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When you are caught up in anger remember that there is a field

Are we being “paranoid” and over-suspicious of state surveillance and control allegedly conducted in our interests or do we simply accept what we can’t influence? Is state (and organisational) surveillance by democratically elected bodies something that we have nothing to be fearful of so long as we act in integrity and are law-abiding? How far is surveillance and individual autonomy a hazy boundary and to some extent something we also create through our own insecurities. Is this sort of issue also an aspect of a human tendency to be fear-based at the ego level?

In a week in which we have contrasting manifestations of the oft-times precarious relationship between state power and personal rights, there has been a massive protest movement in Turkey and revelations of state snooping on digital data in the US. Both confront us perhaps with matters of consideration that are relevant not just in politics but in our personal lives too and how we function at the civic level and in relationship with others.

In personal development terms it can be worth reflecting on the extent to which you (or I) get “caught up” in concerns about authority, control, independence, individuality, and autonomy. One way this can manifest is, as Transactional Analysis would have it, in the ego style of the rebel when in “child” mode as opposed to adult mode. It’s worth being aware of when we can get into “rebel” mode in relation to people or bodies who have an authority role. The paranoid style might be present when we get overly suspicious of others and their motives and not trust others as we might. Also the preoccupation with secrecy and control “out there” might also be part of our shadow, where we don’t acknowledge our own fear of others and our own tendency to want to be secret and controlling. When the rebel gets overly invested in reacting to authority they might be also projecting their own characteristics on to others. And in writing like this about these human psychological characteristics, I might be being paranoid too!

When stuff is going on at the macro level we might have our views about that, and express those views. But it is also worth having humility and looking within and asking, “Is this also a part of me?” This is often a useful self enquiry, since it helps us get things into balance, not get too wrapped up in things like a sense of injustice and anger, and become more balanced. Also, when we let go and centre ourselves, we let go of attachment to  “issues” and “right and wrong”. As Rumi wrote,

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” (Rumi)

Whenever the ego gets invested in anger and injustice, there’s a time too to let it go and have peace. While invested in anger, we also have polarity and difference, and we become unable to reach each other and find our common connection. This anger begets more anger and we remain stuck in the polarity and are unable to find common ground and connect. So when we observe humans beating hell out of each other, it is worth remembering the field. I’ll meet you there.

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(Youtube video by enea)

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When soft parenting doesn’t do the child any favours

Many a time have I visited my local cafe (it’s a 15 minute drive, I’m afraid) to sip a massive cappuccino and write. There’s probably some inter-connection between caffeine and composition. However, many a time too, if I don’t time it right, there too will be some parent or two with push-chairs and high-chairs, attempting to manage an ill-behaved small child, and not getting the better of the confrontation, with a resulting fracas that impacts the whole room.

It’s been an issue for some time and we in the UK are only slowly waking up to how big a problem we have, and the schools are now struggling to manage it. It’s a problem that belongs at home.

By contrast when we go to France we see similar situations, but instead of tantrums we see well-behaved children with parents very careful to ensure what is and is not OK. Thus sitting in cafes is vastly more pleasurable, and that’s not just the coffee and the country!

In case you are now curious, this article is one of many now coming out. We’ve also, for example, had TV programmes on the Super-nanny, where one person goes into people’s homes and teaches the parents child management and parenting skills, with resulting vastly improved happiness all round, including the small children. We’ve also had TV programmes which reflect the later effects of the failure to manage children effectively, such as Brat Camp.

Of course there are a number of interconnecting factors involved, which we can probably easily list. Let’s try: poor role models experienced by the parents as children themselves, stress, both parents working, multiple distractions, over-anxious parents attempting to be liberal towards their children as a contrast to perceived repression in previous generations, a lack of knowledge of certain “basics” of child behaviour, parents whose own parents were divorced, parents divorced or separated themselves and trying to bring up children without the other parent, usually the mother, and the chidren missing the presence of their father in the house, fear of someone else’s anger especially your child whom you love….I could go on. It’s painful for people, and brings up all sorts of stuff. And some children can have issues that don’t fit the above, like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Within all that there is a need to teach children boundaries. It is something children need, as the Super-nanny programmes have so well shown. If a child lacks clear boundaries, they will push till they meet one. The parent needs to get very clear what the boundaries are and keep to them, lovingly but very firmly. The child will test them out, and it usually starts around the age of two. If you miss it at that point, the challenge then grows. The so-called “terrible twos” is a vital learning period when the child starts to learn about self-regulation, initially from the parent but in time takes on board and applies to him or herself. It is crucial to the development of the self-responsible, self-managing adult. So the excessively liberal parent, fearful of confronting the child and being clear what the rules are, and sticking to them, is doing the child no favours.

Time and again I’ve heard adults tell me how they didn’t get effective guidance from their parents as children. The art, and it is an art, is to balance being firm  with being loving. The opposite also applies, never to reject the child, physically abuse them or threaten them with abandonment and the other things that enraged parents with poor role-modelling themselves can do. We are always there for those we love, and yet love can also be tough love.

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Remembering love in the midst of killing, death and grief

Europe is getting into the swing of its holiday time and then, out of the blue, a mass killer strikes and here in the UK a well-known singer is found dead at the age of 27. Many of us are very shocked and not a few immediately rush to judgement of one kind of another. Pictures of many grieving people are splashed across our media.

Of the motives of the alleged killer, apparently we will learn more tomorrow. Of what caused Amy Winehouse’s death, we’ll learn later after a post-mortem, although some effect of excessive drink and drugs are suspected.

So what might be reactions for the self-aware? Shock? Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Compassion for those that are grieving? That’s understandable, particularly perhaps for those in Norway.

It’s easy to say all sorts of things in the first rush of emotional response when there’s such a sudden and awful combination of events. It is however worth pointing out that the grief cycle is first one of shock and upset but often also numbness, usually replaced within about 3 days by strong emotional reactions. So, look out for more powerful reactions.

And the rush to judgement? Bring in the death penalty? Stop all this immigration? Clamp down on certain freedoms? Tighten up on drug and alcohol use? There’ll be lots of judgements like these. There usually are.

For the self-aware, it can be more powerful to – yes – stop and pause. Notice one’s own reactions, one’s own judgementalism. Notice a form of the shadow at work, be it so-called “misguided youth”, the passionate rebel, or genius before its time (who are we to say?), or the evil amongst us, the killer within each of us (who are we to say?).

So some might want the mass killer executed. Why? We may condemn his actions, of course, but while we condemn his killing so many innocent people (innocent, who says?), we might then think it OK to kill him (if it is a “him”). So we are a society that legitimises killing, at some level. No wonder people continue to kill each other. One might say, it depends on what is right and mass murder is wrong. Sure, but where did such people learn about this stuff?

Christ said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Now is a very good time to look to ourselves and our own shadows, playing out in front of our eyes.

So, as the blame game gets going on Monday, let the self-aware amongst us be very aware of our own feelings and tendency to judgement. All life is sacred. We are all one. An attack on others is also an attack on ourselves. Perhaps we need to attend to the illusions that create the behaviours we can so readily condemn, the society that creates the conditions for all this to happen, our disconnection from the whole and the love which is our essence. In the coming days, let’s remember the love that is our essence.

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Taking responsibility for our own dark side

It seems a chapter might be turning in the former Yugoslavia with the arrest and deportation to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague of Gen Mladic for alleged genocide and ethnic cleansing. Perhaps it will now be possible for those survivors of the holocaust in Bosnia to start to deal with the horrors of that civil war. Bosnia ranks to some degree with the 2nd World War, Rwanda, Cambodia and other genocidal massacres of modern times as examples of the brutality man inflicts on man.

But before we do too much finger-wagging, as many have also been doing with Bin Laden, Gaddafi, Assad and others recently, it is worth pausing to look at ourselves too.

For the self-aware, one might not only shake one’s head at the apparent fallibility of humans, that we have this capacity to do this to one another, but also reflect on what it means for our understanding of ourselves. As psychological experiments have shown, under certain conditions, seemingly “civilised” and “normal” people will inflict fatal pain on one another. The novel “The Lord of the Flies” described how children could easily and quickly revert to savages. Many more of us have a beast inside us than we care to admit. Not surprisingly in the 17th Century Hobbes concluded that we had to be forced to be civilised. Humans it seemed are imperfect.

There’s another way of looking at this. Walsch in “Conversations with God” (Book 3) says that this is actually an example of the Divine Dichotomy. From the perspective of the divine, all is One and all is love, but from the human perspective in order to know love we must also have hate, to know good we need evil. Through separation we can find unity. The experience of the ego is polarity, the existence of apparent opposites. Perplexingly if not infuriatingly, Walsch says that Hitler went to heaven. Thus, one might conclude, the alleged butcher of Srebrenica might go there too.

Much though we detest evil, and no doubt need to counteract it, I would suggest we also need to pause and reflect on our own evil, as Jung would have it our own shadow side. What we see in others we have within us. The Divine Dichotomy is part of us, at least at the ego level. What we resist, persists. Thus we also need to look to ourselves. How much do we, by thinking it, continue to have such evil in the world? Probably much more than we care to admit. The alleged butcher of Srebrenica is also our mirror too. Thus to have change in the world, we also need to heal our own butcher within, and that starts with being aware of what anger and hatred still lies within us ourselves.

To learn more about developing your own inner awareness of who you really are, and how to feel good about yourself, take part in The Point of Awareness programme.

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The death of Bin Laden and the inability to let go

In the haste to take satisfaction from Bin Laden’s death, it is tempting to ignore the point that perpetrators of violent acts tend to reap the fruits of their actions, but not always as they might expect.

No doubt many are saying that in the end “those that live by the sword, die by the sword”. Research has shown that criminals generally meet bad endings and don’t profit from the fruits of their crimes. The aggressor too tends to suffer in the end. Bin Laden eventually met his nemesis, and many are saying “got what he deserved”, although he perhaps expected to be a martyr judging by what he told his bodyguards and according to his ideology.

What is not so much said is that those who put out the language and actions of violence, on either “side”, tend to get back what they put out. The point here is that according to the function of polarity, and the tendency towards reciprocity of the universe, action creates reaction. We draw to us more of what we fear. For example, violence and hatred against jihadis can very likely produce further terrorism as the other “side” seeks revenge. Hence we’re now on heightened alert. Or those opposed to the US (and her allies) may find other ways to work those feelings out to the detriment of US interests. One “side’s” justified action on behalf of perceived justice is an atrocity or crime in the eyes of the other. They say that the first casualty of war is truth. And who is to decide “truth” in a conflict?

In this conflict, more statesman-like actions were rapidly cast aside in the aftermath of shock and anger after 9/11, for example treating the jihadis as a small and isolated group. Instead the full machine of “war against terror” was launched. One might now be tempted to look at the expansion of destabilisation, state collapse and civil war well beyond Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Where has all this got us?

Readers may wonder why a blog devoted to matters relating to personal development has got so involved with a political conflict. Powerful pull though it has, this in itself is interesting: we can get so involved in a drama. The point here is to draw readers’ attention in the political sphere, as in other areas of life, to how the Law of Attraction operates. “Like unto itself is drawn”: where you focus your mind and what you think about then occurs, including what you fear, and you get more of it. To create peace, we need become aware of and to step outside the polarity, in this case West vs jihad. To gloat over Bin Laden’s death is more of the same that was put out by him, action and reaction.

Those that aspire to a higher awareness need to take the perspective of the bigger picture. This is where forgiveness and letting go is so important. Clearly there are many who are still struggling to let go of the trauma of 9/11. It may seem that to have “justice” requires the death of another. However, I wonder if the real cessation of angst and loss will come, if it comes at all, when one learns to forgive as forgiveness really is, to give up the right to punish and truly let go of all resentment.

Letting go of the angst of loss means allowing a shift to happen inside us ourselves. It is not in the end about vengeance against another, which is more of the same old stuff, more of action and reaction. It is not about expecting another to change. It is about a letting go inside us ourselves. When such a shift happens, then we are more open to the love that heals.

When we can see God in each other, including our enemies, who are then no longer regarded as such, we will have moved to a new dimension of awareness. Then conflict is unnecessary.

This has huge implications in many areas of life.

To learn more about developing your own inner awareness of who you really are, and how to create a new way of relating to others, read here about The Point of Awareness.

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It takes two to tango

That’s an old expression, “it takes two to tango”. But it easily gets forgotten when people fall out.

When you (or I) are angry and resentful towards another, it can be particularly difficult to take ownership, to own that you had a part in what occurred. The sense of injury, the apparent evidence that the other person (or group, or community or nation) was at fault, was the cause, can be so deep, that it gets very hard to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Couples in crisis, for example, are prone to blaming each other for what is occurring. Neither will admit that each is contributing at some level to what is happening. Yet people outside the conflict often find it hard to see who is responsible.

Being aware of what is going on, and owning your part, taking responsibility, is a crucial shift. It takes an effort.

And it can seem like surrender, yielding to the other party, or admitting to being at fault. Such does blame, judgement and guilt play itself out. Yet surrender is what is needed, but not of the kind mentioned just now. Rather it is a surrender in which one lets go, letting go of being right (fearing being in the wrong), having a judgement about the alleged transgressions of the other, or feeling guilty.

Letting go of the right/wrong orientation is a sophisticated approach, of course, based on the view that there is no ultimate right/wrong, only perceptions.

Although that understanding is a powerful one, you don’t have to go that far. Just being aware that there is pain there is in itself a clue. Emotions are self-generated, in that we feel them ourselves. We blame others for them, but it is us who are reacting, re-activating old memories from our own lives. The feeling is the clue. If it doesn’t feel good, then there’s something in there to take ownership of – and let go.

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Peace means dealing with our inner wars

When we get to this time of year, people in these parts start wishing each other a Happy Christmas and speak of peace and goodwill. Famously, on Christmas Day 1914, the fighting on the Western Front halted and people got out of the trenches, wished each other a Happy Christmas and played football. So, this is a good time to reflect on where we are not in a state of peace and goodwill.

You might like to ask yourself, with whom do you have unfinished business? With whom are you in a state of conflict? With whom do you have unresolved issues? Who have you not forgiven? What resentment towards another are you holding on to?

I suspect that very often we don’t regard such unfinished business as our problem. I think we would generally believe that it is because of the other person or people, or what they have done, that things are as they “are”. What can be missed with this approach is our own part in what happened or in keeping it alive.

So, you might also ask yourself, in what way are you keeping the fires of anger and resentment alive? What are you holding on to that you might let go of?

To experience peace, we need to deal with the war inside us.

This might be the war with another in our minds. It might also be a war between two or more “parts” of us, say the peaceful reasonable part (“he really did have a point”) and the angry, vengeful part (“he was wrong and I hate him for what he did”). This is where self-awareness is important

So, have a think: what could you let go of or forgive this Christmas. And remember, forgiveness is giving up the right to punish and letting go of all resentment. It is a process inside yourself.

What the other does is up to them, but when we let go unconditionally, without any expectation, it can be remarkable how the energy goes out of the situation and somehow the other person gives up on it too.

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Letting go of the past

I have often noticed how hard it can be to move on, develop a new direction, build new plans, create new things, when there is still something incomplete from the past.

As a listener to other people’s challenges in life, it can be pointless to help them plan for the new when there is unfinished business. This particularly shows up when someone keeps going back over some story, some pain, or maybe some transgression by another. It interrupts the flow of thought, spoils a peaceful moment, plagues sleep, wakes one up in the middle of the night, and keeps coming up in conversation with friends. It can be full of anger and blame, or the sense of being the victim: “What they did to me that caused things to be like this now.”

Sometimes this can go back a long way in time to what happened or did not happen in childhood or in a broken relationship, or a job loss. Sometimes incompletions can linger in the psyche even for decades, eating at the mind and body, a bitterness that is held in the musculature and shows on the face, a frozen rage.

To let go of what happened can seem impossible, to forgive someone, to drop the memory, or to let go of the anger and resentment a chasm too much to cross.

Yet to complete, to accept what happened, to forgive, to give up the right to punish, to truly let go of all resentment, to drop the recurrent thoughts and accompanying pain, is exactly what needs to happen. People need closure. They need to bring it to an end.

Of course, one might get the other party to acknowledge fault and apologise. One might get a “wrong” to be put right. And you might wait a very long time for it. And it might still not feel OK. Somehow it is never quite “right”.

What I’m getting at, as a spiritual fundamental, is the letting go in oneself. This is a process of creating inner freedom. To be preoccupied with the past is to interrupt the holy moment of Now. It is a way of not being present to all the magic that is available to us, going back over past “wrongs” as we perceive them.

If something is bothering you, if it is getting to you, if it is disturbing your inner contentment, then there is a blessed clue there that there is something to be let go of. The skill is to find a way to drop it.

You might find that the problem then miraculously solves itself. Such is the power of letting go. For the example of the transgression, you might then find that say the person apologises. But don’t let go and still expect that – that is not letting go, because then there’s an expectation and that maintains the gap between the past and the present, incomplete. Letting go is just that. Unconditional. Drop the whole thing.

Then we can get on with life and experiencing all the joy that is there for us, our real birthright, who we really are. As TS Eliot wrote in his last poem, The Four Quartets

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”