Don’t take it personally

A couple more updates to the last post on free will.

Question of the Day May 23, 2011 ~ Don’t take it personally

Do you take stuff personally, only to find out later, that it wasn’t about you personally ?
This question is inspired by Don Miguel Ruiz’s – The Four Agreements

Like all the four agreements, “Don’t Take Anything Personally” is great.

It is really easy to logically see that our actions come from what is in our heads, and what others do can, at most, act as a trigger for something that is already within us.

What is not at all easy is actually doing it, actually over-riding those habits of thought.

Our habits of thought can be deeply ingrained.
Particularly if we are raised in a culture of blame, where we are taught to place responsibility on outside agencies, rather than accept it ourselves, it is very difficult to change.
Whole industries, the legal system, advertising, most of politics, are all based on the idea of placing “blame” outside; so is it any surprise that we are taught by example to blame others for our own actions?

What seems to work is just noticing – with non-judgmental awareness, and holding an intention to create some other habit.
Slowly, we build the capacity to notice, and create a “space” between the “impulse” and the “action”, in which choice can manifest.

Thus one can, with time, eliminate the concept of blame from thought. One is left simply with choice and consequence.

Once again, it seems to be one of those ideas that can be applied recursively, in seemingly infinite depth.

[followed by]

Hi Dina, christine, OM, Deb, John, et al,

Yes I agree Dina, it is difficult not to be upset when someone attacks us. I find the easiest thing is to not even try to not be upset. What I find works most often is simply to cultivate a level of awareness that can notice that I am upset, then, in that gap of noticing, to acknowledge the upset, acknowledge its reality, and to choose a response that does not come from upset.
I find it useful to think in the metaphor of the different minds from different stages of development (acknowledging that they are not really different minds, they are all my mind, but that the patterns that have been triggered were laid down at different stages of my development). Thus I have a level of awareness that monitors child mind – which can be very creative, but is also very quick to judge and to create upset, and to throw tantrums. Then there is a level of mind that is more rational, that is still firmly embedded in a right/wrong (true/false) mentality, but is more removed from emotional responses, and more able to take a long term view. Then one can cultivate another level of awareness that incorporates both the intuitive, and the rational, bringing the benefits of both. And it seems that there is no end to the process – a process of distinguishing the matrix of our current reality, and in that instant of distinction, creating the germ of a new level of awareness, which can then grow and explore its own boundaries, before creating yet another level of distinction and awareness, ……..

Nothing ultimate to be found there, just the never ending journey.

And it seems that there is something common to each transition, to each new level – the ability of each new level to create that gap, between impulse and action, a gap for contemplation, a gap for awareness and the possibility of a new class of actions and opportunities in a set of contexts not previously available.

For me, it is not a matter of denying the reality of any level of response, but more a matter of seeing many levels of response, and creating new contexts that can choose which level is appropriate to express in any instant. Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to give the “child” free control, other times not.

Julian Jaynes came up with the notion of Structions: A construct with an embedded instruction.
Every vocalisation contains structions – it points people in certain directions.

In this context of structions, context itself become the key determinant of the direction that people are pointed.
In this meta sense, gaining control of our own context, then the context of context, then the context of context of context …… seems to be the nature of the game.

At each new level, a new level of reality emerges, that includes everything in the prior level, plus everything in the new level – a new level of infinite diversity.

Being able to acknowledge the reality of the pain or upset of another, without making it wrong, or taking it personally, is a step on the journey toward ultimate freedom.

@christine – yes – I have grave doubts about the effects of insurance, in insulating us from the impact of our decisions. Where insurance is there to cover the effects of things beyond our ability to influence it is great. Where its presence acts to spread the impact of risk, it tends to increase risky behaviour.

Who would invest money in building housing on floodplains, unless they could get flood insurance?

There is an interesting dynamic, where it is in the interests of insurance companies to encourage behaviours that reduce risks to a point, but when it goes past a certain point, people stop insuring. So insurance companies need the impression of risk to be as high as possible, while the actual risk is as low as possible. I often wonder if there is any conscious link between insurance companies and news reporting.

It seems to me that often others make judgments about motivation within us. Sometimes these judgments are more accurate than we would like, and at other times they misinterpret the situation entirely.

Unfortunately for all of us, there is a very strong mathematical case for self delusion. In games theory, it is clear that if someone has a real idea of how far they are willing to go in a contest, and some indicator of that limit leaks out as information to their opponent, then the opponent can easily win the contest by going just that little bit further. There are very good evolutionary reasons for the fact that we hide our own limits even from ourselves (John Maynard Smith did some wonderful work in this area).

@ John – For me personally, it was extremely difficult for me to see my own judgments about my ex wife as anything other than facts. It took a long time for me to be able to see them as “my judgments”, and not any sort of “external fact”. When I was able to take that perspective, all the emotional content was gone. It could see it simply as, she did what she did, and I made it mean what I made it mean. The actions were hers, the meaning was mine. I could change the meaning any time I chose.

When I did make that choice, it created amazing calm.
For someone very intelligent, I can be very slow to learn some things.

Sometimes intelligences is not really an advantage – it allows us to defend indefensible propositions faster than anyone can mount attacks against them.

Some of the smartest people I know have done some of the dumbest things, because they were not willing to reconsider judgments made about certain ideas, certain classifications (myself included – most particularly).
[Just leaves me wondering what mistakes I am carrying around, unchallenged and undistinguished? ….]

@OM – Yes – that is a great dichotomy.
How much do we know about another?
Can we really know anything about another that we have not already experienced ourselves?
Are our perceptions of others merely collages of our own emotional snippets recognised in others?
How much do the “structions” in our words and actions influence those around us?
How much are we controlled by the circumstance of birth, culture, environment, ….?
How much real freedom do we have?
How much are we each mirrors of “cultural consciousness” ?
Where are the boundaries between the personal and the whole?

Questions as old as humanity.
In the last half century there are whole new categories of understanding available to those seeking answers; and many of the very old answers are as valid today as they ever were, while others have been superseded.

At least – that is how it seems to me, from the vantage point of the particular set of contexts that is Ted.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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1 Response to Don’t take it personally

  1. holessence says:

    This is the part that jumped right off the page at me:

    “…and what others do can, at most, act as a trigger for something that is already within us.”



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