What we want ...... and can't seem to have
[Excerpt from 'It's not you... and it's not me']
Imagine we are an animal out in the wild. We hear a rustling in the long grasses that could be a predator. Ears prick up. Vision focuses and narrows. Sense of smell hones in. Our own movements get very very still. The whole physical, psychological and emotional system is focused on that danger. Everything is trained into discerning what it could be. The freeze itself is safety, creating minimum disturbance that could lead to our detection. It is also a preparation for fight or flight, every sinew available for immediate reaction.
The human being is an animal. It is poised to protect itself. To defend. To freeze. To flee. To fight.
Confusion comes in though when the danger isn’t an actual threat to physical survival. It comes when the danger is something else altogether.
The confusion comes when it is our idea of ourselves right now, in the present, our self-esteem, our sense of being someone who is loved, respected, special and desired that seems to be in danger.
When the threat seems to be to our future, to the images we had created of what would unfold, the happiness we believed was coming our way.
When it is a threat to our past. Our images of how we have been perceived, of the impact we have had are being destroyed.
When it is a threat to our sense of belonging, access to situations, roles, relationships, a new way of life looks like it is now being revoked.
These threats aren’t really about survival. And they aren’t really about reality. They are a threat to the learned idea of what we are. The more vulnerable and insecure that learned idea, the more these threats will destabilise. In fact, it goes much deeper than that.
The more vulnerable and insecure the learned idea of what we are, the more the external world of other people is a projection of that instability.
In other words, when we are insecure, we are not operating in reality. We are operating in a world in which our insecurity creates dangers.
Literally creates them.
Out of nothing.
We have all experienced this. How when we are low, tired, hormonal, vulnerable or ill, a world of hurt and pain can be triggered by situations, words and actions that we have imagined to be there.
Our deepest vulnerabilities are triggered by what is projected to be there and its meaning. Not by what is actually there.
And when this happens, in those moments of projecting and resisting the projection, our whole system, mind, body, attention exits actual reality. It is absolutely focused on the threat. But the threat does not exist ‘out there’. The threat is a creation from within us. It is a creation of the vulnerability, the wounds, the trauma, the layers of insecurities.
In other words, all of our attention, our resources, our readiness for fight and flight are honed on something apparently external to us that doesn’t really exist in this present moment other than as a layer of hurt within.
So not only are our reactions nothing to do with the person in front of us who seems to be causing them, in these moments, we are in fight or flight against our own self. We are resisting our own learned idea of what we are. As David Bohm, the physicist said, “Thought creates a world and says, ‘I didn’t do it’.”
The faster we flee and the more aggressively we fight the more this projection is held in place.
When we are in identity-survival mode we are blinkered. We are, truth be told, momentarily insane. We are not operating in reality. We are not listening to what is actually being said. We are not present to what the other person really is or what they want.
In that moment, our reactions are about our past. In trying to get something from the people in our present, we are really reacting to people in our past.
The greater the strength of our survival reaction, the greater the desire to fight or flee, the more focused in we are on certain words or gestures, the more we are operating in the past not the present, in a projection not reality. And the more impossible it becomes to get what we are desperately trying to achieve.
The thing is, while we are in the midst of it, there is nothing else, no other perspective, no rationality.
The mind is lost fighting its own creations.
The presence we really are is obscured.
We are an automaton, driven by our inner most insecurity, need and shame. We are a handed-down conditioning of lack, loss and confusion.
And who knows how many generations, how many decades or centuries this conditioning goes back.
This moment right now, the perception of reality and of ourselves, the reactions and the beliefs are the result of a programme playing out.
And although it looks as though there is a ‘me’ making decisions and choices, saying words, making objective assessments - there isn’t one. There is just a programme running.
A button has been pressed on this machine. A switch has been triggered. The subconscious programme springs into action. It is like a long running West End play. The script, the props, the characters, the scenery - everything in place? Right. Lights on. Curtains up. Off we go.
We believe in a self that is at the centre of this, making the choices, saying the words but it is all automatic. There is no doer or chooser. It is software of hurt running within the hardware of the body.
No wonder our relationship patterns repeat themselves.
No wonder we always end up with the same type of people, having the same rows and conflicts, experiencing the same betrayal.
No wonder we find ourselves hearing the same things, saying the same things, doing the same things.
No wonder we have that crushing sense of Groundhog Day, of same old same old.
Let’s be really clear now about what is true.
This programme is not me. It is a collection of subconscious beliefs. There is no ‘me’ deciding what is believed or not. A belief by definition is believed. It is not optional. It is a reality that is acquired, changed or dissolved according to what looks true.
This programme also creates how the other is perceived.
And all of this can change at any moment
I do not exist in that collection of beliefs. Neither does the other.
Hence the title of this book, ‘It’s not you… and it’s not me’. These programmes of belief and perception are not what we are. The truth of us does not exist there.
Our first question, therefore, on our path to the love of our life is, ‘What is really true right now?’
That question can bring the mind back, the body back, the attention back, the resources back, the intelligence, the logic back to reality.
And the suffering is the gateway to this. The greater the suffering, the higher the defences, the more freedom and sanity there is in asking ‘What is true?’
What is true does not change with perception. What is true must lie beyond ever changing thought, belief, interpretation and association. With this question, the mind that was lost in the reactions, lost in the past, lost in its pain can now settle, witness, and notice. The lost mind has become sane.
The shift from lost to noticing is the beginning of freedom. It is the place in which the truth of us is revealed.
This liberation, sanity and health is ultimately what all of us are looking for in relationships, in places where they cannot be found. Let’s look more at this difference between what we need and what we think we need in the next chapter.