Autobiography

These are stories from the life of Steven Barnes, science fiction writer, martial arts expert, hypnotherapist, teacher, public speaker, father, and lover of life.

Ego-Terrorism and the Leap of Faith

Remember the climax of STAR WARS: A New Hope?   When Luke Skywalker was in the middle of the Death Star battle?  All his friends had been blown to bits or fled, the rebel base was about to be destroyed, their efforts to drop a bomb into the exhaust tunnel had failed, and the targeting computers had proven useless.

 

All rational argument said that the cause was lost.    This is the “Dark Night of the Soul” and will attack everything you love, and was inevitable the moment you committed to the new path.

 

But he heard Obi-Wan’s voice in his head:  “Use the Force, Luke!” He did, and by trusting his feelings made an impossible shot, saved the day, and became a hero. Just an incredible, primal victory, as powerful a moment as I’d ever seen in popular film. The audience went NUTS!!

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In life, whenever you seek change (“victory”), both internal and external obstacles will fling themselves at you like crazy.

 

The Ego thinks it is you.   To change, you must destroy your current ego shell.   To stop you from doing this, it will generate fear.

 

The definition of Terrorism is not someone who sets off a bomb.  They might have done that to reduce your infrastructure to make it more difficult to attack them. Terrorism is specifically using FEAR as a weapon–doing things to weaken your will by using fear to trump love and commitment.

Your ego loves this approach.

Ego-Terrorism, you might say.

It would require a miracle to destroy  the Death Star.  If Luke can destroy the Death Star he is the agent of that miracle–a Jedi, like his father.

 

That means destroying “Farm Boy” Luke, so “Farm Boy” will use every tool at his disposal to hold Luke into his former self: despair, fear, depression, anything.  Failure.  Followed by the Dark Night of the Soul, the moment when it feels all is lost.

The way through this is called The Leap of Faith.  This doesn’t have to be a spiritual faith (although it is about a third of the time). It can be faith in your teachers/mentors/friends, or faith in something deep within your  Self.

 

This can be touched by clarifying your values.  Why was Luke fighting?

 

  1. For his slain aunt and uncle
  2. The memory of his father
  3. The legacy of his teacher
  4. To become a Jedi
  5. To survive
  6. To save his friends
  7. To free the galaxy
  8. To express himself–to be the man he was born to be

 

In aggregate, you can see that he HAD to find a way to do it, or die.   All of the reasons pressured him, crushed his ego shell so that he saw nothing but the overwhelming need, and dared not doubt that he could.

 

Where is “Ego-Terrorism” hitting you in your life?  It may have found external allies to slow you down. Here are seven statements you may have heard (directly or implied) by “friends” and “family” who are allying yourself with your ego instead of your spirit:

 

 

  1. Survival (We’ll kill you if you transgress)
  2. Sexual (I will withdraw sexuality if you don’t do what I say)
  3. Power (I’ll ruin you if you cross me)
  4. Emotional ( If you love me you’ll stop)
  5. Communication (Words mean what I say they mean)
  6. Mental (Your memory is wrong. THAT’S not what happened. I’ll tell you what happened)
  7. Spiritual ( God knows you’re wrong. He told me)

 

 

Any one of these is troublesome. Three or more can be devastating.  At one time or another I’ve heard every one of them.  Directly or indirectly, haven’t you?

 

The answers are faith, love, and keeping your attention cleanly on that line between your childhood dreams and ultimate values.

 

Just yesterday, I was made aware of an attack used on women on the second level.  There was an article claiming that women absorb DNA from every man they’ve ever had sex with.   While there are some interesting questions around this possibility (which could be mitigated simply by wearing a condom, even if true) apparently the Men’s Rights types have been quoting an article that is corruptive of the original research, draws conclusions the scientists never intended, and use it to “slut-shame”, suggesting that women with sexual experience are therefore less desirable.

 

That’s an attack on BOTH sexual and emotional levels.  But according to the “Chakra” model, a fully awakened human being has to “own” themselves on all seven levels–if you allow someone to control you with fear, you cannot move forward.

They want to control your behavior. Your ego wants to survive.  An alliance made in hell.

 

The answer is either to start at the bottom (survival) and work your way up, or start with your heart, loving yourself first but expanding out to love others.  This requires constant commitment.   And remembering that “Ego terrorists” will try anything and everything to drag you from the path.

 

In ANY arena of your life where you seem to be lacking motivation, look at Luke’s list, and create your own. Look at the seven levels you can be attacked on, and be sure you see how your actions benefit you on EACH of them.

 

Trust me, if your goals are significant, they will touch every level.  For instance, if I am an engineering student and want to finish a paper in school:

 

Why? To get a good grade.  Why? To graduate.  Why? To get a degree. Why?  To improve my career.  Why? To be able to make a better living, and contribute more.

 

I could go further, but it isn’t necessary.

 

Survival: I will make more money.  And to build better, stronger buildings that will resist storms, enhancing my survival and the survival of my family.

 

Sex:   Being good at my job is great for attracting a partner. When I feel good about myself I feel sexier.  Money means my wife and I will be able to plan romantic getaways.

 

Power: Being good at my job will give me opportunities to advance.

 

Emotion: If I’m good at my job I’ll get to choose my assignments, and I’ll choose the cool stuff!  The FUN stuff that made me want to become an engineer in the first place.

 

Communication: Everything I do is a statement of who and what I am.   I am a sharp mind, a loving heart, and a raging energy.   I will change the world with my innovative creations!

 

Mind:   I seek to understand the world.  Physics, chemistry, math, business, human psychology…all of these and far more will be required to create dreams, and  teams of people who can bring my dreams to life.

 

Spirit: I will build things that outlive me, and benefit and inspire generations to come. I love for more than just myself.

 

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Control your motivations, you control your actions. Control your actions, and you control your life. And yes, some of those actions are probably gaining greater understanding of human motivations so that you know how attract the attention and approval of the people who can advance you.

 

That’s just the reality of the adult world.

Now, although juggling seven different arenas is possible (our brains can handle seven  plus or minus two things at a time, on average.  But if you can boil it down further, that’s even better.

 

For me, that means love, faith and human equality.

 

Starting with love for self, so that the Ego-terrorists cannot pull you from your path: you are supplying everything you need. They can only give what you WANT…which can be powerful, but nothing anyone can give you from the outside is worth your soul.

 

That is what is at stake.    Not just life, but soul. And that applies whether you are speaking of your individual self, your family, our nation, our world.  There are perhaps four major battles I am willing to engage with.   You will need to find your own.

 

Love and fear, illusions of racial or gender separation, the need to feel superior, and the war between man and nature.

 

All of these can be resolves, and have  beautiful outcomes.  I see a future where we have already resolved these things, and everything we experience now is just a bumpy road caused by old  memes, from a time when tribalism, racism, sexism, fear, and the rape of the natural world were survival  assets on a personal or genetic level.

 

We have a new opportunity.  Can throw those chains off.  But if you get caught at the levels of race, gender, nationality–not playing the games and working for the good of all but actually BELIEVING that these things are more important than our essential connection to the world around us…

 

You have been trapped by fear, and the Ego-terrorists have won.   Love is the way out.

 

But love yourself first: your ego has powerful allies.

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Recapping “Better Call Saul”

WARNING: SPOILERS A’PLENTY!

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Most stories are about growth and change.  But most series drama is not about growth–they are about revelation of character.  This is cyclical in a James Bond movie–the arc is always from external image (playboy) to internal reality (world’s deadliest commando), with only a couple of exceptions to the rule.

 

Television is evolving into a multi-season arc of personal revelation.  BREAKING BAD is a perfect example, and I suspect that BETTER CALL SAUL will be similar.   Maybe two more seasons to dovetail the story? And it is unfortunate that some of the actors seem to be aging swiftly, making it harder and harder to believe the events took place earlier in the time line.

 

But hell, it’s make-believe.

 

##

 

Can we now make a guess about Jimmy and his arc?  We know where he ended up, as “Saul”: an amoral toadie to monsters, with a certain sweetness and sincerity that ingratiated him. But he was a bottom-feeder, a remora among sharks, at the best.  That’s his end point.

 

I think that for most of human history, we’ve assumed that people are simply born a particular way, and they then act out that essence over their lifetmes. It is a far more contemporary outlook to suggest that we are the products of our environments, and more modern still to suggest that we are interwoven therewith–that there is an interaction between that environment and our potential that is so complex we can barely model it.

 

This is why I find it safer to assume equality between groups–any other point of view risks simply ignoring data, and glorifying your own tribe. Even worse if your two tribes are interwoven, such that you might well merely be deflecting guilt, or justifying theft and even murder.

 

Looking at Jimmy, we certainly have an interwoven braid, a basic corruption combined with a real sweetness and likeability that makes him even more dangerous.  Remember where he ends up: alone. Broken and broke.  Having facilitated countless deaths, many of them innocent. And probably still believing he had no other options, that he is the good guy in all of this.

 

How do we get there?  Let’s try a story.

 

##

 

We know that Jimmy and Chuck were close when they were children, and that Chuck felt some responsibility for Jimmy…well, actually, he was just the “responsible” one.  “Slippin’ Jimmy” was the one who got away with everything, stole and lied and cheated, but somehow made people love him anyway.  In comparison, people RESPECT Chuck, but don’t really warm up to him.

 

Chuck is brilliant, Jimmy is clever.  “Clever” means he can figure out a way to get the results, but always by cheating and lying.  And here he had a choice: modest results in life being an honest man, or try to live up to his Big Brother’s example and produce massive results…but have to cut corners at every turn.

 

Caught in a Smother’s Brothers nightmare (“Mom loved YOU best”)  Chuck excelled at building a business, but his personal life was…well, so far as we can see, non-existent.   Jimmy leverages his “likeabilty” to accomplish things, which is fine, so long as that combines with a sense of genuinely wishing to serve people, seeing them as ends rather than means.

 

But Jimmy doesn’t.  People aren’t quite real to him, and you can see the waves of corruption and damage washing out from him.   There is no trace of Chuck or girlfriend Kim.  Those relationships are either destroyed…or the people themselves are dead.

 

I made a guess a year ago: some traumatic incident would destroy Jimmy’s willingness to continue using his birth name.   Watching what he was willing to do to “win” against his psychologically fragile brother made me suspect that Chuck would die.   We needed an event that could not be undone. Jimmy believes he can sleaze his way out of anything–he’s pretty much gotten away with it his whole life.

 

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Let’s try this:

Once upon a time there were two brothers named Chuck and Jimmy.  Chuck was brilliant, but had few friends.   Jimmy was clever enough, but everyone liked him.  Jimmy saw that he could be clever enough to get money without working, while Chuck tried to win his parents’ love by studying and working hard.

 

It didn’t really work: on her deathbed, their mother called for Jimmy, not Chuck. In anger, Chuck lied to Jimmy about it.   Over the years, Chuck buried himself in creating a successful law firm. To his horror, after watching Jimmy lie cheat and steal his way through life, he watched his younger brother graduate from a cut-rate mail-order law school and actually get a degree…and a job at Chuck’s own firm.

 

Chuck opposed that hiring, knowing that Jimmy would cheat and lie here as well.  Jimmy resented the fact that Chuck can’t have faith that he could turn over a new leaf.  And there the basic conflict entered its fatal death-match.

 

Because Jimmy did cheat. And get fired.  And sought to compete with his brother through unethical means, leading to a confrontation where Jimmy used Chuck’s mental instability to “prove” his own innocence.

 

This is the turning point in the story, a death spiral for Chuck’s career and life, and the beginning of an action that cannot be undone.   Jimmy has a brush with conscience when girlfriend Kim has a near-death experience (plausibly triggered by Jimmy’s own problems), and tells the truth to a group at a retirement home out of guilt, sacrificing his own profit to save an old lady’s friendships.

 

But his peace offering to his brother doesn’t go as well. Chuck sees/believes that Jimmy will never change, will destroy anything and everything around him, and tells Jimmy he never really cared much about him.

 

Plausibly this is a lie.  Why?  To hurt Jimmy?  Or possibly to make the next action less painful?   Because Chuck, having lost his position at the firm, attempts suicide, and there the season leaves things.   Did he actually feel guilt that as Big Brother he “failed” Jimmy so completely?  And reducing the pain Jimmy would feel on hearing of his brother’s death by damaging their relationship?  Or was it just a final “fuck you”?

 

Hard to say.

Their relationship was so poisoned, love and hate and resentment and admiration so intertwined that there is only one thing I think can be determined for sure:

 

Jimmy will not and cannot recover. Chuck may die, or may be in a hospital, horribly disfigured, for life. Kim may die somehow, or simply leave him. Perhaps Jimmy will grasp what a spoiler he is, and drive her away for her own good.

 

What was Jimmy as a child?  Charming, clever, dishonest.  Had he not succeeded in his early transgressions, he might have experienced enough pain to force him to change his ways.   Had he not admired his big brother so much, he might have settled for a smaller life that didn’t require lies and cheating.

 

If Musashi’s first principle is “Do Not Think Dishonestly” it is reasonable to think that nothing, NOTHING that went wrong in Jimmy’s life would have been irreversible and ultimately destructive, but for the lying.  That single thing would have made the difference.

 

Jimmy failed his test, couldn’t survive his leap of faith: to believe a life of meaning could exist without “beating” Chuck at his own game.   Honesty would have saved him. Or genuinely seeing other human beings as ends rather than means.  Or shrinking his ego and settling for a smaller life. Or even not being so plausible and likeable.

 

In combination, it was deadly.  He trashed his life completely, to the point that he needed to reinvent himself.

 

Jimmy cannot clean up his mess. He’ll just become a new person and start over again. But all that rot is down in the psychic basement.

 

This is what happens when you don’t START with a commitment to be honest, to value others for their own sake, and not place yourself above them, not value yourself by whether you can accomplish what they accomplish.

 

It’s a nightmare. And a tragedy.

 

Saul is coming.   I can’t wait.

Ice Sculpture in the Desert

A friend came to me and asked me to help his mother, who, in her 70’s, had injured herself and lost the will to go through the pain and discomfort of rehab.  He was frightened for her, loved her, and although I offered to do it for free, he paid me quite well for a series of sessions.

 

I began speaking to “Emily”, who had had a hard life.   An abusive marriage which broke her down, and a work life in hard physical mill work that had taken her body to the breaking point.  As is true with many, many good parents, the only thing that made the sacrifice worthwhile was her love of her family.

 

When she injured herself, she WANTED to believe that she could recover, but had lost faith.  Luckily, she had cast her bread upon the waters: her son adores her, and brought a new ally into the picture.  Me.  Big responsibility.  For every conceivable reason, I wanted to help her.

 

She didn’t believe anyone or anything could help, but agreed to try to make her son happy.  He adored her, she trusted him and wanted him to be happy.    A tenuous thread, but people have done more with less.

 

We had a series of ten sessions, paid in advance.  The first session was just getting to know who she was.  She could speak of her son and his accomplishments, but not her own life. When she spoke of her own life, her only pleasure was endurance, her ability to withstand pain for the sake of her family.

 

She saw herself as broken, and finished.  It was devastating, but I refused to believe that this strong, good woman could not find her way back to the light.

 

Even her childhood had been hard: distant father, beaten-down mother. By the third session, I started noticing something: she spoke of one thing that caused her voice to become happier. A horse she had owned as a child. How sometime she would sneak away with that horse and go riding in the hills. It was an old horse, and no one else wanted her, but  when the two of them were together they were free.

 

A light went on in my head.  THIS was what I’d been looking for.  I had her relax deeply, breathe slowly taking herself into a state of auto-hypnosis, and visualize herself in a dark room, sitting and facing a mirror.   Begin to see the light inside her body. It was faint, and scattered, but I had a suspicion, a theory that had worked before. I had her collect the light into a solid mass, and she did so.   Asked her to shape that mass into a human child, and asked her about how large that child was.

 

As I suspected, the mass was about the size of a twelve year old girl.  The age she was at her positive memory.  Fantastic.   The light you can visualize within yourself will make a human being about the age you were when the damage occurred.  This means that some people will have a twelve year old. Some a baby.   Some an unborn child.   Some people will insist that they were never nurtured and loved, but this is an illusion: human children who are not nurtured in infancy will die.  “Failure to thrive.”  What they mean is that they have no CONSCIOUS memory, meaning that whatever nurturing they got they got before the age of about two.

 

I spent a session having Emily get to know that twelve year old again.  Listen to what she had to say, and tell her than “her mommy is here now. And will protect and care for her.”   That caused tears.  That twelve year old had worked so hard, for so long, to so little acknowledgement.

 

And her only pleasure was taking this broken-down horse out for rides in the mountains of her childhood.  I got her to remember those rides, remember how the wind felt on her face, in her hair. The feeling of her horse (call her “Storm”) beneath her, giving her everything she could, feeding on the love and appreciation of the one human being who saw the beauty and strength, not just the scars and age.

 

And as she began to remember how much she had loved Storm, and would have done anything for Storm, as Storm had given her everything she had, Emily began to change.  Her body had carried her, provided for her, provided for her children.  It was “an old horse” but one worthy of love.  Could she still see the beauty within, as she had with Storm?   Could she help her body express whatever life remained within it?

 

Because children live in an ocean of energy, health and aliveness.  As you age it narrows to a river, and then a stream. The master learns to find that flow, and tap into it, even as it gets smaller and smaller. And like making an ice  culture in the desert, every day there is a little less ice…but you can learn to make something a little more beautiful every day.

 

She went back to rehab. It was painful, and she wanted to quit. But…would she have quit on Storm?  Would she forget that twelve year old girl, who just wanted to feel the wind and sun on her face? To forget trouble for just a little while?  If it was her job, as “Mom”, to exert the discipline, was it not worth it to give little Emily the joy she deserved, even if she no longer swam in an infinite ocean of possibility, was there no still water to swim in, or at least drink, if she had greater and greater focus?

 

And by week six, she was engaged with the process. And by week eight, she found joy in walking, and feeling the rain on her face, knowing that her aches and pains were symbols of a life lived in contribution to others, and that her son had seen her, loved her, and brought her the resource she needed to rise above her pains and understand and praise the heart and spirit that had taken her so far.

 

And by week nine, she didn’t need me any more.

 

I was never happier to lose a client.   All she needed to do was find that child within her, and comfort her, and be willing to do anything in the world to see her smile.

 

And of course to love that old horse, who had given everything a horse can, and only wanted to be loved in return.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Octavia Event

I was scheduled to speak at an Octavia Butler event at the Pasadena Library, and because of my family time in Santa Barbara, it became impossible to make it. This morning, I realized that the sponsors might reasonably have expected me to write a note to be read to the attendees, and that I’d forgotten to do this. So this morning I wrote this, and hope that, if it is appropriate, it reaches the right hands in time.
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I’m so sorry I cannot be with you at this program today.  If I could, I would tell you the single most important thing that Octavia said and believed.  She told me that the single thing that most frightened her about human being…was actually two things.

 

  1. The tendency of human beings to be hierarchical.
  2. The tendency to consider themselves higher on that hierarchy.

 

This is responsible for all racism, sexism, and the rape of the natural world.  The answer to all of it is seeing each other’s humanity, deeply and without reservation.   Choosing love over hate, as all our great spiritual leaders and artists have begged us to do, since the beginning of time.

 

Octavia deeply researched the natural world, saw that the origins of violence are the survival fears that blind us to that love, and she loved us enough to enter an artistic hermitage, a space where she could create some of the greatest fantasies ever spun, filled with pain…and hope.  Fear…and love.

 

No matter how much darkness she saw, she always chose the light.  No matter how  close to the sun she flew, her wings never melted.

 

Her books and stories are her wings. It is up to us to fasten them to our own backs, flex our own muscles, reject fear and darkness…and fly high enough above the battle to see that both sides are driven by the fear of extinction, and ultimately, however clumsily or tragically, to create a better world for   grandchildren unborn.  Our ancestors did the best they could with the vision and perspective they had. Because of artists like Octavia, we can see more, and therefore have greater responsibility.

We must forgive our past to embrace our future.

Our artists fly high, Octavia as high as any, and if we lost her too soon, perhaps she took too much of that stress onto her back, too much of our darkness into her heart, or perhaps her time simply ended.

 

No matter which…if you love her,  honor this  literary angel.

 

By flying.

 

And somewhere in the clouds, if we fly high enough, perhaps we’ll meet her again.

 

 

Steven Barnes

“The Mummy” (2017)

 

There was a specific moment in Tom Cruise’s THE MUMMY when I knew it was in trouble.  The movie begins with a narrative flashback, where thousands of years ago an evil princess is mummified alive.  So incredibly dangerous is this sorcerous princess that they carry her body a thousand miles away (To Iraq) and bury her in a pool of mercury beneath a giant slab of rock.  Clearly, she is HORRIFICALLY dangerous.

 

O.K.   Tom Cruise and his friends accidentally uncover the grave and rappel down.  The female archeologist proclaims the tomb a great find, and that the sarcophagus must be recovered.  Time is short, as “insurgents” are closing in.

 

O.K. so far.  Then Tom Cruise (his usual twinkling self, which is a different problem in the film) notices a complex series of winches and cables.  He shoots a cable, triggering a series of counter-weights which go into Rube Goldberg action, bringing the sarcophagus up.  With moments to spare, they helicopter it to a transport plane, and take off just ahead of aforementioned insurgents, and a vast duststorm.

 

Mission accomplished, right?

 

Except…can someone explain why this princess, this incredibly, insanely dangerous princess, is put in a tomb designed for quick extraction?  Would the same minds that take her a thousand miles away, bury her in an unmarked grave beneath tons of stone in a pool of liquid mercury surrounded by protective gargoyles build a complex system where, if a single cable breaks she is freed?  Don’t you just bury her beneath tons of rock in the deepest hole you can find (and that’s assuming you cannot burn or dismember the body)?

 

It made no sense.  Of course neither did the “blow a fuse and the T-Rex is loose” setup in JURASSIC PARK.  But at least before they showed you that nonsense they made sure you were invested in the story, and dazzled by the SFX.

 

Here, all I could think was:   “oh-uh.   Author convenience.”    Sigh.  And it got worse from there. There was a pretty decent movie trapped in there, and I wouldn’t have even minded setting up the “Dark Universe” thing..  But their second strike was sandwiching in Tom Cruise.  I like Cruise. A lot. But as soon as they put him in there, they had to go for big stunts and lots of running and twinkle twinkle twinkle isn’t this just like Indiana Jones?

 

They couldn’t find or maintain a tone with both hands in a telephone booth.   The “romance” didn’t work, and has anyone ever really been scared by a CGI creature?

 

Top to bottom it was ill-conceived and badly executed, despite the fact that the actors gave it everything and the SFX were perfectly fine, and the basic story beats could have worked.

 

I think this is what happens when the decisions begin with a corporate  rather than a creative impulse. They’ll lose 90 million dollars on this thing.  I wonder if they’ll learn their lesson.

 

Oh, and there is one black character, who gets stabbed to death.  Thanks.  That’s #35.

The Cause and Effect of Justice

The founding fathers understood that each state in the union needed representation. No one says: let Georgia decide for everyone. Obviously this would lead to problems for California.

But the same people who understand this, if you say “the answer to inequality is proportional representation among the decision makers” will accuse you of terrible things. How DARE you suggest that X’s cannot know as much about Y’s and their concerns as Y’s do! How DARE you suggest that X’s might hue to their own self-interests, and it might be a good idea to have Y’s making some of the decisions, if those decisions affect Y’s.

It will lead to genocide!  It is unfair!  It is sexist/racist/culturally elitist to think that we X’s don’t have the superior judgement it takes to make the best decisions, better than YOU could make for yourself!

 

In essence, they are saying some mighty odd things: they think themselves so superior that having total control in their hands is somehow fairer, better, than sharing the control. Beware of people who use anything remotely like that argument, and remember: the closest external evidence of social change is proportional representation among the decision makers. It is both cause and effect of justice.

Here are some translations of what they are saying:

  1. Let us keep the power. We like the power.  We will allow you to come before us, hat in hand like little orphan Oliver saying “please sir, I want some more” and after a loooong time and much bowing and scraping, we might make a few changes.  Which will be undone if you EVER take your eyes off the ball.
  2. We consider ourselves better than you, although we’re too polite to say it. Therefore we should make the decisions.
  3. We are afraid that you will gain control, and treat you as you were treated. Or:
  4. We are afraid you will gain control, and treat us WORSE than you were treated.  Because you are our moral and mental  inferiors.
  5. And most basically: we don’t think you’re as human as we are. We don’t care what you want. We’ll pretend to, so that we can guilt-trip you into protecting our children and property, but when it comes down to it, if you died we’d shed a tear and finish our cocoa.

Make no mistake: whether in business, education, government, law enforcement, entertainment, or anything else, the surest measure that progress has been or WILL be made is proportional representation among the decision makers.

Don’t let anyone distract you, guilt trip you, threaten you, gaslight you or catch you up in meaningless troll-loops of tag-team internet challenges.  Keep your eye on the ball.

 

Namaste,

Steve

Straying from the path

One there was a great  hatha yogi named  Bikram Choudhury. He created an amazing exercise system, and people flocked to him.   He began to imagine that he was a great spiritual leader, above ordinary morality, and used his followers for sex, and power, and money.  His followers, equally blinded by ego, excused his actions to remain close to him.   Eventually, he spiraled into self-destruction as accusations of rape and abuse flooded in, and he  fled the country.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/26/arrest-warrant-issued-for-bikram-choudhury-the-hot-yoga-guru-accused-of-sexual-harassment/?utm_term=.c1b8043968f8

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I do not know what really happened to him. But if we look at the list of endless men and women who have achieved power without grace, been corrupted by their own influence we can extract a central story:

 

Once upon a time there was a boy  who simply wanted to be avoid pain and gain pleasure, like all of us.    By working very hard he found a path with heart, and others asked him how they could walk it.  And offered him both gems and fool’s gold to teach or display. The gems they scattered on the path, and he could gather them while walking on. The fool’s gold he would have to leave the path to gather.

He chose the fool’s gold of thinking that he was what they admired.  It was never him. It was the path.  He stepped off the path to gather the “gold”. It dissolved in his hands, and when he looked back…the path was gone.

 

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There was another boy who wanted to avoid pain.   He worked very hard, and created a path others coveted.  They offered him gems and fool’s gold, but he knew that anything he had to gather by stepping off the path was not worth it.

 

Nothing: not abusive power, wealth beyond need, or sex without caring or respect could possibly be worth the cost.  So he stayed on the path, even though it SEEMED that others were further along if they chased the fool’s gold, he knew that that was an illusion, that he had but one goal:

 

To walk the path opened by the child in his heart. And that, at the end of the path he would meet his elder self, who would ask: “what is true?” with only one meaningful answer:  “love.”

 

And that nothing anyone could offer him would be worth stepping off the path, or forgetting the final destination.

 

Hungers are good when your belly is empty, but a disease once it is full.

 

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com

On Wonder Woman and T’Challa

Still thinking about why Wonder Woman and Black Panther (and there’s a team up someone should do…) seem to evoke such a different response from moviegoers than, respectively, female and black moviegoers.

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Let’s remove from the equation the qualities that are obvious. And here we’re going to compare a finished film with a trailer.  Its hard to do, but still interesting.   (For the sake of simplicity of speculation, we’re going to assume BP gets as positive a response in its completed form.)

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What are the obvious things?   Acting, directing, good writing, good effects. Stuff like that certainly.   How about the fact that a woman or black person was promoted as the star and central character? That’s happened many, many times before.  So while that is part of it…that’s not all.

 

What about the pre-existing popularity of the character?  I think we’re getting closer here, but  still begging the question.   To straighten that out, people aren’t reacting to the characters because they were pre-existing popular titles, they were pre-existing popular titles BECAUSE PEOPLE REACT TO THEM.

 

In other words, whatever is happening here, the popularity of the characters and the success of the films come from the same root.  They succeeded because they effective communicated the same emotional/mythical “juice” channeled by the comics.

 

So…let’s see what they have in common that might be useful.

 

  1. Ironically, they were both created by the “other” class: Wonder Woman by a man, Black Panther by two whites.   So they were fantasies that appealed to women, or blacks, but were not alien to men, or whites.   Of the thousands of female or black characters created by white males, these communicated something direct and powerful to BOTH men and women, BOTH black and white.  EVERYBODY gets excited.  Could a woman or a black person have done the same?  Yes. But they’d have to have had as many opportunities to fail, which they haven’t.  Countless female and black characters have risen and fallen, most forgotten.But that’s creativity: the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
  2. Both were created deliberately, by what I’d call  Social Justice Warriors.   William Moulton Marsten, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee deliberately set out to create heroes who hadn’t existed before, feeling a specific lack in the world.    This usually ends badly: beginning art with political intent isn’t a very effective approach. But…it worked.   Luck in Marsten’s case, and Stan and Jack were simply the Lennon-McCartney of comic books, at the height of their powers.  I bet the Beatles could have deliberately created a hit if they’d wanted to, as well.   Like Mozart or Shakespeare could create art on demand. That’s almost superhuman, but it happens.  Thank goodness.
  3. Here’s what I think is different.  Both exist ON THEIR OWN TERMS.   Diana is an Amazon.  She lives in a society without men.    T’Challa is a prince of Wakanda, a nation isolated from the world, without Europeans.   Wonder Woman can therefore play into a fantasy: “this is what women could be but for Patriarchy”.   Black Panther plays into a fantasy: “this is what Africans could be, but for European Colonialism (or racism)”

 

If this is accurate, it explains why few of the female superheroes mentioned can come close. They ALL exist in contrast to, or relationship to, men.  “Supergirl” is a REACTION to “Superboy”  or “Superman”  “Batgirl” or “Batwoman” in reaction to Batman.  “Catwoman” is specifically “Batman’s love and nemesis.” She exists to orbit a pre-existing male character, not on her own terms.

 

The situation is even stronger with black superheroes.    Iron Patriot, Falcon, Power Man, and so forth were ALL given their powers by white people (I understand that Falcon’s wings have been retconned to be Wakanda tech).

 

What about their names?  Sam Wilson, Luke Cage, Rhodey, Hancock…excuse me, but do those names sound AFRICAN to you? Is there a white Superhero without a European name (maybe an alien name, like Kal’el.  But then he came from a planet of white people, so it’s the same thing.)

 

We are so used to seeing European names attached to black people that most folks don’t even consider the implications. There is nothing natural about that.  It is generally a sign of OWNERSHIP.  Most of these character orbit, or live in reaction to, whites or Europe.  How many of them would exist if Europe had been wiped out by a plague in 1300?  None.

 

But T’Challa would.  He doesn’t live “in reaction to”.  Wakanda doesn’t need Europe. Doesn’t exist in reaction to Europe or Europeans.   He’s his own man.   Sure, he’s as smart as Reed Richards, can out-fight Captain America, and is as smart as Tony Stark…but he’d be those things even if none of them existed.

 

THAT is critical.  We as human beings don’t just exist “in reaction to” our parents and our world…or our opponents. Sure, that’s where we begin. But the process of maturation includes asking “who am I?”  and as long as your definition includes other people, you are still on the surface.

 

Men and women have the relationship they have because it served the production of grandchildren. That includes rigid roles.  Due to the advancement of industrial, weapons and biological (birth control) technologies, sexual dimorphism simply doesn’t control us as it did our ancestors.  Because this works to the direct advantage of women, I think they are waking up faster.  The unfortunate thing about it is that they are no more perceptive than men, so they only see one side of the equation–their side–and from it, it looks like men control the world with “Patriarchy.”  Fine.  From that position, the re-imaging of their potential includes the question “what would we be if we’d not been oppressed?”

 

Why, we’d be Diana, Princess of the Amazons. The full expression of female potential.    Free, brilliant, brave, strong, sensual…a complete human being.   Existing on her own terms, beholden to no member of the oppressor class.   A unique symbol, beautifully realized onscreen.

 

Blacks and whites have a different relationship. Remember: men and women cannot live without each other.  Different tribes can and do and have EXTERMINATED each other.  Very very different.  Due to accidents of geography and history, Europeans technology was a fraction more advanced than African when the cultures collided, with the expected results of exploitation and domination. That’s how humans roll.   And another thing humans do is blame the victims for what they do.

 

So in America, you have the descendants of the people hauled here in chains, stripped of names, religion, history, mythology, like hard drives wiped and programmed with “Slave 1.0”.  Then after 250 years, after the descendants have forgotten 99% of what they were, you set them free and add-on “Emancipation 2.0” software, which of course is full of glitches, and incompatible with “Free American” software .  Then of course, they were blamed for the inevitable crashes.

 

Every image of the long lost “homeland” is of ignorance and savagery, more likely to be based on Tarzan than actual anthropological data suggesting WHY the technological differential existed.  Hell, the Encyclopedia Britannica straight-up stated that whites were just smarter.  I distinctly remember reading that.

 

So…reinforce with “Gone With the Wind” being the dominating image of that deprivation. Why, slavery wasn’t so BAD.  If we have problems, it must be us.  Inferiority was the assumption, and battling against the fear that the culture might be right weighed heavily.  If our very names were European…if the God-figure we’d been given looked more like our oppressors than us…I mean, what the hell?

 

“In the Heat of the Night” in 1967 had an utterly amazing scene where a black man slapped a rich old white man…and survived.  I was fifteen years old, already “cooked” in terms of basic life attitudes, but the scene blew my mind. When “Shaft” and “Superfly” and so forth came along, they were revolutionary, amazing, devastating in impact. We’d never SEEN anything like that before: black men who were smart, savvy, sexual, strong.  All the great “S” stuff.  Might as well have had it on their chests. They were Superheroes, not because they did things which, on the surface, countless white heroes had not done, but because they did it carrying four hundred years of baggage.

 

When Marvel created “Black Panther”, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were just seeking to create a black superhero. They felt that lack. And I suggest that if they had created a Captain America (given his powers by the government) or a “Black Spiderman” or even a brilliant black “Tony Stark” type, it couldn’t have “hit” the same way, because no matter what they created, how wonderful, how well written, it would have been a garnish, a sprig of creative parsley atop the shit sandwich that is black history  in America for our first 350 years.

 

No.  Black Panther was Black Panther, and would have been if Europe had never existed at all.

Diana Prince was Diana Prince, her mother an Amazon, her father a god (I believe this has been retconned as well–in original form she was formed from clay by her mother).  In other words, to the degree possible, she would have been what she was even if men had not existed at all.

 

That thematic unity, at the core of great storytelling, acting, and SFX, FEELS DIFFERENT.   It is closer to the “I am.” It opens the door to asking new questions.   It throws off invisible chains.  “I never even knew I needed to see that” women have said of the “No Man’s Land” sequence.

 

Move.  Or be moved.”  I watched black women with zero interest in comic books scream with joy at that line.

 

Watch the Youtube videos of black people watching shots of Wakanda.   Sheer ECSTACY on their faces.   Disbelief.  They  might not have even known how much they needed to see that.

 

How important are such images?  ALL CULTURES, all over the world, tell their children (especially their boys) stories of heroes who can overcome all obstacles, and protect their countries, families, religions, whatever.

 

Women were told they were secondary to men: their heroes could exist, but only in reference to.

Black were told they were secondary to whites: their heroes could exist, but only in reference to.

 

And here is something important to grasp again, to remember: BOTH WERE CREATED BY WHITE MEN.

 

Yes, we as humans can touch something deeper within us. We can sense the missing piece. Create from a sense of shared humanity.  Create empowering symbols that heal the damage created by a million years of separation to maximize reproductive potential. Or four hundred years of cultural domination.

 

And this should provide the perspective we need to BOTH celebrate these heroes, AND realize that we are all human, all capable of going deep and doing something special, and healing, and redemptive.   It takes brilliance, and commitment, and the maniacal focus of intent that creates and liberates genius…and luck of course.

But damn, isn’t it worth it when it works?

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Being your own hero

I never know what I’ll write about every day.   Just wait to see what is needed. This morning, I received this note (information redacted and altered to protect identity):

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I have a question which requires some set-up – “context,” as you say – but I know you are a busy man, with many, many people clamoring for your time and attention, so I’ll try to keep things concise.

I love your Lifewriting program concept. It makes perfect sense to me. But the answers it has provided me (“What is true?” “Who am I?”) are not what I expected.

Some background on me: I am (in his fifties). For my entire life, I have been active in movement  (A description of his movement background). (I picked up some meditation techniques along the way, naturally.) Anything I thought sounded interesting and challenging. But a few years ago, I became a father, first to a daughter  , then to a son. Aside from a day a week, for short spurts here and there, I have been unable to create time to work out on any consistent basis since. (It’s more complex than that, of course, but broad strokes for brevity.)

I work three days a week; the rest of the time I am a stay-at-home dad. I seldom get more than six hours of sleep in a night (a luxurious seven at most), and that even more rarely undisturbed by one or the other or both of my kids. My wife is the primary bread-winner; as such she works long hours and needs my assistance in caring for the kids and in keeping the housework dealt with (in itself a full-time job).

I have dreamed of being a writer since I was a child. I wrote my first real short story in middle school, but I’ve never had any real discipline about writing, and though I would take the occasional stab at a blank page, even keeping at it for a while, I have never really produced anything. Then I found your program – but again, I now have no available time to write. (This message itself has been written in fits and starts.) [STORIES CAN BE WRITTEN THAT WAY TOO]

I have tried your Ancient Child meditation, but taking even a few moments to meditate (even just to focus on my heartbeat or breathing) usually just results in me falling asleep. [THEN DO IT STANDING UP]

I tried writing just a sentence a day, but that pace gave my inner editor and critic far too much freedom and my inner child not nearly enough. [THEN SPECIFICALLY AIM YOUR MEDITATION AT LISTENING TO YOUR “CHILD’S” VOICE, AND LEARNING TO IGNORE YOUR CRITIC. IT WILL TAKE TIME. WEEKS, MONTHS.  GOT SOMETHING BETTER TO DO?]

I read your story of how you came up with the Lifewriting idea, and I thought, I’ll try that! Like your student, I just couldn’t find time enough in my life – for working out, for meditating, for writing, for sleep. I have struggled, I have juggled, I have fretted and tried different schedules. Nothing worked. So, if I had a character in a story who had my problems, what solution would I write for him? Maybe he could just learn to thrive on three-to-four hours of sleep a night? [NO.  THIS IS BASICALLY AN ILLUSION]  Maybe he could quit his job and ask his wife to shoulder the family’s entire financial burden, so that he could carve out some time to write – hoping for a statistically unlikely success, and knowing that barring an out-of-the-gate best seller (and maybe even then) it would be many years before he would make enough money at writing to begin to offset the loss of his income – if ever?

[NO, FOR MULTIPLE REASONS. IT WOULD LIKELY DESTROY YOUR MARRIAGE]

Maybe he could just listen to all the helpful advice telling him that he would eventually have free time again to follow his own goals and dreams – someday? [NO, YOU NEED A DAILY RITUAL THAT TAKES YOU AT LEAST ONE STEP TOWARD YOUR DREAMS EVERY DAY]

That last is an unsatisfactory solution, I think you’ll agree. Every other answer I came up with would work just fine for a fictional character, but was impracticable in my own real life. Which makes sense, really; if the character is me, and has all the same problems and limitations I have, then if I could come up with a workable solution for him, I would already have done so for me.  [THE PROBLEM IS THAT YOU HAVE YOUR BRAKES ON.  YOU STOP YOURSELF. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT YOU ARE THE ONE WHO CAN DECIDE TO TAKE THEM OFF. YOU JUST NEED SO MANY REASONS TO DO IT THAT YOUR FEARS PALE IN COMPARISON]

So maybe (the realization landed like a thunderbolt) your formula works in reverse: If I simply didn’t have the imagination necessary to solve my own problem, then maybe I really didn’t have what it takes to be a writer?

That led to a different question: If I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, did the Lifewriting formula hold any further value for me? I looked at the Hero’s Journey as it applied to my life – and I had another epiphany: Like most people (as your program acknowledges), I have always cast myself as the hero in my own life story. I had always tried to pursue a life-path and goals which would make me worthy of that self-image. But on re-examining my life through the lens of the Hero’s Journey, I realized that at two crucial points in my life, I had been presented with a Leap of Faith – and I had turned and walked away from the challenge. The last time (in particular) had led inexorably to the life I now live, in which I no longer have time or energy to do any of the things I used to love, nor to find and pursue new goals and dreams.

 

[THIS IS ALL “DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL” STUFF, YOUR DEMONS CHEWING ON YOUR DREAMS.  THEY HAVE TO KEEP YOU TIRED AND SCATTERED, OR YOU’D HAVE THE ENERGY TO KILL OR CONQUER THEM]

So I’m not the hero of my own story anymore, either. (The protagonist, sure, but not a hero.)  [NO, YOU ARE–YOU HAVE JUST FALLEN INTO AN ILLUSION OF DESPAIR.  IT HAPPENS TO HEROS.]

So my question, Steven, is this: What can your program teach someone who has discovered that he is neither a writer, nor the Hero of his own Journey? Can it help me to find new goals and dreams? Can it help me to find ways to make them happen?  [YOU ARE A WRITER. YOU JUST WROTE!   WHAT YOU LACK IS CLARITY, AND YOU’VE BECOME AFRAID OF TELLING YOURSELF THE TRUTH. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.]

####

 

Let’s take it to story time, because controlling your story is the secret to controlling your emotions, and your life.

 

Once upon a time there was a boy who had dreams of being a warrior, a writer, a lover.  Life happened to him, and he found himself no longer practicing is martial arts, no longer writing or working at anything that really mattered to him, and struggling not to resent the family he loves…and who loves him.

 

One night he had a dream that his house was on fire. He watched it burn, and as it did, he grew old.  His wife and children died in that fire, and although he cried, he could not help them.

Watched everything he ever wanted to be and have and do burn and burn until he turned and wandered away, an old old man, crying and fearful as the end approached, knowing that he had never owned his life.

 

And woke up screaming and shaking…realizing that it was just a dream, and that the Universe had given him a wonderful gift: a glimpse of what lay ahead for him if he didn’t DECIDE, COMMIT to own his own life. To believe that his love was stronger than his fear.

 

He had to rekindle his belief in himself, remember that the little boy inside him was still looking out at the world through the eyes of a fifty-something man, judging him.  “Don’t you love me, Daddy?”  That little boy said.  “Why don’t you listen to me?  I’m so sad.”

 

And he committed to connecting with that child, daily.   He couldn’t do it through ordinary meditation: he was so tired that he fell asleep. But that sleep also helped him avoid admitting how unhappy he was.  But he had no time!  (his brain screamed at him).

 

The way through the Dark Night was faith.   “My ego is lying to me,” he said.   “It would rather kill me in slow-motion than have me find my power again, and kill my false self image.”

 

So he decided to become the hero again. And knew it would take time: you don’t rewire fifty years of habits in a week or a month.

 

He would give it a year.  He would choose the minimum amount necessary to make change.

 

  1. He would AIM at meditating twenty minutes a day. If he couldn’t do it seated, he would do a walking meditation, or a tai chi/yoga style. But he would connect.   But it was hard to find that time, and he wasn’t sure if it was an illusion or reality.  So he said: I WILL SIT QUIETLY FOR SIXTY SECONDS FIVE TIMES A DAY, ONCE EVERY THREE HOURS AND LISTEN TO MY HEARTBEAT.  EVERY DAY. FOR A YEAR.
  2. He would reclaim his body, using a system that requires an hour a week–like the FIVE TIBETANS.  Every day.  EVERY DAY.  Starting with five minutes, three repetitions of each.
  3. He would reclaim his writing, by writing at least a sentence every day.
  4. Every day, EVERY DAY, he would learn one new tool, secret, or attitude to save time and make his actions more efficient and effective.  Google is your friend.
  5. And he would journal what came up for him. The fears, the resentments, the guilt, the shame. ALL OF IT.  Every excuse and lie he told himself.   And commit to putting all of it into his stories.  Because what has stopped him from moving forward is also the life he created.  His wonderful wife and children are NOT obstacles. They are allies.  His life has done precisely what he was programmed to do.  If he changed his programming, he would change his life, and his results.

 

He would do this for HIMSELF, but know also that he was fighting for the life of his family.  For his children.  For his wife.  For that boy inside him.

 

He had to know WHAT he wanted: to reclaim his life.  To be the hero of his own story, however that is appropriate in the life he has created.

 

He had to know WHY he wanted it.  And here, he needed to create a list of REASONS to be happy, and in alignment with his values and dreams.

 

All you need to have a wonderful life is to live in alignment with BOTH your childhood dreams and the ultimate values you will hold on your deathbed.  To align both with those things we must do as adults to protect our families and make our way in the world.

 

 

Every day: five minutes of meditation. Five minutes of Tibetans.   One sentence of a story.   And one new trick to save time.  That time gets invested in his life.   That’s his “Machine.”

 

  1. Five minutes of meditation, one minute at a time, one every three hours.  Connect with and visualize the inner child, and listen for his voice.
  2. Five minutes of Tibetans.  And while doing them, he visualized his intentions, and what he has to be GRATEFUL for in his life.
  3. One sentence of a story about a man who reclaims his power and transforms his life.
  4. Find one new secret to save one minute a day, every day, by becoming more efficient and effective.
  5. Commit to this for one year.

 

 

He tried it, and it worked…for a while. And then he hit the wall. He broke his promise to himself.   Perversely, his life got busy. A child got sick.  He became depressed and distracted.

 

But this time, because he knew the HERO’S JOURNEY, he KNEW this would happen, and had planned for it.  He had journaled about a dozen previous times he’d broken promises to himself, and found at least three ways to get back on track:

  1. He wrote a letter to himself, to be read only in the future, using his left-hand (he was right handed). This letter was from his “child” self, expressing love and pride and hope.
  2. He imagined that he was coaching his own son and daughter through their OWN dark night.
  3. He remembers the wonderful woman who shares his life, who is out hunting and gathering, and needs desperately to feel precious when she comes home. To be able to be vulnerable, somewhere. That both men and women need to feel both powerful and vulnerable, in different and complementary measures. If he reclaims his power, and can love and nurture her and celebrate their lives together, the benefits are incalculable. YOU ARE A MATED PAIR.   You should be dancing in each other’s hearts.

 

Every day. Every day.  Every day he moved, focused, meditated. The minimum investment being five minutes (stopping to breathe and focus every three hours).  And one sentence of a story.  THAT WAS HIS MINIMUM. He would work up from there to add more.

 

He would NOT sacrifice sleep.   Instead, he would consider sleep a precious luxury, and as he became more efficient and effective he also sought ways to make his six to seven hours deeper and more restorative, so that his dreams would help him solve problems, so that he would find more time and energy, so that he would have less poisonous stress that killed his sleep…in a positive spiral.

 

One year.   A commitment to reclaim his life, his dreams, to fight for his family.  He knew that, despite that awful dream,  he would run into a burning building to save his son and daughter and wife.

 

He remembered the dream: the house was burning.  HIS house.  And he was the one who would put it out. No matter how many times he fell down. He would get back up. And get back up.

 

And when he finished that first story, he’d send it in, and the little boy inside him would laugh with joy. And then he’d go on to the next story. And the next.  And when he managed to add another Tibetan, he would feel deep satisfaction for the re-connection with his sacred body.  And when he comforted and loved his wife, he would know that this was the life HE had chosen.

 

And that he would, one day, be able to say to his children: “you will have dreams. And you will build a life day by day. And you will lose your way at times, and lose faith and hope and passion and even joy.  But it is NEVER too late.  Healing starts with a decision: I WILL OWN MY LIFE.  And you will begin by taking five minutes a day…

 

And they will listen. Because they knew that their father was telling them true.  He was, and would always be, a hero to them.

 

 

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Could have used a talking stick…

A few months back, I was asked to lecture at a public event, and agreed.  I noticed that it would be a hardship, as the schedule would conflict with family events (I’m deliberately being oblique here) and decided I could finesse it, despite the increased stress: the contribution was more important.

 

The organizer reached out to me via PM a week before the event, asking me if I was still attending, and I said sure.   They then began criticizing me, saying that it didn’t seem that way, as I hadn’t been promoting it.   I said that I really don’t do a lot of promotion for my public appearances, and that they really didn’t have a right to complain about something I’d not agreed to do–I’d only agreed to appear, not promote.  That they were not my employer, hadn’t paid me, and had no right to complain at me like that–I was donating my time.

 

This triggered a long series of increasingly unpleasant  exchanges, in which they accused me of not promoting because I wasn’t paid, that my ego was through the roof, and so forth.  Multiple times I sought to clarify that no, I was saying that because I was donating my time, they had no reasonable expectation that I had a responsibility to let them speak to me that way.

 

I’m happy that I preserved the entire exchange, because I suspect they will spread the story that I was mercenary about promotion, rather than reminding them that courtesy was important, ESPECIALLY when the issue is a charitable  donation.

 

Which led me to wondering if anyone else had noticed that when people ask you to give your time for free, for some odd reason they feel you have more obligations to them than if they pay you.

 

I think I know why: because when money is on the table, people get real clarity about what is expected on both sides. Whereas, when time and energy are volunteered, there are massive ASSUMPTIONS about responsibilities.

 

A person working for a charity often has the goals of that charity very close to their hearts. They do EVERYTHING–lose sleep, damage relationships, go broke, all in the name of the cause: the convention, the charity, the event.

 

They believe that if you volunteer, you understand it.  Then, if you don’t act the way they think THEY would act, they think “this person is like me.  If I did X, it would mean Y.  They did X.  It must mean Y.”

 

And if “Y” is a negative?  Big problem.  Hurt.  Anger.  Fear.

 

 

Imagine this in a personal relationship.   If you don’t have a clear contract, you can NEVER fulfill all their unspoken expectations.  They will ALWAYS have a reason to be angry with you (“you should have known…I did X…my other friends do Y why don’t you…”) and so forth.   And if you take responsibility for their disappointment, you will never, ever catch your balance.  Because in their mind it isn’t their responsibility to communicate their desires, it is yours to behave according to an unclarified standard.

 

“If you love me, you’ll know what you did.  I know what YOU want and need.  Why don’t you know what I want and need.  That’s what love is. So you either cannot read my mind (which means you don’t love me) or you CAN read it, but don’t care that you hurt me.”

 

 

YOU CANNOT WIN in a situation like this if you play by their rules. It is a “heads I win tails you lose” argument, and if they get you to buy into it , you’re screwed.

 

If there is anger, start by assuming it is fear.   What are they afraid of? Start with the most basic motivation: survival. Is death or injury on the line? No? Sex and relationships? No? How about power and authority? No? Ego identity and self-image? No? Do they feel unheard and therefore unloved? No? Is their map of the world threatened (often this is politics)? No? Is there some existential thing (often religion).

I can’t think of a single case that didn’t touch on one of these levels.   Have you seen this to be true?

 

I’ve watched marriages fall apart because of the unspoken expectations.  Haven’t you?   And that’s assuming that both people had total integrity and positive intentions.

 

But…what if one person ISN’T ethical?   Imagine the potential for manipulation.  Huge.

 

But let’s assume that both people are sincere.  In that case, the tool called a “Talking Stick” can be a lifesaver.  It certainly would have prevented this problem.

 

Simply, you designate an object as the “talking stick.” This might be a literal stick, or anything else that can be held in the hand.

 

  1. Person #1 holds the stick.  ONLY the person holding the stick may speak. The other must listen.
  2. Person #1 makes a statement.  Person #2 repeats the statement.  If person #1 agrees that #2 has spoken accurately, without editorial, the stick passes hands and Person #2 may now speak.
  3. If Person #1 does NOT agree that the statement has been repeated accurately, they repeat the statement.  Person #2 makes another attempt to repeat accurately.   This process is repeated until #1 agrees the statement has been repeated accurately.
  4. In a dominating relationship, a neutral observer may be necessary to prevent abuse: one or the other partner manipulating by lying or editing or adding to the statement, or insisting that partner #2 has NOT repeated it, when in fact they have. If there is repeated disagreement, or interruption, such a neutral observer should be called in.
  5. This process is repeated, the stick passed from hand to hand, until the entire communication has been completed.  If the stick holder makes long, complicated statements, they may have to be helped to simply

 

 

This process is amazing in gaining clarity of values, bringing unconscious expectations to consciousness.  If we assume good intentions on both parts,  it will get you through to actual communication.   And if one party is manipulative, it will be very rapidly apparent.  If you are too weak to stand up to them, get a neutral witness (a therapist, for instance) into the equation.  If they refuse, you had better walk away, or accept emotional slavery.

 

Namaste,

Steve

(Like this tool? We have countless more.   The person who controls the story controls your life.  Learn to write and communicate with greater clarity:  www.lifewrite.com)