Interpersonal meltdowns

During the past month, the entrepreneurs I mentor have each reported on, or have partaken in, "interpersonal meltdowns". Conversations broke down into outrage, hysterical intolerance and vicious attacks on other reasonable positions. These encounters appeared to have been arranged by fate, rather than personal decisions. There is a hidden lesson in these for the participants. They have given me much to ponder of late. Here's some of my reflections.

The ways we succeed in life are done without thinking. We're so good at our routines we can 'fly our sorties on autopilot". We internalize what worked repeatedly and stick to them without question. We assume from experience that any better idea is not really better. We are certain that any alternative must be less practical, not as effective, more costly, or more problematic. We know we're right about this because of our track record with succeeding.

These success routines target other people. We need some people to play our game. We find out early on that it takes a certain kind of person to play along. We develop a sixth sense about the condition of others that makes them ripe candidates for running our number on them. We figure out that those who don't play along are irrelevant to us.

Some of our success templates are designed to avoid failures. We get very good at not getting rejected, not looking incompetent, not getting blamed, not subjecting ourselves to domination or not being wrong. When running these routines, we are very compatible with others who are also avoiding failures in different ways. We feel equally plagued by adversity, under pressure to take more control of our lives and equally tormented by critics. We get along on the basis of this common feeling and different things to avoid. We sympathize and collude with others who face the world with similar stances and different aims.

"Succeeding at avoiding failure" is a survival strategy. It keeps us out of trouble but does not get us into good fortune. We limit ourselves to staying out of trouble, not getting into unfamiliar, but highly appropriate, opportunities. When it's time to break out of "playing it safe", "running from danger" and "merely surviving", all hell breaks loose. A meltdown occurs for our benefit.

I've become suspicious that the fateful encounter occurs with someone running the same routine. Both are avoiding the exact same thing (rejection, blame, appearing incompetent, etc.). Alarms are set off and hot buttons pushed by being so much alike. Having too much in common eliminates the balance. There's no way to compensate for each other's extremes because the inclination toward excess goes for the same goal in both.
Out of meltdowns come several better ideas that could not come to mind when survival strategies were succeeding just fine. There are ideas for succeeding in different ways, creating different games and targeting different people to play along. There are possibilities for turning to face what was being avoided by transforming the apparent threats into opportunities. There are also the realizations I shared yesterday about how success is always a given.


Success is a given

At any moment of our lives, there is a template producing a successful outcome. The structure may be in our unconscious -- dictating our actions without any thinking. The structure may be in how we have arranged to get things done. To think nothing is succeeding is a delusion.

Sometimes we feel like we are sabotaging our success and trapped by some cruel fate. We cannot win, get things to turn out as planned or make progress in the direction we're headed. In the Middle Ages, this condition was diagnosed as being "possessed by demons". We can look at this with a less hysterical approach and see the template in use.

When we're not "possessed by demons", we're possessed by something else that gets a different result for us without thinking. Seeing these other templates will help perceive the structure of self-sabotage .

Success is a target: We may devote ourselves to a template that gives us lots to do, many ways to make progress, and a sense of accomplishment from how busy we have been. Success at getting ahead by our own effort, endurance and initiative is a given. When success appears to be fading or becoming elusive, this template dictates more action, accomplishments and dedication. We stay on target to maintain the pattern of deliberate success. We avoid messing it up with fears, doubts, or hesitation.

Success is a mystery: We may be dedicate ourselves to making discoveries. We may realize we don't understand the people we work with, the customers that pay us, and the difference we make in other lives. Our success as a target may be very misguided, doing more harm than good, and sending the wrong message. We delve into other points of view, alternative ways to value our contributions, and phases in the development of abilities. When our success wanes, we explore more and learn to approach the situation with greater insight, consideration and respect. We will see our previous success as: lacking in self respect, trading gratuitous compliments to overcome our insecurities and dancing on shaky ground. We remain curious about the mystery to maintain our pattern of exploratory success. We avoid messing it up with our arrogance, over confidence and determination to already be right.

Success is a gift: We may devote ourselves to finding what we're called to do with our talents and natural inclinations. We may let go of every notion that the world approves of in order to realize the unique thing to do found within us. The closer we get to it, the more perfect it looks. It appears that everything that happened to us prepared us to make a gift of ourselves in this way. We see how much we grown from setbacks, matured from pain, wised up from empty successes and thankfully turned within when the world appeared insane to us. We remain honored to be given this to do, amazed how how our entire lifetime could be so intelligently designed, and relieved that the success is a given on every conceivable level.

When we are sabotaging our success or caught in a pattern of apparent failure, all three other success templates are taking effect:
  1. We are being the target of someone who lacks self respect and successfully abuses their targets. We take what they dish out, but not take back on themselves. We get first hand experiences of how over-confidence hurts others and how free will cannot handle others having free will too. We realize we have internalized this abuse into templates that attract more of the same experiences. We are captivated by another's success that holds us in contempt, invalidates our self respect and frames us as inadequate.
  2. We are engaged in a mystery of how to get out of this condition when nothing we try works. We discover it's inescapable by any form of ambition, determination or action. We lose faith in fixing it ourselves. We seek outside or inside guidance to get a perspective we cannot come up with on our own. We see the templates that succeed every time. We get the picture of how we're doing this to ourselves by buying into the self concept devoid of self respect.
  3. We are receiving a gift from all this. We are getting a life experience that is part of the design of our destiny. It's not only "meant to happen", but of incalculable benefit once we get turned around to make a gift of ourselves.
Thus at any moment, success is a given in more ways than our focused minds can consider.


Having the eye

Yesterday, Tony Ndubueze left a stellar comment on my blog post of last November: Sensing and pre-sensing:
Now this is what I am talking about. I believe in sensing (and pre-sensing) and I am interested to relate with people who I can learn more from. This idea is really in place. I appreciate 'things' that one can see, not with the natural eyes but with the 'mental' or 'intelligent' eye. And second, you’ve got to have the brain for it, unless it is part of your giftedness. This is not a school product, you don’t learn this art in the classroom, you don’t have this 'eye' because you have an MBA or PhD. You get it through Personal Development (which can include life experiences) or through a Mentor.
What Tony wrote here is synchronisitic on many levels for me. I met with a friend yesterday for coffee and was relaying to him how I've had occasions in the last week where it seemed like my third eye was open. The moment has been over-ruling the impression of time passing and mortality being the real deal here. The perfection of this moment has been more interesting that what needs thinking about or fixing. The feeling of being illuminated by how it looks to me replaces how the physical light creates appearances on my retina.

I've also been using a metaphor of the world as a coloring book where the crayons are only found within. We can only categorize the world, not color it, with the thinking we do in reaction to data from our physical eyes. We jump to conclusions about what it is as if there's no two ways about it, many different ways to see it or valid contradictory impressions of it. However, within our minds -- we get crayons that color what we see. We then see it not as it appears literally, but as a lesson, revelation, invitation or opportunity.

I've also been comparing -- what Tony describes as "getting it through experiences" -- to downloading a different operating system. Anytime we go within to get different ways to see what's happened, different crayons to use to color it, or different frames of reference to apply to it, we are connected to the source of having the eye. We are simultaneously getting more modules of a different way to see the world and ourselves in it. This new OS does not get activated until it's fully downloaded. It's functionality exceeds anything our "sensory data processing OS" can come up with. We will eye the world differently once we get all the modules in mind.


What really matters

Something always matters to us, no matter what happens. We stick to our story in order to give structure to the vast range of possibilities. We identify with a particular sense of who we are, what we can do and why were here. We limit ourselves to experience the freedom within those constraints.

Things sometimes happen that devastate us. A traumatic incident will undermine our sense of what really matters. The ground of our existence is removed by the clear evidence that our conviction does not matter at all. Our thinking that it mattered deeply, mattered more than anything, or mattered to pursue with a passion -- gets proven wrong.

Often we feel like we're being made the fool by the betrayal of what definitely mattered to us. It appears we were bamboozled into believing something really mattered that matters very little or not at all. The joke is on us until we get the joke. Then we can joke around too and make something else matter to us for the time being. All we're really doing here is creating experiences that matter to us in one way or another.

When we no longer know for certain what really matters to us, we are on the brink of changing our fate. We can author what really matters to us as if we have the authority to create what appears in our story. When we get a feel for the process of "making something matter to us", we can mess around with it. Whatever we want to matter to us can be what really matters next.

We can create "life changing experiences" that revise our outlook, priorities and sense of what matters now. When we become convinced at a deep level that this new thing really matters, it will appear to matter deeply in our lives. Whatever appears in our world, relationships and minds will reflect that it matters to us, how much it matters right now and how it matters to us in particular.

When we play at this level, we also choose what does not matter at all, anymore or as much as we thought. We let go of the past as we adopt new things to make matter to us. We no longer assume we have to endure or tolerate what is supposed to matter, told to us that it has to matter or appears to matter to everyone else we know. It may not matter to us simply because we are free to define what matters as we choose.

It mattered to me right now to write this as if it really mattered to me. It came to my mind to say these things as a result of my choice for this to really matter for the time it took for it to come to mind, find the words to express it and write it out. Now that it's done, it doesn't matter like it did before. It still matters enough to reread it to clean up the wording and to hit the "publish" button. Then it's in the past and I'm free to the next thing to matter to me. When I wonder "if nothing really matters, what shall I make matter with this moment?" -- something comes up that seems like it matters to me for now. I act like it matters until it'd done and then it no longer matters like it did.


How it feels to fail

Life has it's ups and downs. I'm sure you've noticed and I'm preaching to the choir so far. We've all had experiences with failing to get our wishes fulfilled, to get things to turn out as planned, to get people to help us out and to get what we really deserve. We are all walking around with a long list of failures that may bear the weight of grievances, regrets, and other heavy burdens.

This morning I realized the payload from failures can be jettisoned. What appears as failures "ain't necessarily so". There's many different ways to feel about failures. We can instantly succeed at changing how we feel about a failure. We can awaken by failing.

The most obvious feeling to get from failure is that of a real failure. We can feel like we really failed in ways where we can try again, see if we've got what it takes and see if its something we can fix if we didn't get it quite right. We can even get the message that we are a real failure when it comes to this facet of human endeavors. We can conclude that we will never succeed at this, are not cut out for this, and do not have what it takes to get this right. We can feel trapped, cursed, under the influence of bad luck or under the thumb of overwhelming opposition.

With a little more confidence, power and determination, we can turn this around and get a very different feeling from failing. We can feel like others have failed us. We can feel betrayed, let down, mislead, ambushed or deceived. We can see those who failed us as the real failures. We can use that fact to boost our confidence, overcome our insecurities and silence our haunting doubts. We can make a habit of tearing others down to feel good about ourselves and looking down on them while we put something else on a higher pedestal. We can dish out degrading experiences so "those real losers" don't get in our face, see us as similar to them or compare us to something we put down with a vengeance.

With a little more ingenuity, humility and insight, we can get a very different idea from failing. We can disregard who did it to whom. We can pass up blaming ourselves or others and move on to better things. We can get a feeling there is something else to try, a different direction to explore or another approach to experiment with. We can feel curious, adventurous, reinvigorated and open-minded. We can use the failure to launch into a different arena.

With a little more love of paradox, sense of the whole deal that's operating and panoramic outlook, we can succeed totally from failure. We can awaken to how fate operates and how living under a curse effortlessly succeeds at creating failures. We can see how happenstance defies what we do, what we had in mind and what we expected would come about from our contributions -- by succeeding at something totally other. We can see how to play at that level too and create our fate. We can be made to feel like we really are not really here (transcendent), not registering on people's brains (invisible), not going anywhere anytime soon (eternal), and not conforming to standards of normality (free of limitations). We can be as we really are and live those experiences totally.


Rejection and obligation

Back in the sixties, my friends and I wondered "what if they declared a war and nobody showed up?". With the college dropout rate averaging 50%, I've wondered if half the entering freshman are wising up to what a real education entails. With the global economy contemplating a world wide recession, I'm now wondering if we're seeing through those economic obligations to our real freedom here.

When we believe in our own free will, other people's free will is a violation of our own. We cannot handle what happens because it appears our own free will is in jeopardy. When we exercise this kind of free will, other's feel rejected. They cannot get their viewpoint understood, heard or respected. There's only one frame of reference in play by the one who's free will appears to be getting violated.

When we feel rejected, we instantly feel obligated to the free will that's eliminated our own. We lose our sense of orientation and turn to a sense of duty, commitment, endurance and hardship. We make all kinds of sacrifices in hopes of eliminating the feeling of rejection. It does no good, but it does give us experiences of fighting battles, taking classes and working inside machines.

Because we feel obligated by rejection, there are masses of citizens who show up to fight wars, study textbooks and toil inside corporations. There's no end in sight while we sleep through the part of the cycle where rejection turns into ferocious obligations and willingness to sacrifice. We centralize control, impose will top down on those below and insist on who's really stupid regardless of what they claim to the contrary.

There's signs that this sad story is coming to an end. We can reject the notion of "our own free will" that affords us the luxury of thinking our rights have been violated. We can submit to what happens. We can limit our free will to how we perceive and interpret what happens. We can grow in our understanding, relating, connecting and co-creating. We can redefine ourselves to be whatever makes the most sense in our current understanding. We can exercise our free will in a way that dovetails with every other free will.

When we experience the vibes of others who let go of "old-style free will", the feeling of rejection by them is gone. We no longer feel obligated in hopes of getting the feeling of rejection to go away. We now have a use for networks that expose us to many other frames of reference, world views and experiences of freedom amidst constraints. We're free to" call it like we see it: and let others do the same without violating our "right to be right" regardless. We've awakened from the nightmare.


Solving for pattern

Last week, Harold Jarche wrote an inspired reminder for us to solve for pattern. Since then, I've been pondering the times I've succeeded at that and why I rarely solve for pattern. Here's some of what I've realized.

When we have one thing on our mind, we cannot solve for pattern. The challenge is too complex, panoramic and overwhelming. We can, however, take pride in how focused, determined and clear we are with one thing on our mind. No one can tell us any differently. We can open our big mouth, but cannot give a big listen. We don't get what's on the mind of the community, constituencies or big picture. The pattern is beyond us because we feel a big need to be right, to exercise our rights to be authoritative and to control who can contradict us.

When we solve for pattern, we are getting help on the inside. We've connected to that place where inspirations, intuitions and imaginative innovations come from. We cannot handle what comes to mind in a logical sequence, but we can capture it with a diagram or other imagery. We get the feeling we know this without being able to explain it precisely. We feel blessed to be answered in this way and supported in coming up with solutions.

Solving for pattern implicates lots of abstract dimensions to the problem and solutions. We may consider the context created, the strategy implicated and the premises being replicated. We may realize some of the repercussions in the short and long term. We may see ways to combine, share, tradeoff and reciprocate instead of overkill, overspend and over-react.

Solving for pattern comes up with light handed solutions. They demonstrate "a nice touch". They replace heavy handed solutions with simple, small, clean and ingenious approaches.

One example that comes to mind is blogging -- compared to literary agents, publishing houses, promotions of select titles, warehousing by the caseload and sales of individual copies. Long tail publishing makes all those elaborate mechanisms unnecessary. Blogging is clean and green.

Related posts:


In the same spirit

When teaching and learning occur in the same spirit, there's no telling the two apart. It's apparent that we are teaching what we need to learn and learning from how our teaching is taken. It's also obvious to both that the learner appeared when the teacher was ready. The educational experience is an intimate affair where boundaries and dissolve and benefits merge.

When teaching is done in a different spirit from learning, all hell breaks loose. There's no way for either side to deeply benefit from the experience. Both settle for superficial encounters, arms length transactions and bogus claims of value. The mistaken impression of learning in a different spirit from teaching leads to countless complications.

When the same spirit is restored and impressions corrected, it feels like awakening from a dream. The illusion of separate interests vanishes in the sense of how much teaching and learning have in common. It's obvious that the commonality comes together without effort when an authentic educational experience occurs.


Timely solutions

When something seems like a real problem, we have no sense of timing. We think we don't need to be timely about anything. There is an urgent need to fix things, find a solution and set things straight. Timing is off the table and out of consideration. Anyone saying there's a need for timing must be out of their mind.

When we have a sense of timing, we are no longer faced with a real problem. We've replaced the problem with doing everything in a timely manner. What became a problem was something done at the wrong time or with no sense of timing. We were misreading the cues about how times had changed and it being time for the other thing.

Businesses will get into situations where they know they have a real problem with a lack of teamwork. It's obvious there is not any or enough coordination among each other, cooperation on collaborative efforts, communication between distant units and commitment to shared objectives. Consultants get called into to brief everyone one the importance of teamwork, the procedures to make the transition and the guidelines for doing the teamwork thing correctly.

There usually is a honeymoon for awhile. The problems with a lack of teamwork get placed by signs of teamwork occurring. All's rosy and everyone is pleased. Then the honeymoon is over and a new set of problems crop up. Teams show a lack of attention to detail and an over-reliance on their team to cover up mistakes, stick up for each other and avoid scrutiny. Team members pass the buck, rely on each other and take no initiative. The intimacy breeds contempt as their working closely together exposes each other's shortcomings, bad habits, predictable reactions and petty grievances.

Once teamwork looks like a real problem, different consultants get called in. They help to instill personal accountability and generate more individual initiative. Performance reviews, goal setting, incentives, contests, suggestion boxes, and recognition programs come into play. A honeymoon soon follows and then fizzles out. Everyone is now too individualistic, self absorbed, greedy and competitive. No one is looking out for each other, taking time to keep each other informed or making the effort to work with each other.

Businesses with a sense of timing avoid this flip/flop pattern. They reject the notion that it's "always the right time for teamwork". Sometimes it's time to back off and restore the balance with individual efforts. It's easy to go overboard with individuality, so the warning signs are monitored for the time to bring teamwork back into the mix.

Most consultants don't recommend this well-timed balancing act because it's devastating to their income stream. They have no sense of timing either. They sell their services as if it's always time for to hire them, constantly the right thing to do, and the "next new thing" to solve chronic business problems forever. It takes wisdom gleaned from experiences with many honeymoons to make timing more important than quick fixes.


Wholesome solutions

When something is only bad, it becomes a massive problem with no apparent solution. Experts cannot solve it because it looks massive to them on the front side of the problem. They buy-in to the consensus of "it's only bad". The solution is in the back side of the problem, what's missing, hidden or overruled. Often it takes the scapegoat expressing his/her pain, the enemy getting heard or those unwilling to change speaking their minds. The solution incorporates how the something is not only bad, but also good for the bad, good some of the time or good when focused on instead of the bad.

For example, when being unproductive is only bad, it becomes a massive problem. The problem takes the form of burnout, stress-induced illnesses and downtime. The need to get back to being productive or to become more productive-- is chronic, never completed and always a problem. There's no way that being unproductive could be the solution while it's only bad. The massive problem goes away when being unproductive is a good thing too. It's good to take time off, to get our perspective back, to take a break to refresh our energy, to spin our wheels while we incubate an innovative alternative. I just shoveled the driveway after last night's snow and the idea for this post dawned on me while I cleared the pavement. Trying to come up with what to write was becoming unproductive.

The reverse is also true. When something is only good it becomes a massive problem. We become haunted by it's dark side that seeks to undo the good its doing. We have hell to pay until we see the something is not only good, but also costly, harmful, one sided or problematic. When we see how the good thing needs to be kept in check, considered in context, balanced with the opposite, the massive problem goes into remission. We realize a wholesome solution.

For example, when a pleasurable pursuit is only good, it becomes an addiction. We cannot get enough of it. Our appetite for it is insatiable. We obsess on getting more of it, taking time for it and doing it as much as possible. We pursue it with a vengeance that takes vengeance on our lives. We function as our own worst enemy and activist for our own ruin. We see no way out because the pleasure is only good. When the walls close in, the solution becomes obvious. The wholesome thing to do involves discipline and pleasure, moderation and indulgence, or control and freedom.

Wholesome solutions incorporate the problem in a different context. The problem in isolation looks formidable. In the context of keeping things in balance, it looks much more useful.


Respecting all their facets

In principle, when we respect ourselves, we have the basis to show respect to others and we will be shown respect in return. However, if we take others at face value, this principle does not work in practice. Taking people at their word is misleading. Seeing people as they appear is getting deceived. Trusting people to behave as they always do is naive. Showing respect can even backfire on us and teach us the real nature of respect.

If you've had experiences like I've myself, you've tried to show respect to people who hold themselves in contempt. The respect we show gets taken wrong. It's reduced to being nice to them when they are convinced they don't deserve it. They hold us in contempt like they do to themselves. We appear needy, insecure and unaware of how they feel about themselves. They believe that no one with self respect would come onto them with a show of respect. Self respect would replace acting nice. There would be no need to manipulate their lurking contempt if it was respected.

We are doing much better at showing respect when we see people as two faced and conflicted. We can respect the fact that they may be putting on an act that hides their true feelings. We can respect their need to be pretentious in a world that cannot accept them as they are. We can respect how they may feel inside is not how they come across on the surface. We can respect what appears as calm as really covering irreconcilable urges.

When we respect there's more to them than meets the eye, they feel somewhat respected. They have not misled us or played us for the fool we appear to be when taking us at face value. They feel it's safe enough to tone down their defensiveness and reveal some of what's real for them. They feel some connection to what lives behind our own masks. They get a sense of who we really are, where we're really coming from and how if feels to be in our experience of them. They respect us in return.

We respect the fact they may not deserve respect for how they act. We don't show respect for the act they perform to fool us. We respect that their show does not show themselves in depth. We respect that we are only seeing a side that hides the rest. We signal to them that we appreciate their show.

All this goes far deeper than taking people at face value or gaming people with our act. We cannot go deep like this when we sense we are in danger. We're designed to be hyper-vigilant about the obvious threats and cut out the deep reflections when we've got a sense of trouble ahead. We know we are putting ourselves in more danger if we ponder the hidden significance behind the obvious evidence to trouble.

This means we respect our own needs for safety and vigilance, as well as respecting our real intentions, values and priorities. We need to respect ourselves as two faced for good reasons too. When respect our ability to react to danger and to go deeper too, our self respect is real. Then we can really respect others and it will seem authentic to those on the receiving end of our show of respect.


Using feedback to change identities

As I explored yesterday, our initial self concept is the product of feedback. We get the idea of who we are from how we are seen by others. We incorporate what comes back to us when we put ourselves out there. We're already playing the game of keeping score and knowing the score. We've adapted to the rules and know what will get us in trouble. When we start getting feedback about our personality, we are usually bewildered. It' seems like we're getting told to change the result of the feedback we previously received. We getting messages that put us into a double bind.

For example, if people are being mean to us when we assume we're being nice to them, we may infer we are not being nice enough. We then adapt to our read of the situation by becoming more nice. We then get the feedback that we're too nice and don't know how to respond to that. We may stand up for ourselves when people oppose us and realize they still oppose us. We then stand up for ourselves even more and get told we're obnoxious even though it's good to stand on our own two feet. We may see others as being too serious and try to have fun. We'll watch as them become even more anal. We'll then become even more spontaneous, unpredictable and fun loving. This gets us feedback that we're out of control and uncivilized when we know we don't want to be a sourpuss.

We cannot use the feedback we're getting on our initial identity when it comes across this way. We're inside a vicious cycle that resists what persists, reacts to reactions and opposes the opposition. We're looking in a mirror and thinking we're not seeing ourselves at all. What's out there is no reflection of what we're putting out there. There's no real feedback when it appears we're really being misread, misunderstood and misrepresented. We know we're right about how we're coming across and where we're coming from. There appears to be no way out of this conundrum. We want to get along and get hassled instead. We want to fit in and get into fits anyhow. We intend to connect and get tied up in knots.

The way out is through the looking glass. We step into our reflection to enter a different world. We see what's in the mirror as something that's not in our way, rather it's a way out of our dilemma. We stop reacting to feedback and realize the system that continually produces it is really acting in our favor. We do ourselves a favor that favors others as well.

We may get told we really are a jerk or are acting like a real jerk. We initially oppose the opposition by seeing anyone who could see us that way or say that to us as a jerk. Our identity depends on rejecting the feedback and maintaining our composure. When we reflect on what's really going on here, we realize we are looking in the mirror after all. We are acting like a jerk whenever we see the other is a jerk for telling us we're a real jerk. We point three fingers back at ourselves with the same hand that points out what a jerk they are. We own our potential to react with a knee jerk instinct to protect ourselves, be the one who's right and know who's wrong in an instant.

We may also get told we "have a lot of nerve" to say what comes out of us as outbursts and to act the way we do on impulse. We figure that has to be wrong headed of them to see us that way. We're way better off than those who keep a lid on things and get too uptight to have any fun. We look down on those who keep getting on top of the situation, asserting their authority, and looking down on our frivolity. When we reflect on this strange arrangement, we realize the reflection in the mirror is looking down on us as we look down on them. There's no looking up to each other, looking directly at each other or looking out for each other. All the looking is condescending, arrogant and rude. We suddenly see opportunities that we're there all along to look up, at and out for the others. Our identity gets spontaneously transformed by this new found freedom.

We may also get the impression we're a "high maintenance" family member, coworker or friend. We'll learn others see us as a drama queen, an insecure clinger or an insatiable parasite. We know this cannot be true because we have good intentions and care about others a lot. When those overly dramatic people who say this about us look like mirror reflections of our own hysterics, we get the picture. We see how to change what we do in front of the mirror and watch the mirror change what appears in it. If we want people to cling to us, all we have to do is act clingy and cling to those who cling to us. If we want people to respect us, we put self respect out there, show others the same respect and see it come back like it was there all along. Our self concept changes to identifying with our power to change what appears in the mirror after we successfully reflect on what appears there now. We can be whoever we choose to be once we choose to be who we are right now. We become complete with one adventure and free to play again.


Initial self-concepts

In a superb comment on Believing in receiving abuse, Michele said
The other challenge, as you point out, is that you have to change your self-concept to adopt new behaviors. You have to see yourself as being worthy of being in a different place. In some ways, what can help is to "fake it till you make it," practicing new behaviors until they feel more natural and you've earned that new of feeling about yourself. But for the changes to stick, you really do have to undergo a fundamental shift in how you see yourself--it's the only way that the new behaviors can become unconscious and natural to you.
One of the biggest challenges in changing our self concept is our initial experience that we obviously did not create the one we've got to live with. It appears to us that the world gave us our self concept without asking us who we suspect we are, how we really feel or what is our sense of who we're becoming. Instead, we start out as the product of how we are regarded, talked to, treated, and responded to by others. Who we think we might be or wish to be -- gets shot down by these contradictory inputs. We infer who we must really be based on how our presence plays out in the world. We connect the dots of what happens to us into a picture of who we must really be to get these experiences occurring to us. We are very clear this was not our choice, our doing or in our control. We assume our self concept happened to us and now we have to live with it.

Here's three, very common, initial self concepts that defy change:

We may embrace the very troubling self-concept that we are really nobody inside, pretending to be someone on the outside. We create a mask that hides how it feels to disappear when we are not the center of attention. We insist on showing off incessantly to chase after that elusive sense of validity, acceptability and significance in the lives of others. When we are immersed in a milieu of perfectionists, workaholics, control freaks or needy adults, this "nobody inside" concept is the likely outcome. We cannot find ourselves when others face us. We endure "unmet narcissistic needs". We don't get to be mirrored respectfully, reflected back coherently and oriented in ways where a consistent self concept emerges. We feel abused when we get ignored. This lack in our lives creates the dilemma of trying to change our self concept when it feels we really don't have one to begin with.

We may also form a self concept amidst a constant barrage of criticism, complaints, blame and false accusations. We grasp the significance of what we are experiencing. We realize we need to come up with our own confidence, pride, recognition and self-assertion -- or it won't happen. We develop the self concept of a "prima donna" and fail to realize what's happened. We know we're right every time. We're cocksure about what to do. We notice we're superior to everyone around us. We let it be known that we don't need any friendly advice, collegial input or other perspectives. We feel abused when we get criticism and blow up when it occurs because it seems excessive and ill founded. Any change in self concept appears to implicate taking more criticism, losing self respect, and listening to envious inferiors. The change appears absurd to consider.

We may form a self concept that harbors crippling inferiority, insecurities and neediness. We've endured countless degrading experiences. We experience ourselves being starved for anything that will build our confidence, conquer our self doubts and challenge our internalized contempt. This self concept forms around other's estimation of us. We conform to other's expectations to get their approval and avoid their rejection. We figure out how to stay on the good side, tell them what they want to hear and appear as no danger to their raging beast within. We constantly need to build ourselves up by tearing other's down or hoping our association with glamourous individuals rubs off on us. The oscillate between putting others on pedestals above our lowly stature and demonizing others as we look down on them from our superior elevation. We experience realistic appraisals as abuse. We lose our grip when faced with what others see, what really happened or what we're really feeling. We cannot change our self concept because it won't hold still. One minute we're conceited, the next we're ashamed. We've the extremes covered and cannot find the middle when who we are is dependent on others' approval.

When our self concept changes from any of these three initial formulations, the experience is life changing. The change in self concept is transformational and boggles our minds. It's a change we did not anticipate or could conceive of from inside our imposed ideas of who we must be according to others.

(to be continued on: Using feedback to change identities)


The power of networks

Last night I watched the PBS Frontline documentary "The Medicated Child" that aired this week. Child psychiatrists are giving four million children (in the US) multiple prescriptions for psychiatric drugs that have only been tested on adults. They have very little data to know if the diagnosis is correct, if the efficacy is there, or if side effects are benign. They are working in isolation and only getting funds for research from the manufacturers of the drugs.

These child psychiatrists are envious the pediatric oncologists. A decade ago, a cancer diagnosis for a child was a death sentence. The success rate for attempted cures was close to zero. Now the recovery rate is 90%. There have been changes in diagnosis, prescriptions and outcomes as a result of data monitoring and sharing.

Ten years ago, the child psychiatrists and clinics joined together into a network. Any child seeking treatment anywhere in the network was entered into the system. Their initial situation, symptoms, progress, diagnosis and outcomes were all recorded. Every member of the network could access the data, combine it with their own, analyze it with different hypotheses, watch for emerging trends and formulate new clinical trials.

This approach worked dramatically. It's further proof of the power of networks. It reminds me of the blogosphere.


Knowing our place

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we think we're somewhere else that denies where we're at and misses out on the experience of where we really are.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, our thinking cannot go there to show us where we're really at or accept the need to empty out our preconceptions about what really matters.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we're in no position to receive what comes to us there or to do what we're born to do with ease.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we're limiting our freedom to countless contrived limitations, absurd obligations and fearful boundaries that get lots of agreement from others who've lost their place too.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we cannot know what really matters or enjoy how it matters passionately to us since it does not matter at all when we think we're somewhere else.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we're deceived by appearances and not finding out what's really going on behind all these clever disguises.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we maintain unrealistic expectations about these fluctuating human emotions and diabolical reactions that are available while we're thinking about what's out there.

When we don't know our place in this world or eternity, we're dreaming.
When we know our place in this world or eternity, we're awake.


Not news to them

Whenever we realize we know something that is new someone else, we instantly morph into a SME (Subject matter expert). It matters to us to share what we know. We get in gear to spread the news as if it really matters. We become an author of what we say or write and an authority in this moment of glory. We expound text, generate content, and line up bullet points to make our point. We know what to say because it appears to be news to the others.

Once we realize it's not news to them, there several places we can go in our minds:

1. We can be silenced by their already knowing what we know. We can feel powerless to be anything but a SME, authority and author. We can convince ourselves that we're fresh out of news to spread.

2. We can see the audience as colleagues who also spread the news. We can help them pass it on from their own viewpoint. Instead of restricting their access to media and centralizing the authority to speak, we can distribute the right to author the news. We can create a read/write web, a vast blogosphere and a long tail of content generators.

3. We can discover what those now in the know do with this knowledge we shared. We can discern their context of use, their basis for finding this news valuable and the challenges they're facing in applying this understanding. We can give them experiences with changing their minds from "talking it" to "embodying it in practice", putting their understanding to the test of what really works, or giving them situations where it makes a difference to use this knowledge.

4. We can get the whole idea behind the thing we know and share. We can consider how the opposite idea can sometimes be good, true or included. We can ponder ways to combine the partial understanding into a complete picture. We can realize how everything matters and nothing really matters until it's whole.

Wherever we go in our minds, it's good for something, someone and some experience.


Believing in receiving abuse

minh left wonderful comment on my last post "Hard wired to flip/flop" that I've pasted into here for everyone to see.
Tom this is not a considered response but are you saying that abused children are "getting secret satisfaction from getting abused"? They want the abuse to stop.
Are you (& Freud), saying the the death instinct is hard wired? That we want to die? That the the animal frozen in the headlights is somehow emotionally complicit in the ensuing carnage? My understanding, to date, of this behaviour is that staying still may render you invisible to a predator whose visual processing is sensitive to movement. Playing possum. Baby animals are often spotted as a camouflage for when stillness is the correct response.

Prey animals don't surrender - most carnivore hunts fail - the wildebeest juvenile attacked by the lioness struggles fiercely & some escape.

Is what you're getting at - habitual abuse- the abuse where the recipient normalises the situation? The endocrine system is certainly going to come into play here & set up activate addictive potential.
Thanks for adding some awesome refinements to what I wrote here. Your insight into the frozen state of body/mind as camouflage seems more right to me -- than my characterization of it as accepting the fate of being breakfast for a predator.

I'm drawing parallels in this between our conduct and our states of mind. That led me to draw the connection between our helpless, whining stagnation in life and acting motionless in danger. As you inferred, I am dealing with chronic abuse, habitual suffering and perpetual confinement to limiting experiences. The endocrine system has an opportunity to become dependent on the toxic stimulation and form an addictive pattern.

You're also right about our having a fight response, just like the instinctual, hardwired flight and freeze responses. Just because we getting attacked, does not mean we'll take it lying down. Adrenalin empowers our running away at full speed for 30 minutes to escape predators. It also pumps us up to go on the attack, intimidate opponents and ambush those we cannot defeat head on.

I understand the death instinct to be all that is the polar opposite of the pleasure principle. It's wanting to suffer, to be punished for guilty pleasures, to feast on a famine of love, to thrive on deprivation of respect, to feel special from getting abandoned, and to enjoy the "bad karma" of our envy, hatred and self pity.

The idea of "secret satisfaction" ties into the psychology of self concept, identity formation and internalized shame. We may think we deserve abuse because we are unworthy of respect, have no experience with getting validated, or see no conflict in being a doormat. It fits are pictures to be in harms way -- so we accept it. We say things like: "whatever", "I'm cursed with this", "It's something I'm called to endure". In our experience, abuse always happens eventually and never stops permanently. We learn from experience to expect it, enable it, and take satisfaction in experiencing our assumed fate.

When we really want abuse to stop, it does. We step outside the food chain. We change our minds, self concepts, underlying stories and expectations. We not longer set it up, dream it up or pray that it happens again. We come from a very different place that validates us from the start. We expect respect, freedom from our past history, a break in familiar patterns of interaction and changes in how we see ourselves. We get what we newly expect once we stop regressing into old patterns, familiar dangers and comfort zones of "taking abuse for granted".

There's plenty of hypocrisy among those who say they want abuse to stop. They say they want it to "stop" and give the "go sign" to their abuser. They fail to admit to themselves how they ask for abuse with their insecurities, believe in receiving it and prefer it over abandonment. Their power to choose, change and pose an unfamiliar threat to their predator -- are all in shadow, denial, or unconscious awareness.

Getting it together calls for genuine empowerment, not New Year's Resolutions about change, affirmations or goal setting. A change is self concept, fate and underlying facts of life is deep. It's a fourth order change that changes everything.

The necessary outlook for this transformation embraces paradoxes that defy logical thinking. A predator is a threat and an opportunity. Abuse is unwanted and a useful lesson. Change is highly motivated and highly resisted. Fear is part of the problem and part of the solution.

Thanks for evoking all this added clarity!


Hard wired to flip/flop

Change that endures is more rare than changes that merely oscillate back to the status quo. We chronically flip/flop between extremes because it's human nature to balance every situation so it remains cohesive. We instinctively compensate for one-sided endeavors. The extremes join together in a dance that goes nowhere quickly. All the incessant changing amounts to chronic stagnation.

Freud was amazed when he discovered a death instinct in us. He was focused on the pleasure principle that drives the "Id". Initially, he understood all our wishful fantasies and infantile grandiosity, but not our desire for self destruction, self sabotage and self denigration. The death instinct now makes more sense as compensation for all that exuberance, vitality and buoyant optimism of the pleasure principle. It balances one extreme with another.

Animals give us pictures of the death instinct: a deer in headlights, a mouse spellbound by a snake's eyes or rabbit frozen with terror. Our bodies pump endorphins into our bloodstream when we are about to be mauled. We are feeling no pain when we're getting ripped apart or mutilated. I suspect the same high occurs when we're getting bullied, yelled at or humiliated. Our natural pain killers replace our fight/flight adrenal response.

There's also a connection between guilty pleasures and arranging for punishment. We don't stop with the indulgence, we want the pain too. We think we deserve retribution for our wicked enjoyments. We compensate for feeling good by feeling bad later.

When abuse happens, the experience of extremes is shared with a victim. One enjoys being abusive while the other takes secret satisfaction in getting abused. The predator and prey are bonded in an pattern of chronic oscillation. Both are asking for what they get by being so one-sided.

Persecution is addicting. Underdogs stay down for a long time. Victims repeat the pattern in new environments. Abuse is missed when it's removed. It's suspected that the experience of abuse is an escape from numbness, feeling nothing, going cold. There's a spark, fire and light brought to the darkness of self pity, powerlessness and paranoia -- by the terrifying violence.

All this explains why oscillation is so common. We are hardwired to compensate for other's extremes and our own excesses, even when it's painful or fatal. We are not programmed to change our programming.