therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Why do assertiveness training?

I’m halfway through an assertiveness training course and it’s been a real revelation, as if somehow everything makes sense. I’m very happy with how it’s progressing and wrote about it in detail here:

https://therapyjourney.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/assertiveness-training-course-interim-review/

But what brought me to the point where I felt that an assertiveness training course would be beneficial for me? It was something I’d had in the back of my mind for years, but a recent fairly trivial event in my personal life had me thinking ‘I wish I knew what to say here’, whereas in reality I dealt with the situation in my normal manner, namely pretending it didn’t bother me. On the inside I got more and more annoyed and frustrated, sounding off to friends instead of dealing directly with the people involved. The people involved didn’t know how I really felt.

I know you have to pick your battles, but when you spend a lot of your life believing that your feelings are invalid, it clouds your ability to figure out what’s worth your time and what isn’t.

Learning the assertive way really helps, because being assertive means listening to yourself and being attentive to your own needs. It means being able to stand up for yourself when it is appropriate to do so. It means recognising what is worth your precious, finite energy, and what isn’t. And the way in which you act is so much more pleasant to others, because they know what they can expect from you. They find themselves feeling relaxed and happy around you, instead of having a general sense of unease but not being able to put their finger on it.

Although I have struggled with being overly aggressive at times in my life, my main problem at the time of taking on this course was acting too passively. Many that know me now wouldn’t think I’m a passive person but that’s largely because I work so hard at hiding my passive tendencies because they have not served me well in the past. Now I have decided I want to let them go once and for all.

These were some of the things I found myself doing, some recently and some not so recently. I started to pick myself up on a few of these things:

  • Agreeing with the general consensus way too often, even though I have opinions to the contrary.
  • Pretending something doesn’t upset me when it does
  • Saying things are fine when they are not to avoid a fuss
  • Avoiding people in order to side-step talking about an issue
  • Bending over backwards to please others
  • Ordering my own life around others, even those who are not close to me and don’t care about my efforts
  • Abandoning my own opinions, values, belief and judgments and being easily swayed by other people whose ideas were contrary to mine
  • Uncertainly about my own mind because I was always so willing to go along with others and let them decide things for me
  • Lack of disclosure about myself to others that I’m never going to get to know on a personal basis, because there seems little point ‘being myself’
  • Being unable to say no if someone wanted to employ me/ go out with me/ select me for something – they would make the decision and I would be powerless to resist
  • The constant nagging feeling that I am inferior to everybody else
  • Conviction that I can’t rely on myself to be consistent in my decision-making
  • Feeling that I can’t trust myself to have control over my own communication
  • Belief that my self-confidence fluctuates like the weather and is therefore not something I can control
  • Inability to say what I really mean in the moment without it turning into either self-pitying or aggressive remarks/behaviour
  • Angry outbursts when communication becomes simply too frustrating
  • Being unfairly judgmental and harsh towards others, but keeping these opinions to myself. Not valuing others as individuals perhaps because I didn’t value myself and our collective rights

That list was longer than I was expecting and makes me sound like I really had it bad and went through life in a depressive, submissive and powerless way. I didn’t – not for the last 2 years anyway. In fact, to the contrary I have better confidence now than at any other period of my life. I have good self-knowledge having spent years already working on myself. I have the best attitude towards the future I’ve ever had, largely because I’ve a lot to be happy about but also because I’ve the developed the skills needed to cope with life, whatever happens.

The passive person spends much of their time lying both to themselves and to others. This is hugely counterproductive and very destructive. Others may feel guilty for taking advantage of the passive person, or superior because their passive behaviour marks them as inferior. Probably others will feel irritation and pity towards the passive person and may cease to respect them. I was very intrigued to learn that others may actually feel awkward around passive people – because they cannot know what the passive person wants or likes. And of course, that makes perfect sense. Being around an assertive person makes them feel great, because they know you’ll always be honest and say what you really think. You’re open. People like that. So, to be a true ‘people pleaser’, if that’s in your nature, be assertive because that way people will feel safe and know what to expect around you.

Self-deprecation seems to be part of the British sense of humour but it can mask a seriously damaging self-image. Putting yourself down, like I do quite a lot, isn’t really a very nice thing to do – after all, if you wouldn’t speak of others in that way, why talk to yourself like that, e.g “I’m so stupid”, “Could I be any more pathetic”? If you’re a passive person, take the time to pay attention to your self-talk because it might be feeding an unhealthy self-image.

Passive people may make few demands of others, but make unrealistically high demands of themselves which they are bound to fail to meet. It is the same low opinion of oneself that makes passive people put others first, belittle their own views, and seek approval from others above all else. Really it comes down to a lack of self-esteem, and a double standard when applied to other people’s rights and opinions as opposed to one’s own. Why should we treat ourselves with any less respect than that which we afford to others? Surely, if we want to be respected we must respect ourselves first?

What I’ve written about here are the slow penny-drops of the passive person. I’m finally starting to face up to the less-than-perfect communication style I have, and problems with self-esteem and self-image. The specific goals I have with learning assertiveness include having more control over my communication; experiencing a better quality of life with overall needs being met; having the tools to deal with uncertain or unpredictable situations; having less anxiety (especially first thing in the morning when I can feel quite daunted by the day ahead); having more respect from strangers and loved ones alike; being better able to command attention; and having improved wellbeing overall as not so much is pent up.

Assertiveness is a communication style that informs all our interactions with others, but it really starts with recognising what is lacking in our own self-opinion. Only when you’ve accepted your own individual rights as the foundation for living life can the assertive way take hold and flourish. Breaking the patterns of the past is no mean feat and certainly change can be very wrenching and even destructive if you’re not prepared for all that it can entail. But when you’re ready to take control of life and to break the bad habits of the past, it can be very, very liberating.

reasons-for-assertiveness-training

Assertiveness training course interim review.

“Forthright, positive, insistence on the recognition of one’s rights” – Oxford English Dictionary

Assertive is a style of communication which contrasts with the passive, aggressive or manipulative styles. It is a way of expressing our needs while at the same time recognising that they are no more important or less important than the needs of others. When we act assertively, we are respectful of others, understanding that both parties are equal and accepting that someone else may say no or disagree with our viewpoint. Assertive people communicate clearly, directly, openly and honestly. And yet the assertive person can recognise in fact when to act assertively and when it may be strategic to lie, to walk away, back down, to be deliberately passive or aggressive.

The training course I’m currently attending at a local branch of Mind (a mental health charity operating across the UK) has been instrumental in helping me to see where my communication falls down and what I’m doing wrong. The reasons why I felt I needed assertiveness training are available in this post:

https://therapyjourney.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/why-do-assertiveness-training/

It has challenged me in quite significant ways which have sometimes felt a little uncomfortable but not as uneasy as some of the exercises on my recent psychodynamic counselling course. That’s because the nature of assertiveness training is essentially forward-looking.

With assertiveness being the goal there is the inbuilt premise that change is possible. One has to believe in change in order to achieve an identifiable goal. We spent the first session understanding the cycle of change adapted from the work of Prochaska and DiClemente. Upheaval brings with it pros as well as cons and can be a painful journey, but as long as the pros outweigh the cons it is a risk worth taking. There was a degree of healthy self-examination in the first couple of sessions as we pause to understand the rights we all have as individuals. This is the basis that must be understood if any lasting changes in our interactions with others can be made. What it calls for is an acceptance of certain rights which are:

  1. To state our own needs
  2. To be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.
  3. To express our feelings
  4. To express our opinions and values
  5. To say “yes” or “no” for ourselves
  6. To make mistakes
  7. To change our minds
  8. To say I do not understand
  9. To ask for what we want
  10. To decline responsibility for other people’s problems
  11. To not be dependent on others for approval
  12. To be unassertive

For many on the course, myself included, this brought a painful realisation of the rights we had denied ourselves over the years, perhaps over entire lifetimes so far. For me the ones I selected as needing the most work were 6. To make mistakes and 7. To change our minds. I was brought up believing that to make mistakes was a sign of weakness – and when I did make a mistake, I certainly didn’t own up to it, because it was so shameful! Similarly with 7, I guess there was an assumption I latched onto as a child that to change your mind was a sign of a weak character. The assumption went unchallenged and was in fact fed by significant others in my life for so many years that reading this Bill of Rights in class made me feel kind of emotional. It was like a great veil had been lifted and finally the unspoken could be said out loud. The great realisation was that I wasn’t weak or stupid if I changed my mind. I am human and it is my right, like it is everyone’s right.

The Bill of Rights is the absolute foundation on which assertiveness is built. If you believe deeply that you are entitled to those fundamentals, then what we call ‘assertiveness’ logically follows.

The first technique learned on the course was the ‘I’ statement. It can be used to ask for what we want or to state when a given situation is not working well for us and we want to change something. We express clearly what we really think and feel. We take responsibility for ourselves. We don’t blame or attack others, and stay calm throughout. We only talk about how something affects us (and what we’d like as an outcome) so there is less to argue about. The ‘I’ statement deals with facts, feelings and expectations.

The format of the ‘I’ statement has three parts to it, namely “I feel”… “When”… “What I would really appreciate is”…. To use it successfully, you must always keep the outcome in mind and be specific and concise about it. Crucially, you do not allow yourself to be dragged in to another discussion. You stick to your own agenda. You simply state your case using repetition if necessary and if that is not getting through, it’s fine to say “I’ve told you what I think, it’s up to you what you do with that.” Body language and tone of voice are key. The assertive way keeps in mind that 70%, or whatever the science says this week, of communication is non-verbal.

When we began to practise ‘I’ statements it soon became apparent that even in the safety of the classroom people found it jarring to say “I feel upset by”. The high value placed on feelings in this mode of communication is somewhat at odds with the culture we live in, in which feelings are not readily talked about. Many environments it’s simply not appropriate to talk of our feelings, such as the workplace or interactions with a stranger. The course leader made a very valid point regarding how we can subtly shift the language we use in accordance with the setting. In our culture at large, feelings are not valued but opinions are king. We reformulate our statement as the opinion, “I think it isn’t fair” instead of emotive language, “I feel upset by”.

After learning about ‘I’ statements we moved on to Saying No. This was something that many in the group struggled with. A cliché abounds of a typically passive, doormat-type person who gets persuaded and manipulated into saying, doing, and buying things they don’t want. A whole industry preys on these kinds of people. Perhaps they ‘don’t’ want to make a fuss’ or their motto is ‘anything for a quiet life’. They feel they will let people down or upset them if they refuse a request. This stereotype has some truth to it.

However we have a right to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean rejecting the person, it simply means refusing the request. When you say no, you must actually use the word ‘no’ – not ‘I’m not sure’, ‘it’s not a good time’, ‘I don’t think so’ ‘I’m too tired’, or any other evasion. The other person will be thinking that your answer is simply a preamble to negotiations.

So, clarity is key when saying no. When you are clear, people are less likely to pressure you because they have already heard your answer. They know where they stand. Also, a convoluted answer full of apologies, justifications and guilt can be uncomfortable for the other person to hear.

It’s really very freeing to know that we do all have the right to say no. Again it comes back to the Bill of Rights that we learned in the first session, and being committed to accepting those rights. If other people feel bad about our refusal of their request or try to make us feel guilty or duty-bound to comply, that’s their problem. Realising this is like a huge weight has been lifted from the shoulders of those whose sense of self comes – strange as it sounds – from compliance with others.

What this course has given me so far is permission to stand up for myself. Yes, we all have the right to state our needs. Yes, we all have the right to decline responsibility for other people’s problems. Yes, we all have the right to be treated with respect as intelligent, capable and equal human beings.

Being aware of our rights is more empowering than any of the individual techniques and exercises that we have learned so far, although they have been very helpful and eye-opening too. The effect of sitting in a room with other human beings who all now share the knowledge of our rights makes it very real. This has been the real surprise of the course. Undoing our disempowered self-image and replacing it with one in which we are allowed to express ourselves. That is the key to assertiveness.

assertiveness

Toxic Faith: The traits of hyperreligiosity.

A post I wrote 2 years ago on hyperreligiosity has gained thousands more hits on my blog than any other post. Clearly a lot of people are Googling the term hyperreligiosity. But why? We must be experiencing a spike in instances of ‘religious mania’ and ‘toxic faith’ – so-called hyperreligiosity. As Western society grows more secular with each generation, on the world stage hyperreligiosity is something we as a world community must contend with on a regrettably regular basis. Yet this is a fact of life that it seems strictly taboo to allude to.

On an individual basis, people want to understand the condition, either as mental health practitioners or because they are more personally affected; perhaps it is a close friend, spouse, child or parent who is suffering with hyperreligiosity. I am not a mental health professional. For me, it is because somebody close to me has chosen to become ‘lost’ in religion for the past ten years which has led to the sorrowful reality of losing that relationship with them. It is a parental relationship which makes it especially painful.

The term hyperreligiosity is defined by R.S Pearson (the author of the only book on this specific subject so far to be published), as “when the outward forms and other aspects of religion become life disabling. It is the ill-fitting grasp of the role of religion and God in one’s life.” [i]

As I explored in this earlier post [ii], hyperreligiosity is very different from overenthusiastic piety. It is not simply an exemplified form of keeping up the religion’s key principles in an admirable fashion. It is essentially dangerous and destructive, producing nothing of social value.

Through my research I found some common traits of the hyperreligious. Individual sufferers may be affected to a greater or lesser degree by each of the following:

 
Disempowered by others
They may have undergone experiences in which they are disconnected from and disempowered by others, so they have devalued others and created value in the form of their own religious practice. Negative experiences with others can be turned into fuel for increasingly ardent religiosity. They are often extremely disdainful and intolerant of people with opposing beliefs, sometimes even believing that killing in the name of God can be justified. Isolation from others might also be reframed as a positive choice.

They live by finding favour from God
God answers prayers and cares about us. But the hyperreligious get stuck in this mode. They see their relationship with God as more important than anyone else’s and will do whatever they believe God is telling them. They will often punish themselves when they believe they have not lived up to God’s unattainably high expectations of them. They may have sanctimonious attitudes, berating others for not being as friendly with God as they are.

The chosen one
Hyperreligiosity happens most often when one thinks that they know the mind of God, even though this is specifically stated as impossible in many major religions’ sacred texts. They may view others as unworthy or inferior. They may think of themselves as special – the chosen one. There are psychological reasons why a person with hyperreligiosity needs to have the assurance that they know the complete mind of God. Perhaps part of it is to fulfil the psyche’s need for validation when it is not present in interpersonal and other relationships.

Spirituality gone wrong
What might start as a desire to be a spiritually-enlightened, virtuous person can descend into an isolating disease of the mind. Spirituality is the embodiment of virtue. Hyperreligiosity isn’t simply an extreme form of spirituality – it is quite the opposite. It proves an ill-fitting grasp of the role of religion and God in one’s spiritual pursuits. The hyperreligious cannot use their thinking faculties in the way in which God intended. Their religious devotions obscure any notions of how to be the spiritually-rounded person God wants them to be.

Life-disabling
There is no good outcome of being hyperreligious. The sufferer does not end up being ‘hypervirtuous’ or ‘hyperspiritual’ or a better person overall. Dedication to the beliefs of religion does not produce anything of personal or social value; to the contrary, it is in fact is often paralysing and very destructive. Mother Teresa for example could not be termed hyperreligious – the description does not fit with the deeds that she performed. Hyperreligiosity produces painful results in the way other mental illnesses do too.

Conspicuous in their non-materialism
The hyperreligious might not care about material possessions, and actively seek out material lacks. These conspicuous lacks of for example marriage and money – things that make life more comfortable and complete – supposedly leave more space in their lives for religion. It might also be a way of justifying certain attitudes or proving that they are different from others and don’t want what others want; their desires are of a higher order. Any residual emptiness is filled with religious fervour. However the hyperreligious can become double-minded: renouncing certain things as worldly and therefore unnecessary, then praying for them. The hyperreligious person is not a perfect model of consistency.

Belief that human life lacks value
Life, to the hyperreligious, may be just a meaningless, temporary state of being – merely a necessary and unremarkable part of the journey or cycle of life. There may be nothing intrinsically valuable or particularly interesting about a human life because our real life is the afterlife. When we realise that humans are created in the image of God then we can experience this elevated value in all human beings. The experience and value of just being human is denied by the hyperreligious and obsessional, sometimes to themselves and often to others. Denying the value of themselves is often the mirror image of another moment in their life when they deny the value of others.

Destruction of self-image
The general destruction of the hyperreligious person’s self-image may be what is inadvertently sought. The creation of the Thanatos state, the death impulse, is often seen as a desirable goal. At least, the dissolution of the self may be sought. This may go back to some previous unmet need which brings with it memories too painful to process or too early to remember. The inner reaction of those with the hyperreligious mindset may be obsessions and intrusive thoughts which try to create an excuse for not being allowed the human privilege for just being a valuable human being and having needs met.

Mental hallucinations

Projections can form in the mind that then direct the hyperreligious person. These figments of the imagination, believed to be God or angels could more closely fall under the heading of the demonic. That which is real and full of truth does not destroy or make suicidal. The voices do not have the best wishes of their object in mind. Psychiatrists see hyperreligiosity in someone having psychotic episodes or epileptic fits in which they experience God. There might also be a distortion in cognition that happens to people where they hear their own inner speech as voices from the outside.


References

[i] Hyperreligiosity: Identifying and Overcoming Patterns of Religious Dysfunction, by R. S. Pearson (Telical Books, 2005)

[ii] https://therapyjourney.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/hyperreligiosity/

hyperreligiosity

‘Ego Distortion in terms of True and False Self’ – A summary and reflection on Donald Winnicott’s 1960 paper.

Donald Winnicott’s ideas of the True and False Self constitute a technical description of specific state of being which can be traced back to the adult’s formative relationship with their ‘primary object’, the mother. The theory arose from his work as a psychoanalyst and paediatrician, who worked in Britain and wrote prolifically from the 1930’s until his death in the early 1970s. Winnicott’s work with mothers and infants gave him an insight into the correlation between inadequate bonding with the mother, and later developmental and psychological disturbances.

In this paper Winnicott argues that every baby develops according to one of two possible pathways which then determine whether a True Self or False Self emerges;

“In the first case the mother’s adaptation is good enough and in consequence the infant begins to believe in external reality which appears and behaves as by magic […] and which acts in a way that does not clash with the infant’s omnipotence.[…] In the second case […] the mother’s adaptation to the infant’s hallucinations and spontaneous impulses is deficient, not good enough. The process that leads to the capacity for symbol-usage does not get started […] in practice the infant lives, but lives falsely”. (1960, p. 146).

The mother’s lack of sensitivity to the baby’s needs leads to him becoming prematurely autonomous as a defence to protect the True Self from discovery. Winnicott is quite clear about what constitutes ‘good enough’ mothering, and what does not. As touched on above, a ‘good enough’ mother meets the infant’s omnipotence which means strengthening the infant’s weak ego. On the other hand, a ‘not good enough’ mother does not implement the infant’s omnipotence, and instead, substitutes her own gesture to which the infant responds by complying. The baby is not thus able to believe, for a period, in the “illusion of omnipotence” in which its true self can flourish.

This helps to understand the aetiology of the False Self – it is in large part attributed to a repeated lack of sensitivity to the true needs of the developing psyche, on the part of the mother. Her reactions do not correspond to what the baby is expecting, so they are inappropriate ‘impingements’. The repeated failure affects the pre-reflective, nonconscious mind of the baby all the way to adult life. The False Self is “evidently a real clinical state [that] exists”[1].

The less extreme version of the disturbance (nevertheless termed a ‘clinical illness’[2] ) still acknowledges the True Self and allows it a secret life. It may search for conditions which make it possible for the True Self to reign. When such conditions are not met, the result is ego ‘suicide’ which in this context means “destruction of the total self in avoidance of annihilation of the True Self.”[3]

The True Self adult develops a wide range of cognitive and emotional skills. It learns to become truly autonomous when it is ready. It inhabits social roles comfortably and with careful consideration. It assesses its relationships independently and comports itself securely. Admittedly the True Self conception is an aspiration to which we aspire, and it could be contended that it is an idealisation.

The False Self however is concerned with identifications, false as they may be, and with a mannered and acceptable social attitude. It adheres to protocols willingly, and succumbs to external authority rather than establishing its own. It seeks to maintain relationships and gain approval even when this is detrimental to its wellbeing. These dependencies are comfortable because they buffer the True Self. Compliance and imitation[4] are main features of the False Self.

There is some internal acknowledgement that, ‘This is not my True Self’, but the False Self’s relationships nevertheless seem very real to that individual and to others. They are in indeed in place of the real.

“Where the mother cannot adapt well enough, the infant gets seduced into a compliance, and a compliant False Self reacts to environmental demands and the infant seems to accept them. Through this False Self the infant builds up a false set of relationships, and by means of introjections even attains a show of being real, so that the child may grow to be just like mother […]. The False Self has one positive and very important function: to hide the True Self, which it does by compliance with environmental demands.” (1960, p. 146-7).

Winnicott’s words are significant to me, because they suggest that the powerful influence of the False Self can overshadow any notion of the True Self. It is a defence which can outlast its usefulness.

For me, in my own experiences as a person that has sought help from the psychoanalytic model of therapy two years ago, a lot of what was revealed to me in that process rang true in light of Winnicott’s False Self theory. As I began the process of unpacking the weighty emotional baggage that had held me back my whole life, notions of a False Self emerged as my deepest issue.

In a blogpost from that time I recounted a session with my psychotherapist, in which I was asked to talk to my five-year-old self. What would I say to the child?

“The things I wanted to say, she wouldn’t understand. I want to tell her she must have the strength to be true to herself. I want to tell her she must find her own happiness. I want to tell her it’s OK to be who she is. Trust yourself. I want to tell her that it’s good to be open to love and laughter. Get out of your head more. If I could tell her just one thing, I’d say “enjoy now”. ”[5]

This paints a poignant picture of both the adult coming to a painful realisation that something in her current position in life is terribly lacking, and that the promise of childhood was not fulfilled. We have the portrait of a child who is already not being her real self, a child who does not know anything about inner happiness, a child who looks to others for identity and belonging, a child who is afraid of spontaneous, joyful responses, a child who lives in her intellect already, who doesn’t have a conception of living in the moment.

What was startling for me reading Winnicott’s 1960 article, was his recognition of the “danger of the […] not infrequent tie-up between the intellectual approach and the False Self.”[6] He wrote of the tendency for the mind to become the location of this Self, creating a dissociation between intellectual activity and psychosomatic existence. A fine intellect and a high degree of academic success were always important to me but even now I cannot articulate why.

It was something that my psychotherapist picked up on very early. I used to write notes during our sessions, with my rationale being that since I was paying to have these insights, I might as well capture them on paper so I can work on them properly.

“The subject of my reliance on thinking/writing also came up. G came to the conclusion I use my strongly developed mind instead of my feelings. I justify and rationalise all kinds of things, that then have an effect on my behaviour. And once poisoned thought becomes feeling then action, all hell breaks loose.”[7] and

“G pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.”[8]

This reveals an interesting facet of the False Self. Rather than detaching from pursuits that may require one’s own authentic opinion, as intellectualism does, it can be set up as a defence. Academic success is only another thing to hide behind and it is eventually found to be lacking. “The individual “feels ‘phoney’ the more he or she is successful”[9] For someone with a False Self, safe places are always being sought. The only satisfactory ones, sadly, are in one’s own mind.

How do we find and express our True Self? I am sure there are many ways but for Winnicott the solution was to take part in psychoanalytic work in which a “period of extreme dependence”[10] takes place after the individual’s own acknowledgement that the False Self is operating. One of Winnicott’s most influential ideas was the ‘holding environment’ which refers to an ordinary, loving mother holding her child both emotionally and physically. An appropriate holding environment is essential for the True Self to develop as the primary self. When the holding environment in early life was deficient, the psychotherapeutic intervention may help later. “A correct and well-timed interpretation in an analytic treatment gives a sense of being held physically that is more real…than if a real holding or nursing had taken place. Understanding goes deeper”.[11] The therapy relationship in essence recreates that early relationship.

For me, the False Self was never fully resolved, as the therapy was short term. I certainly found it very wrenching and emotionally exhausting to spend so long being back in early life, and didn’t have stable structures in place to be able to cope with that. Opening the floodgates is all very well but without flood defences, you will drown. I’ve sought changes via different, personal means such as love, service and faith, not through being inward-looking nor dwelling in the past.

 

References

[1] Winnicott, D. W. (New York, 1965). ‘Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self’, in The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development, p. 140 (Accessed via Gestalt NYC: http://tinyurl.com/z7h4r2a)

[2] Ibid, p 143

[3] Ibid.

[4] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 147

[5] ‘Deepening the pool. Childhood memories.’ on Therapy Journey, (published anonymously). http://tinyurl.com/zawfueu

[6] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 144

[7] ‘Getting to know and tame my rebellious inner child.’ by Therapy Journey (2014) http://tinyurl.com/he4d84p

[8] ‘Overthinking and freedom from prison.’ by Therapy Journey (2014). http://tinyurl.com/z4b3hwx

[9] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 144

[10] Ibid, p. 151

[11] Casement, Patrick (London, 1997) Further Learning from the Patient, pp. 96–7

mono-no-aware

Faith, joy and letting go.

I have written loads here and elsewhere on the subject of overthinking and desperately wanting to feel joy as my overriding state in a deep feeling kind of way. I am of course aware of the irony about writing a wordy blog about how much I would like to stop thinking, rationalising and intellectualising my feelings. If I could get over how delicious the irony is, maybe I could make some progress.

I’d love for joy to be my overriding state. In fact I’d love it to be everyone’s overriding state. I believe this is part of what we’ve fallen away from, since the introduction of sin into the world. Joy is what’s called for in the Christian concept of God. That is what we all need to live by and remember. Joy is felt, not thought. On waking, when I actually remember to, I think ‘today, I am just going to feel joy in my body and also in my heart.’ But what I would like is to have joy be the default, not something I have to use my head to remember consciously. That’s why there is some struggle involved, some headwork, until I train myself to feel what is already within.

I am reminded of something that came up in my study group. The two of us in the group are very wordy and love to intellectualise. For Lent, we were reading Rowan Williams’ Meeting God in Mark, which is intended as a meditative study companion to Mark’s Gospel. A few weeks ago, we spent some time dissecting this part:

How does God work? Subtly, slowly, from the very depth of being. Or steadily, irresistibly, like the light reaching the corners of the room. He works outwards from the heart of being into the life of every day – not inwards from some distant heaven.

In just a few weeks, I can see that I have made some progress. When I came across this material, I tried to understand exactly the difference between God working from the heart and God descending from heaven to bestow us with His blessings to simply letting go – which is precisely what faith is. Letting go is the definition of trust as well, and that goes for earthly matters too. That doesn’t mean, stick your head in the sand and be content with your happy ignorance. But rather, listen carefully to that voice that has the ring of truth. Be aware of the gaps and the silences, because that could be where He speaks the loudest. Be ready to engage in the relationship with Him and to ask for His guidance.

Mark’s Gospel uses quite mysterious parables to highlight the irony of human beings not knowing the fact of their ignorance when they are confronted with the truth. If God were to reveal himself, in a way that our fantasies demand, our problem would not be that we don’t know but that we cannot love – it would be nothing to do with our knowledge and everything to do with our nature.

Our natures, if we resort to using them and nothing else to guide us, will take us to very dark, very desolate places. We possess distorted ideas about love, power and glory. To us, love is earned and it is conditional. We do not love someone unless we are sure they love us. If they hurt us enough, we will force ourselves to stop loving them. Our fantasy of power meanwhile, that people often joke about, is that we could have everything ‘our way’ if only we were the King of the Universe. People would have to bow down to us, and wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could order everybody around. If we had ultimate power, we could do mighty things like demand everyone to give us whatever we want, and we’d have the most money and comforts.

Is this what power is? Is this the glory that we seek? Human power basically boils down to subjugating the weak and exalting the self to an undeserved position of authority. Jesus’ death completely in one fell swoop, destroys the fantasy that God’s power is much like ours, just to a greater (infinite) degree. Our common idea of ‘power’ is so tainted by our fallen natures, it has no resemblance whatsoever to the true power of the Lord. The corresponding fantasy concerning power is that ‘whatever power we attain as mortal beings much be valued and clung to because it is power endorsed by God. In these lethal errors lie the roots of all our sin and self-inflicted misery, the roots of death’, Williams writes. The myth of power, like so many of our errors, holds us prisoner. We are delivered from these frightening fallacies by the death of Christ. It is all there, it happened millennia ago, all we have to do is let go.

How can it be that this man, who called himself the Son of God, is forsaken by all towards the end of his life? How is he so pitifully alone? How can it be that he manifests his ultimate power in acts of service, self-gift and never controlling others? How is the Messiah a slave who washes the feet of those who follow him? It is this utterly incredible and awe-inspiring when you sit back and feel and know and rediscover these things. It will take a lifetime to imagine the possibilities of trust and faith in the helpless, powerless God on the cross.

I am fortunate and have everything to be joyful about.

dripping,-creeping,-streaming

Humbled by wonder, joy and truth.

“All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’.” ― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

The search for truth, which I now realise is what the Therapy Journey always was, is strewn with many obstacles, time drains, wrong turns and false gods. My research was leading me down a route I thought was filled with harmony, joy, peace and spiritual truth. I was quite taken with New Age philosophies and practices. I am going to detail the sorts of things I thought were Very Good Things. Some are from the “therapy” part of my journey and some are related to my supposed “awakening”.

-kundalini yoga, Emotional Freedom Techniques, the Zeitgeist Movement, David Icke, chakra opening, chi, Buddhism, ‘Conversations With God’, (some forms of ) meditation, Eckhart Tolle, ‘The Secret’ & the law of attraction, The Age of Aquarius, craniosacral therapy…. Anything connected with New Ageism, ‘alternative’ spirituality.

I’m sure most people will be aware of at least a handful of these aspects of modern spirituality. So what is it that underscores all New Age systems? They are mostly Eastern-influenced, and have a variety of teachings concerning salvation but almost always make man central to the process, for man is the divine co-creator of his reality. It is a theology of feelgoodism, universal tolerance and moral relativism.

Pretty harmless, right? Just tools to help busy, modern people achieve a modicum of calm and inner peace. That’s what I used to believe. But now I have become aware of the truth, that all the above philosophies and more that are connected to New Ageism are nothing but revamped Satanism. Satanism made palatable to the masses!

So what makes these systems Satanic ones?  Look carefully at even the simplified synopsis two paragraphs above, and you will see the belief that the individual can be their own God. Man can look to himself for salvation….

Before I continue with what comes next, I must explain what I reckon my awakening was really about. But first, what it is not. A year ago, I thought it was a spiritual one. Then months later I thought it was a truther / conspiracy theory awakening. I was rather taken with New Agers that reject religion and believe there is a grand manipulation at play which entails sinister power in the hands of the few who control the many. Advocates include David Icke and Peter Joseph. I came to understand at a basic level, the manipulation that is inherent in the structures and strictures of our world today.

Only very recently have I come to realise that the process of my awakening is the path to my becoming a Christian. The truth I have found to be the one and only truth, is directly at odds with the majority of what I have written on this blog in the past. It is incompatible with the New Age philosophies that now dominate mainstream culture, many of which I tried on for size myself. It is at odds with some of my previous writings about belief in God being tantamount to mental illness – a literal mind virus. It was of course, necessary to go through various stages of discovery, because this is part of the journey. Sometimes, you have to go a ways down a road to realise you’ve gone the wrong way, and must turn back.

This has all been part of God’s plan for me and there is no way as a mortal that I can see the smallest fraction of what He can. It is like viewing one pixel for one second and trying to fathom the whole movie. What I can say about the journey to get here, to the very beginning of my eternal walk with Christ, is that I am grateful and humbled to be saved. My turning away from sin and into the light of the truth didn’t happen overnight. There were no visions, no signs, no bright lights or spiritual events. It was a gradual realisation where the truth just dawns on me little by little.

I had tried this religion on for size many times over the past 15 years, since I was a teenager. But in the past there was always a block to actual faith. No matter how much of an academic understanding I had, the faith was missing. I simply couldn’t believe it. Yes, I wanted to follow Christ. Yes, I wanted to believe God came to earth as a man, who then lived the perfect life and shed his blood for our salvation. Yes, I was fascinated by the Bible and wanted to read more. Yes, I wanted to join Christians in worship, not merely as a critical bystander only in it for the architecture and singing. But always there was the nagging thought in my mind, “it’s beautiful, but it’s not real”.

I’ve been aware of belief growing since August 2015, around 7 months ago. I’m truly grateful. I have a constant little thrill in my heart because I have so much in my life to be truly happy and thankful for. That is humbling, that is wondrous.

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Entering the vibration.

The purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, the life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language. A language of the heart. The language was in the Polish forest, where language wasn’t needed.  Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry. It’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception where you have that sense of being united with all things. And suddenly, you understand everything. – My Dinner with Andre, Dir. Louis Malle

What has happened to me continuously throughout this journey so far is a kind of synchronicity, serendipity even. Entering into the vibration of a particular thought, idea or energy has led to more of the same. The current preoccupation with spiritual awakening has been no exception, but in fact has even greater ramifications for humanity. For if we really are waking up, and the law of attraction is causing mass societal change, then what I experience on an individual level has the potential to be magnified many million times over. In fact, it is inevitable.

From my own personal experience, up until last week, I used to run an authenticity group in my hometown. Now I am travelling, the group will be on hold until I settle somewhere new for more than a few days. During the weeks I spent with my group in its first incarnation, I shared some terrifically collaborative moments with the participants. What I utterly loved about the group, was the mix of energy that happened. We channelled each other, whether we were painting silently in a meditative state or writing silly stories, there was the uncanny sense of connecting in a very profound way. A few days ago the activity was writing, and the collaborative, blind poetry pieces had a very coherent theme. They were also extremely fun to write, and I experienced what I’d been missing for a long while – deep belly laughter.

What I found in a significant way through that group was meaningful connection. Although the uptake wasn’t high, the intensity was. I owe it to myself to chase connections that have – as much as I hate the fact I’m overusing this phrase – ‘spiritual significance’. And to let go of those that don’t. I’m becoming stronger in my own self and convictions, and am disdainful the idea of being nice and keeping everyone happy. I’ve rocked a few boats lately, and I’m fine with that, because I have to be true to myself (including my inner bitch).

This recent article by Zen Gardner, published in the Waking Times is yet another in a long line of ideas about, as the title suggests, activism, elevating consciousness, and living with sustainability and awareness in mind. It talks about the fast-approaching tipping point in collective consciousness, and how every blog post and conversation helps to reverse perceived reality. As the machinations of power abuses, control and suppression become more evident in their malevolence, people have the opportunity to step back and see social engineering for what it is and always has been.

The article reports on a theory purportedly proven by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. It is essentially the same as the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, which holds that once a certain number of individuals within a species learn something, suddenly the rest of that species can do it without being shown. They do it purely by instinct. The veracity of this theory has been called into question, however, and all but fallen into the realm of urban legend. However, it remains very interesting with this in mind to see what happens as we grow into what I believe are major, cataclysmic changes with global consequences.

What it all boils down to is the power of the individual. Most people have the erroneous belief that they cannot possibly effect change, as they are just one person out of several billion. But this couldn’t be further from the truth that I believe in. And I write this from my own point of view but this goes for every person on the planet – I have unlimited, infinite power which affects the entire universe across all dimensions.

I have found true freedom in believing in my own power and realising there is nothing at all to fear or doubt. There is only love. From Zen Gardner’s article, ‘Doubt is akin to fear, and its end result is apathy; i.e. disempowerment and inaction’. Sure, sometimes I still have moments of apathy, aggression, frustration and even fear. But I recognise that these are not true states of being, they are merely reflections of a spirit that is not in quite the right space.

I am coming to the end of the first week of my travels and have found myself in Brussels, Belgium. I am aware of the negative energy of this city and it’s not surprising given the significance of this territory to the Illuminati Elite. This capital city is home to the unelected European Union superstate dictatorship, NATO, the Global Elite Krypt computer database onto which information of all the people of the world is allegedly being compiled. If you subscribe to Icke’s theory, this tiny country, a monarchy, was created in 1831 as a centre for Elite Satanist activity and has imposed a ‘reptilian’ line which connects the bloodlines of all European royal and Elite families. Only another day left in this city then on to somewhere I can be less cynical about.

From dream to nightmare.

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – They Live, Dir. John Carpenter

I feel incredibly awakened suddenly, finding out more about the real state of the world. It is one hell of ride and extremely uncomfortable, though exhilarating. Like the main character in the John Carpenter film, They Live, I have taken a chance and put on the reality sunglasses. For the first time, I believe I’m seeing things a little closer to how they really are. I see the subliminal messages which mind-control the masses and the sub-/supra-human overlords that run it all.

Every step I take on this road makes me more certain that this is what my purpose is. I’m finally ready to let go of the regrets of my past. When we look back, it’s easy to see with hindsight where we made a wrong turn, and wonder what the hell we were thinking. What I must remember, for my own sanity, is that whatever decisions I made in the past were thoroughly right for that moment in time. They could not fail to be so.

I’m entering into the vibration of the new part of my life, emerging from the crisis of my age slowly. I’m negotiating the tricky balance between activism and acceptance as I come to accept more startling things I’m coming across. Reading the Icke book The Biggest Secret has made me feel like my life up until now was a dream. What I now know, I can’t unknow. I can’t unf*** the goat, so to speak. (Although the goat symbolism of that phrase has taken on a macabre twist, a phenomenon that I keep finding whatever my eyes happen to settle on out there in the world they run. Now, every symbol is infused with meaning).

The forces that run this world control everything and the vast majority of individuals and they want you to call people like me and other truthers crazy. I’m fine with that and I accept that if I go down this path I’m laying myself open to ridicule. Online, that’s easier to cope with but face to face with people it’s much more unpredictable. That’s why I have to keep bettering myself, strengthening my convictions in the providence of the cosmos, and the love that’s in our souls whether you call it God, intuition, unity, spirit or any other name. It’s the opposite of the Satanism that’s intrinsic to the Illuminati’s rituals. Their Satan is not the Satan of the Bible or anything else for which we have a point of reference. They worship a highly destructive, negative force. Their rituals are a manipulation of human energy, and what people don’t know until they wake up and research this, is that millions of people, especially babies, that never officially existed die each year because of the ruling classes’ needs to feed on human consciousness.

The reason why this and all the rest of it continues is so easy to answer – because the few that rule the world control and own everything, from the news and entertainment media, to pharmaceuticals and the illegal drugs trade, to the military and police, to the organised religions of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other faiths, the companies we work for, to the very idea of government and all political ideologies be they communist, socialist, democratic, monarchy, plutocracy – it’s for a greater Agenda. The people that stand there that we call presidents or dictators or queens are not there to enforce their own will. God, no. They are often just mind-controlled puppets, there to further the Agenda. The Agenda has been going on for many thousands of years. Call them the Black Nobility, the Illuminati, the Babylonian Brotherhood, it’s all essentially the same thing.

The external manipulation of the mind takes many forms and the question is not how many are mind controlled, but how few are not. Make no mistake, it takes pure courage to live freely. It’s a great step into the unknown, which is another thing we have been conditioned to fear. I am the living embodiment of transient states of being, rejection of mainstream channels, an alternative sexuality, commitment to truth, absolute faith in my infinite power as a human being, and in time, love for all.

I remember a few years ago during the three-month occupation of the grounds of St Pauls by Occupy London protesters, I took my former boss’s 13-year old daughter there to have a look what was going on. He was horrified I had taken her to a place of the Great Unwashed, although we were both enthralled by what we had seen. Libraries inside tents, people making music, dancing, inspired placards – it was a peaceful, poignant experience. Now, I am more interested in being a part of a subculture like that than a cog in the prevailing, thoughtless culture. Not even a cog, because every cog in a machine is necessary, but something thoroughly expendable.

Yes, I know how it sounds. I’m sitting at home, I’m bored, so I’m scaring myself silly with out-there theories that give me the feeling that I’m doing something important with my life. But of course. The difference however is that I’m willing to be a voice that effects change. I want to devote my time right now to raising consciousness and at the very least, appealing to other people to form their own opinions and see things differently. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I have already started in my one-to-one personal outreach programme in the real world, and I’m proud.

Spiritual awakening.

“One of the great transformations we are experiencing is the process of re-awakening or re-connecting to our Higher Self or true self (Consciousness). This Higher Self can be seen as who we truly are. Up until this point, human ego has been at the forefront of driving our world. Ideas of who we think we are, separation, competition, greed, power and survivalism have been sitting in the driver’s seat for centuries and have created a world that reflects these ideals. It is important to realize that these are all illusions” – Julian Websdale, The Waking Times.

The idea of a spiritual awakening has come up so many times in the past few days both in my reading and interaction with people, I feel as if the universe is trying to tell me something. I’m aware of how rare this idea is given that there are so many human-made structures of power and control that have been designed to keep us in our place of blissful ignorance of our higher selves and a more noble way of being. Mainstream society pours disdain and ridicule on those that seek to better themselves in such a way. And that is because this is precisely what you’re meant to think.

Science and religion have conspired over the centuries to keep us in the dark. Religion, though outmoded, teaches us to fall in line so we don’t get punished by a pretty moody God. Our souls are only good in as far as we do what religious doctrine (read: the state) impels us to do. Modern science offers the only acceptable view of the universe and human values today, and that is that what exists is merely a ‘brute fact’ as Bertrand Russell put it, and when you die you cease to exist. This is even worse than the religious view! These apparent opposites both deny the true nature of who we are and that we alone have infinite power including of course, the power to control our individual and collective destinies.

Reading David Icke (I know I shouldn’t), he writes about the idea of mass consciousness growing to an eventual awareness that will set the human race free. While this has been debunked by detractors as New Age hokum, there is something that’s compelling to me that through an inclusive spirituality without borders or confining dogmas, people as one wake up to their interconnectedness and their non-physical selves that continues beyond the body.

But why should such a thing ever happen, when now more than ever, our world is materialistic, people are more divided, and disillusionment with politics and government is running high? Perhaps it’s precisely because of the self-conscious emptiness of our institutions, entertainment and behaviours that a shift is inevitable. Further, according to The Waking Times, one of the biggest victories awaiting us is the shift from polarity (right or wrong) to an understanding that perceptions are neutral, and only our ego terms an experience ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Once we see this, we stop placing emphasis on the ego and expecting prejudice and polarity, and start loving, allowing and accepting which leads to joy, happiness and enlightenment.

A global shift in consciousness might also be related to factors beyond our comprehension such as cosmic rays and solar activity. There is a theory advocated here that the unrest we are experiencing in many parts of the world is symptomatic of the number of sunspots and cycle the sun is in. Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky showed that the more sunspots, the greater number of important historical events take place. Within each 11-year cycle, Chizhevsky recognised 3 years of minimum excitability, 2 years of growth in excitability, 3 years of maximum excitability, and 3 years of a decline in excitability. We are in the period of maximum excitability, in which a disproportionate majority (60%) of historical events supposedly occur. The characteristics for our time include, “Discovery of solutions, masses more impatient with status quo, masses unite, new leaders appear.” How I would welcome being part of this change…

However one thing I must remember is that everything is exactly how it should be. This was one of the first things I learned. I do start to feel angry when I realise think too much about ‘the way things ought to be’. Through this awakening, we will learn to love knowing that we don’t have to fix our planet or anyone on it. It’s the work of the ego to presume that it knows better. Instead of resistance, steady alignment. You cannot change other people, although they do change. You can only work on yourself.

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An unnatural history.

Maybe I have cracked up. I fully accept that madness is a part of my psyche. I embrace it, along with other absurd sides of life. Maybe I am particularly susceptible to crazy ideas that I can really get my teeth into, because I am running out of things to believe in – things I can actually put into practice. My situation could be worse but I am frustrated and thoroughly not where I want to be, surrounded by people I regard (not literally) as robots in a small town I sometimes loathe. Boredom is the most toxic of all chronic states, and when I fear the darkness within myself most it is during times of boredom.

During my trawl of the blogs I follow recently, I came across an article regarding Jimmy Savile which led  me to this 2012 article, in which David Icke tells of Savile’s role as a “fixer” to the royal family of the United Kingdom and how in fact the bloodlines of all royal families and other leaders in politics and business (which are in fact but one family) being founded on Satanism and other occult knowledge, in which paedophilia and ritual sacrifice play a key role.

My interest was piqued. I’ve always had a fascination with conspiracy theories, as they are condescendingly termed, and some time ago while I was in the United States I started getting into the Zeitgeist movement but have failed to do anything concerned with activism for this cause, only the passive activity of watching the films. Nevertheless, my consciousness was awakened, which is supposedly happening in fact on a grand scale – but still so many allow themselves to remain comatose, deadened by meaningless entertainment, the treadmill of consumer wants, and the demanding, unnecessary work that keeps them in voluntary slavery. Peter Joseph said, in the second of the Zeitgeist trilogy, “Physical slavery requires people to be housed and fed. Economic slavery requires the people to feed and house themselves”. And it is this that people are so busy doing that they see no alternative.

It was from this open-minded standpoint that I began to read Icke’s 1999 book, The Biggest Secret, the entire text of which is available to download in pdf format free. What I’m about to share isn’t presented as the truth, merely as an interesting theory that is capturing my attention currently. My blog in its entirety is a document of my journey from darkness to light, from anger to peace. What I write isn’t the doctrine of myself, merely the reflections of a person that recognises life is made of change, not least within my own mind. I write for clarity, for therapy, for outreach. I write for myself.

The story goes that a race within a race of interbreeding bloodlines centred in the Middle- and Near-East have complete control over the rest of humanity, having introduced complex structures such as religion, politics, the military, government and business, and known as the Babylonian Brotherhood. See, I told you it was a crackpot idea. Furthermore, this race is not fully human, but part shape-shifting reptile that inhabits the fourth dimension. Nor are they of Earth but they are from Mars! But, of course!

There is a lot of highly contentious information in Icke’s book about a highly evolved race that lived on Mars at a time when that planet was a lot closer to the sun – in the position that the Earth currently inhabits, in fact. Our other next door neighbour, Venus, was an ice-coated comet according to scientist of sorts Brian Desborough, and its collision with Mars was what caused billions of tons of ionised ice to be attracted to our magnetic poles, which before 4,500 BCE had no ice. This would answer the question of what caused the mammoth, a temperate grassland mammal, to die out so suddenly. More importantly, the collision caused the destruction of the highly advanced Mars race’s home planet. With nowhere to go, they decide to colonise the Earth, and went to war with the native race of the Earth.

Now this is an entirely preposterous conjecture if I take a step back from it for a moment, and I cannot find a satisfactory answer to the question of how did this Mars race get to Earth with their planet destroyed? Why are there no traces of their technology? It also gets very dangerous as we are talking about racial divides, which is not something our planet needs more of.

Separately to this strand, there is an idea put forward by scholar Zecharia Sitchin who has translated Sumerian tablets which date from 4,000 – 2,000 BCE, found in present-day Iraq. They reveal that an extra-terrestrial race known as the Anunnaki came to earth 450,000 years ago. Humans were created through interbreeding as a slave race. Homo erectus appears to have emerged in Africa about 1.5 million years ago. For over a million years their physical form seems to have remained the same, but then, out of nowhere, came the dramatic change to homo sapiens and an even more instantaneous change to homo sapiens sapiens, with complex language and massive brains, about 35,000 years ago. Icke “feels” that only a “race from a reptile genetic stream” could have been responsible for such tinkering. Almost every ancient culture has reference to some kind of lizard-like, humanoid reptile species.

This is a fantastic reworking of our natural history and if nothing else, a lesson in broadening in the mind through entertaining impossible concepts. It is all oddly compelling to me as I struggle with lack of direction and meaning in my own life during the current fallow period. I stress that I do not subscribe hook, line and sinker to Icke’s theories merely that they hold a lurid car-crash fascination for me. (Or perhaps the lady doth protest too much). I know I shouldn’t read this tripe, as it’s only going to mess with my head, but I am hooked for the time being – and goddammit I’m bored.

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Grace. The unconscious mind. Personal religion.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about being in any way spiritually enlightened, because I’m not. I’m no guru or saint, I’m just starting out and I’m learning a lot of things. I like to keep them safe and close to my heart by writing about them. I hope to remember my learnings and make them part of me. The Road Less Travelled has obviously made a big impact on me, as I don’t seem to be able to stop writing about it.

There are a couple of loose ends from Peck’s book that I’d like to tie up. We have discovered Peck’s belief that the ultimate aim of personal evolution is to be like God. Spiritual growth is how we as individuals evolve. And love is the force that overcomes the entropy intrinsic to the natural law of the universe. I wanted to explore the idea of God being a force within our unconscious, as this really stood out for me while reading this book.

We still have no idea why the unconscious mind possesses knowledge that we have not necessarily already learned. Peck suggests that the interface between God and man is at least in part the interface between our unconscious and our conscious. Perhaps we can go further and postulate that where God inhabits is Jung’s collective subconscious that we all share.

I find it very interesting that Peck’s view flips around the beliefs of the preceding age of psychotherapy, which held that the unconscious with its tumultuousness, nightmares, mental illnesses and assorted demons, is the seat of psychopathology. In Peck’s version, diseases of the mind occur because our conscious self resists unconscious wisdom and it is amidst this conflict that the unconscious seeks to heal. Far from being dark, unruly and fearful, our unconscious mind is an expression of a far greater power.

But, we are in the dark about what our unconscious mind – God – is telling us. Dreams are open to contradictory interpretations, dark nights of the soul seemingly serve little purpose except making us miserable, and we are very quick to discount those situations when we intuit something but cannot figure how we could possibly ‘know’ it. Perhaps on occasion we are being assisted by a force other than our own conscious will. This is where grace comes in.

Grace is a “powerful force originating outside of human consciousness which nurtures the spiritual growth of human beings”. Examples of grace include near-misses in potential accident situations, dream phenomena where revelations are made; miracles of health; examples of extra sensory perception; and other fortuitous incidents, peculiar coincidences, synchronicity or serendipity that we cannot explain. The following four conditions define them:

  1. They nurture human life and spiritual growth.
  2. They are incompletely understood by scientific thinking.
  3. They are commonplace among humanity.
  4. They originate outside the conscious human will.

Peck goes on to assert that the fact of grace basically infers the existence of God. Whether or not one believes in God is a personal matter which no argument from a book is going to change – but unbelievably it can and does change over time. This got me thinking about my own faith and asking the question, how did I go from being a hardline atheist who pretty much felt like punching every devout religious person squarely on the nose, to someone who only today over breakfast, told my flatmates that I believe in a God as a soul of the universe, a oneness, source, a spirit that unites us all?

There’s no simple answer to this. I didn’t see any huge signposts pointing me towards God or grace. I didn’t dodge death or see Jesus in a watermelon. I can only conclude my faith was slowly awakened during the fourteen months I’ve been publishing and asking questions. In searching for mental peace and desperately wanting to shake the problems I used to have with anger, violence, neuroses etc, I found that there was much more blossoming within me given that I had made a commitment to change. I had no idea when I started how much potential I have to be joyful and spiritually whole. This is my therapy.

There was one final point that Peck makes in the ‘Growth and Religion’ section that really hit home. From the theologian Alan Jones “one of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions. […] I cannot survive on a secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation, if I am to come alive”. And if sitting around waiting for God to show himself to us won’t do, we must each of us forge our own religion. This is “a wholly personal one, forged entirely through the fire of our questioning and doubting in the crucible of our own experience of reality.” I love this idea, and I think it’s what I am doing in my myriad ways.

Spiritual growth.

“Genuine love is self-replenishing. The more I nurture the spiritual growth of others, the more my own spiritual growth is nurtured.” – M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

Spiritual growth as the ultimate aim of human existence crops up many, many times in Peck’s seminal work, The Road Less Travelled. It has got me thinking about what is meant by such a far-reaching and lofty concept as real spiritual growth. Could it be, awareness of universal truths? Truly understanding and accepting the self? Behaving out of love unwaveringly? Knowledge and insight into the nature of God? Cultivating the spiritual growth of others? I have a few ideas, but for now let’s stick to what I understood from the book.

Spiritual growth is the one and only will of love. Love, we remember, is defined by Peck as, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. When real love occurs, we cannot help but extend our limits into a larger state of being. Self-love and loving others go hand in hand because ultimately they are indistinguishable. Loving is self-evolution.

If spiritual growth is the purpose of love, what is the purpose of spiritual growth? It is evolution. The phenomenon of evolution shouldn’t exist. It violates the second law of thermodynamics, which states that energy flows from a state of higher differentiation to a state of lower differentiation – or entropy as it is known. Entropy is the force of decay, of homogenisation, of chaos. Evolution is nothing short of a miracle in our cosmos.

Spiritual growth is the evolution of the individual. While the decline of physical competence is an inevitability, the human spirit may evolve throughout one’s lifetime. Such growth is so difficult and effortful because it is conducted against a natural resistance. The natural inclination is to keep things the way they are. Growth entails embracing and seeking change – not merely for the sake of change, but in as far as making changes allows us to become better and better versions of ourselves, and there is no end to this process.

So, what is the force that pushes individuals and the whole species to grow in spite of our natural lethargy, and against our instincts to keep things the same? It is love. Love is a struggle, it is work. It is the extension of the self, and it is evolution in progress. Love is the force that defies the natural law of entropy which is present throughout the known universe on the micro and macro levels.

I wonder if without a significant other or others to love, can an individual grow? The kind of love that Peck is talking about isn’t the general ‘love they neighbour’ sort, nor the ‘in love’ feeling. By love’s very nature, an individual has only enough energy to manifest real love to a few chosen individuals. Vast amounts of energy are required to extend the self truly to others, and our individual stores of energy are as limited as hours of the day.

I am not nurturing another’s spiritual growth at the moment. I wonder if I ever have. My own growing process is stalling, like all aspects of my life now. I have had some bad times lately and have struggled to identify where they have come from, and what recent experiences or run-ins may have triggered them off. At the end of the day, it comes down to a lack of connection and simple loneliness but this is what I expected as I am in the middle of a huge giving-up/ growing up process. I live a transient lifestyle. So, this lack of soul connection is a hard reset. I know I am lucky to have possessed the wisdom and guts to do something about what I lacked.

If spiritual evolution could be said to have a goal, what is that goal? This is where Peck loses a lot of his readers. The goal of spiritual growth is Becoming God. Peck writes, “We are growing toward godhood. God is the goal of evolution. It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force and God who is the destination.” Peck concedes that it would be putting it mildly to say this is a terrifying idea. But think about it. While we deny our godliness and shirk our responsibility, we don’t have to worry about the responsibility of spiritual growth. We can reject the hard work, relax, grab a beer, watch TV, stick a hand down our pants and just be human. Of course the idea that there is a path to godliness sounds crazy, because that’s just it, it’s the road less travelled. But once you’re on this path, like I am, you realise you might as well enjoy it because after all, the journey is the destination.

Giving up & growth.

This was a post I didn’t want to write, because it may contain negativity. However, in the interests of honesty and dealing with the rough as well as the smooth, I’m going to attempt an understanding and acceptance of my current mindset. And I’m going to be as positive as I can while dealing with its inherent negativity.

In Peck’s psychology as propounded in The Road Less Travelled, a principal reason why people seek psychiatric help is because of depression. When we give something up, depression is the feeling associated with that process. Since mentally healthy humans must grow, and giving up a part of the old outdated self is an integral part of growth, depression is reframed as a normal and healthy phenomenon. It only becomes unhealthy when something in the giving-up process is unresolved or interfered with. On a fundamental level for me personally, the giving-up process has started in my psyche.

It is quite common for individuals not to know why they are feeling down, but my subconscious knows, for it has already kick-started the process that will prefigure the next phase of my life. The idea of the ‘stages of life’ or identity crises was explored by developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. The stage I am at corresponds with Love: The Intimacy vs. Isolation conflict which is emphasised around the age of 30. This is a stage at which young adults seek to blend their identity with their social group. Our egos have had experience of rejection, which for some is so painful that we will do anything to avoid it, including cutting some of the ties that bound us.

In his 1950 book, Erikson writes, “Intimacy has a counterpart: Distantiation: the readiness to isolate and if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to our own, and whose territory seems to encroach on the extent of one’s intimate relations”. When I read that, it was another one of those Eureka moments. What I used to call freedom has turned into isolation. What used to be exhilarating is now meaningless. Life was for a time a dazzling blank canvas full of too much possibility to have to tie down just one experience to each moment, but it has become stifling and I have briefly considered jumping in the Thames.

Since excelling at one’s current stage involves mastery of the previous stage, this leaves me in a pickle. I don’t feel that I emerged triumphantly from the Fidelity: Identity vs. Confusion stage. Studies have shown that those with a poor sense of self (me) tend to have less committed relationships (yes) and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression (yes, yes and yes). Damn me for being a late developer.

So what is my subconscious trying to tell me – what am I giving up for Lent and indeed for life? To keep things very broad, this is a time in my life when I am realising just how many of my social peers, that I’d previously relied upon for validation and support, have grown divergently from me – or have stayed in exactly the same place. We’ve outgrown each other. Eventually we all have to choose with whom we want to surround ourselves, because like it or not, they’ll influence what we believe is possible for ourselves. Obviously this growing apart process is going to hurt, and in seeking the new connections I’m yet to make, I’m exposing myself to more hurt. And in between, yes, it’s going to be lonely.

What else am I giving up? Cherished notions, I suppose. A safe, cosy view of the future which I now believe isn’t my destiny. Closing my eyes and hoping for the best – that was always a favourite. I realise how much work I still have to do on myself before I can feel that I am truly authentic and ready to give the world, or at least those close to me, my gift. The gift that is the best of me.

Lastly, I became aware yesterday while stomping through London in a huff, that I am saying goodbye to this city, where I have spent on and off the last 12 years of my life, or to put it another way, my entire adult existence. In just over a week I will no longer be a Londoner, and it is my choice not to return to live here again.

I know in my rare strong moments that this too shall pass. I give myself a pat on the back for giving up my old ways of doing and looking at things. And not a moment too soon, some of my old behaviours. It’s not in my nature to cling to the past for comfort and reassurance. I’ve always been the sort to dream about the future. I’ve not experienced a yearning for ‘the way things used to be’ – perhaps because things always turn out kinda sh*t. Many people are unwilling to suffer the pain of giving up what has been outgrown. They cling forever to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, failing to negotiate the crisis of their time. To grow up is to experience the joyful transition that accompanies our many transitions into greater maturity and I for one am pleased to be on this journey, as f***ing hard as it is at times.

Love. Newness. Dependency. Cathexis.

While I’m somewhat stagnant in getting to my goals at the moment, I am spending more of my time connecting with fellow bloggers. Thrillingly, I see a lot of parallels between those whose journeys I find particular interesting, and my own. There is a common thread of love binding us, a vibration in our collective consciousness. We are individuals who write about self-discovery, spiritual empowerment, becoming better people, loving others, achieving good mental health. We share something. These bloggers have come into my life at a time when I am reaching a hand into the darkness.

I want to thank everyone that has showed me an alternative to self-hating, self-blaming and seeing the world as a hostile place. I understand now that it is my destiny to create something good for myself and others. This thing’ is my life’s work. I will make whatever it is from scratch and share it with others. I will use everything in me to make this a reality. I am entering into a vibration of its newness. I have written before about being in a transitional state, having lost lots of things and now readjusting. This is ongoing, but I am allowing myself to believe in the next step – aligning with the vibration of the good that it is in my power alone to manifest.

In the meantime, I am filling my cup with learnings from The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck. In my last post I wrote about the idea that falling in love is essentially a trick played on us by biology, vs real love which Peck defines as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Real love requires effort, discipline and commitment to growth, long after the butterflies associated with ‘falling in love’ have taken flight.

I very much enjoy Peck’s style which is at times as brutal as it can be gentle. On the subject of dependency, which is sometimes confused with love, Peck writes, “when you require another individual for your survival, you are a parasite on that individual”. Love is the free exercise of choice. It is when two people are quite capable of living separately, but choose to live with each other. Dependency, then, is “the inability to experience wholeness or to function adequately without the certainty that one is being actively cared for by another”. It is a pathological sickness, a mental illness or defect. Yet, every single one of us has desires to be cared for by someone stronger than us with no effort on our part.

I wonder how many of us can truly say we have never been dependent? I can’t. Though not dependent by nature (in fact, happiest when I can express my fierce independence in my own eccentric way), I have certainly been sucked into another’s dramatic dependency needs. I fostered dependency out of a misplaced sense of duty. Such passive-dependents are so busy seeking to be loved that they have no energy left to love. Their inner emptiness can never be filled, so they move from one partner to another, constantly seeking relationships that may while seeming intense and dramatic are in fact extremely shallow.

Genuine love is a self-replenishing activity in which the self is enlarged rather than diminished. It involves a change in the self, but one of extension rather than sacrifice. The aim of real love is always spiritual growth. Further, love is an action, not a feeling. A genuinely loving person will take a loving action even towards an individual she consciously dislikes. I am not this spiritually advanced yet, and I cannot guarantee that love towards my fellow man is always the choice I make. I am trying.

Peck makes a distinction between the action of real love and the feeling of cathecting. To cathect means ‘to invest emotion or feeling in (an idea, object, or another person).’ There is a misconception that love is a feeling because we confuse cathecting with loving. We can cathect a person without caring for their spiritual development. The passive dependent in fact usually fears the spiritual development of her cathected partner. Genuine love isn’t an overwhelming feeling, it is a committed decision.

I have been thinking about my mother and how all my life I’ve been the object of her cathexis. Her love for me is not such that she would like to see me grow to fulfil my unique potential, to be the very best I can be. Her love consists of keeping things the way they’ve always been. She wants to shield me from the outside world. She wants to keep me close, forever. She desperately seeks to influence me. Her love is conditional upon my upholding certain religious values and social conventions that she holds dear.

From the earliest age, I was taught that the world was a hostile place. My mother would scare me into believing that there were rapists and murderers hiding around every corner, waiting to pounce. My worldview growing up was that I had no power, and that those with power would abuse it. Bogeymen, ghosts, spirits and devils were real. I was taught to believe in a vengeful God that you can never please except through a lifetime of servitude and self-sacrifice. I thought, until surprisingly recently, that people were out to get me. Even those that seemed nice initially would turn ugly, according to her. Men were not to be trusted; no-one was.

The worldview and the coddling that she gave me served their purpose, and I love her for it. It is my triumph that despite some of the more distressing and regretful aspects I was forcefed growing up, I am not only being influenced by the wonderful, hopeful works of others but I can feel them changing me fundamentally all the way through.

Love & all who sail in her.

The Road Less Travelled is truly ground-breaking and so brilliantly brutal in some of the conclusions it draws and arguments it puts forward. What follows is a breakdown of Peck’s rebuttal of notions of romantic love, and how it differs (is actually at a polar extreme) from real love in that it doesn’t allow for enlargement of the self necessary for spiritual growth, but instead, temporary release from it.

So ‘falling in love’ is a specifically sex-linked experience. It occurs only when we are sexually motivated whether consciously or unconsciously. The feeling of ecstatic lovingness always fades.

To understand the inevitable ending of ‘falling in love’, he explores what psychiatrists call ego boundaries. When we are babies, we cannot distinguish between ourselves and the rest of the universe. When we are hungry, the world is hungry. When we move our legs, the world is moving. Through various stages of childhood and adolescent development, we learn our identity as individuals, the limits of our flesh and boundaries of our power.

Falling in love therefore represents a sudden collapse of one’s ego boundaries, permitting an individual to merge their identity with that of another.

In this respect, falling in love is a regression. It echoes a time when we were merged with our mothers in infancy. Feelings of omnipotence, much like a child at the age of two might have, make a comeback. What also reappears is the false sense that problems are no more, all boundaries can be overcome and loneliness has been banished.

Sooner or later, ego boundaries snap back into place and two separate identities re-emerge. Either the ties are dissolved or the individuals begin the work of real loving. Real loving occurs in a situation in which the feeling of loving is lacking; when we act lovingly in spite of how we feel, not because of it.

This is because falling in love is not an act of will. It happens even when it is inconvenient and undesirable. While we can choose how to respond to the experience of falling in love, we cannot choose to create the experience itself. Further, falling in love is not an extension of one’s ego boundaries, it is a temporary collapse of them. The experience requires no effort – those who are lazy and undisciplined fall in love just as easily as dedicated and disciplined ones.

From a biological point of view falling in love serves only to terminate loneliness and facilitate successful procreation. Spiritual development is not something that can be summoned through the process, as when we are in love we are at peace, striving no higher than what we already have achieved. Falling in love, according to Peck, is “a genetically determined instinctual component of mating behaviour”.

If that isn’t a passion-killer, I’m not sure what is. I’m sure I have come across the idea before as the book has been around since many years before I was even born, but it makes for an arresting, eye-opening read. As with most things that strike me as exceptional, it’s always better to know them and have the capacity to mull them over, than to ignore the more unpalatable truths that our society avoids dwelling on.

Every day I am making more of a conscious decision that an alternative lifestyle is where I’m headed. I don’t want to be fed on popular media that patronises and perpetuates myths that are flagrantly untrue. I refuse to work in a job which has no intrinsic purpose apart from the acquisition of wealth. Money is the most stupid, ridiculous reason to do anything. I reject spending my vital life energy in an environment which deadens the mind, and which is exactly what it was designed to do.

When I am insulted or misunderstood, I like it because it shows me that I am going the right way. I was told yesterday that I have “a sh*tty outlook on life”. I am delighted to hear such words because they remind me that I am destined for bigger and better things, far beyond what those unenlightened and conventional slaves to the system are even aware of. I’m designing my own philosophy of love, life, self and career.

I’ve been aware of it for a while but I am unconventional. I’ve tried to fight it and spent much of my twenties toeing the line. I thought that if I did the things that everyone else did, I’d truly want them too. I strove to be a normal girlfriend, to want normal material things, to work in a normal job, do normal things on a Saturday night and fit in with anyone who happened to be around me. For a while I kidded myself I was just like everyone else.

It never worked. My relationships were fraught, my friends were merely drinking buddies, I made myself depressed through work, I found emptiness in the things I bought, and drinking made me irresponsible and thoroughly unlikeable.

Now, everything has changed. All the trappings have gone. Friends have gone, my livelihood will change, my lifestyle has uncluttered, my life in England is coming to an end. Fundamentally my priorities have shifted. What is most important to me now, in this period of transition, is to be true to myself.