7 Life Principles
7 Stages of a Love Affair
Meaning of Life
Great Cycles of Change
7 Subtle Forces
Crying in 7 Words
by giedrius slaminskas and james burgess
No – what is crying?
From a physiological perspective crying is also one of the ways for the body to get rid of toxic substances especially those acquired through stress – it relaxes the body, reduces adrenaline, and releases the hormone prolactin. Crying rates are strongly related to our hormonal metabolism, for example, women cry about 5 times more often than men, and this corresponds to fact that the female body needs to release more prolactin.
Of course, it is not only related to our body's structure, there is a big social and cultural factor. In ancient Greece, a man’s tears were considered a mark of good manners; today the crying of a man is viewed much less favourably than the crying of women. Yet there is some reason for this - historically, man has often been largely a warrior and protector, and would we trust a crying man to protect us from a lion, knowing that his adrenaline levels were being diminished by his tears?
Hello – what does it mean?
Psychologists can perceive crying as a form of unconscious communication. Perhaps a crying woman is flooded with emotions, unable to explain a rational cause for her upset, yet needing to be understood, or at least accepted. Typically in such a situation a man cannot really grasp that there might be overwhelming emotional exhaustion from some source of stress. Rather than rushing forward to ask what happened, and require clarification about the reasons, it may be better to allow her to relax, and simply to experience the feelings that are occurring. It may be than the cause of a man’s tears is quite different – but it’s of no consequence, since the best response is the same: patient acceptance and genuine concern.
Thanks – appreciation of safety
Interestingly, it is seen that a person can only cry when they are feeling safe enough to do so. Usually we do not cry in the most intense moments of crisis, or indeed when we perceive that our enemies are close by. This makes sense when we remember the adrenaline reduction. In fact crying invariably promotes a safer atmosphere. Often it reduces aggression and engenders empathy, sympathy, and compassion – in other words crying itself creates a milder climate in which we can more fully express our feelings, simply because we feel safer.
Goodbye – moving through life’s ups and downs
So often in today’s stressful world, instead of experiencing and immediately expressing our emotions from moment to moment as it little children do, we often try to avoid unpleasant experiences, and deny the associated feelings. Through increased emotional tension, this causes an accumulation of stress, impacting upon our well-being and possibly threatening to harm the body. In such a situation, crying can burst the dam, sponsoring a healthy release of accumulated emotions and attendant toxins. This brings great relief, and very often a shift of perspective, which enables us to see new opportunities for the resolution of issues.
Please – the purpose
Crying is part of the body’s self-regulating system, so from this perspective we can ask ourselves - what is its basic purpose? We would answer that it is the healing of both physical and mental imbalances.
Suppression of feelings is the origin of psychological problems and disease, and their awareness and living-out of them - an antidote to that.
The natural state of the body, the natural tendency is to move toward health. Problems arise when certain internal interference stops the formation of organic emotion forming-extinction cycle and emotional energy remains stuck. In that place within us lingers constant tension, and may be experienced as a non-perceived life anxiety. Something within us wants to express themselves, but we are suppressing and in accordance with the laws of physics consume the same amount of energy as intensive is the emotion which is trying to manifest. We sacrifice some of our vitality, spontaneity, and emotional freedom for that.
Human populations evolve we become more mature to allow yourself to feel and accept your feelings, but we also need to learn to take responsibility for how they manifest and how to going on. We do this by training you yourself refrain from impulsive expressions of emotion when it is not acceptable to us, or when it could hurt another person. Directing attention away from us an exciting situation, by controlling your thoughts, your breath can help yourself not drown in a sense, and not be overwhelmed by it.
Unfortunately, sometimes do not take responsibility and unconsciously use tears to get what we want, and we use them as a tool for the manipulation of another person. Crying for a baby who is unable to care for himself is a natural and the only way of communication. It shows that he is missing something: food, attention, security. However, if an adult person such behaviour is still acceptable? After all maturing is - moving from dependency toward self-sufficiency.
High emotional maturity reached personality more often say "yes" to the world and its imminent dynamics. Admission to how things are going in our lives, helps to live optimistically and with less stress, but even then still aspects of life that cause tears. Sometimes they are still being accumulated in us feelings breakthrough expression is no longer a mere egocentric in nature, but there is a deeply experienced relationship to the wider world around us.
Such emotional maturity of those examples could be due to the ephemeral beauty of nature weeping poet M. Basho, artist N. Roerich, a spiritual light perception emotionally shocking the admirers of his work, and singer Sinead O'Connor, who songs emphatically expresses deep compassion for the starving Irish children.
and the birds cry out—tears
in the eyes of fishes.
7 Life Principles
7 STAGES OF A LOVE AFFAIR
No. We would not be able to form a close bond of intimacy with just anyone, so we discriminate against unsuitable matches according to the criteria that characterize who we are. It is normal to be somewhat reserved and cautious before letting down our guards
Hello. A softening away from isolation begins with courtesy and friendliness and in time, if circumstances support it, friendship. Out of the urge towards intimacy the imperfections are overlooked and the many differences are seen as interesting areas for learning. This is the ‘getting to know you’ phase with its courtship rituals and which can include sex even before a heart connection has opened.
Thanks. Whereas the intense mutual attention of romance and sex, (falling in love), is enough to overwhelm caution and wisdom and blast the feelings, underneath the melodrama a quiet gentle fondness of the heart speaks of a deeper abiding love arising, which can be self-sacrificing and supportive of the other.
Goodbye. The various turning points are marked by: realisation of attraction, decision to move forward, first kiss, first night, betrothal, marriage and perhaps others. There are many moments that underline the intensity of the whole experience and these are Goodbye moments because they create irrevocable shifts in position. Quarrels and conflicts are evidence of committed involvement, always hinting at the possibility of endings.
Please. After each shift the sense of separateness is diminished as two move towards becoming one ‘joined at the hip’. The couple is seen as an item whose intentions are unified, whose dreams are shared, whose visions of the future dovetail. Cooperative ventures are undertaken e.g. babies.
Sorry. Others are cast aside as the couple grow more aware that their responsibility to ‘the relationship’ has to take some precedence over some of their personal feelings. Instead of asserting their individual position they each learn to let go more and forgive injuries inflicted by the other.
Yes. In the later years, each is an aspect of the other. It is almost meaningless to try to perceive them absolutely as individuals because their merging is an expression of a willing surrender to the marriage. They are one as the couple.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
No. The meaning of life is to experience yourself. It is that simple. That doesn’t make it easy however, because there are forces that pull us and push us away from the true centre of who we are, and these pressures are powerful, non-stop and immediate from the moment we take our first breath – and actually before even that! It is a huge task and a great achievement to find a place within ourselves that is authentic, reliable and incorruptible. When we have this, then we have a strong foundation upon which to build a meaningful life.
Hello. Our life circumstances both mirror and contribute to the development of character. We express ourselves into the world, and this shapes the world, yet equally we are impressed upon by the world, and this shapes us. These interactions are perpetual and on-going as we let curiosity lead our attention, and our attention lead our involvements. Whatever gets our attention will surely have influence upon our character as it is shaped – although never outside of the range of possibility that is the horizon of our potential. Certainly potential is unlimited, yet it expands and moves in an orderly fashion, as does the horizon at sea.
Thanks. We find that some of our interactions have a deeper quality than others. Firstly, the power of empathy generates in us such a feeling of belonging that we are awakened into a sense of something bigger. Intimate loving relationship tends towards family feelings, which tend toward clan-, tribe-, nation-, race- and even species-rapport. Thus we are able to reconnect with the depths of that which makes us who we are, and our core values that drive our sense of appreciation.
Goodbye. Yet we are not defined uniquely by such a process, in fact we have to give away aspects of our uniqueness in order to belong. So, opposed to empathy, a second force is triggered inside us when the unique self feels its individuality at risk. This force refutes. The fiery, challenging, heroic aspect of our unique individuality decides to stand on principle. I AM ME! The seduction of comfort and the security of belonging are overpowered by the freedom-urge of spirit – and then individually we desire to travel onwards alone.
Please. Away from the twin forces of seductive familiarity, and the glamour of the rebel, a more powerful sense of true self can emerge. This is felt in sacredness; this is the purpose of sacredness – to become aware of the bigger picture. We reach up to find the most glorious vision we can imagine, where who we are, and who we are with, co-create a splendid reality that is rich in colour, opportunity and joy – free from the need either to conform to family values or to reject them.
Sorry. During this visionary process, the push of our personality is met by the push back of another’s. This is required if we are to learn to see our circumstances and our human potential from other perspectives. Through this refining stage, we come to know something of the deepest mystery that exists in all the worlds. It cannot really be explained in words. It has such a truth that can only be experienced when intuitively we trust the physical body to recognise and take on the actual state of being that reflects what the enlightened mind has merely understood.
Yes. Resistance, ambition, self-proclamation, and morality are all then perceived as follies. Of course they have real worth as devices that show of our imperfection of understanding, and give us a palette for our artistry as we create our lives – yet the real mystery is not found there, it is found when we sink into it. We let all that comes and goes fascinate us for a moment then, with a Mona Lisa smile, we let it all pass us by.
Is it our purpose, when communicating, to deceive — or is it to develop a true and deeper understanding? Although it is thought and affirmed that it is normal social behaviour to convey good and useful information, that to lie is immoral and in certain circumstances criminal, nevertheless our use of language gives plenty of evidence of a stronger impulse — to cover the facts with words that do not tell it as it is. So what of this phenomenon — which we’ll call ‘wordbending’? In some cases there is artistic merit or symbolic significance in the employment of a word or phrase that does not literally point to its true meaning and this makes a valuable contribution to the beauty of a language. As an example: ‘raining cats and dogs’ has no intention to deceive; the metaphor is rather colourful and innocent. There is also the idea of ‘variety use’ that suggests it is entirely normal for people to employ words with ‘artful ambiguity’ in order to promote a softer exchange of information, where non-verbal communication is of greater consequence and both parties are aware of the subtle uncertainty they are leaving in the air. Courtship is full of this. (So is sabre rattling).
Yet there are other seemingly gentle discrepancies that bend the truth and cause some confusion because they lack clarity, accuracy or sensitivity to the listener. ‘Back in 5 minutes’ usually indicates a much longer period of time — and a person is actually quite unable to decipher the message reliably. The phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ is repellent, partly because it refers to a shameful and terrible crime, and partly because it has been contrived to suggest to the unconscious mind a meaning entirely opposite to its true meaning; it is not cleansing at all, it is genocide and stains humanity profoundly. ‘Spin doctoring’ is another phrase that rankles. Doctors are good people who are under oath to serve their patients’ needs, whilst ‘spin doctors’ are often today seen by the public, not entirely unfairly, as professional deceivers — whose primary purpose is to cover the facts, and dress them with a rosy tint.
It is assumed that the way we think and the language we use are interdependent, because the processes of mind require language in order to formulate ideas. So concepts unfold as a language unfolds. A feeling can be felt as a feeling and yet, to understand it, we need thought. A sensation can be perceived as a physical stimulus, yet to codify it, we need thought — and thoughts have to be formed around language. It’s beyond the scope of this book to enter the debate about the way mind actually handles language.
Those interested will no doubt become familiar with the various works of linguistic giants like Ludwig Wittgenstein (who developed ideas about the relationship of thoughts expressed in language to the actual state of affairs in the world), Noam Chomsky (the ‘Newton’ of modern Linguistics), and their colleagues. For example, Piaget in his study of the stages of a child’s learning discovered that the earliest function of speech is more to do with symbolization — an inner experience — than with the outer expression of communication. Bertrand Russell is quoted as saying ‘Language serves not only to express thought but to make possible thoughts that could not exist without it’. Sapir (echoing Wittgenstein’s ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’ claimed that the world is perhaps even created by language and stated: ‘…the real world is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached.’ With his most promising student he came up with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis of Linguistic Determinism: Language determines the way we think.
From this it can be reasonably suggested that if language is corrupted then thinking cannot be otherwise. If there is no clarity in our language then we can’t speak clearly. We are thereby somewhat deprived of the main tool by which we develop ideas and formulate our thoughts — in the exchange of views and opinions during conversations. It’s true that this lack of clarity can be overcome by vigorous disciplines of mind, such as is necessary in professional education for example, and yet for most people such corrective mental exercises are not undertaken. So how can any reality other than an uncertain one be built upon such uncertainty?
Most people would probably — for all practical purposes — have No to mean ‘probably not’, because that’s what it meant in real terms when they learned it from Mum and Dad. If Mum said ‘No’, although from her tone and actions we can see that what she meant was ‘perhaps I will if you continue to badger me’, then for us that’s what No means. If Dad said ‘Sorry’ with clear indications that gave out something more like: ‘I suppose I have to apologize for the sake of form, but really I feel no remorse for what I did’, then for us that’s what Sorry means. Despite dictionary definitions, these corrupted meanings are the deepest impressions we have to build on, and they form the basis of what we think, say and do. More than this, we also came to learn that ‘people don’t say what they mean’ and ‘to be normal like Mum and Dad, I have to bend my words too’.
Thought is creative…Words have real importance. Words matter. The mind and body respond to what they hear the voice saying, so we can talk ourselves into illness or good health, poverty or wealth, misery or happiness according to the specific words that we allow to grace our speech. It is tempting to complain to your husband ‘You never take me out!’ or to your child ‘You little nuisance!’ or to yourself ‘I am stupid!’ and yet it would be wiser to refrain from negative messages of this type. Such curses as these can and do actually, though very subtly, influence life circumstances to lead to the fulfilment of the complaint. We shall all eventually reap what we have sown.
The words we speak change the atmosphere around us. Even our thoughts do that. People respond to that atmosphere even more than they respond to the actual words – so the life that we experience has a lot to do with what we think and what we say. If, even in jest or good humour, we say what we do not truly think, then we give off a confused and confusing atmosphere, which if continued generally, creates a life of confusion. We don’t want it. We need to care more about the importance of the words we use, and train ourselves to speak true and clear. This is what makes for a true and clear life. This is what we do want. False speech leads to confusion in one’s thoughts, to self-deception and to ambiguous life circumstances that are stressful.
It is both physically and psychologically healthy for us to speak clearly and truly. The misuse of words can easily cause misunderstandings between people, which very often lead to tension and perhaps eventually conflict. It is the normal thing to feel insecure when confused or deceived and left in ignorance; this insecurity is a danger that threatens peace. It is often profoundly dangerous. To move towards a more peaceful society, we need to become clearer and more straightforward in our speech and thoughts.
Mavis the Wordbender
Mavis goes into her butcher with a piece of meat she bought yesterday, slaps it on the counter with a huff and a puff says ‘I wouldn’t feed that to my dog!’ What does she mean? We can find 7 different interpretations…which one do you think is really what she meant?
“This dog meat isn’t suitable”
“I am offering information about my dog’s culinary preferences”
“You’re the kind of friendly fellow that can take a joke”
“… and you can forget my future custom!”
“I want this exchanged for a piece of better quality suitable for my husband and me”
“You are a scoundrel! I blame you”
“It’s too good for my dog, I’ll eat it myself”
If you chose Please then probably you are right, and you get special bonus points for mind reading; if Sorry — it seems that you already understand the dysfunctional expressions of the 7 Words.
‘Wasn’t it only a moment ago that I kissed my first love? Those days of sunshine and laughter, picnics and parties, romance and music — where did they go? When did I change? When did it all change?’ Of course, it never did anything else but change and those treasured moments that register most poignantly in the psyche as memories of a golden age, are like the sparkles that grace a rippling stream in the morning sunlight — the icing on the cake. Life is ephemeral in all its glamour. We are entranced by it and even live as though the glamour was in fact reality. For the most part we all flutter and dance in the winds of these changes and know little actual stability. Yet somehow, intuitively, we do know of another, deeper reality. We are born, we celebrate and enjoy, we cry and suffer, and we die — across all cultures, religions and ages — despite wave upon wave of changes. These waves of change are evidence of what is referred to as the zeitgeist — literally the ‘time ghost’ — the spirit of the age, which is a veil that disguises and hides the deeper eternal truths in life.
What a crazy spirit it is! One minute it wants us to behave like this — the next like that. In the 60’s miniskirts for women, long hair for men — and by the 80’s the hippies are replaced by yuppies. In the 80’s Europe was still divided by the apparently permanent Iron Curtain and less than 20 years later was forming an expanded economic union with countries only recently controlled by Moscow. This Time Spirit is fickle and insubstantial, yet what a power it wields! We are entranced by it — and it is perfectly able to change every one of us. This it does by moulding our tastes in dress, our fantasies recorded in cinemas, our heroes and heroines, our sense of what is erotic, what is taboo, what is right and wrong, our ethics, manners, aspirations and aversions. This is even to the point of reinterpreting the myths and history that underpins our beliefs about what is fundamental and real.
Despite all evidence that passing things have no true value, we still affirm what appeals to us from within the zeitgeist’s contemporary package of attitudes that we call the current trend or fashion. This is how the contemporary thinking of humanity is made known. This force of zeitgeist is the power behind marketing moguls and propaganda ministers. History records the peaks and troughs of these trends in terms of the major characters and characteristics that punctuate the era. The people who are recorded are those who have been able to perceive the next rising wave and surf it, eventually becoming spokespersons for the wave, giving voice to its meaning. The words used are very often catch phrases that can be political or economic such as ‘Sieg Heil’ or ‘Guinness is good for you’. They can also be cultural, for example ‘Property is theft’, which supported communism’s growth from an idea of Marx into a power that rivalled capitalism for a half century.
We can look at how we create the conditions of our age. Groups form themselves around a currently popular idea or set of ideas and attract members who align with the shared ideal and can, to an acceptable degree, reconcile the group’s ethos with their individual opinions, beliefs and values. This is true for Quakers and Hells Angels alike. Groups that grow tend to gain influence and promote a particular world-view and show a measure of capacity in shaping the future of communities. Communities can become nations, and within any era there are nations, empires and multi-national corporations that push and pull to express the tidal waves of change that are recorded in history.
Like-minded individuals form their collective identity and promote the truth of their collective perspectives above the perspectives of others, reaching out to define as ‘real’ anything held as important to that group. This is because the ephemeral — that which is ever-changing — often appears to be meaningful and lasting, not only to each of us individually but also collectively, to the point that the particular cultural group will develop its laws and moral codes to validate its own world-view as the ‘Truth’.
But it’s not Truth. It passes. What is basic, stable and true does not pass — it is everlasting. We are collectively taken in by the illusion of zeitgeist into believing in a fad, the ‘flavour of the month’. And the politicians and marketers want us to fuel their wave with our belief and support — indeed they are almost certainly caught up in it themselves and can honestly think they’ve discovered the secret that we all want and need. That makes it dangerous — the spokespersons come to believe in their own glamour as though it were real. Yet their illusions are neither valid nor innocent of purpose.
The Everlasting PatternSo what is the universal pattern that is stable, basic and true? Can we look beneath the illusion; can we pause for a moment’s contemplation? Life is so fast and complicated, it’s so easy to be emotionally overwhelmed — yet if we reflect carefully and clearly we may find simplicity within the complex. We may find that which is not swayed by fashion and can be held as stable throughout the whole of recorded time. It’s true that it may be more convenient to look for the universal pattern in a place that is more convenient for us, yet surely it’s obvious that for thousands of years we haven’t found the answers where we have been looking. It’s time to look elsewhere. Instead of looking toward greater achievements in technology, we might benefit by remembering what is simple and everlasting.
Can we see that seven simple words are enough to codify all of life? They are among the first words we learn in childhood and yet they are not understood or used particularly well, despite their simplicity. By renewing our focus upon these primary words we can simplify and deepen our attitudes to how we choose to live.
No Hello Thanks Goodbye Please Sorry Yes
7 Words of Conflict
Let’s stop seeing conflict as bad. Conflict is inevitable; it is a feature of all life and it leads towards deeper harmony on a more authentic level. It arises when two sincere motivations clash, it creates friction and heat and it often moves the participants to take up staunch positions and intrusive behaviours. Yet it is this response to conflict – not the conflict itself – that we need to change, because it is fear-based and lacks wisdom. People fear the loss of position or the loss of their dignity and prestige…issues to do with boundaries and identity. This indicates a lack of trust and a sense of unreasonable prideful, self-importance.
There is within conflict an unparalleled opportunity to expand one’s perception of life, by seeing a situation differently, from another’s viewpoint. Without an expansion of perception, no growth occurs. Openness is the question here. Having opened up a wider vista, then a person has to either take on a compromise – not optimal – or to resolve the matter on a deeper level. This requires a degree of skill at negotiation and a true willingness to seek authenticity. If you still feel in the right, then you have to learn how to persuade!
Getting what we want in life depends quite a lot upon finding out and knowing what we appreciate and exactly what values are worth the effort. Unless we come up against another with a different set of values, then we simply have no way to find out whether we are following the best course when we continue to do what we’ve always done. Much of our behaviour, perhaps most of it, has been inherited by copying parents – or imposed through social pressure from peers and authority figures. So typically, when we follow our own inner guidance and do something different, we find ourselves in conflict with these people. It can be rather upsetting, and many of us prefer to avoid the conflict rather than feel the painful feelings of rejection, attack, mistrust and fear that can arise.
Others however are ready to engage in the conflict and become willing to press their point. In theory this does not have to be aggressive, yet indeed often generates a fiery mood and stimulates fight or flight strategies that emerge as a natural condition, the adrenals send a signal that one is threatened, preparing the body for extra effort in case the threat becomes dangerous. The mind so often loses clarity of focus when this happens and we may not always say words that are kind or even informative. Yet the life force within, awakened by all this conflict, challenges us not to allow the ‘dying of the light’ (to quote Dylan Thomas). We need to have the realisation that we must change; it is life itself.
To create an optimal outcome, it’s good to keep the “eyes on the prize”. In other words, know what you are fighting for and don’t get distracted. Press for one thing and keep bringing the focus back to that outcome. At a more harmonious level of involvement, it is possible to achieve a result that pleases both parties. This can be done with exemplary skills of cooperation and an expectation of agreement.
It is of great importance to show respect and really quite foolish to perceive the other person as wrong; it leads nowhere. From their perspective they are making an important point, one that validates their life choices, one that they hold precious. It may be that they – or we – have no willingness to adopt a new position, that we feel quite stubborn, even self-righteous – yet sooner or later we are required to soften our position if we are to maintain involvement. Perhaps what matters most of all is to refrain from blame and accusation. Let another person cherish their own life view, and let it not be attacked or ridiculed. Be responsible for you and yours.
Whatever the outcome, let there be no resentment or gloating either – be graceful in success as in defeat. We can even learn acceptance that the very idea of winners and losers is unhelpful. Life is ever teaching us new ways, and this often requires a degree of conflict. So from time to time we should welcome a healthy debate, a challenge to the status quo, a rebel’s voice and vigorous teenager wildness. It not only keeps us on our toes, it helps us find a deeper sense of what really matters to us and to others.
According to various teachings, not excluding Christianity, there are 7 expressions of attitude and behaviour that dignify a person. These are reflected here in brief terms using the 7 Words System.
No. In order to be authentic and trustworthy, a person must establish boundaries – and respect the boundaries of others. Civilisation, and our freedom of will, rests upon the foundation principle that each of us has a right to be a unique individual, and a duty to control ourselves to avoid violent imposition upon another’s person and property. Clearly saying No specifically establishes one’s borders of personal interest and informs others of our requirement upon them to show respect and restraint. Without making this statement unequivocally and truthfully, then when intrusion occurs, we are not entirely without a measure of fault ourselves. When there are no defined boundaries in place, strongly and consistently reinforced, then it is futile and irresponsible to hold someone else to blame for invasive behaviour against us. Victims so often are unwilling to acknowledge their own complicity in unpleasant circumstances, despite having done little or nothing to protect their personal interests and develop resilience to defend against abuse. It is also fair to say, and of significant consequence, that any person with an appropriate degree of self-respect will invariably show respect to others.
Hello. Living in close contact with others will always involve interaction with people whose values, beliefs and behaviour differ from our own. It is important to keep an open mind about these differences, and to be willing to listen and learn from others. To be sincere, and therefore of real value, this must include the willingness to change our own perception about the nature of things. Right and wrong are conceptual constructs that are subject to evolutionary and revolutionary processes. Major shifts in humanity’s orientation are constantly and rapidly taking place – for example, consider the huge changes in western attitudes towards sexuality, economics, politics and spirituality since the Sixties. Also, a short journey by ‘plane will take us to a place where the people live by very different codes of conduct. Morality is not an absolute; it is space-time dependent, an attribute of a particular society and a particular time. We need to allow others to see the world differently from us, and not get too worked up about that, by acting as though our critical value judgements were somehow helpful, and that our own judgements are somehow God-given and theirs are not.
Thanks. Pleasure is not happiness, it does not lead to happiness, nor can it ever replace it. The deep sense of joyful well-being that underlies all meaningful human activity is a result of the pursuit of values that we hold dear to our heart. We truly appreciate only that which touches the core of our being as a feeling of connectedness. Naturally, one of the strongest is shown by how we experience family. If fortunate enough to be blessed with a loving family, then we feel cared for and have a sense of belonging and the deep security that arises out of knowing there is always home to support us. The homeless, orphans and outcasts so often are somehow sadly empty. We can extend this feeling. We extend the atmosphere of love by showing heart-felt gratitude and appreciation, giving gestures that show how we feel. This can apply to all things, all beings – friends, country, work, animals – because it is the heart’s essential purpose to radiate love wherever it casts its attention; it is a blessing and has tangible positive effect, enriching both giver and receiver simultaneously.
Goodbye. Mostly, life is routine and people live out today rather like yesterday until all of their yesterdays exceed all of their tomorrows, and they have become habituated to mediocrity. This is thought expedient by most people – if indeed they think about it at all. Yet life presents a constancy of change and complexity for us to deal with – and when we are challenged we have to make decisions about some very important issues. Do we accept or do we stand? It would be immoderate to suggest that one should always stand on principle – there are plenty of occurrences that do not warrant the firming up of backbones, because they are trivial, insufficiently understood or because we lack the clout to make an impact and would lose rather than gain influence. Yet at certain times we are called upon to become firm in our resolve, to confront oppression or to bring an end to some situation that no longer serves our highest vision or desires. It takes clarity, honesty, courage and personal power to let go of a secure, accepted position and to strike out into unknown regions of experience. It is a hero’s journey. Those who do not take it inevitably underachieve and lose vitality.
Please. An intriguing proposition is that there is but one true morality: optimism. If we each focus on the hope of a better world, and truly understand that everyone else’s vision will be accommodated fully within that, then we engender an atmosphere of mutual cooperation that is greater than the comparatively inconsequential differences of approach. Of course this affirmation is very visionary – yet that is what is now required. We need to adopt a positive collective vision of a bright future. From our thoughts and words come the deeds that build life’s circumstances. If we are to survive and prosper, then we cannot ignore our collective duty to monitor our words, even our thoughts, so that we are a constant force of optimism, and that our sacred gift of creativity is used towards positive outcomes.
Sorry. We say Sorry to indicate that we have been somewhat insensitive, thoughtless, under skilled or whatever, and that we regret that another’s feelings or circumstances have been impacted negatively by us. When relationship is more important than ego, then Sorry is a naturally arising condition that communicates remorse. When ego is the more important, then pride prevents this healing force from flowing. To avoid the need to say Sorry, we must learn reflexive self-consciousness. It is the essence of spirituality: do as you would be done by. Any inability or unwillingness to learn this will eventually be indicated by the prick of conscience.
Yes. Of course we cannot control every aspect of life, so we need to learn acceptance for those matters that lay beyond our remit. We are so small in the cosmic order of things; vast reaches of time and space are apparent, yet we somehow lose sight of Infinity. It is a great and noble thing that a person claims a degree of relevance, even importance – yet in the highest sense, we must surely allow that the forces that control our destiny are supreme and incontrovertible. We die. Living with the awareness of the certainty of death is a very vitalising spiritual practice. It behoves us to surrender to something greater, and balances our feelings of self-importance with humility. This feeling of surrender can arise comfortably within us, and we then find it easier to allow things to unfold as they must.
Teaching stories have arisen throughout the world and throughout history as a method to present students — often children of course — with an easily digestible small package of ideas. Typically they can be entertaining; all types of people like to be entertained. Usually they are humorous and often the ‘moral of the story’ is fairly clear. This clear moral however, may not always be the main message. A more subtle understanding can sometimes be teased out, especially if traditional symbolism is included, which is known within the culture that gave rise to the story. This applies to certain of the stories, which are held alive by their entertaining qualities and survive as profound teachings in a hidden, seemingly innocuous form. Tarot Cards are examples of the same principle. We can look at the Salt Puppet story as a way to discuss a Sufi idea to do with the ‘7 Planes of Consciousness’, the mystical teaching that inspired the 7 words.
The terminology here is metaphorical because, unlike science, mysticism attempts to awaken intuitive knowledge, which can then be aligned with the rational, so that both the surface and the depth are addressed. We can liken the mind to the surface of the ocean of knowledge and the heart to its depth. Oceanic knowledge must include the understanding of heart, which is accessed when rational and intuitive are well balanced. Metaphor, like poetry, art and music, helps to develop intuition. It’s best to recognize that intuition is a normal function of the brain, which develops with use and atrophies if unused. If we trust it, it becomes more trustworthy — though of course it will never be 100% reliable. It can be felt as an inner sense of rightness — and yet is rather similar to another inner sense, which is more the urge of ego disguising itself as intuition. Hence there is a real need to balance intuition with rational thought.
Inasmuch as the scientist can detect a range of wavelengths (some of which are visible as light), a mystic can detect vibrations, which have equivalence to the scientist’s physical wavelengths. These are perceptible as feelings and thoughts — as well as the more obvious gradations of light. It is convenient to discuss the range of vibrations as having 7 demarcations, which Sufis study as planes of consciousness, each of them being a level of vibration that can be perceived as a type of life experience. This anonymous story illustrates them.
Once upon a time there was a puppet made of salt who had travelled a long time through dry and desert places until one evening he came upon a sea which he had never before seen and didn’t know what it was. The puppet asked the sea: ‘What are you?’ ‘I am the sea’ it replied. ‘But’ the puppet insisted, ‘What is the sea’. ‘I am’. ‘I don’t understand’ said the puppet made of salt. ‘I want very much to understand what I can do to know you!’
The sea replied ‘That’s easy, touch me!’
The salt puppet timidly touched the sea with the tip of his toes. At that moment he realised that the sea began to make itself perceptible, but at the same time he noticed the tips of his toes had disappeared. ‘What have you done to me? he cried to the sea. ‘You have given a little of yourself to understand me’ the sea replied.
Slowly the salt puppet began to walk into the sea with great solemnity as though he were about to perform the most important act of his life. The further he moved along, the more he dissolved but at the same time he had the impression that he knew more and more about the sea.
Again and again the puppet asked ‘What is the sea?’ until the wave covered him completely. Just before he was entirely dissolved by the sea he exclaimed: ‘I exist!’
The first of the 7 Planes of Consciousness unfolds as the Earth Plane. This is the lowest grade of light, the slowest. It is perceived through the 5 normal senses as the physical universe. The word No is used to represent the fundamental reality here on Earth — that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Things are necessarily defined — and what defines their identity is a physical boundary. Every aspect of all realities is mirrored on Earth, so there is tremendous richness in form, each type realizing an idea and examining the truth of that idea. Everything is one thing or another — so choice has to develop and so do patience, perseverance and steadiness. Out of these qualities, the personality grows more beautiful and develops mastery as it attempts to find balance and rules for living that help to provide for nourishment and protection.
Once upon a time there was a puppet made of salt who had travelled a long time through dry and desert places…
The realm of time necessarily refers to the Earth Plane because it is the only one where time is experienced as sequential and historical. The puppet image is of an unreal caricature whose movements are rigid and dependent upon external forces for motivation — the metaphor of an ordinary person. The salt indicates that the person is dry and can only survive in this form by staying in the desert, with its lifeless imagery.
The 2nd Plane is called the Astral and is described as the psychic realm. It relates to our thoughts and emotions. Here the waves of vibration (of light) are experienced in the mind as thought and imagination, dreams and intuition. It is very creative and playful realm where freedom, mischief and fun are more the norm. When we are more in tune with this level of vibration, we delight in making up new ways to do things, especially to solve problems or be artistic. It is here that we experience resourcefulness, genius, intuition, talents, clarity, the understanding of others’ emotions and views. Our subconscious desires sometimes surprise us by popping out willy-nilly. People like Peter Sellers and Mozart are typical of this plane — ‘djinn spirits’ for whom routines and committed relationships are difficult and whose genius offsets their social ineptitude.
…until one evening he came upon a sea which he had never before seen and didn’t know what it was. The puppet asked the sea: ‘What are you?’
The astral realm contains the sense of following intuition just for the sake of curiosity and without minding whether it’s right or wrong — because the djinn spirit is careless and carefree. Our salt puppet — at evening time, just before night befalls him — has followed his intuition and found something entirely new to play with. He’s curious and asks ‘what are you?’ (not ‘who are you?’). This is the Hello stage.
The 3rd Plane is known as the Angelic Realm, the Plane of Love, Harmony and Beauty. Love is beyond mind; it obeys its own laws and is not constrained by logic or ideas. It feels in the heart. To access this vibrational level we look for joyful beauty, subtle gentleness — which we see in flowers, trees and landscapes, artistic expression of harmony, the watery sensitivity of relationship and the practice of compassion. We appreciate the value of things and give of the heart in response to these feelings. It equates to Thank You.
‘I am the sea’ it replied ‘But’ the puppet insisted ‘What is the sea.’ ‘I am.’ ‘I don’t understand’ said the puppet made of salt ‘I want very much to understand what I can do to know you!’ The sea replied ‘That’s easy, touch me!’ the salt puppet timidly touched the sea with the tip of his toes.
The sea was identified at first only verbally — appearing therefore only to the mind of the salt puppet, who persistently attempts to engage in a shallow relationship — and yet felt frustrated by his inadequate level of knowledge. He asks for guidance and receives an instruction that is new to him — he has never been asked to touch water before. He feels timid now because he’s on unfamiliar territory — as we all do when we are overtaken by the heart of love. He touches another — with an exquisite sensitivity and sense of crossing a line that may not later be re-crossed.
The 4th Plane has a lot to do with crossing the line. It’s called the Heroic Plane and is associated with masters, saints and prophets — types like Jeanne d’Arc, Gandhi, Alexander the Great, Martin Luther King and a thousand others who had no willingness to compromise. It is accessed through the practice of truth — no bargaining with your soul. Christ certainly had a 4th Plane aspect — turning over the moneylenders’ tables in the temple. Qualities associated here are fiery conviction, missions, strength of character, power, faith, will, transformation, struggle, mastery, confronting injustice — and eventually surrender to divine will, wisdom and the ability to balance forces. It is the Goodbye vibration — realisation, decision, completion and moving on.
At that moment he realised that the sea began to make itself perceptible, but at the same time he noticed the tips of his toes had disappeared. ‘What have you done to me? he cried to the sea. ‘You have given a little of yourself to understand me’ the sea replied
A real moment of truth — the instant of realisation, the arising of an inner force — that could easily have been expressed as anger or violent rejection — but which is confronted within oneself instead. The need for instantaneous decision and the movement into the unknown. There’s a profound sense of the release of childishness as adult wisdom unfolds with a depth of personal responsibility. Rites of passage are 4th Plane. The 5th Plane is called the Plane of Splendour. It has associations with knowledge of perfection, sacredness, excellence, praise, prayer, cathedrals, glorification, peacefulness, Goddess in Nature, self-respect, dignity, chanting, rituals, majesty, bringing God into life — the priestly vibration. The word Please is enacted within this atmosphere of wanting to bring a sacred vision to Earth.
Slowly the salt puppet began to walk into the sea with great solemnity as though he were about to perform the most important act of his life. The further he moved along, the more he dissolved but at the same time he had the impression that he knew more and more about the sea.
The solemnity of his gestures, the walk of dignity, the sense of fulfilling the soul’s act — the most important ever — are clues of his inner state of great reverence. The salt puppet has come to know that, for him at least, the sea is God, here on Earth. He wants this now, like never before. Having touched God, nothing else will do, the world begins to disappear, the self begins to disappear. The 6th Plane is known as the Immaculate State. Its access is through forgiveness. ‘Life is lived fully only when one feels free to die.’ Purification, purity, hope, rebirth after the despair of despoilment, soul’s innocence, pure light of consciousness, desire for perfection, indifference to other desires, no interests, detachment. Holy Spirit. The word Sorry is truly said to engender a state of forgiveness and brings about refinement of the individual, a sense of egolessness. (That is why it’s so difficult for so many of us to say it sincerely.)
Again and again the puppet asked ‘What is the sea?’ until the wave covered him completely.
Even though the sea is salty, its essential nature is not salt; similarly the puppet’s essential nature is not lifeless salt, in isolation. There is a deeper truth within the ocean of God. Drawn by a something in the briny sea that it senses is akin to itself, yet infinitely greater, it has to lose all of its imperfections — those unyielding aspects that he had come to love passionately as self — and unite with a greater being to lose itself in the ocean of spirit in order to go forward into God. Sufis call this fana (effacement). The 7th Plane is transcendental — beyond all phenomena and beyond description.
Just before he was entirely dissolved by the sea he exclaimed: ‘I exist!’
The story of the Salt Puppet ends with the two words ‘I exist’. In the beginning, his identity was established and appeared incorruptible because the dry desert — a place lifeless and without the greening of water — was safe. He knew nothing of water, and was curious to find out — so he risked his toe. He then knew of surrender, and equally he knew of the sea. Choosing the mystic life, he undertook an act of great sacredness and gave up his primary attachment, his physicality, in order to gain knowledge of God, which the sea here symbolizes. Quite by surprise and without any previous expectation or hope he discovers existence is not what he had thought before — and now he has it! I exist!
Are we willing to risk a toe in order to discover for ourselves whether existence is not quite how we thought it to be? The journey from No to Yes begins and ends with identity: ‘I exist!’ Perhaps the emphasis has changed now, whereas in No we were proudly proclaiming ‘I’, with surrender we are more humbly acknowledging ‘exist’.
GREAT CYCLES OF CHANGE
The zeitgeist is a major force that casts a veil of illusion over humanity’s thinking. We consider whether 7 words might be used to examine the deeper waves that underlie all changes. Let’s look briefly at the greater cycles of change, underneath the babble of so much detail and so many opinions — look at the major facets of human evolution, at least the Homo Sapiens bit. We can say that civilisation began to express awareness significantly above the animal level when tools were used. Before that human behaviour very closely resembled that of certain animals — in particular by surrendering to the inevitable danger and hardships of life because no better condition was imaginable. This suggests Yes, the acceptance of what comes without resistance.
The tooling-up of the hunter-gatherers coincided with their saying No! They no longer accepted fate and chose a new reality wherein nature could be tamed a little. The truth was affirmed that humanity was a significant partner in the co-creating of Earth conditions. ‘We are no longer sleeping children of the Earth Mother; we are awakening and growing up’. Our prehistoric Yes became No, the beginning of the story of civilization.
The Agricultural Revolution marked a major universal shift in humanity’s thinking and was clearly No-like. Fences were constructed around land, establishing both clear boundaries and the identity of those who were normally allowed inside them. People were required to choose to belong to a particular social group — and not to any other, and not to continue their hunter-gatherer meanderings. Foragers who wouldn’t invest their labour into putting down roots were excluded. Thus clans became nations and, protected within the walls of their city-states, they grew wealthy.
The Hello era that followed accelerated as people developed their languages, shared knowledge, skills and ideas and learned more about getting along with neighbours — who had become much more permanent. Without land to tie them down, the early hunters had had less need for social skills, being able to refuse involvement if they felt uncomfortable. As exchanges opened up, communication took on an even greater level of importance. To exchange surpluses and find ‘new breeding stock’ required that various groups reached out the hand of friendship in trade — or the less friendly version in skirmishes with neighbouring groups.
Curiosity also became a major factor that promoted travel and cultural exchange. Its twin sister inventiveness applied itself to overcome hardships and came up with ideas like yoking oxen and irrigation — mechanical devices that can be seen as early heralds for the next leap forward — the Industrial Revolution. The building of railways and telegraphs and spreading of newspapers even to the working folk are all clues that this period was the flowering of the Hello era. The world, previously an inconceivable concept, was now navigable by even the poorest wayfarer with enough spark and an ardent curiosity.
As much as the seeds of Hello were clearly visible within the No-like Agricultural Revolution, the seeds of the Thank You era can be identified within the industrialization process. Leisure became increasingly known as a major social phenomenon — until it became widespread across all classes in the developed world. The poor were still relatively poor — yet only by contrast to the richer rich. In the middle of the 20th century many ordinary working people were rescued from domestic drudgery by washing machines and they could watch TV and drive cars. People became free to appreciate the good life, to express options about what they valued. The governments of rich countries gave compassionate aid to the hungry. And, at least for a while, we felt thankful.
The Information Revolution could be said to have arisen in the mid 1960’s when microchip technology enabled electronic things to come about. This made the processing of data incomparably faster and fanned the flames of humanity’s obsessional lust for information. Now we are given all the information we need to see that the Industrial Age was not handled very elegantly — we had forgotten to deal with all of its ramifications — and the first major complaints were becoming clear. Words like ecology, global warming and CND were introduced into our language, firstly by a group of people who were born around the late 1940’s.
In the Goodbye era we would expect to observe the 4 keywords: realisation, decision, completion and moving on. Well, indeed, now we are — at least some of us — coming to the realisation of what the Industrial era has done. Next comes decision, and this is not so clear. Unfortunately, those who can really make a difference, the powerful Western industrialists, are not yet willing to decide. When they do decide we will need to go through a stage of completion. Our task is to reach completion on the Industrial Revolution — to clean up. Only then can we expect to move on.
There is good reason to expect a tidal-wave type of change as the baby-boomers of 1946/7, who were born to express humanity’s moving on from wartime, begin to retire at 60. This is the hidden bomb whose long shock-wave blast has rippled throughout the post-war period and is being projected into a future where it is ready to explode. Pensions will become increasingly tight and great pressure will arise to allocate diminishing resources to ageing and unproductive voters (as long as democracy holds). But these same people have had to compete all their lives for limited resources and have become quite used to making governments change their position — on matters like the Vietnam War. And we have to acknowledge that when they came of age in 1964, they pushed the boundaries of convention like never before.
As they reach retirement, they are doing whatever they can to look after their own interests. Unfortunately, whereas now it takes three workers to fund one retired person during the next 20 years or so the dependency ratio will worsen and by 2036 it will need to be only two. We’ll all have to work harder, longer and more effectively by a margin of 50%. Either we wake up to this now and do something or we can learn to expect that as old folks we will be cold, hungry, sick and uncared-for. Goodbye is ruthless; a decision must cut the past from the future. We need to make a difficult decision that will change the face of economics and politics forever, and we need to make it now.
Please will be next, and unified intention, cooperation and prayer will be the qualities of the era. Please begins with vision, so perhaps we may pray for a collective vision of world peace brought about through a widespread shift of awareness. These major revolutionary shifts are happening more quickly as ‘time speeds up’. It took tens of thousands of years for hunter-gatherers to learn their lessons, thousands for the agricultural wisdoms to be assimilated and a couple of hundred until we saw the ambiguities of industrialization. So 50 years after the Information Revolution of the Sixties, we ought to be ready for another — a bedrock change in how we see things, how we think and how we act upon those thoughts. Presumably this can be called the Consciousness Revolution.
7 Subtle Forces
If we had a headache and took a tablet designed to settle the tummy, we would not necessarily be healed of the headache because the tablet’s properties – valuable healing properties – were actually suitable for a different need. This is rather obvious when we think in physical terms, yet can we apply this to other aspects of life?
Our psychological ill - health, whose signs are anxiety, compulsion, depression and so on – which we all have sometimes – can also be addressed with remedies. In this case the healing takes place on a non-physical level and is evidenced for example by the flow of clarity, truth, compassion and empathy, which can be termed “energies-that-have-qualities”. There are 7 distinct types of such energy, because there are 7 distinct types of all energy, as frequently suggested throughout the history of philosophical text from Pythagoras to beyond Rudolph Steiner and Khalil Gibran.
Describing these energies, we are lost for words – unless perhaps we bring the words to their most basic form: No, Hello, Thanks, Goodbye, Please, Sorry and Yes. Each of these 7 primary words, when authentically understood and integrated within an emotionally mature individual, creates a ‘field of energy’ that registers most deeply on the level of psychology: an interplay of thoughts and feelings. In other words, each of the 7 words has an effect upon the mind and the heart, which translates into how we think and feel.
Now, there is a flow of energy between two people when they meet and interact at a meaningful level. Like the wind blows – or flows – from high to low pressure areas, energy flows from the one person who has abundance to the other who has an insufficiency. As a result of the exchange, healing occurs. It arises because natural balance is approached as this restorative energetic flow takes place. Typically delivered unconsciously, there is a signal from the person who has needs to signify insufficiency. Perhaps this takes the form of dysfunctional behaviour: the person behaves angrily, self-pityingly, arrogantly or whatever. This emotionality is equivalent to the headache, a sign that rebalancing is required.
When we master the 7 words, we will have learned two
important skills: firstly the ability to recognise dysfunctional behaviour as a signal rather than an attack or defect; secondly the ability to respond with the appropriate pure archetypal energetic state: No, Hello, Thanks, Goodbye, Please, Sorry or Yes. When we respond pure and true with one of the 7, then healing is promoted.
For example, it may be quite inappropriate for a parent to offer soft loving care and unconditional support to an angry teenage lad who habitually is overly intrusive. The generous, loving response is ‘Thank You’ type energy and does not match what is offered by the teen. His anger is No-like in a dysfunctional sense, and needs No-like responses – the firming up of boundaries, and a few home truths. This would actually better serve his fundamental need to develop a clear strong identity to cope with life, instead of conditioning him towards the false expectation that such careless behaviour will bring him lasting benefit.
We all have the potential to become a constant healing force by fully embodying these words and their seven wisdoms, since then we learn to move with ease from one state to another, able to respond appropriately to everyone and each situation we meet.
by carinne allison
THE JOURNEY TO DEPRESSION
The roots of most depression lie in No. Depression is sometimes seen as repressed anger, which belongs with No. The violation of an individual’s boundaries in childhood is abuse. This can be physical, mental, emotion, psychological or sexual. Such abuse leaves us with unclear or non-existent boundaries and sets up patterns of abuse, self-abuse, co-dependency, addiction, manipulation or other dysfunctional behaviours in adulthood.
It also leaves us with a confused sense of identity. We don’t know who we are and we spend a lot of time trying to be whatever other people expect of us – or we believe the lies we were told and take on the identity forced upon us by our abusers. Instead of unfolding as a result of free, proactive choices that reflect who we are, our lives become a series of reactions to situations over which we seem to have no control, or which have been forced upon us by others.
One day we wake up and realise we do not know who we are or what we want. Our life is out of our control – we have given (or they have taken) our power away to our lovers/bosses/children/parents/friends. We are living a lie. Is it any wonder we feel angry? However, we may not be aware of our anger, because we were told we don’t deserve any better, so we don’t feel we have a right to feel angry. Or we may have long ago lost any connection to our emotions. This unrecognised anger leads to depression – as does the sense of helplessness that arises from years of abuse/self-abuse, loss of control, manipulation.
In depression we become self-absorbed – the pain of depression demands our attention. Depression leads us to isolate ourselves, partly to protect ourselves and partly to protect others. We have lost faith in agencies outside ourselves (even God) – after all, they’ve been controlling us all our lives and look what a mess we’re in. And we cannot trust ourselves – a lifetime of bad boundaries, shifting identity and poor choices speaks for itself. We’ve learned to mistrust others – they’ve abused and manipulated us for too long, and the social skills we learned from them are flawed. We don’t know how to have a ‘normal’ relationship – and who in their right mind would want anything to do with such a flawed, miserable [insert adjective of your choice] individual as me? For me, Hello is about risk, and the other side of that coin is fear. In depression, we are paralysed by fear.
Dysfunctional Thank You is about low self-esteem and depression throws that into stark relief. Far from being appreciated and valued as children, we are more likely to have been humiliated, or simply ignored. We may be attracted to charming, charismatic people who abuse us. Their self-assurance and charm is probably maintained at our expense (in public), but the abuse goes on behind closed doors. We may appear charmless and worthless by comparison, outside the house. Our sense of self-esteem, like our sense of identity, is controlled by other people. We lose the ability to affirm ourselves and in extreme cases, humiliation at the hands of our abusers leads us to develop ‘toxic shame’.
In depression, the weight of everything that has happened in the past can become unbearable – we feel like the ghost of Jacob Marley, dragging behind us great heavy chains forged throughout our lifetime. The sense of grief can be overwhelming, with bouts of uncontrollable crying that last for hours. The normal process of Goodbye is completely beyond us as we are overwhelmed by all the hurt, manipulation, abuse, confusion.
Why don’t we just ask for help? By this point we are not capable of doing so – we have long since given away our power, we have isolated ourselves, lost trust, and our self-esteem is so low that we don’t feel we deserve it. We are totally overwhelmed by grief and paralysed by fear. Besides, we wouldn’t know how to ask for what we wanted, even if we knew what it was! At this point, hopelessness sets in. We don’t deserve anything good, we’re worthless – so what’s the point of having a vision? What’s the point of prayer when we’ve lost faith in anything? Thoughts of suicide might creep in – if there’s no hope, why carry on?
The two sides of this coin, for me, are responsibility and blame. It is likely that poor boundaries have led to much confusion in this area. We have probably been blamed for many things that were not our fault – one of the characteristics of abuse is that abusers blame the victims. We may, therefore, be accustomed to taking responsibility for other people’s ‘stuff’, while lacking the ability to take responsibility for our own ‘stuff’.
This can also lead to carrying a huge weight of guilt, if we are constantly told it’s all our fault. We may also get stuck in blaming someone else – after all, if it wasn’t for the abuse, we wouldn’t now be depressed, so we blame the abuser. Another dysfunctional aspect of Sorry is judgment – and if we’ve been judged harshly in the past, we will judge ourselves harshly now.
This is not helped by people who have never been depressed, asking us questions like, “What have you got to be depressed about?” or “Why not focus on all the good things in your life?” and other unhelpful remarks. Such remarks imply that we could get rid of the depression if we tried hard enough. Our own self-criticism tells us that we are not as good as other people, we are flawed, inferior, defective, weak.
Now we reach the ‘tipping point’ – but we have to make a choice. Some people choose denial – ‘I’m not depressed, there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just a bit stressed at work, that’s all; I just need a drink to wind down when I get home, nothing wrong with that’. That’s okay, because it’s possible to change our minds at any point – that is to say, when we’re ready. At that point, we can say, “Yes”. The keywords for Yes are Permission, Acceptance, Agreement and Surrender, and as soon as we are ready, they all come into play. When we stop fighting our depression, we give ourselves permission – to feel awful, to feel useless, to have no appetite or energy, to be tired and weepy, to want to avoid people – in other words, to be depressed. As soon as we give ourselves permission, we accept our depression and stop fighting it. We can now begin to deal with it and the process of recovery can begin.
THE JOURNEY TO RECOVERY
When we give ourselves permission and accept our depression, it is like we sign a peace treaty with it. We can let go for a while and just go with the flow. Yes, we will need to deal with it – but not yet. For now we just surrender. This process may take a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, but for however long it takes, we need to just sleep, cry, stay in bed, stare at the wall – whatever we need to do. We will know when the time comes to move on.
Having given ourselves permission and accepted our depression, we no longer need to judge ourselves. Depression is an illness, like any other – we don’t judge people for having asthma or diabetes, so why should depression be any different? Our attitude to blame changes, too. It may still be someone else’s fault we’re depressed, but at the end of the day that’s not helpful. We are the ones who have to deal with it. If we release our judgment and blame and take responsibility, then we can make progress.
When we can see depression as just another illness, we can seek treatment, like we would for any other condition. Now we can go to our GP or mental health team and ask for help. This may be medication, counselling, psychotherapy, self-help group, reading self-help books, or a combination – in addition to other treatment for specific aspects (e.g. dependency issues or family therapy). The mere fact of having taken some positive action towards recovery will lift some of the weight of depression, and some of the help offered will help with the next step.
The issues that caused the depression in the first place need to be addressed and with the help provided in Please, this is now the time to deal with them. This is likely to take some time. I also believe it is important to grieve at this stage – for lost dreams, spoiled childhood, all the disappointments and missed opportunities of one’s life. We may also need to make some decisions regarding our lives – we may need to re-examine our priorities, or part company with those who abuse or manipulate us. This is part of the process of Completion, which we must undergo before we can move on.
As we deal with our childhood and other issues, we begin to feel better about ourselves, our self-esteem rises and we learn to affirm ourselves. Our sense of self changes and we begin to value ourselves. We feel we do, after all, have something of value to share with others. Our life has meaning.
Armed with our new sense of self we are ready to venture out into the world. We are no longer paralysed by fear. We reconnect to and learn to trust our emotions. Our trust in ourselves, others and God grows as we take small risks, pushing ourselves a little bit further each time.
Now we have found a sense of who we really are and we no longer put up with abuse or manipulation. Our boundaries are stronger and we can say “No” to our abusers – and others who ask too much of us. We take back our power, control over our own lives. We make our choices freely, respecting who we are, and we live our truth. But we have also learnt along the way where we are vulnerable, what work still needs to be done, what our stumbling blocks are. My prime stressors are tiredness, stress and financial instability, so I protect these. I consider my energy and stress levels before agreeing to do extra hours at work, and I monitor my finances carefully to avoid the situations that trigger depression. And I use art to push myself to foster acceptance, play, courage to fail, letting go of judgment – it terrifies me, but it works.