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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Essay 4. Examining Our Ego

Ultimately our goal is emotional freedom. We can't achieve that until we are willing to examine our own egos and the beliefs that they are built upon. To help us recognize the ill effects of these belief systems, please consider the following example.

Gay marriage is a hot button topic. Those opposing it are adamantly opposed. They have a belief system (some of which is based in biblical beliefs) that it is unnatural for same sex couples to have sex or to be married. That is an opinion or a belief. Gays on the other hand, are attracted to same sex partners. They reject religious dogma, and adamantly cling to their beliefs as they simply want the opportunity to love someone and gain the advantages, emotional and financial, of heterosexual couples. They are adamantly opposed to dogma that says there is something wrong with them.

So why does this generate so much conflict? Each side of this debate has found a collective ego. Individually all people involved in this debate let their ego run rampant. Egos are driven by fear. Fear that says I must control the outcome-we must win. Therefore it manifests itself in each side trying to will and control the outcome. They launch attacks and counterattacks. They vote, they appeal, they sue each other. They diminish one another and in some cases they attain new levels of real hatred. Left unchecked, these beliefs result in violence and bloodshed. It is the insanity of our planet. Emotionally free people realize the insanity of the collective ego.

These beliefs and opinions are shadows on the cave wall. We simply don't understand what is making them. The beauty of this is that we recognize this and we do not have to understand it. We accept that people are free to live their lives as they choose. We understand that they are still guided by that false sense of self, that same ego that used to run our lives. Others remain hostage to an ego ruled by beliefs, fear, and control. An unrecognized ego that seeks fulfillment, an ego that must win. We realize how insane that is because we once used to engage in that ourselves. For a fortunate few, we have evolved out and away. We are not smarter or better. We have made a simple discovery and found a better way to live.

If in fact we recognize that false sense of self, that shadowy belief system that manifests itself as our ego, we have taken the first step. Unmasked, our ego gets exposed to harsh sunlight and examined. It no longer runs us. We begin to run it. We no longer feel a need to "win." We realize that everything is an opinion or belief. Our old ways are cast aside. The actualization and realization of the damage our ego has caused is undeniable. In some cases, unbelievable. But we accept that we were insane. We damaged others, caused job stress and pain, ruined relationships as our self seeking and fear guided egos trampled on others. Recognizing this insanity is beautiful. It is the first step in becoming whole again and learning to love yourself. If we can achieve this we are on the way to possessing the ingredients and the capacity to love others.

Emotionally free people walk right through this. Unmasking that false sense of self and acceptance may be fearful at first. But if you are committed to the process the results will astound you. Love is truly letting go of fear.

You will begin to realize that everything you once perceived were shadows. You will begin to realize that you simply don't know what creates those shadows in other people. You are simply going to allow other people to be who they are. You will quit trying to control others because now you know and accept that controlling others is not possible and that it simply leads to frustration and resentment. You will not feel pain, fear, or hatred. You will understand that people are just trying to live their lives, hostages to a belief system that others may never examine. You will never feel like a victim nor will you launch any counter attacks to diminish others. You will begin to love people. All people. Because you have taken the first step in extending love to others. You have found yourself and gained acceptance. You have unmasked your ego. You are going to begin to love yourself and having done that, you will have the capacity to love others. You will receive love in return. Good things will happen almost immediately.

You are never going to look at the world the same way again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Essay 3. The Ego

Sigmund Freud identified the "id, ego, and superego" as the operating systems of the mind. For practical purposes, we will focus on the ego. The ego, as you will see, is the biggest shadow in Plato's cave. Unmasking the ego, recognizing that false sense of self that we all acquire is absolutely key to emotional freedom.

The ego as described here is simply a false sense of self. You acquire and build your ego as you acquire and agree to your beliefs. We accept the existence of the ego as we have acquired beliefs that contributed to the construction of that ego.

We accept one premise. Opinions, and thus beliefs, are often wrong.

Because we accept that beliefs are simply opinions, both good and bad, we recognize that beliefs are the building blocks of the ego. Thus your ego is a combination of opinions and beliefs, true and untrue, good, bad, and indifferent.

We also accept that the ego is the root cause of all that is bad on this planet as humans interact. Individually or collectively, the ego is the root cause of the insanity of the planet and our inability to treat others humanely. Once you achieve awareness of your ego, you may be humbled by how foolish you have been. It's ok. You will also begin to notice just how insane this planet, specifically, humanity has become.

As you were accepting beliefs, an ego began to emerge and form. The manifestations and combinations of that ego are infinite. But one thing is certain. You will acquire an ego. Whether you recognize it and mitigate it is completely up to you. If in fact you want to achieve real emotional freedom then recognition and mitigation are absolutely essential. Let's take a look at some of those unconscious souls.

The other day, I was perusing a very popular political blog site. The writers on this site are completely ego identified with the Republican party. They have a belief system that says, "we are right" and they work very hard to discredit the Democrat party. As they attack, various anonymous commenters launch counterattacks. They viciously attack one another, in a very personal way in an attempt to discredit and one up each other. Often their comments are so malicious, they are done to anger people and I suppose gain some amount of glee from that.
Their egos have complete control of them. These people are unconscious. Trying to gain control and influence others and in the process- diminishing them. Extracting whatever glee they get and in return feeling diminished as they suffer a counter attack.

I have a friend who is a very successful attorney. He is an excellent orator. He has an opinion on every subject and renders those opinions freely. He believes he is smarter than all adversaries and his ego works very hard at proving this in and out of the courtroom. Winning is everything to this man even if he damages others in the process. He is dominant and controlling, so much so that his wife of 30+years is simply a wallflower. She believes she is inferior and her ego lacks any sense of self esteem, undoubtedly as a result of the belief systems and ego she has acquired. Both individuals survive in this marriage as those two types of egos can tolerate one another. Both of them have expressed unhappiness to me. They are unconscious and unaware that their belief systems and ego have taken them hostage. They are unable to free themselves and achieve happiness.

I have a friend who was rejected by her mother as ugly. Told she was unattractive. Unconsciously she believed this to be true. Agreed to it as a child. She has spent a lifetime receiving botox treatments, breast implants, dating every man available. Trying to prove her mothers statements as incorrect. Other women hate her and view her as a threat and a narcissist. They simply don't know why she behaves the way that she does and they attack. Unfortunately, she has spent a lifetime trying to unconsciously undo an acquired belief she received from her mother and thus prove her wrong. Other women simply see shadows on a cave wall, never really knowing what created them. Each side imposing their beliefs, all of them unconscious.

The Middle East is a wonderful example of collective beliefs and egos run awry. Countries and religious factions declaring war and killing each other, trying to impose their belief systems and collective egos on others. Trying to gain control. The United States, unable to control those countries' and fearful, invades and kills soldiers and civilians alike. Israel threatens to nuke it's numerous enemies in a one up survival mode which is a collective ego and belief of their own. All of this is based on belief systems. Opinions. These people all BELIEVE they are right. Willing to impose those beliefs and kill people in the process. The collective insanity of the world. Make no mistake about it, killing people is always insane.

So we've taken a brief view of our insane and ego driven world. Whether it's bloggers, lawyers, women and men, or warring countries, insanity is all around you. We can't control any of that, so we're not even going to try. We are here to work on ourselves. Let's take a look at the shadow your ego casts on the wall, let's examine the only thing any of us can control. Ourselves.

A Writer's Anger

As we discuss the impact of belief systems we are faced with two problems. The first problem is recognizing or identifying a faulty or non working belief system. If we are fortunate enough to self diagnose a bad belief, then our second problem is how to analyze it, accept it, and put it to bed. Change it from bad to good.

What I am about to describe here is an emotion and how I acquired it. I recognized that I had an anger problem which I thought I had taken care of. I mean, my false sense of self really believed that I had conquered anger. But in actuality, I had simply bottled anger up temporarily. It was always there. This then is how I diagnosed and treated myself. I will work backwards.

In the fall of 2007, I was writing a book in New Orleans. It was a spiritual book and as I approached Chapter 6, I ran into a major roadblock. I realized that I simply could not write about my childhood. It was just too negative. I had grown up in a very bitter marriage. My parents fought and argued virtually every day of my childhood. Sometimes these arguments escalated into physical fights. By all accounts, including my parents, it was a miserable existence but because of the faulty belief systems my parents had acquired-they stayed married.

As a result of this non stop arguing and fighting I became a child hostage and witness. I was powerless to stop it. Unfortunately, my parents' anger was not confined solely to their relationship and very often they would turn their attacks my way. By the time I was 13 or 14, I simply removed myself from the household at every opportunity thus reducing my exposure to that hostility. Often, I would get a dose of that hostility anyway. By the time I was 15, I began using alcohol and drugs which helped me escape my situation. I worked one or two jobs throughout high school which also helped me avoid the situation and gave me a legitimate excuse to not be present in the household. By the time I was ready to graduate from high school, my parents finally divorced. They had a very bitter divorce filled with hate and anger. In fact, some 30 years later, I'm not sure they are emotionally over it yet.

I acquired a few belief systems as a result of that situation. As a result of my parents fighting' I came to believe that I was responsible for their hatred of each other. Often they would tell me that I was was lazy, or that I was ungrateful, or that someday they hoped I had kids every bit as bad as I was. As a result I believed fighting was acceptable as a means of resolving conflict. I believed I was in fact, responsible for their hatred of each other, and that somehow I was just a bad kid. Very often, alcohol was involved in my parents' fights. I had made an assumption and acquired a belief system that left me angry and ill equipped to resolve my own conflicts.

So it was, I got into fights and argued with people. I did not apply myself in school because I BELIEVED I was no good therefore I simply didn't try to be. After all, what was the point? I drank heavily like my parents and interestingly enough, my siblings and I all failed to have children. As I grew older, my alcohol consumption increased. My relationships were fraught with the inability to resolve conflicts without fighting. And although I tried very hard not to become angry, or to simply hide it, I was in fact, a very angry person.

This is no indictment of my parents. I love them dearly. It is also not important to place blame or wallow in self pity. It is however, extremely important that you recognize your faulty beliefs, where you acquired them, to analyze them, and that you take action to accept and resolve them. For me it was very personal. Society tends to label you if you openly discuss these things. This then is what happened to me as I tried to write Chapter 6 of that book. Obviously today, I am grateful for what happened. I would not be here writing this.

Anger is always a result of fear and your inability to control situations. I was fearful and angry as a child. I was powerless to control any situation or effect a different outcome. As I grappled with that I began to understand why my own adult life had spun out of control. Ever the creative problem solver, I took action. I sought to understand. I spoke with my parents. Not seeking apologies, but simply seeking understanding. What I learned astounded me-but of course it had to be true. My parents were the products of faulty belief systems that were instilled in them. Their fears and lack of control manifested itself into anger and fighting. I was simply an unintended victim, collateral damage. They had no idea.

As a man I understand this all now. I was able to rid myself of my anger and gain acceptance. It was never personal. If in fact we can claim to be victims as children, as adults we must take the steps to undo this. At the point we recognize and understand, we can no longer be victims. We must re-learn new beliefs and gain acceptance. Your parents failings were never personal. We must forgive our parents and ourselves. As we crawl out of Plato's cave, we realize those shadows that represented our beliefs were in fact made by something that occurred long before we were born. We begin to see that the truth is not represented in whole as those images or shadows on the wall of the cave. We are about to examine the biggest shadow on the wall of that cave, that false image that manifests itself as our belief system and ego.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Essay 2. A Brief Discussion of Alcohol and Drug Use

In the first essay, we learned that we acquire belief systems which may help or hinder any given individual. If you are committed to the idea of obtaining emotional freedom, then common sense dictates that we have a discussion early on about the problems associated with alcohol and drug use as they apply to your efforts to achieve emotional freedom.

There is simply no need to lecture anyone on this topic nor do we know of anyone that enjoys receiving a lecture. In that sense, we offer a belief and a suggestion which you are under no obligation to accept as true.

Alcohol and drug use have become a widely accepted practice in the United States and indeed, in many cultures world wide. There are real and negative consequences for those that over indulge or abuse alcohol and drugs and various social and legal problems attach. Because of the very nature of alcohol and drug use and those associated stigmas, abuse may be far more prevalent than anyone actually realizes.

Having a drink or two, smoking marijuana now and then, or using prescribed drugs in the appropriate and assigned amounts may have very little adverse impact on your ability to achieve emotional freedom. For that reason, we render no judgment and we leave that to the sole discretion of the individual. We offer no opinion or guidance on what you find acceptable.

However if you are committed to the idea of emotional freedom, if you want to improve your life and relationships dramatically, you may want to take a look at your own drug and alcohol use and decide if your current consumption levels are going to give you the best chance of success. The use of alcohol and drugs, particularly in large amounts, presents barriers to achieving emotional freedom. Altering your state of consciousness, your ability to comprehend and remember conversations and events, is going to prevent you from being aware and present for those that are depending on you.

As we talk about Plato's Cave, we begin to see that alcohol and drug abuse may represent shadows. A manifestation of a bad belief system that an individual has acquired which he/she is attempting to cope with.

This then becomes the individual's responsibility to weigh and assess. We accept the possibility that someone can still absorb some of the lessons of emotional freedom and still manage to improve their lives. Ultimately, it is your call.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Essay 1. The Acquisition and Effects of Belief Systems

Your birth was in a sense, random. You were born to a set of parents that you have no control over. As a small child, you are completely hostage to the parenting skills and belief systems, both good and bad, of your parents. It is key to note that belief systems as used here apply specifically to the emotional interaction of human beings.

Skilled and loving parents take care of you by feeding you, caring for you, and nurturing you. As you become older and your senses develop and you attain awareness and memory, you begin to learn things. You learn to do what makes your parents happy and you learn to avoid those things that you get punished for. You are beginning to understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not. You are acquiring beliefs. You must accept these beliefs because you are in no position to challenge or change them. You agree then to seek out the rewarding emotions of your parents and avoid the punishing emotions. In the first few years of your life all that you know is a result of the skill set of your parents. Many of the belief systems you receive are good and useful but some are not. But as a child growing up, you simply do not have the intellect or comparative experience to determine which beliefs are good and which beliefs are bad. You simply accept them all as true because you do not know the difference.

Simply stated, bad and damaging beliefs are given to you as well.

Perhaps your father is a racist. He simply chooses to believe that blacks or hispanics are stupid or lazy. Perhaps you are black and that role is reversed. As a child, you are not really in a physical or intellectual position to know whether this belief is wrong or not. Fearing the discipline or consequences that may occur, you either agree to this belief of your father's or at least just listen. To oppose your father may bring punishment which by now you have learned to avoid.

Perhaps your mother showers your older sister with affection and seemingly better gifts on her birthday or Christmas. Perhaps your mother constantly compares your sister's grades in school to your grades which are always a little worse. Perhaps your sister receives more attention from family members and friends. You begin to believe that you are less valuable as a human being. You are less attractive or less interesting. You feel diminished, you lack self esteem, or you become resentful of your parents or older sister. Perhaps you use drugs or alcohol to mask your inability to cope emotionally.

It might be that both of your parents are alcoholics or drug addicts. They are unavailable to you in varying states of unconsciousness. Maybe you or your siblings are abused or abandoned emotionally. Or your divorced mother has had a number of unsuccessful relationships with various men and enmeshes you in the possibility that all men are incapable of relationships and disposable. You may be exposed to arguing, fighting, illegal conduct, or any number of dysfunctional belief systems engaged in by your family and friends.

All the while you are watching, listening, evaluating.

Perhaps the reverse is true. Perhaps your parents tell you that you are intelligent and you believe that. Or perhaps your parents tell you that you have great leadership potential or natural athletic ability. Maybe your father tells you that you are beautiful. These things then become acquired beliefs as well that you may find yourself defending later on.

The problem with belief systems is that they are the opinion of one or two parents and perhaps a few other family members and that doesn't mean they are accurate or true. They are the statements and opinions of loving parents and family. As children, we have little choice in the statements made to us, little choice whether to hear or absorb them. Words and actions are very powerful medicine to a child. As you grow older, all of these belief systems are going to come in conflict with the belief systems of others. In a simple case, it might cause an argument. In the worst case, belief systems can lead to wars and the deaths of millions. The insanity of the planet.

As we interact with others we defend our beliefs. We never realize that others have learned differently. We ASSUME that others are wrong because their beliefs are different than the ones our loving mothers and fathers taught us. We become confused.

Let's use racism as an example. As a child you were indoctrinated into a belief system that said black people were lazy and stupid. As you grew older you used the same racial slurs that you had been taught by your father when talking with friends and schoolmates. But instead of acceptance, you feel the pain of rejection. Your friends and teachers admonish you. You get into a fight with a black kid. The school resource officer detains you and perhaps warns you about a law that prohibits the use of racial slurs. Clearly, you have been embedded with a bad belief system. At the point of recognition, you have a choice. You may entrench yourself in your existing belief system which will cause further heartache and emotional turmoil or reject that belief.

An example of a bad belief system might be this. Jim T. grew up in an alcoholic family. Every activity that his extended family does involves drinking. Heavy drinking was acceptable and encouraged. Jim watched this as he was growing up. His father has worked at the same machinist job for 40 years and has been able to perform that job adequately while remaining an alcoholic. Jim T., as a young adult, was fired from his job as a systems analyst for sloppy work and tardiness as the result of drinking and the resultant hangovers. Jim T. bought into a family belief system that believed heavy drinking was acceptable. His wife is divorcing him. He has been out of work for over a year with dim prospects as prospective employers contact his prior employer and he continues to drink.

Clearly then, retaining some acquired belief systems is going to cause conflict and emotional damage. Those systems should be jettisoned. Unfortunately, they are often unrecognized until the damage is done or they are repeated. There is one universal way to avoid belief system damage and conflict.

We are going to examine the real possibility that we have acquired some poor beliefs. We are going to self scrutinize and get honest with ourselves. We are also going to realize that others have been subjected to the same error prone belief systems. Instead of imposing or promoting our belief systems as right and just, we are going to accept that other people have the same dilemma. They were given a set of opinions and beliefs that might be wrong as well. Instead of engaging in mindless rhetoric that leads to conflict with people having different beliefs than our own-we are simply going to accept that these differences can and do exist. We are going to let people practice their beliefs. It does not diminish us or make our beliefs wrong. It simply makes them different. We are going to let others live their lives. This then is the goal of this essay. Recognizing the effects of our belief systems and the conflict that arises as we defend our beliefs or try to make others agree with us. It is needless and hurtful and causes us emotional pain. We are going to let people practice their beliefs even as they might try to impose their beliefs on us. We are going to recognize that others are simply defending opinions. Belief systems are shadows. Shadows that were caused by events in another person's life that you are completely unaware of.

Belief Systems and Human Interaction Are Illusory, The Allegory of the Cave

In Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", prisoners are shackled and restrained. Behind the prisoners, at the mouth of the cave, there burns a large fire. As the prisoners face a wall of the cave, their movements restricted and unable to turn around, they view shadows on a cave wall. Shadows that begin to take various shapes. The prisoners, unable to see what is actually creating those shadows describe them as cows, or sheep, or perhaps a lion.

The shadows then are as close as the prisoners get to reality and in fact, those shadows are their reality. They accept those shadows as a true representation of what they believe to be an accurate depiction. A truth.

One night a prisoner breaks free. He is able to turn and see that in fact, a puppeteer captor is making those shadows. It is the first time he is able to see that tiny puppets and their projections are responsible for casting the shapes he has seen.

This then is his first glimpse of the truth. In that moment, his perception and reality have changed. He realizes that those shadows were intangible and illusory all the time.

Human beings, from birth, are given a set of operating instructions. A belief system based on opinions and experience. Indoctrinated and trained not unlike animals, small children accept what they are taught by their parents as true. They know nothing else. Many of these belief systems are accurate but some are not. As children grow they acquire different beliefs based on their interaction with other children and the world around them. They acquire different belief systems which not unlike the operating instructions given by their parents, they accept as true.

These belief systems guide how we respond to other human beings. Who we choose to like or dislike. How we judge and misjudge others. The problem with those belief systems is that they are fallible and sometimes wrong. They are based on opinions and isolated occurrences. It never occurs to us that once we have acquired a belief that quite possibly it is wrong. We very often never re-examine our beliefs. At times, we find ourselves rigorously defending those beliefs not unlike those prisoners viewing illusory shadows on the cave wall.

As we characterize people and make opinions and judgments based on our limited experience and knowledge, we are often wrong. This causes conflict and in some cases sets off a chain of "one-ups-man-ship" and diminishing behavior as one human being feels attacked and launches a counterattack. Each rigorously defending belief systems which may be partly true or untrue.

Some describe this as the insanity of the planet. In the worst case, it has caused millions of deaths due to conflict and war. On a personal level, human interaction between two people can quickly spiral out of control as two people hurl insults at each other while defending belief systems. Hurting feelings and damaging others. In turn, being hurt and damaged ouselves.

The only thing we can control is our individual self and our perceptions. How we choose to see the world.

In our quest for emotional freedom, we have seen this or lived through this insanity. In order to end this madness, we are willing to take our first step. We have been viewing shadows. Essay number one deals with the recognition that we all have faulty beliefs and that we are willing to accept that premise in order to feel better about ourselves and quit hurting those around us.

An Introduction

In the beginning, it is always about control.

The world you were born into was waiting for you. You were indoctrinated by parents with a set of values and beliefs that you accepted as true. You knew no other terms. As you lived your life you added the experiences that shaped you. Some good and some not so good. Your life worked fairly well until one day when it didn't work so well. Confused and bewildered, perhaps searching, you have landed here. Desperately trying to quiet that "white noise" in your head.

In a world of chaos, of death and destruction, of cynicism and harsh judgment, of personal failure and depression, there is hope. We accept life on life's terms. We accept that we can control nothing other than ourselves. Out of that chaos and ruin, where so many despair, we are going to search through the ruins of our smoldering lives and we are going to extract the one thing that matters. The one thing we can control. Ourselves.

Or maybe you just want to improve your attitude and your life. To do this, you must change the way you perceive the world. It is an honest approach and it works. It does require some assembly.

What you are going to find here is a series of essays. The essays are universally applicable to everyone-meaning that they work. Only four things are required of you in order to change your life.

1. A desperation or willingness to accept a new way of viewing the world.

2. A willingness to read and comprehend the essays.

3. Develop a plan within the framework of the essays that works for you.

4. Commit a small part of everyday, just minutes, to regular maintenance of the plan you develop.

You are about to embark on a journey where there are no good days or bad days, just different ones. You are about to embark on a journey wherein you will re-tool and and re-program your life. The results will be noticeable almost immediately. You are going to know a new happiness and a new freedom, a world where unconditional love is not an illusion, a place where you can regain and recapture the beauty and promise of your life. A place where there is no longer any noise.

In the end, it is always about control. We give up control to achieve it. A paradox.

As we compile the essays in a chronological form, I invite discussion and comments. The essays within this blog will be numbered, identified, and easy to comprehend. Flowery speech and intangible concepts will be kept to a minimum or explained. Other comments, posts, and discussions may take place within the blog and are simply used as aides in defining the concepts and the reasoning behind the essays.