderstood. So misrepresented in popular psychology today. In fact, I often use the phrasing “esteem for the self” with my clients to set what I mean apart from popularized “self-esteem”. One common misconception is that someone else can be “bad” for your self-esteem. It is not the person that is bad for your self-esteem; it is your volitional choice to stay with them that is “bad” for it. We could go on and on deconstructing the misconceptions, but that is for another time. There is only one sure way to build self-esteem... Read the second half of this article next week.     Read Part 2 HEREHERE now. If you want more powerful distinctions to integrate into your life to immediately increase your professional results and access greater emotional freedom, explore that here:

 

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Subscribe with iTunes And if you like it: Comment Digg it Review it in iTunes And create upward spirals for us all! Cross-Posted at Personal Life MediaPersonal Life Media.

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Self Hypnosis: The Voices in Your Head [Part 2 of 2]

Be sure to read Part 1Part 1  here.

 

Awareness is the Gateway

 

 

As always it starts with awareness. Most people are not even aware they talk to themselves. In fact, there are likely some of you reading this, saying to yourselves inside your head right now, “what voice in my head? What’s this guy talking about? I don’t talk to myself!” Others are aware of their thoughts and internal dialogue, but judge it, beating themselves up for negative self-talk. If ever there was an ironic twist to missing the point that would be it. Imagine that your unconscious mind is the five-year-old who is listening to every word you say as if it is Holy Scripture. Would you talk to yourself the same way? Once you develop awareness, then you must develop your facility with perceptual positions. It is only from the Observer position of that of Witness that you can give yourself clean feedback, and shift your thoughts to one of resource.
1. Practice awareness [meta-cognition] 2. Develop facility with perceptual position 3. Add positive and resourceful phrases and imaginings

Self-Hypnosis

 

 

To fully experience the power of intentional self-hypnosis, I recommend the following practice. Do it daily. Do it morning and night. Do it intentionally until it becomes the new habit pattern of your mind such that when you adjust your rear-view mirror, when you walk down the street, when you are about to go into a meeting, what is happening habitually and “naturally” is you are hearing positive thoughts and seeing positive images. And…you are aware of it all the while.
1. Pick 3 sentences you need to hear, believe, or accept. 2. Look in the mirror. As you do, pick one eye to stare into. 3. Say each sentence 5 times using second person language as if you are talking to the you “over there” 4. Notice how it feels [any resistance, incongruence or conflict, relief, joy, etc.
Some examples are:
  • You will achieve all you desire
  • You are on track
  • You will enjoy a long life and vibrant health
  • You can do anything
  • You are loved [or safe, etc.]
  • You’re awareness is becoming more and more acute
Pick your own. Which sentences you pick again depend on your particular outcomes, your needs, and your personal hurdles.

 

Optimizing Your Results

 

Use only positive language. Notice I did not say, “do not use negation” or “do not use negative language”. That is because the unconscious mind does not understand negation. If I say, “do not think of a pink elephant, with yellow polka dots, and a small palm tree growing out of its head”, what do you imagine? At best it is a two-step process, so always use positive language. One common mistake is to say things like: You will not fail You will overcome this illness I will not be rejected Etc. While these may seem like positive messages, the focus for your unconscious mind is on the problem; failure, illness, rejection. A simple way to train your mind to use positive language is to ask, “what do I want instead?” Some people ask, “Why pick just one eye?” You cannot look in both eyes simultaneously with a direct gaze. If you switch back and forth, uncertain or unable to choose just one, that is also less direct. A direct gaze is more powerful and more hypnotic. The suggestions go in more easily and deeper. Try it all three ways, you should feel a tangible difference when choosing just one and gazing directly. If you do this daily, it will become a habit. Your self-talk—your internal dialogue—will become more and more positive. Self-doubt will melt away more and more. And you will find yourself being hopeful, optimistic, and engaged in positive self-hypnosis as if it were second nature. You will reap the benefits and experience the results. Cross posted @ Personal Life Media Personal Life Media
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Self Hypnosis: The Voices in Your Head [Part 1 of 2]

When most people hear the word “hypnosis” they get a little unsettled. They usually get unsettled as a result of some fantasy about what hypnosis is or is not. Some associate it to stage hypnosis and the Vegas show world. Others are afraid of what someone might do to them when they are unconscious. Still others are afraid of clucking like a chicken when the phone rings. Others my simply roll their eyes thinking that hypnosis is more mumbo-jumbo for the woo-woo set who wear patchouli oil and live in Northern California or in Boulder, Colorado. So what is “hypnosis”? For our purposes, hypnosis is simply the use of language and imagination to direct experience. If you have ever watched television and felt enraptured in a show, you were in a hypnotic trance. When it seems like time flew by, you were in a hypnotic trance. If someone has ever told you a story and you began to visualize aspects of it, you were in a hypnotic trance. If you have ever fantasized about someone or something positively or negatively, you were in a hypnotic trance. If someone has ever asked “how are you today?” and you took a moment to truly consider it, they had put you in a hypnotic trance. And the list goes on.

The truth is, we are in a state of hypnotic trance more than we are out of it.

That is the good news. Once you notice it, and have enough facility to intervene in the process, it becomes a tremendously powerful opportunity to harness the power of your mind. Once you notice it, you can be more respectful of other people’s experience and avoid adding anything negative. The truth is, we are directing each other’s experience all the time. We are hypnotizing each other all the time. Are you adding beauty and joy? Or are we directing people to their internal struggles or pain out of ignorance and “empathy”? One of my favorite jokes to play in a partially full elevator is to look at the floor, placing both my hands on the side of my head, slapping lightly while say, “Shut up. All of you shut up!” What fun. However, there is an unfortunate kernel of truth in this joke for most of us. Recent studies have indicated that over 77% of our self-talk or internal dialogue is negative. This is a stunning number. That is also an average from largely untrained minds.

You Notice What You Think About

The Law of Attraction has been one of the mainstays of personal development since its inception. That is, that we are likely to get what we focus on. Like a search engine, we put something in it, hit return, and we get ranked results. Our mind goes looking for what we often unintentionally tasked it with. And yet, we are often telling ourselves and our minds things that are negative, will not help us realize our potential, and will not serve our ultimate happiness. There is a resurgent interest and focus on this Law as a result of the movie The Secret. There is no magic to this. When we set our intention or focus on something, our reticular activator goes into action. A part of our mind and biology left over from hunter gatherer years. Some common examples:
  • You decide on a new car you like and want to purchase; suddenly you see that model everywhere
  • You make a decision to start a new business venture, and you overhear a stranger at a restaurant who may be helpful
  • You make a commitment to a change in your life change and within the next week you see and/or hear multiple marketing messages offering solutions to the very problem you have decided to overcome
People who do not understand the science of the mind and body behind this will say things like “I manifested that/them”, and similar formulations that say more about their stage of developmenttheir stage of development that any particular objective reality, After all, we interpret the world through--and react from--our stage of development and its accompanying filters and value memes. The truth is, the thing we suddenly see or the opportunity that arises was already there, we just notice it now. As a function of our biology, our senses have to reduce and filter out over 50% of our stimulus for processing. That is, over half of the information coming to us through our sense tools [eyes, ears, nose, skin, taste] is filtered out. We do not have the ability to process it all. Particularly visually and auditorally in an urban environment. So our mind notices what we have consciously or unconsciously set it to notice. I recommend the conscious option as much as possible. :-D becoming more and more intentional about this tool rather than leaving it to chance. How do we train this powerful tool? How do we harness the full power of our minds for our benefit, rather than allowing it to run roughshod over us? How do we leverage this aspect of our consciousness to create a life in which we thrive? ...read about that in part 2 in a few days. Find Part 2 HEREHERE now.
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The Need for Experimentation and Detachment | Organizing Principles

"There is no such thing as failure--only feedback for course correction."

It is rumored that a missile is of course over 90% of the time. That the purpose of its guidance systems are to constantly course correct, course correct, course correct. Most of the time, with an effective guidance system, we know that even given that necessity for course correction, the missile hits its intended target with a reasonably high level of accuracy.

You are that missile.

Just imagine if scientists, upon the first major failurefirst major failure of the Unites States' manned moon missions looked at the fire, balled up their papers in front of them and with a great wail, shreaked "We are such a failure! We better not try to explore space! It is God's realm--not meant for man!" Actually you can bet some of the general public did. Thankfully, the general public does not reside at Mission Control in Houston. Your job is to be a scientist of results, communication, and your own experience. To be fascinated by it. To have it, but not to be so in it, that it has you. Have your experience, but do not allow your experience to have you. What this means is that you are experimenting, noticing your results, gathering feedback, trying again, and again, and again.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -- Thomas Edison

There are many skills necessary for mastery of the internal navigation of your subjective experience. However, one of the major components is self-esteem. As previously discussed in Evolutionary Sales, it is your immune system for life and for results. It will give you the ability to look at your results practically, and adjust. Rather than taking it personally and making it mean something about your very worth and value in the world. Be a scientist of subjective experience. A scientist of results. Ask not "is it possible or not", but rather, "what do I need to do to achieve the result I desire; what do I need to learn, acquire, do, be", etc., etc., ad infinitum. Your mastery is an asymptote. You will master your mastery and then realize that there are such subtleties that you have only begun.-- And then you have reached an integral level of evolution and the game of development and personal evolution becomes a fun game indeed. Cross posted at Personal Life Media.
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The Importance of Self Esteem

As I mentioned in an earlier episode of Evolutionary Sales, it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of Self-Esteem, or as I prefer to say: "esteem for the self".

Why would I assert it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of Self-Esteem?

Its viability is your immune system for life--and the antidote to most of your day-to-day emotional and interpersonal struggles and challenges. Whether you take things too personally, fail to rebound from rejection quickly enough, have nagging self-doubts, seek validation, or question your ability to create the life you want...it could be considered a self-esteem issue. In fact, whether it is true or not, it would be useful to consider all upset as sourced in self-esteem or insufficient ego development.

Self-esteem is one of the most important, yet most overused and misunderstood concepts in popular psychology today.

What Self-Esteem Is and Is Not Nathaniel Branden, PhDNathaniel Branden, PhD Copyright © 1997, Nathaniel Branden, All Rights Reserved This article is adapted from “The Art of Living Consciously” (Simon & Schuster, 1997). Four decades ago, when I began lecturing on self-esteem, the challenge was to persuade people that the subject was worthy of study. Almost no one was talking or writing about self-esteem in those days. Today, almost everyone seems to be talking about self-esteem, and the danger is that the idea may become trivialized. And yet, of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves. Having written on this theme in a series of books, I want, in this short article, to address the issue of what self-esteem is, what it depends on, and what are some of the most prevalent misconceptions about it. Self-esteem is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is a good deal more than a mere feeling—this must be stressed. It involves emotional, evaluative, and cognitive components. It also entails certain action dispositions: to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than denial; to operate self-responsibly rather than the opposite. A Definition To begin with a definition: Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment—happiness—are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing. Self-esteem is not the euphoria or buoyancy that may be temporarily induced by a drug, a compliment, or a love affair. It is not an illusion or hallucination. If it is not grounded in reality, if it is not built over time through the appropriate operation of mind, it is not self-esteem. The root of our need for self-esteem is the need for a consciousness to learn to trust itself. And the root of the need to learn such trust is the fact that consciousness is volitional: we have the choice to think or not to think. We control the switch that turns consciousness brighter or dimmer. We are not rational—that is, reality-focused—automatically. This means that whether we learn to operate our mind in such a way as to make ourselves appropriate to life is ultimately a function of our choices. Do we strive for consciousness or for its opposite? For rationality or its opposite? For coherence and clarity or their opposite? For truth or its opposite? Building Self-Esteem In “The Six Pillars of Self Esteem,” I examine the six practices that I have found to be essential for the nurturing and sustaining of healthy self-esteem: the practice of living consciously, of self-acceptance, of self-responsibility, of self-assertiveness, of purposefulness, and of integrity. I will briefly define what each of these practices means: The practice of living consciously: respect for facts; being present to what we are doing while are doing it; seeking and being eagerly open to any information, knowledge, or feedback that bears on our interests, values, goals, and projects; seeking to understand not only the world external to self but also our inner world, so that we do not out of self-blindness. The practice of self-acceptance: the willingness to own, experience, and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, without evasion, denial, or disowning—and also without self-repudiation; giving oneself permission to think one’s thoughts, experience one’s emotions, and look at one’s actions without necessarily liking, endorsing, or condoning them; the virtue of realism applied to the self. The practice of self-responsibility: realizing that we are the author of our choices and actions; that each one us is responsible for life and well-being and for the attainment of our goals; that if we need the cooperation of other people to achieve our goals, we must offer values in exchange; and that question is not “Who’s to blame?” but always “What needs to be done?” (“What do I need to do?”) The practice of self-assertiveness: being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval; the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts. The practice of living purposefully: identifying our short-term and long-term goals or purposes and the actions needed to attain them (formulating an action-plan); organizing behavior in the service of those goals; monitoring action to be sure we stay on track; and paying attention to outcome so as to recognize if and when we need to go back to the drawing-board. The practice of personal integrity: living with congruence between what we know, what we profess, and what we do; telling the truth, honoring our commitments, exemplifying in action the values we profess to admire. What all these practices have in common is respect for reality. They all entail at their core a set of mental operations (which, naturally, have consequences in the external world). When we seek to align ourselves with reality as best we understand it, we nurture and support our self-esteem. When, either out of fear or desire, we seek escape from reality, we undermine our self-esteem. No other issue is more important or basic than our cognitive relationship to reality—meaning: to that which exists. A consciousness cannot trust itself if, in the face of discomfiting facts, it has a policy of preferring blindness to sight. A person cannot experience self-respect who too often, in action, betrays consciousness, knowledge, and conviction—that is, who operates without integrity. Thus, if we are mindful in this area, we see that self-esteem is not a free gift of nature. It has to be cultivated, has to be earned. It cannot be acquired by blowing oneself a kiss in the mirror and saying, “Good morning, Perfect.” It cannot be attained by being showered with praise. Nor by sexual conquests. Nor by material acquisitions. Nor by the scholastic or career achievements of one’s children. Nor by a hypnotist planting the thought that one is wonderful. Nor by allowing young people to believe they are better students than they really are and know more than they really know; faking reality is not a path to mental health or authentic self-assurance. However, just as people dream of attaining effortless wealth, so they dream of attaining effortless self-esteem—and unfortunately the marketplace is full of panderers to this longing. People can be inspired, stimulated, or coached to live more consciously, practice greater self-acceptance, operate more self-responsibly, function more self-assertively, live more purposefully, and bring a higher level of personal integrity into their life—but the task of generating and sustaining these practices falls on each of us alone. “If I bring a higher level of awareness to my self-esteem, I see that mine is the responsibility of nurturing it.” No one—not our parents, nor our friends, nor our lover, nor our psychotherapist, nor our support group—can “give” us self-esteem. If and when we fully grasp this, that is an act of “waking up.” Misconceptions about Self-Esteem When we do not understand the principles suggested above, we tend to seek self-esteem where it cannot be found—and, if we are in “the self-esteem movement,” to communicate our misunderstandings to others. Teachers who embrace the idea that self-esteem is important without adequately grasping its roots may announce (to quote one such teacher) that “self-esteem comes primarily from one’s peers.” Or (quoting many others): “Children should not be graded for mastery of a subject because it may be hurtful to their self-esteem.” Or (quoting still others): “Self-esteem is best nurtured by selfless (!) service to the community.” In the “recovery movement” and from so-called spiritual leaders in general one may receive a different message: “Stop struggling to achieve self-esteem. Turn your problems over to God. Realize that you are a child of God—and that is all you need to have self-esteem.” Consider what this implies if taken literally. We don’t need to live consciously. We don’t need to act self-responsibly. We don’t need to have integrity. All we have to do is surrender responsibility to God and effortless self-esteem is guaranteed to us. This is not a helpful message to convey to people. Nor is it true. Yet another misconception—very different from those I have just discussed—is the belief that the measure of our personal worth is our external achievements. This is an understandable error to make but it is an error nonetheless. We admire achievements, in ourselves and in others, and it is natural and appropriate to do so. But this is not the same thing as saying that our achievements are the measure or grounds of our self-esteem. The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements per se but those internally generated practices that make it possible for us to achieve. How much we will achieve in the world is not fully in our control. An economic depression can temporarily put us out of work. A depression cannot take away the resourcefulness that will allow us sooner or later to find another or go into business for ourselves. “Resourcefulness” is not an achievement in the world (although it may result in that); it is an action in consciousness—and it is here that self-esteem is generated. To clarify further the importance of understanding what self-esteem is and is not, I want to comment on a recent research report that has gained a great deal of attention in the media and has been used to challenge the value of self-esteem. By way of preamble let me say that one of the most depressing aspects of so many discussions of self-esteem today is the absence of any reference to the importance of thinking or respect for reality. Too often, consciousness or rationality are not judged to be relevant, since they are not raised as considerations. The notion seems to be that any positive feeling about the self, however arrived at and regardless of its grounds, equals “self-esteem.” We encounter this assumption in a much publicized research paper by Roy F. Baumeister, Joseph M. Boden, and Laura Smart, entitled “Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem,” published in the “Psychological Review” (1996, Vol. 103, 5-33). In it the authors write: Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence, but the opposite view is theoretically viable. An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression, crime, and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem is an important cause. Instead, violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism—that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance. Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self’s superiority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self-concept. The article contains more astonishing statements than it is possible to quote, but here are a few representative examples: “In our view, the benefits of favorable self-opinions accrue primarily to the self, and they are if anything a burden and potential problem to everyone else.” “By self-esteem we mean simply a favorable global evaluation of oneself. The term self-esteem has acquired highly positive connotations, but it has simple synonyms the connotations of which are more mixed, including … egotism, arrogance … conceitedness, narcissism, and sense of superiority, which share the fundamental meaning of favorable self-evaluation.” “[W]e propose that the major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined with an ego threat [which is caused by someone challenging your self-evaluation].” “Apparently, then, alcohol generally helps create a state of high self-esteem.” Observe, first of all, that there is nothing in the authors’ idea of self-esteem that would allow one to distinguish between an individual whose self-esteem is rooted in the practices of living consciously, self-responsibility, and personal integrity—that is, one whose self-esteem is rooted in reality—and one whose “self-esteem” consists of grandiosity, fantasies of superiority, exaggerated notions of one’s accomplishments, megalomania, and “favorable global self-evaluations” induced by drugs and alcohol. No definition of self-esteem or piece of research that obliterates a distinction of this fundamentality can make any claim to scientific legitimacy. It leaves reality out of its analysis. One does not need to be a trained psychologist to know that some people with low self-esteem strive to compensate for their deficit by boasting, arrogance, and conceited behavior. What educated person does not know about compensatory defense mechanisms? Self-esteem is not manifested in the neurosis we call narcissism—or in megalomania. One has to have a strange notion of the concept to equate in self-esteem the trail-blazing scientist or entrepreneur, moved by intellectual self-trust and a passion to discover or achieve, and the terrorist who must sustain his “high self-evaluation” with periodic fixes of torture and murder. To offer both types as instances of “high self-esteem” is to empty the term of any useable meaning. An important purpose of fresh thinking is to provide us with new and valuable distinctions that will allow us to navigate more effectively through reality. What is the purpose of “thinking” that destroys distinctions already known to us that are of life-and-death importance? It is tempting to comment on this report in greater detail because it contains so many instances of specious reasoning. However, such a discussion would not be relevant here, since my intention is only to show the importance of a precise understanding of self-esteem and also to show what can happen when consciousness and reality are omitted from the investigation. So I will conclude with one last observation. In an interview given to a journalist, one of the researchers (Roy F. Baumeister), explaining his opposition to the goal of raising people’s self-esteem, is quoted as saying: “Ask yourself: If everybody were 50 percent more conceited, would the world be a better place?” [1] The implication is clearly that self-esteem and conceit are the same thing—both undesirable. Webster defines conceit as an exaggerated [therefore in defiance of facts] opinion of oneself and one’s merits. No, the world would not be a better place if everybody were 50 percent more conceited. But would the world be a better place if everybody had earned a 50 percent higher level of self-esteem, by living consciously, responsibly, and with integrity? Yes, it would—enormously. Awareness of What Affects Our Self-Esteem Self-esteem reflects our deepest vision of our competence and worth. Sometimes this vision is our most closely guarded secret, even from ourselves, as when we try to compensate for our deficiencies with what I call pseudo-self-esteem—a pretense at a self-confidence and self-respect we do not actually feel. Nothing is more common than the effort to protect self-esteem not with consciousness but with unconsciousness—with denial and evasion—which only results in a further deterioration of self-esteem. Indeed a good deal of the behavior we call “neurotic” can be best understood as a misguided effort to protect self-esteem by means which in fact are undermining. Whether or not we admit it, there is a level at which all of us know that the issue of our self-esteem is of the most burning importance. Evidence for this observation is the defensiveness with which insecure people may respond when their errors are pointed out. Or the extraordinary feats of avoidance and self-deception people can exhibit with regard to gross acts of unconsciousness and irresponsibility. Or the foolish and pathetic ways people sometimes try to prop up their egos by the wealth or prestige of their spouse, the make of their automobile, or the fame of their dress designer, or by the exclusiveness of their golf club. In more recent times, as the subject of self-esteem has gained increasing attention, one way of masking one’s problems in this area is with the angry denial that self-esteem is significant (or desirable). Not all the values with which people may attempt to support a pseudo-self-esteem are foolish or irrational. Productive work, for instance, is certainly a value to be admired, but if one tries to compensate for a deficient self-esteem by becoming a workaholic one is in a battle one can never win—nothing will ever feel like “enough.” Kindness and compassion are undeniably virtues, and they are part of what it means to lead a moral life, but they are no substitutes for consciousness, independence, self-responsibility, and integrity—and when this is not understood they are often used as disguised means to buy “love” and perhaps even a sense of moral superiority: “I’m more kind and compassionate than you’ll ever be and if I weren’t so humble I’d tell you so.” One of the great challenges to our practice of living consciously is to pay attention to what in fact nurtures our self-esteem or deteriorates it. The reality may be very different from our beliefs. We may, for example, get a very pleasant “hit” from someone’s compliment, and we may tell ourselves that when we win people’s approval we have self-esteem, but then, if we are adequately conscious, we may notice that the pleasant feeling fades rather quickly and that we seem to be insatiable and never fully satisfied—and this may direct us to wonder if we have thought deeply enough about the sources of genuine self-approval. Or we may notice that when we give our conscientious best to a task, or face a difficult truth with courage, or take responsibility for our actions, or speak up when we know that that is what the situation warrants, or refuse to betray our convictions, or persevere even when persevering is not easy—our self-esteem rises. We may also notice that if and when we do the opposite, self-esteem falls. But of course all such observations imply that we have chosen to be conscious. In the world of the future, children will be taught the basic dynamics of self-esteem and the power of living consciously and self-responsibly. They will be taught what self-esteem is, why it is important, and what it depends on. They will learn to distinguish between authentic self-esteem and pseudo-self-esteem. They will be guided to acquire this knowledge because it will have become apparent to virtually everyone that the ability to think (and to learn and to respond confidently to change) is our basic means of survival—and that it cannot be faked. The purpose of school is to prepare young people for the challenges of adult life. They will need this understanding to be adaptive to an information age in which self-esteem has acquired such urgency. In a fiercely competitive global economy—with every kind of change happening faster and faster—there is little market for unconsciousness, passivity, or self-doubt. In the language of business, low self-esteem and underdeveloped mindfulness puts one at a competitive disadvantage. However, neither teachers in general nor teachers of self-esteem in particular can do their jobs properly—or communicate the importance of their work—until they themselves understand the intimate linkage that exists between the six practices described above, self-esteem, and appropriate adaptation to reality. “The world of the future” begins with this understanding.

Do yourself a favor and go and purchase The Six Pillars of Self EsteemThe Six Pillars of Self Esteem and read the book in the next two weeks...

Then read it twice a year for the rest of your life. Like anything else, you will experience it differently each time you read it--as you will be deeper, you will be ready for things you are not ready to hear currently, and you will see a different aspect of it each time you read it, especially as you add more aspects of yourself to your life--and reveal more of yourself in all contexts of your life.

This is true of all information; books, audio products, workshops, etc. As I have said before, "repetition is the mother of integration" for more reasons than three.

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Evolutionary Sales: Episode 1 and 2: Your Foundation for Your Success

As I have written recently, there has been a shift in the marketplace. In the 20th Century marketplace sales people talked about "closing deals" at best. At worst they talked about "shooting their prospects down like they were ducks in a shooting gallery". This is not exactly a metaphor we should be living into as we evolve as a culture--and not a metaphor the leading edge of the marketplace will any longer support in the profit centers of the global marketplace, or the Functioning Core, as Dr. Thomas Barnett would say. I actually had a CEO [my boss] one time tell me that I should "pound their door down" to get a meeting. While people who watch me walk often ask if I was a football player, I responded: "how 'bout I dance my way through it?" He barked back: "I don't care how you do it, just get the client!" That CEO had a team of incredibly skilled top producers from other organizations. All of us were highly developed and into personal development as a lifestyle. Some of us had already led courses--even though we were barely 30 years old. We all left for other endeavors as a result of his management style. Not long after the company was in disarray and its assets and database had to be liquidated. That process only took two years once he had assumed control and had the sales team report directly to him. Welcome to the 21st Century Marketplace. Evolve and come from a foundation of support and contribution, or wither away. I have even recently heard sales trainers speak of manipulating your clients or "hypnotic" sales and other language that speaks of your treating prospects and clients as if they were objects, rather than a trusted adviser and powerful guide in improving their life, department, results, etc. Rather than a guide in assisting them in making their own dreams a reality. This subject-object way of relating to people is old thinking and it is sales for the last century. I talked at length in the prologue about this shift in the marketplace--as well as the foundation you need to come from to be at the forefront of sales professionals and the evolving 21st Century Marketplace. Be sure you have listened to that prologue to get the most from the Evolutionary Sales podcasts. You may even considering listening to it over and over again. In Episode 1 and 2, I talk about your emotional foundation and give you powerful tools that have been developed over the last 30 plus years to rapidly shift your emotional state to be of service to your clients and prospects. Not that your life still will not have ups and downs--it will--but you will be able to more rapidly move through them. Move through them more rapidly than many people even think possible. And for what purpose? Obviously, so you can produce greater results. But for what purpose? And what is "Evolutionary Sales"? Evolutionary Sales is defined as such: "inspiring another toward their vision of what is possible, and using advanced tools to leverage them beyond their limitations". Once you are in service of a vision of what is possible with your product or service that comes from their own mouth, it then becomes your duty to leverage them beyond their limitations. That, my friends, is Evolutionary Sales. This foundation allows you to use some of the most influential linguistic and interpersonal dynamic skills currently available while still being of service to them--and they will feel, see, hear, smell, and taste the difference. At least for now. I envision a time in the not-so-distant future when truly effective sales professionals and trusted advisers will need to be capable of truly trans-personal states. But that is another story for another time. Why should you care? You may already be very good at motivating and influencing people such that you prosper well. The reason you shoul care is if you are already good, you will inherently be involved in improving, developing, and yes, evolving your self. But even beyond that, you will feel more fulfilled and frankly happier if come form the deeper structure of the Evolutionary Sales Process. That is the purpose. To have a more fulfilling experience for yourself and provide a more fulfilling experience for your clients and prospects. Move from success to signifigance. Move from subject-object thinking to relational thinking. Move from the 20th Century Marketplace to the 21st Century Marketplace. Want to start now? Subscribe to these podcasts. Don't want to wait a year to get all the information? Buy Evolutionary Sales now and own the whole system as well as an opportunity to have me coach you directly on how to integrate it into your daily sales practices. Whether your challenge is how to be comfortable on the phone or how to increase your opening [used to be close] ratio, I would be honored to be your Guide.
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Living Consciously ::: Fulfilling Relationships | Values | Forms

One of the aspects of working on and in the context of personal evolution is that I am constantly in evolution in both senses of the word--"in it", as in exploring the context and in the process of my own personal evolution as well--because you see, it is never over. Our evolution, which is really about allowing the greatest depths of ourselves to unfold and manifest in the world, is never over--because our depths are infinite. If who we are is a manifestation of the divine--an outpouring of Spirit, and the Kingdom of God is Within [and I believe it is] than there is no end to uncovering, clearing, and allowing that beauty to unfold in the world.

And I never ask my clients to do anything I have not done myself and am applying in my own life. Period. As such, this post is a little more personal for me to demonstrate that.

After my divorce, and the year long self-reflection that followed, I realized that for the most part, what consistently happened in my romantic relating was a zero-sum type of dynamic. That at the end of my relationship with a woman, she was tangibly more empowered, more comfortable with herself, more fully embodied, and proud of her womanhood.

Partly because it was my constant practice to be sure she felt loved, had per positive qualities acknowledged somehow on an actual daily basis [not the same ones, but what authentically struck me in the moment as I appreciated her at some point], that she not only had a daily reminder, with full connection and presence of my love for her [and what I loved about her and why] but that she blushed with my acknowledgments.

It was conscious. Intentional. And the relating really cost me dearly. I was psychically drained, more dis-empowered, and frankly, less of a man by the end. It was, in fact, a zero-sum gamezero-sum gamezero-sum game.

It was not the things I was doing that drained me. They were rewarding to just do it. It was the lack of any reciprocal expression, I think. And I other things they did that I lacked facility around.

The contrast had never been so great than after my divorce--and the dynamics never so clear as in that marriage.

Now, I never planned it that way, but once I noticed it after the divorce, I ended up having a zero-tolerance policy for romantic relating that was not about synergistic upward spirals where both people were winning--and the relating was winning too. A triple win game. Both parties were winning--AND the actual relating was winning too. It is healthier for me to just be alone and fully empowered McClain-Ness than to be in unfulfilling and relating that ultimately cost me energetically. Although it took me a while to adjust to that, and sadly there was one relationship in which she ended up being drained...but it is all a process--and sometimes that is about the pendulum swinging the other way before it swings back the middle to finally rest upon the golden meangolden meangolden mean.

But back to zero-sum...

Let's face it--people who have little or no self-respect choose bad and even abusive relationships over being alone. Me? I would rather wake up alone, be in the company of just myself, than be in an unhealthy or un-fulfilling relationship. And I never have [and never will] just go from one relationship to another. Takes at least 6 months or so for self-reflection and the integration of the learnings before we can be responsible with another's heart, But that is all romantic...

Six years later, I am just now getting to really make sure that is generalized into all relating--not just romantic.

This is all part of how I have been consciously going through ALL of my friendships, free of sentimentality or attachment, and shrewdly examining if they are rich, dynamic, healthy, and fulfilling--or if they are just habits. And then explicitly ending the friendship or deepening and continuing the friendship with more connection, engagement, and intentionality. Regardless of how much I love the individual I am in the friendship with I may be ending. The relating must also be fulfilling. and one of the most important things for me that has the relating fulfilling is emotional engagement...rather than fear and detachment. But real engagement--yet also free of identification or enmeshment.

SOMETIMES that means me making decisions for other people when their relating with me is not serving THEM. I used to refuse to do so, thinking I was availing them of the growth opportunity to declare boundaries, make those choices themselves, develop confidence in communicating their needs, etc. But given that most people are deficient in true esteem for the self, and self-respect [part of which is demonstrated by drawing boundaries] is one of the core components of esteem for the self [along with self-efficacy] but I stopped doing that. I am now quite comfortable making choices for others when they continually demonstrate they incompetent to do for themselves--so long as it is about relating with me.

That is quite enough of the why and the what. But what about the "how" Jason?

It is all about values and forms.

One of the exercises I have clients do in Phase 2 of the Personal Evolution program [and occasionally in the professional evolution program as well] is a full life, all context examination of what is important to them [values] and how they would know if it were being experienced by them; what would they be seeing, feeling hearing, doing, and experiencing that would prover to them they were experiencing value X, Y, or Z? Conflict often happens in the form [which is why politicians are scant on policy papers before the election]. Values [freedom, security, justice] are things that everyone can agree on--we all want that. The HOW of carrying them out? Conflict arises sure as the sun also rises.

So in seeking friendships or romantic relating, it is not enough to express that "communication" is important to us. For some that will mean asking about your day. For others that will mean that if you are bothered by something, no matter how small, you share your internal process. Communication is the value, but the form is different.

Anytime we are upset, barring an unresolved event from the past or a pervasive self-esteem issue, we must look to values. So this becomes a tool for elegant communication to have your needs expressed [and met] as well. One that avoids conflict or having the other person be wrong. One that has intimacy and a deeper level of understanding arise.

But that is a story for another time.

For now, do this:

Take 3 major contexts in your life [romantic, career, community] as ask your self what is important to you in those contexts. You will know it is a "value" if it is conceptual, abstract. If you can put it in a wheelbarrow or touch it or smell it, it is NOT a value, but a form. To "chunk up" higher to the value, ask, "what's important to me about that?" If you are looking at forms, then it MUST be able to be put in a wheelbarrow--measured, touched, observed. If it can not, and it is an abstract value, then you can "chunk down" to the form by asking, "If I were experiencing _______ how would I know? What would I be seeing, feeling, hearing? What would my evidence be?"

I recommend 3 to 5 values in each context. And for each value, 3 forms or pieces of tangible evidence of that value being realized in the context.

The truth is that if you do this exercise, you might be terribly confronted by the relationship or the career you are in--or you will be relieved to have a conscious and explicit answer as to why you are not fulfilled--or you are drained, or their is conflict you can not understand.

If you are not in one of those context currently [you are single, or you are laid off, or looking for a gig] then this becomes a wonderful tool to overlay onto the person or organization. So you can consciously choose a relationship or organization that truly and consciously suits your values. Otherwise, the spiritual costs are immeasurable. No matter how great the compensation package, or how much chemistry, the spiritual costs of un-fulfilling contexts [where your values are not fulfilled] are immeasurable.

At the same time, be cautious that you are assessing others *through time*. If you only have a snap shot of them, and you are saying they do not suit you personally or professionally, you may be more living out a stage 1, low self-esteem ego game by being right and "justified" than by actually seeing a conflict of values, but that is also another story for another time.

Choose the conscious, fulfilling path. I beg of you, for you and for your Spiritual expression. while this may seem like a lot of work, it is even more of a burden--and more insidiously so--to be in unfulfilling contexts.

So, ask yourself ::: are you in a habit, or in a relationship?

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Emotional Freedom Part 4: Guilt and Shame

Be sure to see parts one, two, and three herehere, herehere, and herehere respectively. In this piece we will examine the assumptions that lead to guilt, the structure of shame, and the antidotes to both. Guilt Q: “I often feel guilty for things I have done.” A: [S.N. Geonka ] “Guilt has no place in Dhamma [the path to enlightenment or ‘the law of nature’].” I assert that guilt serves no purpose in inter-personal relations. No legitimate purpose. Some say “if the person feels guilty or remorseful, then I can be assured they will not repeat this terrible wrong they committed against me” or “ I am assured of their good character”. Is this accurate? Let’s examine this together. Sharon slept with another man, violating the monogamous covenant she shared with her husband. She felt “bad” and out of guilt, told him the truth. She swore it would never happen again. Seeing how badly she felt, her husband felt assured this would not happen again and stayed with her and the marriage commitment. A few years later, Sharon was unfaithful a second time and in fact, carried on an affair with another man. This time she felt she best not be honest with her husband. How many chances would he give her, really? Unfortunately, he found out about it through some carelessness of hers and some direct questioning which followed. Again, she was authentically remorseful and felt guilty for misleading and breaking her husband’s trust—she did not feel bad just for getting caught, rather she felt authentically guilty for what she had done. They separated, sought counseling, and eventually divorced. Far from Sharon being a fiction of my mind for the purpose of illustration, this story is real, and the name has been changed. And, this is just one example of many I could give of patterns of behavior, remorse or guilt, and repetition of the problem behavior. Guilt is unreliable [at best] as a guarantee of future behavior. We have all seen people apologize and be guilt-ridden, yet commit the same acts repeatedly. I go so far in my own relations as to let people know very clearly that their guilt and apologies hold no currency with me. I WANT them to feel free emotionally about any “wrong” they may have committed against me. At the same time, I may not want them to commit the same act against me again—I do want assurance of a shift in behavior and an honest and earnest intention by them to do so through learning. For that, guilt does not help. In fact, it is a hindrance What is simply needed is their acknowledgement of the mistake and their pledge to not commit the act again. If it happens repeatedly, then there are practical choices to be made: do we continue to invest time and energy with this individual? In essence, they need to demonstrate they have learned from the mistake. Not because we made them feel guilty by berating them subtly or not-so-subtly, or they made themselves feel guilty by beating themselves up, but because they noticed their own lack of integrity, or perhaps they did not live up to their own standard, or perhaps that the results that they produced by this mistaken action were unpleasant for all and should be avoided and in noticing that, they self-corrected in a clean and rapid way. Of course, we can simply take note and shrug our shoulders knowing that we are all on our own path. They are on theirs and I am on mine. And there are times, certainly, on the other end of the spectrum, where I choose not to associate with the person any longer. What is important through all of it is clarity, cleanliness of interaction, and grace where possible. Wanting someone to feel guilty or remorseful is one of the most selfish and ego-centric implicit demands we can make. It speaks to wanting the misery to be spread even further than it already has for our own short-term gratification. Whatever the case, the guilt simply clouds clear thinking, delaying the appropriate resolution of the conflict, and is therefore unnecessary and undesirable. Additionally, it is suppressive to the whole system and can lead to immune problems, which leads in turn to health and well-being problems. Why would we want that? As mad as it may seem, we do want it sometimes, don’t we? Not as above where we think Sharon “should” feel bad. But rather, one darker step further—we want her to feel bad. We enjoy it. Take pleasure in it. We feel it is deserved and appropriate. That it is “just”. We want it because they harmed us and we experienced misery and so we want them to feel miserable too. We want them to share in our misery. This is clearly madness. One person in misery is enough. Why expand the scope if not for dynamics of power and control or to exact a psychic price. Is this the world we want to create? Are those the dynamics we want in our relations? Again, what is ultimately important is not how the person feels about what they have done—but they take earnest steps to learn from our mistakes and integrate the leaning into our behavior. We want assurance that the event or act will not happen again and we have clearly seen that guilt does no such thing. Demanding guilt will only add more misery and heaviness in the air. And what about that? In an even clearer situation, what about “guilt trips” where we have done nothing “wrong” but we have not met someone’s expectations or social conditioning and they attempt to extract guilt, or worse, shame us? I will simply say that they are the crudest tools for influencing someone I have ever experienced and to reward someone for using it by allowing it to be effective only feeds the wild animal. Additionally, if we try and use guilt heavy-handedly when someone has overcome great fear to tell us the difficult truth, as Sharon did in her first transgression, we only assure ourselves they will feel less inclined to tell us the truth in the future, as we made it too painful. And in doing so, we have just killed off intimacy. Guilt, however, has a close cousin that is more complex and worthy of closer examination… Shame Shame is even more interesting to me than guilt, and its structure is more complex. Shame has several components:
  • A compressed sense of time
  • A case of mistaken identity
  • An evaluation that is a confusion of logical levels
Time I have written beforewritten before about our unconscious sense of time. When I work with clients who are experiencing shame, they invariably have a compressed sense of time. That is to say that their focus is limited to an act, an event, or a small series of events. Often, consciously expanding their sense of time while pointing out to them that that this act, or series of acts will not define who they are--which leads us to… A case of mistaken identity “The ultimate spiritual practice is dis-identifying from that which you think is you—objects in your awareness.” –Ken Wilber Who am I, who are you? What aspect of our lives are we identified with? Literally, we think [unconsciously] that we are our behaviors or our thoughts or our finances or our sexuality or our social reputation or our looks, or relationships or our…etc., and on and on. We can know this of one of three conditions are present:
  1. we have extreme fear about losing something
  2. we experience extreme misery or despair of one of these things is taken from us or we “lose” it
  3. we experience shame if it is jeopardized by our behaviors
Which leads us to… Behaviors, capabilities, beliefs, identity, spirit; logical levels of experience. If we have a confusion of logical levels, we will often confuse our behaviors, our capabilities, our beliefs, or our constructed identity with who we truly are, and therefore mistakenly judge ourselves by one of these levels. I behaved in XYZ manner and therefore I AM _______. But who we truly are is god, is radical spirit is pure consciousness or awareness, or even a learning being, a force of creativity, etc. Given all of that, what are the antidotes to guilt and shame? The antidote to guilt requires partnership: you must co-create clean relating with those willing and make explicit agreements around guilt and learning. Specifically that guilt holds no currency and learning holds a pot of gold. Guilt is “out of bounds” either self-imposed or demanded. It is that simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. The antidote to shame is more complicated, and more rewarding, in my opinion, and has more lasting benefits that ripple out to all areas of your life. It requires several steps of skill acquisition, and therefore continual practice:
  1. Develop emotional awareness; notice when you are in the shame
  2. Develop perceptual flexibility; step out and notice your emotional state thereby dis-identifying from it [NOT disassociating, but rather dis-identifying]
  3. Expand your focus to include other positive representations of your behavior, and consciously expand your unconscious sense of time
  4. Remind yourself that whoever you think you are [behaviors, etc.] you are more than that.
  5. As always ask yourself: “how am I responsible” and “what can I learn?”
  6. Add resources and imagine yourself behaving with these additional resources in the future
As you read this, and review it in your mind, you can begin to imagine, even now, how these practices and skills would give you choice and eventual freedom—and not just from shame, but with full integration, from all unnecessary negative emotional experiences. Join me in creating the kind of world in which we all want to belong. A world in which unnecessary negative emotional experiences are known to be just that—unnecessary—giving us access to a world of choice, and through that choice, joy and freedom, and through that, beauty of unknown richness. *acknowledgements: as usual, these I.D.E.A.s were inspired by [but may not be reperesentative of] workwork by minds greatergreater than mine.
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Emotional Freedom Part 3: Anger and Resentment

[Note: While this is not a discussion of egoic development, we can not stress enough the foundational necessity of true esteem for the self for emotional freedom. So many upsets, be they anger upsets, shame, fear, etc., can be traced to a lack of esteem for the self—that is pre-rational or early-rational egoic development. From anger to shame, the variable of one’s egoic developmental stage is undeniably an important factor. But that is another discussion for another time. I have written briefly about egoic stage development and will occasionally refer to these distinctions in this discussion.] Be sure to see parts one and two here and here, respectively. Now that we have covered interpretations and extrapolated meanings, what of specific dynamics within each emotion? What of anger? Resentment? Guilt? Shame? What other variables lead to negative emotions aside from lower egoic development? For it is through this knowledge, using our self-reflexive awareness and meta-cognition, that we can notice these dynamics as they are happening, and choose a different path. Anger. Anger has at least two components.
  • Indicator of a crossed boundary
  • Blame
Often anger is “just-ified”. That is, with respect to justice, we are “right” in being angry. Maybe someone has violated our person or property. Perhaps they have broken an agreement. Perhaps they have deceived us intentionally. We have little choice around the action of others. They will do what they do, as we are all on our own path. However, when we are angry, often we are blaming them for what they have done. This is different and separate from holding them accountable, which is appropriate, but goes further into a game of pre-rational ego. Let’s say that I had my car stereo stolen. I come out in the morning and I notice it gone and the dashboard area around where it was previously installed is damaged. I call the police and I wait seething in my anger. “what a low-life thief”, I say to myself along with numerous other colorful expletives. Once the police come they ask me a few questions: “Do you have a car alarm?” Yes, I tell them. “did you hear it go off last night?” No, I tell them, regrettably I did not set it last night. “Were the car locks damaged?” No, I tell them…the car was unlocked… We can quickly see where this is going. While the crime of the stolen stereo is indeed a crime and may be punished and is an unfortunate violation of my person by the extension of my property, the responsibility is mine to lock my vehicle, set my alarm, and care that my car is secured. Once I begin to take responsibility by asking the two key questions:
  • How am I responsible
  • What can I learn or gain from this that will allow me to release the anger completely?
The blame will dissolve and the anger will begin to fade away. The truth is, no matter what has happened to us: assault, theft, harsh words thrown at us, fraudulent deception, broken agreements, or unrequited love--no matter what has happened, there is something we can take responsibility for and something, or many things, we can learn that once learned will release the anger entirely. And no, learning that “all men are jerks” is not the kind of learning I am referring to. It must be something insightful or positive and empowering about yourself or about the world. There are times when we get angry with others for not meeting or violating one of our expectations. Often, these are implicit, unstated expectations. In this case, the only responsible thing to do is notice this, take responsibility for it, and make a request of the other person so they are more fully informed of your expectations. [For a fuller treatment of the ideas of rules and fair play see relationdancing.] We must stress, however, that no matter how “just”-ified the anger is, it is still not useful for anything other than dynamics of control and dominance. In fact, one must get through the anger first to see things clearly anyway, to see through to justice, rather than demand vengeance and retribution. Again, the way to accelerate the process until one is emotionally free is to ask the two key questions above—and we do it for ourselves. Not for the Other. The first question, “how am I responsible?”, shifts the focus from blaming Other to a more responsible “I” and as a result, assists in building true esteem for the self as any responsibility-taking action does. It builds our sense of self. The second question, “what can I learn?”, turns the event into a learning experience and a gift and the conditional clause “that will allow me to release the anger completely” assures that our mind will give us a deep learning. The deeper the learning, the more fortunate we are to have unfortunate events occur to us. I know this from an abundance of first hand experience. In the case of anger—and indeed in the case of all unpleasant emotions—the Evolutionary uses their self-reflexive awareness [which we have all been practicing daily] to notice when the anger arises. They observe the sensations and then ask the two key anger questions and notice the internal shift in their sensations after answering the questions. The idea is not to never experience anger [although you will find after daily practice and rigorous application that fewer and fewer things will anger you]. The goal here is to simply shorten the duration for which you experience the anger. Shortening and shortening and shortening the duration until it is mere minutes and then mere seconds rather than hours, or days, or for some of us still in an emotional prison: weeks and months…or longer. Resentment is a little different. Resentment still requires blame, as anger does, however it has an interesting residuary element. It builds and builds even after anger is experienced and expressed or released. I like to think of it this way—it is an indicator that the person I resent is overdrawn on their emotional bank account with me. Not that they are to blame—it just is so. Where then can we take responsibility such that we can release the resentment? What is usually the case with this residue we call resentment? It did not happen overnight. It built over time. What else can we say about resentment? There were perhaps [and probably] many points along the way in our dealings or interactions with the person we feel resentment towards when we wanted to say no, and we chose to say yes for various reasons. In other words, we failed to honor our internal voice, knowing, instinct, or intuition—our inner desires or wisdom. We failed to honor ourselves. In doing so we were irresponsible indeed. Over time we built resentments, and then we blame them—essentially—for our inability to honor ourselves and say no when we knew it was best for us. The madness continues. [In part 4 we will explore guilt and shame]
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Development, Transformation, and Evolution

There is so much good work being done in the world today. It is astonishing how many people are dedicating their lives more and more to helping others. The human potential movement has spawned organizations and individuals committed to bringing change to the world through changing the individual. When Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see in the world”, he probably could not have imagined how many people would take up that call and attempt to make the world a better place by making themselves better people through self-reflexive observation and intentional changework. As a result of the richness in the field that we can now experience, it is useful to distinguish among the many offerings. There are three basic approaches I have noticed, experienced, and participated in directly. They are: 1. Development 2. Transformation 3. Evolution These are each useful in and of themselves. They are “good”. And yet they have limitations that come along with their benefits. Let us examine this together... Personal Development is a huge and ranging field. Workshops exist for skill acquisition that are readily available in every major metropolitan area in the United States. Corporations, having long recognized that their only asset that increases in value over time is their people, send their people to workshops to accelerate that process—to increase their value. You can attend workshops on money management, communication skills—be it negotiation, sales techniques, relationship models, etc.—health and fitness and well being, and the list goes on and on. What all of these workshops have in common is that they focus on one domain of your life. We could think of it as a vertical line—or multiple vertical lines—of development. When we acquire skills or we “develop” ourselves in this area or that area, we increase the level of that vertical line of development in that domain. Development takes time, investment, and persistence if we are to become developed in any particular area—in other words, to become competent in some area. Skill acquisition is necessary to be successful in this world. We all want to be more effective at something, and most of us recognize the value, benefits, and at times...need...to acquire more skills. And yet, mere skill acquisition will not solve all that troubles us. We can have all the skill in the world and have those around us not like us, be miserable or demanding, and generally unhappy and unfulfilled. Development may be necessary, but it is only a partial view of what we need as humans. Why is that? Development is a one-dimensional experience—the increase of one vertical developmental line. Increased “heights”, if you will. Yet, human beings are multi-dimensional. Skill alone will never suffice. Out of this limitation arises “transformational technologies”. A level that is deeper and more complex than mere development. Transformation is unpredictable and at times, instant. It does not deal with any one particular domain, yet it can apply to all domains at any given moment. How is this done? By bringing a different way of being to a situation, something completely new and wonderful can arise out of a "breakdown"—that is a situation where there is an outcome that has been blocked by some circumstance or another. Frankly, transformation is very appealing in today’s marketplace. It promises instant results in any given moment and gives people tremendous choice, empowerment, and responsibility...leading to more choice, empowerment...responsibility, and this loop feeds on itself with often wonderful results. But not always... Transformation is often reliant on breakdown and breakthrough patterns. In other words, we have some breakdown...and through that, we get to experience transformation of the situation or the circumstances or the dynamics or in ourselves...or a “breakthrough”. This often orients us towards breakdowns. Being humans that we are, we can become attached to experiencing that cycle—or worse...identified with it. I have actually heard seminar leaders who deal in the world of transformation say that “you will begin to look forward to, and at times even create, your breakdowns”. While it is useful to see “breakdowns” as an opportunity so we can be more resourceful around them, rather than submerged in a “crisis”...building in a mechanism that has people seek out breakdowns has obvious limitations and can be problematic--not to mention hard on the core of the being. At times even causing internal dissonance rather than resolving it. And while transformation is certainly useful...it is only a two-dimensional phenomenon. Height and breadth, if you will, being that transformation can be applied in multiple domains. But again, this will not fully suffice, as human beings are multi-dimensional beings. Out of this limitation arises Personal Evolution. Evolution is not very sexy. It is an infinite and life-time game. There is no goal to reach and no "journey" to complete. It requires a life-time commitment. Regardless of which stage you have reached or how much depth has unfolded, there is always another stage and a deeper level. However, evolution is also the most fulfilling, and most complete of the three. It trickles out to all domains, making transformation possible and accessible as well as the development of skills even easier. It serves the whole being. Evolution is about the ever-widening of identity. It is about ever-deepening, ever more complex, and increasingly expansive levels of order. How does evolution occur? Evolution occurs when the current stage a person is at become inadequate to deal with their life circumstances. We may experience chaos, confusion, or at times, even disaster or tragedy. When this happens, there are two choices or “directions”: evolution or regression. If we evolve, what actually occurs is that our very Self—the core of our being—moves to a new level of order. There is a widening of Identity [capital I]. The Self becomes more expansive, deep, complex, and at times and certainly eventually, more open and more flowing. I stress, this happens in stagesstages. It is slow. It is creeping. it is a process in the largest sense of the word. However, it is something that affects all domains in your life. Relationships, money, sex, career, family, politics, health, value spheres, world views—all of it. When the very core of who you thought you were and who you truly are evolves, then your experience and the way you relate to everything around you also evolves. It can be no other way. And we all interpret the events in our lives through our current stage of development...it can be no other way. Personal Evolution is truly multi-dimensional. It has height, breadth, and provides--and at times demands--increasing depth. It is an organic unfolding of the core of the being. Exposing ever deeper levels. And in the process, the being experiencing this evolution...this unfolding...comes ever closer to who they truly are. They become closer to Spirit itself until that stage where all separation and what they used to call “God” dissolves and they become Spirit itself. They become the divine. If we pause there and we look back on this very piece of writing, we can see the process of evolution represented right her on this page. The evolution of the human potential movement. Out of wanting better results, we created personal development rising to a new level of order. Then we realized, consciously or unconsciously, that development itself was inadequate to address the demands of being human. Out of that confusion and chaos we rose to a new level of order and transformational technologies came into being. This was useful for some time for some outcomes and addressed more of the being...yet we bumped up against the limitations of this level of order soon enough. Out of the realization of those limitations, a new level or order emerged—personal evolution itself. Evolution of the person and the personal. The organic unfolding of manifest divinity and our personal and internal manifest destiny. Evolution is there. Unfolding is there. Divinity is there. Will you participate in it...or regress? We are faced with that choice literally every day of our lives. We all choose one at times and the other at times. The key is in choosing consciously...even now.
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Emotional Freedom Part 2: Emotional Choice

[Note to the reader: as this series is comprised of excerpts from a book draft, is it not meant to be complete. Some ideas will be developed and others will be left for a later time. Moreover, some of you who are familiar with my work will wonder why I am not covering a certain concept or other. This is for the same reason. It is my hope that in revealing these excerpts free to you now, that these I.D.E.A.s may begin to make a difference in your life...even now.] *if you have not yet read Part 1: Emotional Imprisonment, you can find it herehere. Once we have taken full responsibility for our emotional life and reactionstaken full responsibility for our emotional life and reactions, the next step is to accept and educate ourselves to the fact that our experience is not some amorphous mass—that it has structure. This is one part education and once educated, one hundred parts exercise and daily practice. It is important to note here that developing facility is not a matter of acquiring this skill or that skill and then you suddenly “have facility”. In technical terms, it is not a binary or digital experience; it is not on or off. It is an analog experience; it is experienced in varying degrees. It is like building a muscle. When building a muscle, you go to the gym or work in some way you have never worked before. At first, you can lift a small amount of weight. After trying this new behavioral pattern, you may be sore. Some people give up at this point. They say, “Oh—this muscle building business is not for me”, and they go back to their old habit patterns. However, for those who continue to work at it, they notice they can handle ever-increasing levels of weight or demonstrate more endurance. They become stronger and are able to handle more. Eventually they lift large amounts of weight with seemingly little effort. So it is with facility with self. To develop the muscle of facility with self, one must first develop the foundational skill of self-observation or self-reflexive awareness. This is not [just] the ability to self-examine—that is to examine one’s past choices or behaviors after gathering feedback and being truthful about one’s character, faults, and achievements. While an important exercise, that is not what we are discussing here. Self-reflexive awareness is about being able to experience the self from a detached place of observation in the moment, moment to moment…even now. We all have this ability, but seldom exercise it, or exercise it poorly…or worse, exercise it to our detriment by using it as a tool to loop on our less desirable behaviors and judge or shame [shame is covered in later installments] ourselves—thereby destroying any possibility of receiving the gift. I have even seen some begin to hate their mind—hate the way they think about something—because they have yet to harness their mind and use it for their own benefit. It is important to do this with evenly hovering awareness—an awareness free from judgments of value and worth. Let us practice together. Even now, as you are sitting at your computer, and you are reading the words on the screen, you can begin to notice that…now…you can imagine the back of your head. And as you experience that, you can notice that… now…you can project your consciousness even further and imagine yourself, now, from across the room. See yourself...now...sitting at the computer “down there” or “over there”. And now, having experienced this, you can begin to practice it daily; observe yourself at the grocery store. Observe yourself on the public transit. Observe yourself while you are talking to someone on the telephone. Observe your physical self. [I do not recommend doing this while driving—in fact, I warn against it]. Now let’s turn that same skill toward our thinking—our mental self—and see how our thinking creates our emotional experiences at the gross level [in later installments we will explore the subtler levels]. Some call this “meta-cognition”, or the ability to think about our thinking. We will explore many ways to think about our thinking in this series. While every emotion has a different dynamic—both inter-personal and intra-personal—associated with it, which we will explore together later, right now we are concerned with the blanket generalization of “negative” emotions. After all, few people, I imagine, are desperate to rid themselves of their joy. No. We are looking to be free from anger, upset, sadness, ill-will, hatred, guilt, shame, depression, and the like. Even though our focus is the base negative emotions, it should be mentioned that it is equally as useful and important to exercise these practices around joy, love, excitement, triumph, pride, and the like. So while I write in this of “negative emotions” many of these principles apply to emotions per se—universally. There are two major variable components to negative emotions. There are other components, but for now, we will limit our discussion to the points where the most immediate choice can be exercised. These two components are: •Interpretations/Evaluations •Extrapolated meanings Have you ever had an event occur, had some interpretation of the event and been inaccurate once the facts or more information was known? Of course. We all have. Someone does not call when they were supposed to. We begin to worry. What are we worried about? Well, what if something happened to them?! And suddenly we begin to imagine all of these negative possibilities—these fantasies—and work ourselves up into a frenzy. When they finally call, we asked them what happened and they tell us their cell phone battery had run out and they did not know our number by heart and could not call from a different phone. Then what do we do? We call them inconsiderate saying they “made us worry”, as if they got inside our heads and made us imagine all of these negative fantasies. So we blame them for our own ignorance, and spread the misery. Madness. And then, after interpreting their actions as “uncaring and inconsiderate” we then extrapolate that out to mean something about them or about the relationship. “They do not really care” about us. “They are an inconsiderate person”. They are XYZ. And now we have created a full-fledged drama through our ignorance and lack of facility. More madness. However, the truth is, we all interepret events through our stage of emotional and egoic development. It can be no other way. The Evolutionary rarely gets into this mess in the first place. And when they do, it is often [not always, but often] very brief. They have already exercised and built the muscle of auto-self-reflexive awareness. They notice the minute they are having an unpleasant emotion through the bodily sensations. They explore the interpretation that is causing the emotion if they do not already know what it is. They then determine whether the known facts support that interpretation, or whether it is a fantasy. If it is a fantasy, or even if it could be just an inaccurate fantasy, they then choose at least three alternative interpretations, making sure at least one is absurdly funny to remind themselves of the silliness of negative fantasies, and choose the most empowering interpretation until the facts are known. Once the facts are known, one must still be cautious to create an empowering meaning. For instance, using our example above: by the cell phone battery being depleted and our friend not being able to communicate with us, we could extrapolate that out to mean that they are unreliable or forgetful to the point of untrustworthiness. Or we could take on the meaning that they provided us with another opportunity to exercise the muscle of facility. They helped us on our path to full emotional freedom and liberation. Knowing this, we could even thank them for that opportunity. Another critical underlying orientation employed above is to seek out assumptions, presuppositions, or beliefs in the language of our extrapolated meanings or characterizations of events and examine it to see if it serves our happiness and thrival, or whether on the other end of the spectrum it supports our cynicism and our pre-rational ego. What do we assume? What do we believe? What do we presuppose? Is it positive and empowering/expansive? Or is it disempowering and limiting/constricting? Remember—it is our own emotional freedom we are after. We are not being gracious for the Other, for to be gracious if it is beyond our level or stage of development will create resentments that will build and eventually explode hurting both parties in unpredictable ways. No. What we are doing is being positively selfish by taking on this empowering meaning. We are avoiding unnecessary negativities in our own bodies. This…is good. While you are angry or bitter or resentful at that other person who “did XYZ to you”, regardless of how heinous, the only person you are truly harming is yourself with these emotions. That does not mean you are not justified in feeling the way you do. You probably are. What it does mean is that while you may be right, by being angry or resentful or bitter you are only harming yourself. Action [justice/rational] may still need to be taken, but the reaction and re-enact-ion [pre-rational looping] does not. But then…this would easily slip this conversation into anger, resentment, guilt, and shame--all experiences we will discuss in Parts 3 and 4.
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Emotional Freedom Part 1: Emotional Imprisonment

“Liberty requires responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”—George Bernard Shaw Most of us are in a prison. A prison we create with our own minds. We often do it unconsciously and automatically—not realizing the damage we are doing to ourselves and others. Not even realizing we are in a prison. Not realizing how limited the area is in which we allow ourselves to roam. Fortunately, once we become aware of our imprisonment and the limits of our confines, we can appeal to ourselves—for unlike a real prison, only we can free ourselves from these confines—to be let out on parole, giving us more choice and more access to the real world. The more we exercise this choice and the more our mental habits improve, eventually we can discharge ourselves from parole and enjoy true freedom, true peace, and true happiness. What is the greatest achievement we could all experience? What do we all ultimately want? Whether through our goals, our relationships, the recreational experiences we choose, the standards we hold for ourselves, the books we read, or the spiritual paths we walk—regardless of the context—we all are ultimately striving for the same thing: happiness. We could say that this is the human being’s purpose in life—to be happy and to live a life in service of real and true happiness according to our nature. And yet, misery and unhappiness is universal--even accepted in some philosophical circles as the human condition. Suffering, they say, is the natural order of things. Or “simple pain—the pain of everyday life”. Or “misery is there”. I disagree. I assert our natural right—our inherent nature—is one of joy and creativity. One of emotional freedom. One of happiness. One of liberation. And yet, so few of us are truly happy. So few truly free. And in the West, the idea of being emotionally free is often scoffed at, or worse—taken as a sign of a lack of “emotional intelligence,” or “denial” or a “lack of authenticity” or still worse: “inhuman”. This is compounded by the confounding fact that most people connect more deeply through their pain than their joy. For those who thrive on attention, comfort from others, and are desperate for connection, being in their misery gives them all too much secondary gain—that is, the underlying gain from keeping a “problem”—to do otherwise. Regardless of how much care and compassion we may have for the “victim” of some situation, and no matter how understandable their emotional suffering may be, simultaneously such ignorance, abrogation of responsibility, obvious projection of one’s own limitations onto another, and/or gross self-indulgence is painful to watch, regardless of what has happened to the person—to us—for we know not what we do and how much damage we are actually doing to ourselves out of ignorance and short-term gain. Far from being inhuman—far from becoming an automaton— once emotionally free, we are actually free to be fully human. What does it mean to be fully human? It is to consistently experience joy, creativity, beauty, grace, inspiration, love, and freedom. There is ever increasing levels of play, spontaneity, positivity, and a massive unleashing of creativity and creative energies. “Take refuge in nothing outside of yourself.”--Buddha The path is long, requires diligence and immense personal responsibility, and is well worth the daily effort. And daily [even hourly] effort is required. The first step is to unlock our prison cell. There are two keys required to open our prison cell. They are: •Responsibility •Facility Nothing emotional is sourced outside of ourselves. Once we take full responsibility for all of our own emotional reactions and experiences, we begin to receive the gift of choice. With this, we can then begin to educate ourselves about how our mind works and begin to exercise facility. Without responsibility, we will never develop facility and if we never develop facility, we will never have choice, and if we never develop choice, we will never reach the final goal of full emotional freedom. This becomes obvious when we examine the pre-rational [pre-responsibility] linguistic structures that people use when describing their emotional life: “I was wracked by guilt; I fell in love; I was gripped by fear; I was overcome by anger; I became overwhelmed by shame; a dark cloud of depression came over me…” What do all of these phrases have in common? What is their common denominator that demonstrates a lack of responsibility, self-ownership, and wisdom of the working processes of their mind? If we examine them, we see that they all indicate the emotion is somehow outside of the speaker. The emotion takes on the mystical/mythical life of some roving spirit that strikes at us causing us misery. We are at the mercy of the “god” of emotions. We do not have our emotions at this stage…rather our emotions have us. It does not have to be so. We can have choice, and we can have our emotions, rather than them having us. The truth, as it is in all of us, is that we create our own emotional experience. We do not experience reality, we experience our internal re-presentation or coding of our experiences in pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells. Something arises in our awareness—perhaps a sound, or a sight, or a taste—and we re-cognize it. We then interpret it. From that interpretation we get a bodily sensation or a “feeling” that is usually labeled as XYZ emotion. We then react accordingly. While learning not to react is a wonderful practice that I recommend and practice daily myself, we can go further down the line to earlier choice points making an even bigger difference in our own emotional life and by extension, the lives of those around us. We will see this in later installments of this series. There is no choice you say? We are run by our limbic system? Let us examine this together. How many of us have ever had an experience or witnessed an event with a friend, family member, or loved one and they remember it differently than we do? We all have. How many of us have ever had an experience or witnessed an event and had a different emotional reaction to it than the person we were with? We all have. And why is that? For precisely the reason laid out in the process above. We either re-cognize it differently than they do or we interpret and evaluate it differently than they do—both leading to a different emotional experience than they have. We do this unconsciously most of the time. Knowing all of this, we have no conscious choice other than to take full responsibility for our own emotional life and begin to learn more about this “coding” in our senses and to develop the conscious faculties necessary to be more conscious, more mindful, and therefore have more emotional choice for our own sake and for the sake of those around us. While it is understandable to be upset or hurt by certain genres of events and it is predictable to experience joy or happiness with others, this is not hard-wired. Additionally, the events of life and their practical implications are often challenging enough to deal with. Sometimes downright difficult. To manage these events and their implications and to effectively deal with the practical impact, we need a clear mind. If these events are already difficult enough to deal with, and the negative emotional reaction is—as we will demonstrate—often necessary and we have tremendous choice in the matter, why not exercise that choice? And we have choice to the exact degree we take responsibility and exercise learned “facility with self”. And as we develop the muscle of choice further and further, we eventually reach emotional freedom—real happiness, real peace, real harmony. It is your natural right as a human being. I hope you will join me in seizing the fruits from the tree of your own mind.
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