My primary paradigm is that life is in and of itself a form of therapy. This is not a new concept in general, but the general truth-feeling of it came upon me gradually. I have actually been in and out of counseling since the age of six, when upon running away from home I was brought to a psychiatrist to be therapitized, and or persuaded, that running away was not in my best interest, as opposed to therapitizing my family and convincing them to change the environment to something more conducive to raising children. This is not a lament or condemnation of the family of origin. They, too, as individuals and as a group, were dealing with some serious issues. We all are, all the time, and we turn to the sources that give us the most peace.
Over the years, I have turned to a number of psychological and magical remedies. In my youth I turned the churches of my family of origin’s sense of religion, and was frequently disappointed and discouraged from that path. I found it wanting and intellectually dishonest, but am willing to take ownership and say it just didn’t fit me. I tend to gravitate towards Eastern Philosophy, such as Buddhism, but have certainly dabbled in the Major Five R’s. I have had a number of counselors and therapists. I have had some profound friendships which taught me more in those seasons than I ever got from therapy. I emphasize season, because like therapists, friendships tended not to last past their prescribed moments. I have participated in hypnosis, the guided kind and the self-hypnosis kind. I am a trained, motivational hypnotist. I am also a trained therapist, and licensed in the state of Texas. That joke that people become therapist to deal with themselves and their own past, well, I certainly model that.
My most recent explorations of the world include continued Astral Projection, Lucid Dreaming, Shadow Work, Active Imagination, the Invisible Counselor Technique, Tulpamancy, and Guided Fantasy. (Yes, that last things is a real thing, believe it or not.) Depending on your point of view, you might say the entire list is fantasy. Just today, someone in the group I participate in asked if Astral Projection is real. Most of the group is responding with resounding ‘yes’ and trying to support their conclusions, where I simply reflected back: ‘does it matter?’ Really, does it? If one subscribes completely to the materialistic paradigm that consciousness is just a quirky, accidental result of the alignment of neurons discharging electrical chemical messengers, then by definition, it’s all illusion all the time. By that definition, it doesn’t matter if an event is imagined or ‘real’ because nothing is real. (Just ask a physicist; they don’t waffle on the point that all matter, and all space/time is a persistently stubborn illusion.) More on point, materialistic science agrees that the brain cannot distinguish between an imagined and real event, and this is clearly demonstrated in the placebo effect. Pure imagination can cure you. Does it matter if the memory solicited by a hypnotist is a past life or a fantasy if the result is a remedy that eases body and soul? Both real life and dreams can provoke fears and joy. We wake up laughing or frightened for our very existence. We laugh and cry at real events, sometimes appropriately so, and we laugh and cry at perceived event, also, sometimes, appropriately so. How many wars were created and or sustained due to fiction or exaggerated fact? How many of our own grudges and grievances are based on perceived reality which others ‘don’t share?’ I emphasize ‘don’t share’ because if a person agreed with your perception of reality, it would have resulted in an apology at worst or no primary offense at best.
The idea that we create our realities, again not new, is the basis of my philosophy, but I have recently narrowed it down to a more precise tag line. Whether you know it or not, you have a tag line. For House MD, it was “Everybody Lies.” That one is simple, concise, even insightful, but it’s not mine. The wordiest tag line was the mission statement Shatner recited at the beginning of each episode of Star Trek. The phrase I have chosen to adopt is also not mine, but the parties that are using it have not elevated it into the manifesto that it really could evolve into, at least, not yet. My tag line boils everything down to a simple equation for how to short circuit life’s problems and better assimilate them into my process. The equation is this: fight, flight, or love.
If you seriously think about it these are your only choices in life. You can fight a thing, you can run from a thing, or you can love a thing. I have done a great deal of fighting. I have decimated my opponents with logic and ridicule, even if it was in their absence. I have blown things up, usually relationships. I am talking about full out, whistling the Bridge over River Kwai, while pushing the plunger on demolitions kind of blowing things up. It has won me no friends, and even if there was a soul that believed my anger or response was righteously appropriate, that generally is not the kind of friendship that lasts, or that I would even want to cultivate. I have never experienced a personal war, initiated by me or other, which has not resulted in increased levels of suffering. Things inevitably escalate to levels of viciousness that causes other to escalate or retreat. I have rarely retreated. It could come to physical blows, with me getting pummeled, and I would get right back up, and be back in the person’s face and would maintain the vigilance till they retreated because ‘losing’ felt worse than getting pummeled.
Flight is also an option, which most rational people exercise. It manifests as avoidance, procrastination, or passive aggressive tendencies. Ignoring a problem doesn’t work any better than fighting. Avoiding my fights just prolonged the suffering that inevitably lead to a fight, or at least to the sudden, inappropriate disclosure that leads to a fight or more flight. Ignoring a leaking hot water heater generally leads to more misery. Ignoring that unexplained lump rarely works out in ones favor. Ignoring relationships problems can be tricky, because sometimes it is actually discernment, and sometime it’s avoidance, and most of the time the avoidance is in trying to determine which of the two it is.
Consider this. The stage of grief goes like this: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I am not a fan of stage work, but I visit this sometimes because it can still be practical in figuring out placement on the map. But I can reduce it down to fight, flight or love. Denial-flight, anger-fight, bargaining-fight, depression-flight, and acceptance-love. Does this validate either formula? No. I don’t expect it to be adopted by others, and I am not pushing for that. But it works for me. For instance, if I had a partner and she decided for whatever reason we were done and moved on, and I listened to her rational or explanation and decided her rational was faulty or flawed, then I am in fight mode. For starters, my formula requires me to do my math, no one else’s math. My math skills suck, and I am usually averaging things out anyway, and so for me to be doing other’s math, well… the results get skewed. And if there is any validity to their math being off, they have right to use their formula and derive their answers for their life. This means, my response is to fight, flight or love, and I am determined to choose love and accept their choice. And if I say “good luck with that,” I am still in fight mode, and I refocus on love. If I blame myself for being imperfect, I am in flight mode. Usually other people’s formula has nothing to do with me. There are variables in their formula that I can’t address, and many I am probably not even privy to. Heck, I can’t even tell you how many variables are in my own unconscious, which is one reason I have tried to simplify my formula to F,f, or L.
Many might argue that my prescribed list of activities above is in itself avoidance, merely flights into fancy. That’s primarily because we live in a materialistic paradigm that prefers practical activities to ‘imagination.’ This preference is pushed, preached, and ratified by society, institutions great and small, from family units to school, even in direct evidence that going deeper into imagination may actually result in functional answers. Believe it or not, Darwin did not coin the phrase, ‘survival of the fittest;’ he actually promoted the idea that humanity doesn’t have teeth and claws because we evolved the ability to nurture and love, which trumps all aggression. The folks on the side of imagination is huge, not just the Beatle’s John Lennon. Imagination is advocated by Napoleon Hill, self-proclaimed inventor of ‘the invisible counselors technique,’ Carl Jung’s ‘active imagination,” and ‘shadow work.’ Einstein’s ‘thought experiments.’ Nikola Tesla reports that after he stopped fighting his tendency to day dream and just went with it, he refined his imagination to the point that he never required a workshop to create inventions, because invariably, the workshop in his head produced better results on his final product than a thousand test runs in a laboratory. Guided imagery, or guided meditations, or guided fantasy, though highly promoted by transpersonal psychologists, are used by pretty much everyone. Anyone who has ever had a cathartic experience induced by speech, song, dance, or movie has experienced firsthand how powerful someone else’s creativity can be. If we were to be very precise, we are more likely to respond to someone else’s content than our own, the trick being, when you actually realize you are responding, it’s not to the content, but to your own belief of what the content means. The fact that the same song or movies doesn’t push the same buttons in everyone is evidence for that. Even that thing you think is Universal is actually not. Take the definition of ‘childhood’ for example. The disparity of how children are treated worldwide, even within our own culture, clearly shows we are not responding universally. If we were, there would be no child abuse, by definition.
We’re not on the same page. We’re rarely in the same book. We’re all in our imagination all the time, fighting something or fleeing something. How do we become present? Love. When you have exhausted the fight or flight response, and you are finally able to attend, in the present moment with love, things change. Change is inevitable. It’s coming whether you fight or fly, but bringing love always changes it. Not necessarily in your favor. This is not me pushing puppies and sunshine. Do they exist? Absolutely, but if you're struggling, puppies and sunshine are harder to channel. I also don't push positive affirmations. Do they help? Absolutely, but some things just suck and glossing it over with paint is not helpful or even realistic. Dead puppies suck. Babies with cancer suck. Fighting those things doesn’t change the thing, running from it doesn’t change it, but loving does change your relationship to the thing. Telling people to fight cancer is what we have been taught, which usually generates anger, which, evidence suggests cancer responds very well to. Anger feeds on fear and cancer feeds on both. I can back this up clinically. Paraphrased from Dr Depak Chopra, another advocate for imagination: Interleukin 2 is very well known for reducing kidney cancer. For 10,000$ you can get a shot of this, or, for 20 bucks, you can take a ride on any roller coaster and your body will produce millions of dollars of this, naturally. Yes, your body makes this; conditionally: if you’re happy, peaceful, loving, your body makes it. If you’re fearful, you’re producing adrenalin, fight or flight, which is like giving cancer vitamins and steroids. If riding roller coasters frightens you, you don’t want to do that to reduce cancer.
If you’re responding with fight or flight, you are responding to fear with fear. Imagine for a moment Mr. Rogers, from PBS. If you’re my age, you can probably do this. Mr. Rogers is not Carl Rogers, and though I can channel Carl Rogers, sometimes, when I do, I am thinking Mr. Rogers, from PBS. Mr. Rogers is coming at you as if you were a child, and you were traumatized, and you’re experiencing emotions, and he is not shaming you. He recognizes the emotion, good or bad, and then takes you to imagination land, where you can play it out and find a variety of responses. There are many responses. Screaming. Crying. Fighting. Name calling. Eating candy. Taking a break. Millions of potential responses. And when you finish responding, you’re left with the very real fact that thing you responded to is probably still a fact, a real fact or a social fact, and you are back at the primary formula, needing a functional response. You can fight some more, you can run some more, but ultimately, at some point, you’re going to have to come at this thing with acceptance. That’s love. You partner wants to leave you because they want more or think they deserve more. Yeah, that sucks. On many levels. You could fight it. It usually blows things up because people want what they want and if they think another person is the answer, that makes you the problem by default, and you’re not going to dissuade a person through fighting, and really, who wants to be with a fighter or a whiner? Ignoring it usually prolongs the suffering and the partner’s departure isn’t going to suck less down the road. Accepting the person’s want, regardless of validity, is the only loving response, which respects freedom of choice. (It’s funny how most people advocate freedom, as long as it doesn’t impede their own benefits.) It doesn’t matter if you agree, or the world agrees, if your friends side with you, or his/her friends side with him/her; it’s what that person wants that ultimately matter. Quite likely, they are in their own equation, fighting or flighting from or for something, and that something is usually bigger than you, and it is rarely rational. Coming at something, rational or irrational, with love is difficult, but it can be done. That means accepting without holding onto thoughts like “You’re going to get down the road and regret you left me because you’re fantasy life is so skewed from reality you will never be happy.” That’s still fighting. It may even be true, but does that sound loving? Wishing the road rage guy would have a flight tire, is that loving or fighting?
And this practice of choosing L over the F or f is even harder when children are involved because we want the kids in our lives. Believe it or not, even we men want the kids in our lives. We want to be dads. But what level of fight is appropriate, especially in a world where men aren’t supposed to fight? From a three year old’s perspective, both parents are an integral part of their life. Do you destroy the other person to win at all costs? Do you completely ignore the person or situation? Or do you stand there, and advocate for a position that has the child’s best interest? And if you’re thinking, ‘what’s my best interest,’ then you’re in fight or flight. 99 percent of all problems is not about ‘us’ or you, it’s about other. Have you ever used the expression, “I am in the fight of my life?” What if it’s not a fight, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate higher qualities?
I am, presently, in the ‘Love of my life.’ Friends and coworkers have offered the standard fare: lawyer up, man up, fight, don’t tolerate abuse, etc. This advice comes in a society where products are disposable, relationships are disposable, and people are used to selling and trading to meet the demands of the moment. I don’t want to engage in this manner. I want to rise above. I want to love. (Notice I did not say 'I want to be loved;' that's fight or flight.) If someone comes at me and says 'you deserve better,' I reflect back, how do you come to that conclusion? There’s what, 10 billion people on the planet, and I have a better life than the average person, in terms of finances and comfort level, food on the table, and consistency. Does a person starving deserve their fate? We could end poverty in our life time, but that’s not how we chose to spend our energies, is it? We all rationally know we have the technology and the capability to end poverty but we don’t. This sounds like a distraction. Fantasy? Flight? I don’t know. Except, in my childhood I did learn a few things from the religion that didn’t take: if a man sues you for your coat, give him your cloak as well. Not in the same ball park as a child in a custody case, but what war has not left children in poverty, financial or emotional?
I love. I advocate for sanity and peace and that there is a higher purpose and power that has this. I clearly don’t have this. I frequently fail to model love. I have to remind myself daily to love. I have to ask myself am I in fight or flight or love and do the math, and, again, I suck at math. I don’t have any better solutions. I don’t have advice and I don’t offer advice. What I have is love, and I have seen love change folks. It’s just never been on my schedule of change, for that, too, is fight.