Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Romantic Love, Being with What Is, and The 10 StEPs

This article has been considerably expanded and re-edited in an attempt to better "connect the dots" and make it more easily readable since it was first published. (And, no, I have no idea why this cloud-based word processor shows some links in orange and some in gray.)

A Conceptual Foundation

Most of us in the European and American cultures seem to believe that romantic love is -- at its best -- some combination of sustained excitement and commitment to exclusive relationship with another built on mutual physical attraction and ability to communicate with and understand each other. Very commonly, it appears that people have very little conscious, conceptual awareness of why they remain in relationships that at some level they experience as unsatisfying, challenging, trying, frustrating, agitating or even downright painful. At romantic love's worst, it may be little other than anxious, insecure attachment or codependency, conditions one may do well to examine.

I will be far from the first to suggest that the essential reason romantic love starts one way and winds up another is in the double-bindingparadoxical injunctions most of us in the West have unconsciously internalized from what appear at first glance to be two different sources, but which are actually (once considered for a while) the same source. (Gregory Bateson, Paul Watslawick, John Weakland, Alan Watts, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Joel Kramer, Arthur Deikman and Daniel Goleman were all onto this as much as 60 years ago.) 

The first injunction is to be moral, ethical, empathic, unconditional, patient with and compassionate towards those one cares for (see Rogers). The second is to get our supposed wants, needs, expectations and requirements met no matter what. (Hence the paradox.) In essence, we are subtly compelled to love "unconditionally" and told to be conditional. All of this occurs within the subtle conditioning, socialization and normalization of Tart's "consensus trance." 

Further, we are subtly instructed not to see -- much less look into, observe, examine or consider -- this contradiction by a cultural norm (the trance) that has tended to keep the two instructions very effectively separated. As with all double-binds, the two messages negate each other, but not at a level of consciousness "high" enough for us to be able to see the mutually conflicting admonitions. We often act on both without awareness of so doing. 

(For those who are aware of Stanley Block's concept of "requirements" -- a key concept in his mind body bridging psychotherapy -- it becomes obvious that many of us are raised to be both conditional and unconditional... without any awareness whatsoever of the conflict other than its uncomfortable upshots as relationship moves from one phase of appraisal according to such conditioning... to the other.) 

In her excellent, paradigm-changing, 1992 book on "love addiction" and "love avoidance", addiction and co-dependency expert Pia Melody dug deeply into what she saw as the underlying cause of both conditions. Although I do not strictly agree with her view that the unconscious conflict is always the direct upshot of "childhood trauma," I support her contention that it works out fairly much as she describes. Anne Wilson Schaef described the same phenomenon -- albeit less diagrammatically -- in her somewhat earlier writing. I am also indebted to Barry and Jane Weinhold's two excellent books on co- and counter-dependence, as they cover a somewhat larger field of the same, conflict dynamic. (In all three cases, by the way, these authors descriptions fit neatly and unambiguously into the concept of "splitting" in borderline personality disorder.)

My own educationally informed and observation-based view is that the conflict is really rooted in co-existing fears of both abuse and (rather than orabandonment that -- while they may be rooted in unfortunate early life experiences -- are endemic in our culture owing to the normal stress of trying to live up to our internalized, moral standards in a dog-eat-dog, achieve-or-suffer, win-or-lose paradigm without having the tools (such as mindfulness / awareness / higher consciousness) to effectively deal with either the stress or the conflict. 

My observation is that hundreds of millions of people are infected with a sense of requirement (as per Block) that intimates not abuse (invalidate, devalue, judge, criticize, manipulate, embarrass, humiliate, demoralize, emotionally or physically harm) or abandon (ignore, neglect, dismiss, reject, leave) them in any way shape or form. And that abuse or abandonment are unconsciously defined (mostly according to moral belief) in such ways that may lead one to construe another's behavior as "abuse" or "abandonment" when such is not at all the case. Witness the spouse who believes (as opposed to actually witnesses or observes) her husband is cheating on her because he wants to spend an hour with his buddies at the local pub after work... or the husband who "knows" (without actually observing and witnessing the fact of it) that his wife is having an affair because she spends so much time "shopping." 

In short, our minds often invent explanations on the basis of our unconscious, unobserved, unnoticed, unrecognized, unacknowledged, unaccepted, unowned, unappreciated and untreated fears of being abused and/or abandoned. So, how does one take what has been unconscious, unobserved, unnoticed, etc., and make make it not only conscious, observed, and noticed, but acknowledged, accepted, owned, appreciated, understood, emotionally digested and transcended (as in the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing)?  

Is there a way to get out of this paradigm? 

In the Asian cultures, the more observant "seers" since more or less four thousand years ago have suggested that love is something on the order of "being with what is in relationship." I picked up the idea from Jiddu Krishnamurti but understand now that he had acquired it the philosophical traditions of Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism as well as from his own direct, just-watch-and-listen, empirical observation of human interaction. What is significant about Krishnamurti (vs. so many others taking one position or another) is that he was unusually capable of separating the wheat (or truth) from the chaff (or schmaltz) of these philosophical traditions, and tracking back to the essential, empirical observations underlying them without getting snagged by all the self-serving, institutional conceptions... and mis-conceptions.

Translating Krishnamurti

In his typically Brahman, terse manner, he told the adolescent school children...

"Why is there this everlasting craving to be loved? You want to be loved because you do not love, but the moment you love, [the craving] is finished; you are no longer inquiring whether or not somebody loves you. As long as you demand to be loved, there is no love in you. And if you feel no love, you are ugly, brutish, so why should you be loved? Without love, you are a dead thing; and then the dead thing asks for love, it is still dead. Whereas, if your heart is full of love, then you never ask to be loved, you never put out your begging bowl for someone to fill it. It is only the empty who ask to be filled, and an empty heart can never be filled by running after gurus or seeking love in a hundred other ways." (Think on These Things, p. 226.)

Now, I will substitute his definition of love where it fits in that statement:

"Why is there this everlasting craving to be loved? You want to be loved because you are not being with what is in relationship, but the moment you are being with what is in relationship, [the craving] is finished; you are no longer inquiring whether or not somebody is being in relationship with you. As long as you demand to be loved, there is no being in relationship with what is in you. And if you are not being with what is in relationship, you are ugly, brutish, so why should you be loved? Without being with what is in relationship, you are a dead thing; and then the dead thing asks for others to be with what is in relationship, it is still dead. Whereas, if your heart is full of being with what is in relationship, then you never ask to be loved, you never put out your begging bowl for someone to fill it. It is only the empty who ask to be filled, and an empty heart can never be filled by running after gurus or seeking love in a hundred other ways."

Now, I will translate it one more time:

"Why is there this everlasting craving to be loved? You want to be loved because you are not observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, but the moment you are observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, [the craving] is finished; you are no longer inquiring whether or not somebody is observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship with you. As long as you demand to be loved, there is no observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating, and understanding what is in you. And if you are not observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, you are ugly, brutish, so why should you be loved? Without observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, you are a dead thing; and then the dead thing asks for others to observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, it is still dead. Whereas, if your heart is full of observing, noticing, recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, owning, appreciating and understanding what is in relationship, then you never ask to be loved, you never put out your begging bowl for someone to fill it. It is only the empty who ask to be filled, and an empty heart can never be filled by running after gurus or seeking love in a hundred other ways."

Does it make more sense now?

The States of Cognitive Consciousness and Being With What Is in Relationship

For the past several years, I've utilized the heuristics of the Three States of Cognitive Consciousness I began to develop after learning mindfulness meditation to see if I could replicate -- or at least approximate -- Krishnamurti's (and others', including Alan Watts, Arthur Deikman, Charles Tart, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Chogyam Trungpa, Stephen Levine, Pema Chodron, Jean Klein, Stephen Batchelor, Joel Kramer, Daniel Siegel, Daniel Goleman, et al; see the references below) "distillation" and "purification" processes.

Boiled down the essentials, utilizing the I-Eye, I+Eye and Eye>I metaphors for those three states along with the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing has provided a mechanism for myself and several others that accomplishes most if not all of what the "sages" of the East have been touting: A separation or liberation of cognition from the conditioning, socialization, habituation and normalization of appraisal according to instructed -- and structuralist -- belief to the partial or complete exclusion of conceptually informed, observation-based empiricism

("Conceptually informed" is a critical notion here: There are significant concepts to learn. Examples in this article include attachment, co-dependence, the double-bind, mindfulness, structuralism, empiricism, cultural conditioning, the consensus trace, social proof, logical fallacies, defense mechanisms, metacognition, etc.) Without doing so, one will likely fail to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate the relevance of what one observes and notices in one's own mental operations as well as in the surrounding environment. But one needs to empirically examine and test -- rather than merely accept -- that conceptual information, as well.)

The value of that liberation of cognition from common cultural conditioning

For the psychotherapist, at least, it is helping patients develop the ability to observe to notice to recognize (conceptually and "from the gut") to acknowledge to accept to own to appreciate to understand to digest to discharge (as in the 10 StEPs) the inaccurate beliefs and resulting emotions to which they were conditioned, socialized, habituated and normalized. Conditioned, perhaps, so completely that they cannot see, hear or otherwise sense outside a conditioned frame of reference that too often mis-represents actual reality.

Most of us have become so normalized to Tart's "trance" that we are no longer able to see, hear and otherwise sense what actually is, nor discriminate it from what is not, but is believed to be... mostly because most others believe it to be as the result of "social proof" in the surrounding interpersonal and social environment. 

For the majority of people, conditioning to a more or less consistent state of blind acceptance of social proof will not create or further enhance severe problems such as severely debilitating clinical depression, anxiety or mania. But most who are thus conditioned will experience some degree of emotional discomfort owing to their inability to see how their unconscious acceptance -- and reliance upon -- the culture's common logical fallacies (see the link below) that contribute to their angst. For many, that conditioning will play a significant role in their very painful, acute and chronic emotional discomforts via the "common sense" (but mostly just common cultural) mechanisms of defense.

What I have described above is the philosophical foundation of the cognitive behavioral psychotherapies that began with Albert Ellis's rational emotive behavioraltherapy (REBT) in the 1950s and became -- with the help of such as Aaron Beck, Donald Meichenbaum, Wayne Dyer and Matthew McKay -- "CBT," the most widely accepted standard of psychotherapy by the 1990s, as well as the platform for Jeffrey Young's widely used schema therapy

After a couple of decades of popularity, however, those therapies (generally, "the CBTs") were found to be only partially effective. Those in the profession who had been sufficiently exposed to the Asian philosophical traditions that made their way to the West through George Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Paramahansa Yoganada, Alan Watts, Richard Alpert, Chogyam Trungpa, Arthurd Deikman, Charles Tart, Jiddu Krishnamurti and others mostly during the first half of the last century thought they knew why. Along with Watts, a number of more or less "existential" psychologists like Fritz Perls, Abe Maslow, Ronald Laing, Irwin Yalom and Nathaniel Branden were drawn to and expanded upon the concepts and their potential for psychotherapy in the '50s, '60s and '70s. 

But it wasn't until Jon Kabat-Zinn and Marsha Linehan developed precise methods in the '80s that the ball really got rolling. His mindfulness-based stress reduction and her dialectical behaviortherapy led the charge, and real psychotherapy hasn't been the same ever since. Others, including Stephen Hayes (acceptance and commitment therapy), Mark Williams (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy), and Stanley Block (mind-body bridging therapy) followed in the '90s. Patricia Ogden's interoceptive, sensorimotor and Peter Levine's (also interoceptive) somatic experiencing therapies are among the newer, widely accepted "wrinkles," though Ronald Kurtz's Hakomi mindfulness centered somatic psychotherapy from the late 1980s seems to be the common ancestor to both of these increasingly widely used and research-verified, interoceptive psychotherapies.

What is significant about all of these CBT and post-CBT (so-called "mindfulness") psychotherapies is that they help the patient move further away from unconscious dependence upon conditioned beliefs that run the gamut from "relatively accurate much of the time" to "relatively misleading most of the time" toward an temporary state of what James Flavell called "metacognition." 

But there are decided limits to metacognition and the CBTs. Critical thinking skills are highly useful, but only if one learns to test ones thoughts for accuracy on the basis of first-hand, empirical observations, rather than mere belief-switching because one idea sounds better than another. This is crucial because belief-switching is still based on past experience (or "knowledge," or belief) predicting how things will be in the future. 

Think "scientism" here and "cultism" there, and see the links below. Both belief systems are inherently misleading -- albeit one clearly more than the other -- because they stipulate permanence to what may or may not have been observed. And permanence is simply not they way things really are. As in the principle of eternal impermanence in Taoism, change is (inherently) what is. 

I picked scientism to illustrate this matter because it is so widely conditioned, socialized, habituated and normalized in the common culture. The vast majority of us can see through the bizarre pseudo-realities laid on the true believers (see the link below) by the likes of L. Ron Hubbard, Osho (aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), Sun Myung Moon, Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Oral Roberts, Jim Jones and Gene & Melissa Scott. Even so, most of us (save perhaps for those who deny climate change nowadays) take it for granted that whatever the scientists tell us their research has demonstrated is unquestionable fact. The results of scientific experiments may be a far better approximation of what is than what one may pick up from a guru, but in fact it is (or more accurately was) only true with respect to the very specific circumstances of a particular experiment. 

Most of us accept what the scientists say and reject the gurus by dint of conditioningsocialization and normalization because the majority does so. It's a matter of social proof. Whether we would accept -- much less like or defend -- it or not, most of us have been habituated by conditioningsocialization and normalization to be Eric Hoffer's "true believers."

But in so doing, we ignore that possibility that the so-called facts are only facts to the extent that they accurately represent what actually happened in the scientific experiment. And this is precisely what occurs in the conditioned concept and acting out of romantic love in our culture. We convince ourselves that things will be wonderful forever and/or the way they were -- or we wanted to believe they were -- during the "pink cloud" phase when we felt powerful emotions (driven by neurochemicals like oxytocin and other opiate-like endorphins and enkephalins, dopamine and adrenaline; the so-called "neurochemistry of romantic love"). Then -- as the neurochemistry "wears off" and we begin to see, hear and sense the other party's beliefs, emotions and behaviors -- we try to find the logical fallacies and defense mechanisms we need to either remain in the game... or bail out.

My sense -- after a year of utilizing en vivo the notion that "love is being with what is in relationship" -- is that one can observe to notice to recognize to acknowledge to accept to own to appreciate to understand to digest to transcend the fallacies and defenses and just "be with" what actually is, and not with what isn't. (Which, one may soon be able to see, makes it possible to stay in sufficient humility to be empathic and compassionate for oneself and another.)

Moreover, that one can avoid the pitfalls of anxious, insecure attachment and co-dependence by so-doing. Look to see. Listen to hear. Feel to sense. Use mindfulness, "higher consciousness," self-awareness, self-observation, whatever, to bring the mind back to direct experience of what is in relationship... separated from, uncontaminated by and free of opinion, appraisal, evaluation, judgment, analysis, assessment or attribution of meaning based on unexamined, unconscious belief, ideas, ideals, doctrines, rule or requirements.

And observe to see, hear and sense if the other party is -- or isn't -- doing likewise.

Admittedly, the ability to use the Three States of Cognitive Consciousness and the 10 StEPs or any other means (including Block's) of "coming to your senses" -- and the accuracy of what is actually seen, heard and experienced, rather than believed to be -- depends upon one's clarity of mind at any given time. (One must keep in mind that "under stress, we regress.") But it is evident from working with several people using the methods described in detail elsewhere on this weblog that the more one utilizes such a method, the more one becomes aware of, and able to deal with, such stress... and to see, hear and sense where both parties to the relationship actually are over time, as well as in the present moment.

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