Sort of me, sort of everyone.
Quotes from Carl Jung
Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.
“On the Psychology of the Unconsciousness”, 1917
The Arbitrary Self
Depressive behavior such as bad sleep hygiene, inactivity, social avoidance, over-thinking, etc. Evokes in us a loser personality: The feeling of being a loser. The deeper that feeling, and the more we buy into it, the more we come to see it as a fact. Since only a fool argues with facts, we limit our hopes, minimize risks, and adapt to the dispiriting expectations. Down we go.
Better self-care like exercising, meditating, cleaning up, etc, begins to evoke a can-do sort of personality, who feels at least more like a winner. Again, the more we believe that winner feeling the more factual it seems. This person starts more conversations and makes more ambitious plans for themselves.
Of course, we have core phenotypic personalities from birth but they morph into variations on your theme based on what we “feed” them. Obviously, our actions are catalysts for good or bad outcomes, but the power steering the life that follows is our identification with upbeat or hopeless feelings. The resulting sense of self from either path becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy of a life lived according to the optimism or pessimism flavoring each moment.
So self-talk shapes the future, but self-talk also shapes our beliefs about taking better actions to feel better. There is already a sense of reality, of fact, firmly in place and talking to us about whether there’s any point in trying.
Think of your disappointments. Perhaps you can’t get into shape, can’t find the right person or the right job. If you are already rejecting what I seem to be suggesting, I’d like you to notice the mechanical negative voice in you directing the course of your future life. This voice demonstrably has an executive role in your decisions…which suggests it is the project manager for you getting into shape, finding love, and finding a job. To get anywhere with this you need to understand your relationship to that voice. Who is it? Who put it in charge? Why does it remain in charge despite poor results?
First of all, it isn’t really you, and it isn’t alive…its a mechanism. Next, it doesn’t automatically have your best interests at heart, it’s like the cumulative rejections, real and imagined, absorbed by you as a child. These have compressed into this thing carried inside you like a piece of shrapnel. It isn’t even you, save that you have internalized it. It is the voices of those who made you feel hopeless, alone, and unwanted on loop. Eventually, it sounds so familiar you think it’s your own voice. When something silences the voice you feel strange and exposed, naked in the open. You may feel ashamed and foolish to think positive thoughts about yourself and your future. We don’t recognize ourselves without it yet it is literally the voice of our enemies, crystalized in us as grief and shame. Grief and shame become filters for our hopes.
Some of us are born more vulnerable to criticism and judgment, and some nearly immune. But who we seem to be today is the rather arbitrary result of the coping mechanisms, self-talk, and self-care that took shape in us in the overheated darkness of very early childhood. None of it was inevitable or fated. To deal with the world, we tried things, some worked and we clung to those and built upon their theme. Our style of communication and problem solving, listening, etc. is the result of hundreds of battle strategies formed in struggles with parents, siblings, strangers and ourselves.
We are most oppressed and limited by certain ideas we have complete faith in. That faith may be so strong that we don’t even know it is there because we trust it as we trust our next breath of air. It’s this arbitrariness about who we think we are that must be deconstructed if we want more freedom and choice. Your problems with weight and love and work are created and managed by the same perspective you send in to solve them. That mind doesn’t understand how it creates these problems or why it fails to solve them. Most of the changes we long to see in ourselves depend upon steps that our executive decider automatically rejects out of hand. Our first problem isn’t our weight, love, or work. It is the self we wholeheartedly believe we are.
Two Simple, Useful Techniques
- Meditation of any flavor loosens the ropes and offers many other benefits. But doing positive self-talk meditation makes two things happen, A. You actually start to feel more positive, and B. The negative voices are still there like Goth Mynah birds but by changing the general tone of self-talk for the better you will actually hear the negative voices as distinct, and not really your voice. Then you can look at their simple mechanism and bit by bit shut it down and replace it. This is a conscious process over the long run with gradual improvements. If you feel a lot of resistance at the start of positive self-talk it’s certain that you should try this.
- Go online and take an Enneagram test. These aren’t like Myers-Briggs or Astrology. The enneagram is basically a portrait of arbitrary self, what Gurdjieff called “false personality”. Don’t get hooked on whether the traits are good or not, as people work on themselves they gradually become less clearly any one of the types because their goofy coping strategies aren’t leading them around behaving mechanically.
I intended this as a 4 part series, to be read in sequence. That plan failed. Here’s the solution to a very small problem that no one knew they had.
This is a story about me being a naive, selfish asshole who learns to love…badly at first, through several icky flavors of codependency, before finally seeing the truth of loving and being loved. This is a big read and I wouldn’t expect anyone to tackle it unless they felt a need to. The pictures are linked. There is an audio version on each page.
Naked 1: Base Camp
Naked 2: The Rise and Fall of Lizard Boy
Naked 3: Wasting Everyone’s Time
Naked 4: Wake The Fuck Up!
Lovely simple talk about accepting yourself, the secret to letting happiness and love in. People who felt enormous pressure from their family to prove themselves acceptable during socialization and beyond can spend their entire lives stuck in the feeling they aren’t good enough. The wonders you achieve, the amazing things you’ve accomplished feel inadequate to justify your happiness or the value of your love. It can make you avoid true love because it seems impossible that you could ever work hard enough to deserve that.
(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)
A little context: I’m not mindlessly arguing for relentless, hurried personal change for everyone. That sounds awful. This is a naggy but loving pep talk for people feeling very stuck.
Life is Trouble
Life is a constant struggle between us and any random shit, little or big, that crops up. Some of these struggles are life choices though they don’t seem weighty at that moment. Small choices can be deceptively deep. A metaphorical Sphinx is checking in with you like: “Love or No Love? Past or Future? Fear or Hope?” hundreds of times a day.
The results are navigational data points along your personal trajectory. The important question isn’t what you chose but why you chose it. Does it point up, down, back, or forward? If you win a fight to stay the same, you learn nothing new and win nothing except a temporary extension of the status quo. But the status quo will inexorably roll forward into change like an unmoored parade float. The change will come but guided by who? With what goal? Maybe we’re just taking our hands off the steering wheel.
In the context of your life struggle, rationalizing standing still is a choice to remain in the shitty room temperature shallows of life where it’s comfortable enough. This is the inertia of the weary, defensive human heart and we know perfectly well that our cover story for this kind of choice is masking something like “I’m rudderless and utterly flat inside”.
Everything better seems too high UP to reach from here. As enthusiastic as we may sound talking about a life choice, we’re often staging an official personal PR release simply to cover the truth: “I’m afraid and this was the least scary option”. Rationalizing downward is choosing to become a slightly worse and smaller version of yourself, moving forward. Slightly worse because you stopped hoping, slightly less because you’ve given up trying. You without hope or determination is you on a slippery slope.
We downward rationalize every day. Sometimes it’s healthy: Holding steady and keeping things together or maybe NOT accepting some exciting risk because it’s dumb and dangerous. More often it means incrementally settling for less and offering less. It gradually lets the air out of the bouncy castles of human hope. If you lack hope you may well conclude that this, this right here, this stupid mess, is as good as it gets, at least for you, then sigh and return to polishing the turd at the center of the problem. Continue reading
(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)
Last time on Naked: Lizard boy began his quest to find love without fixing his broken heart first.
Because I didn’t know I needed to work, I didn’t do the work that needed to be done. And so I passed through the lives of many wonderful women: confusing, annoying and confounding them as I walked confidently in two different directions. Continue reading
I don’t believe Chakras are the literal mystical energy centers believed in by new age people. I also don’t believe they are the nonsensical-fantasy-things-that-don’t-really-exist, as believed by nearly everyone else.
Chakras are symbolic foci for real aspects of our selves, our sub-selves, the parts of your overall whole being. They are defined as 7 modular aspects of self that come on-line by stages as we grow and experience life. They absolutely can be blocked and out of balance, under or overactive. Below is the traditional list though it can vary a bit, they work upward from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head and each is associated with specific areas of our lives, feelings, and personalities. They are distinct color-coded points on the spectrum. But ultimately their functions blend into a healthy, unified self.
- Root – Base of the spine; red; governs survival instincts, grounding.
- Sacral — Lower abdomen; orange; governs sexuality, intuition, self-worth/-esteem.
- Solar Plexus — Upper abdomen; yellow; governs impulse control, ego.
- Heart — Center of the chest; green; governs compassion, spirituality.
- Throat — Throat; blue; governs communication, emotion.
- Third Eye — Between the eyes; purple; governs rationality, wisdom, imagination.
- Crown — Top of the head; indigo; governs connection with the Divine
The Chakras rather neatly mirror Abraham Maslow’s almost universally accepted hierarchy of needs. Notice how the artist used defining colors for different levels.
- Physiological needs
- Safety needs
- Social belonging
(There are somewhat alternative versions as well.) If a sub-self is broken at the physical safety level, of the self-confidence level, for example, self-actualization is blocked. The person experiences various psychological symptoms expressing the fears and frustrations of lack and instability in those areas of life. The chakras and the H of N chop up the human pieces a little differently and each one tilts a bit toward the surrounding belief system that hatched it. Still, it is the same invention, spontaneously cropping up to fill the same need for vastly different communities.
The invention is a simple map of the human soul and what it needs to thrive. It describes the places we can break down and suggests a course of treatment.
The Chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also dovetail nicely with Carl Jung’s Individuation, the challenging synthesis of becoming a complete, integrated person.
I’ll be writing here soon about some original and creative ways I’ve recently found to work with this material but I think this overall idea is interesting enough to consider on its own.
(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than the end to the beginning.)
Long ago, my love was smugly avoidant and entitled. I was an arrogant little sexual aristocrat totally certain of my hotness. I wanted “love” but I only understood it as desire, satiation, and friendship. I was unaware of any lack of perception in myself and felt that mostly, I was always right about everything. Getting whatever I wanted seemed like the universe functioning correctly. I was as contentedly self-involved and selfish as a cat and almost as innocent and guileless about it. I didn’t lie about who I was or sneak around, I legitimately believed I was a special exemption. For a certain period of time, the world seemed to agree.
All the men in my family are on the ADHD/ASD axis and we all begin life with an emotional astigmatism about the meaning and value of other people’s feelings. We aren’t narcissists who don’t care, we are shortsighted moles who don’t notice it. We don’t lack emotional depth, we lack emotional depth perception. It has to be shaken into us.
I asked relatively little of love and received far more than that in return. At this superficial level, I was loveable and did deserve it because I was handsome, sexy, smart, and funny. I was of high value in a low-value economy. Love at this level is better written as “love” and better understood as a consumable experience like cocaine or a carnival ride. If it was a planet, the gravity would be low and bouncy. We would only have first names.
When my first marriage (11 years of the “selfish innocent” phase) failed, the concept of deeper and truer love formed in me, and my soul walked in that direction as if it smelled food cooking. I entered a different economy of love where the person I really am was small change. I could be high value again if all I wanted was a thrill, but down here everything cost more and demanded more true value, more purity of essence. This was the only coin accepted for anything worthwhile. True value meant possessing the ability to love with natural reciprocity, belief in a bright future, alone or together, and honest faithfulness. Continue reading
“We are so convinced that past evils must repeat themselves that we make them repeat themselves. We dare not risk a new life in which the evils of the past are totally forgotten; a new life seems to imply new evils, and we would rather face evils that are already familiar… Hence we cling to the evil that has already become ours, and renew it from day-to-day, until we become identified with it and change is no longer thinkable.”
–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
This is the first of a short series about happiness, freedom, and love that I feel the need to share, having recently heard about them for the first time. If any of this ever seems like a gloomy confession for the sake of confessing, it isn’t. I’ve had crazy wonderful breakthroughs since ~April of 2019. I’m happy and hopeful in a way that isn’t much like previous me. I’m cheery, for god’s sake.
What allowed me to become so much happier, was persevering in the worst godawful codependent bs relationship ever…with such intensity…that I broke through to something I find rather hard to explain. The over the top pain and longing of it tore open a membrane between me and a completely new level of spiritual perception and energy. Since then, it has quietly and consistently transformed my life.
This new perspective isn’t wisdom gleaned forensically from the crash site of that bad relationship. I’m not “Sadder but wiser” and I haven’t gathered a basket of bitterness and resentment but rather trapped them between a cup and some cardboard and then released them into the yard.
This unexpected introduction to spirit was like elevator doors opening on a floor with a number you’ve never heard of and it’s so nice here that you are a better person for even knowing about it. There’s a mysterious sweetness to be followed, and you follow it. There’s no dogma or cliches attached, it is fresh original territory. This is what it is like: Perhaps somehow you have believed in NO your whole life. Suddenly, irrefutably, YES.
(explaining our family background to my son)
I said I know I lot more about Mom’s side and that’s because she loved her family and became a curator of warm memories. (BTW, Mom actually wrote a full autobiography, I’ll be happy to share it with you if you ever want.) Dad disliked his family and lacked curiosity about them overall.
My Dad was Richard Bruce Miller. He was born in New York in 1925 and died in Florida in 2005.
The two branches of the river that flow through Dad to me and to you, are the Eckermanns and the Muellers. The other two lines joining with them in the previous generation Were Berman and Vanderbeck. Supposedly we are part Jewish on the Berman side. I hope so. Vanderbeck was Dutch and apparently ran an ocean crossing steamboat company. Here they depart our story.
Your two great grandparents from this side were James Mueller (soon after known as Jim Miller) and Dorothy (Dot) Eckermann.