True Communication, Relationships & Guns

Recently, I commented on a post from a friend who has been posting a lot about the children who are protesting for gun-control legislation. I am troubled by his posts and many others communications of this same type all across the internet and on television because they are trying to win an argument by attacking a person, a group of people, or an organization.

The post said: Obama was President during 8 school shootings. Why did they wait til now to protest? (The subtext of the post was to call the protesters hypocrites)

I commented that this was not an honest question. That this was an assertion, an opinion, an accusation. I asked, What was the purpose of making this assertion?

No one actually answered this question. But I already knew its purpose. It was to discredit and to demean people who were saying something he didn’t like and who didn’t agree with him. It was not only to make what they were doing seem wrong, it was to condemn them as people. It was a verbal attack.

These attacks take the form of criticism or condemnation. Criticism is a communication that asserts that the behavior of the person is wrong, such as ‘this post is stupid’. A condemnation is directed at the person to assert that the person is bad, such as ‘you are stupid for posting this’. My point is not that criticism and condemnation are ‘wrong’ or that there is anything wrong with the people who do it. They are not bad people. My point is how unbelievably ineffective criticism or condemnation is in supporting true communication or in solving problems.

Strangely, most people believe that criticism and condemnation are communication. But true communication is intended to help with understanding. Criticism and condemnation are about hurting, silencing, weakening or annihilating an opponent, an enemy. The belief is that if you can weaken your opponent, then you can win and get your way. This may even work sometimes. But the problem is that the attack makes your opponent feel hurt, wounded and angry. If you do win and get your way, they often harbor seething resentment. They may go quiet for awhile, but they will gather their resources and their strength and they will likely come back and attack you and weaken you and eventually defeat you. And, then you feel hurt and angry and seethe. And this goes on and on.

So much of what we see in the world right now is based on this dynamic. It continues because of those temporary gains where we think we won this one. Someone who criticized and condemned us, someone who silenced our voices, someone who took advantage or didn’t care about our point of view or abused their power or position or their authority was finally taken down and was replaced by another voice and another point-of-view that we like better. A voice that agrees with how we see the world. We think that what was ‘right’ finally won out. Those people who were ousted were despicable and we believe that they are getting just what they deserve. We don’t care what happens to them.

But, what we often don’t notice is that, we used the very same tactics to get our win. We are doing the same thing to silence them as they did to us. Take for example the case of the student protester David Hogg. The people fighting to protect the right of gun ownership see this teenage protester as a bully.  Hogg has found people to blame and criticize and condemn. He has lodged attacks against them. He blames the NRA and the politicians to whom they donate for the tragedy that he and classmates endured.

Those on the side of pro gun-control legislation sympathize with David. They feel compassion for the terrible tragedy and the painful experience that David and his classmates went through. Of course, many pro-gun ownership people feel this, too. David’s anger and outrage are understandable. It’s part of the human experience to lash out. It’s understandable why these children want change. However, those who want gun-control see his attacks on the NRA and politicians who took their donations as justified. These people deserve the attacks. They are the enemy and they need to be weakened and silenced. Their reign of tyranny must come to an end.

And when those aligned with the NRA feel attacked and defend themselves and then finally respond with attacks against David, those who align with David are shocked and outraged. They ask themselves ‘How can those gun-lovers attack someone who has been through such a terrible tragedy? How can they be so heartless and cruel?’

And it is cruel. And it does close off our hearts. It is cruel because these attacking words deepen a divide in our humanity. The damage to our hearts is felt by all who participate in this war of words. Both sides are weakened. Temporary and tenuous wins are coming at an immense cost, but strangely, we are more than willing to pay it.

So I decided to see if there was any way that I could help my friend who was participating in this war see this cost. However, I found that it was really hard to make my argument because everyone who responded to my comments thought I was arguing for gun-control. They lumped me in with various groups and called those groups names. They criticized my behavior and what I saying. It was clear that I was perceived as an interloper on their territory and they were doing everything in their power to let me know that I was not welcome there. They were clear that my thoughts, my voice, my perspective and my person were unwelcome.

Some of the people who responded engaged with me for awhile. I simply ignored any criticism or condemnation toward me or any of the groups or people they were upset with. I did this because I know to defend against these attacks would weaken me and close my heart. I know that to engage in this war of words simply creates noise that obscures my true communication. So instead, I would ask questions or I would make arguments about why this form of communication does not work.

Some people got frustrated with me and retreated. Some stayed engaged for quite some time. Occasionally, I could tell that a few took things that I said were taken as a criticism and people were feeling defensive. I would try to assure them that it was not my intent to judge them or criticize them, I simply wanted them to consider if it was really working for them. Did it help them get what they really wanted?

One man became emotional and shared that he had used a gun against someone who had invaded his home. That he needed a gun to protect himself and his family. I shared that I could understand why he felt so deeply about gun ownership. I suggested that his story was compelling. People might listen if he spoke from his heart. I don’t think I changed his mind, but we ended on a friendly note. We discovered that we both love our families and share of love of dogs. I felt honored that he shared with me what was in his heart.

And just as I was feeling pretty good about that exchange someone else jumped on and called me ‘delusional’ for thinking that Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer would respond to my new friend’s story. Maybe he is right about that, I don’t know. But it occurred to me that a conversation on Facebook is not about convincing a politician of anything. So I pointed out that I doubted either Nancy or Chuck were on my friend’s Facebook feed and since they weren’t who were these type of posts directed to. Who did he hoped saw them? What did he want them to do?


Then more argument. He went back through other comments I had made and looked for openings. Places to attack. He called me a ‘gun-hater’ and lumped me in with those other ‘gun-haters’ and told me what was wrong with me and them. So I asked him what made him think I was a gun-hater? I suggested that he re-read my comments and see any place where I said that I was in favor of gun-control. I asked him to examine why he thought I was his enemy. I suggested that he was seeing an enemy where there wasn’t one.

Quiet for a bit.

Then a question. He pointed out that he had asked me what I thought was an ideal solution to the gun issue and I hadn’t responded. That was true. I had avoided getting into that debate because that wasn’t the point I was making. I hadn’t noticed the question. I apologized to him that I had not answered his question. I told him that I didn’t have an ideal outcome. He attacked my behavior for weighing in on the subject when I didn’t even have a position.

Again, I ignored the criticism and I restated that my concern was not about the subject matter but about the way in which we argue and its effectiveness. I included an example that illustrated the problem and gave an alternative approach. It was an example of true communication. The subject for the example was around resolving an argument about how best to fold a towel. He told me my example was stupid because there was no constitutional amendment on how to fold a towel.

This time I called him on the use of the term stupid. I said that his intent was to demean and degrade me by calling me stupid. He replied that he didn’t call me stupid, he said my example was stupid. A criticism rather than a condemnation. While I would agree that one is slightly more attacking than the other, both are still attacks. But I let that one pass.

Instead, I continued to practice true communication. I replied that I had heard what he has been saying. That I heard that gun-ownership was an important right to him. That I heard that he believed that it protected the people from government abuse of power. I told him that I heard he believed that it was a fundamental right that was worth defending. Then I said that his communication to me was that he did not want to consider my perspective. That he did not want to listen to what I had to say. I told him that it was also his right to not listen to me. That my only point was, How is that working for you? Is it helping you get what you want?

Then he told me that he would actually like to find a compromise but that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would not listen. His perspective was that Trump and the Republican Congress were ready to make compromise but that the Democrats were holding a hard line that gave them no choice but to fight.

I heard the resignation that no other options were possible. I certainly understood the perspective because both sides feel this way. They are stuck, they are entrenched, they are battle weary. I thanked this man for conversing with me and considering my point of view. He replied by saying that he actually agrees with me and wishes it could be different, too.

A little bit later he came back and asked, if I wanted to turn down the rhetoric why I didn’t say the things that I had been saying to him to David Hogg. I replied that I don’t know David. But that I do say these same things to my ‘liberal’ friends who criticize and condemn people on Facebook. I told him that they didn’t like it when I said these things to them either. I told him that they told me the same thing that he told me. They say that they are forced into doing this from the other side. They want compromise but the other side won’t listen. They don’t see a choice, either.

In his final reply to me, I could sense that he had a glimpse of the problem I was talking about. But he renewed his claim that there was no choice but to fight. I felt his passion and commitment for his cause. I knew he was dedicated and would not be giving up.

I admire that.

But I disagree that there is no choice but to war with each other. There is a choice. It is one each of can make. It may not change government or the outcomes of legislation anytime in the near future. But it can change the nature of how we relate and communicate to one another. We can listen, we can seek to understand and really hear each other. We can show respect. It starts with these little conversations. With even just one person willing to let the criticism and condemnation pass by and keep asking questions.

It may be only little inroads. There may only be little glimpses of another point-of-view. But with each glimmer it might just bring us a little closer together. It might just make each of us a little stronger. It might just open up our hearts a little more. And with each step, we might just create a better tomorrow together.

Me Too

In the wake of the current awareness of how often the sexual desires of men motivate them to step over boundaries and turn women into objects to be used, possessed, controlled and treated as disposable; I felt compelled to share my story. Before I healed in me what would finally set me free, I experienced this dynamic with a few different men. It is my hope that this letter will serve to prompt men and women alike free themselves from this painful dynamic.

To Some of the Men in My Past:

You hold within you, in your mind, in your consciousness, misogyny. I am not going to call you a misogynist, because that is not what you are. I know what you are in the heart of your Being, like all of us, you are Love. But you have forgotten what you are, as we all have to some degree. I had forgotten the truth of what I am as well. When we were together some parts deep in my unconscious mind were very, very asleep.

When we were together you acted not out of the Loving Being that you are but out of a deep seated hidden fear and hate. You showed it to me over and over again in many, many ways. Here are just a few of them.

You saw me primarily as a sexual being. You saw me as something to satisfy your sexual needs and desires. It mattered a great deal to you how I looked; what my weight was; what I wore; the length of my hair. In some part of your mind, deep in your subconsciousness, I existed to satisfy what you wanted, your desires. I am not saying that is the only thing you saw. You may even deny that this was true. Your denials made it worse because I saw it. I saw it whenever I wasn’t pleasing or satisfying to you; you would turn away from me; you got angry with me; you went silent on me; you said demeaning things to me. You made your unhappiness clear. You let me know it was my fault and I should be different.

You were not very concerned about my comfort or my boundaries. You found subtle and not so subtle ways to coerce me into giving you what you wanted sexually, even when it was outside of my comfort zone. It was clear that if I said, “No”, that you would disengage with me, even leave the relationship. You found ways to hurt and punish me when you didn’t get what you wanted. If I complained, it was clear that my pain was not seen or heard or cared about. The complaint would be twisted into some deficiency within me. The message was that I wouldn’t feel this way if there weren’t something wrong with me. There was never any acknowledgment that there was anything amiss in the way I was being treated.

You didn’t like to call me by my name. It was much later that I understood the reason that you rarely used my name. If you used my name, you might have to see that I was a person. A person who had her own view of the world, her own experience of wants and needs, her own values, her own feelings. You called me something that would distance yourself from me. You had no interest in being truly intimate with me. You wanted to get something from me. You wanted to possess me. And I doubt you would admit this was true, but you wanted to control me.

You saw me as replaceable. You told me how important I was to you and how much you valued me, but you showed me that if I was not what you wanted me to be, if I did not give you what you wanted, that I was not worth your time. You would go elsewhere. You would find someone who was willing to give you what you wanted. And if I complained, your answer to preventing you from leaving was for me to give in to you.

You wanted to me never to deny you. You wanted me to allow you to treat me however you wanted. You did not want me to have the ability to say, ‘No’. You pretended to respect it, but you didn’t. You were angry. Maybe you tried to hide it, but you were angry and saying, ‘No’, wasn’t safe. I saw the anger even when you tried to hide it.

It took me a long, long, time to heal from what I experienced with you. In that time I learned that the reason that I was with you was because of something that was actually in me. I finally saw that deep within my own mind was the same belief that my value, my worth, my reason for existing somehow rested on my physical desirability, my sexuality. I have no idea when or how it got there. But it was there. It was not true, but it was buried in my mind and powerfully operating.

It made me highly attracted to you. Your desire for me, attracted me to you. The fact that you wanted me and pursued me seemed to re-assure an insecurity of my value. But the painful reality was that what you gave me, you easily and quickly took away. I lived in constant fear that you would and when you did, I felt inexpressible pain and despair.

No matter how much I even wanted to, I could not be what you wanted me to be. It was an endless painful cycle that I could not change or break free from. I felt hopeless and deeply depressed. A dark place that seemed to last an eternity.

When I couldn’t take the pain and the darkness any longer, then I got angry. I got angry with you and then angry with myself. How could I have allowed you to treat me this way? How could I have allowed you to show me so little respect or caring, much less love? I was angry for a long, long time. And due to this anger I couldn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t trust men and more importantly, I couldn’t trust myself.

This caused me to be very isolated and alone. The loneliness and the darkness were oppressive. I needed help, but I didn’t know where to turn. I had tried so many things in the world. So, so many things. Nothing touched my pain and despair. Then one-day something dropped into my mind, a gift from a wisdom somewhere deep inside of me. It was not the love and approval of a man that I needed, it was God that I needed.

Once, I realized that I had lost my connection to God and that was what I really longed for, then began a long, long journey to find my way back. Again, I searched in many, many places. Different religions, philosophies and ideologies. But the answers were not to be found in any of these beliefs. The answers were to be found in my own self-inquiry, in a deep dive into my own mind and beyond.

I finally got to the bottom of it. The truth of it. I didn’t know who I was. I was letting the idea of who I was or who I should be drive my life. I was letting the idea that my sexual desirability had something to do with my worth or lovability. I let how desirable I seemed to be to you — define me. Once I saw the lie, I also saw that there was nothing wrong with me other than a mind that had mis-directed me and caused me great suffering.

And in this realization, I saw that there is nothing wrong with you, other than a mind that is mis-directing you. A mind telling you lie about what will fill that deep dark empty place inside of you. A mind that told you to grasp and claim and control me in order to restore what you think you lost. A desire that guided you to a solution that will only make you feel more and more empty and alone. This answer will not work for you anymore than mine worked for me. And whether or not you know it yet, it is causing you to suffer as well.

I see now that there is no need for me to be angry with you for your treatment of me. There is no point in it. It does not help me or you.

I have found within me what truly heals and satisfies and restores a sense of well-being and wholeness inside. Because of this I am no longer vulnerable to you. I no longer feel like I need you. I no longer have any investment in how you see me or how you feel about me. I am free.

And in that freedom, I can love you from the place that knows how to truly love. A love that accepts that it is your choice to continue to pursue the lies within your mind if you so choose, but also patiently waits for the day, that you choose to awaken from this false belief of your mind.

But loving you does not mean that the way you treat women is OK. It is not OK. However, much you want to believe it is OK and it is just what men do; it is not OK. It is not OK because inherent in this action is a denial of Love’s Presence. It is a denial not only of the incredible BEINGNESS of the women you behave this way toward, it also a denial of your own incredible BEINGNESS.

You do not see the truth of us or of yourself. You are lost. You are blind. You are not free. You are a slave to your desires and to the fear and hate that drives them.


Spiritual vs. Psychological Models of Mind Healing

We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.

Alan W. Watts

This powerful quote by Alan W. Watts has been used by many as a helpful way of describing the difference between a psychological model and a spiritual model. The psychological model says that it is our past and our experiences in life that form and shape who we are; how we feel; and how we behave in the world. In this model our past explains and even justifies our current reality. The psychological model essentially says that the wake that trails behind the ship creates the boat and makes the boat what it is. This is a common belief of today’s world. Most people try to understand themselves and others around them by the past.

In traditional psychology, a therapist seeks to understand the nature of any behavioral or emotional disturbances by understanding the patient’s past. The patient is encouraged to talk openly about any life difficulty or traumatic experiences. The patient is encouraged to explore those experiences to find insight into their current difficulties. A common belief within this model is that the understanding of how the person got to where they are will help them to change their future. But what if this isn’t true? What if your past is not the cause of your present?

The spiritual model of healing the mind agrees with Alan Watts and says that your current consciousness (essentially the thoughts and beliefs in your mind) create your current experience in the present moment. This experience will simply dissolve into the past like a wake behind a ship. In the spiritual model your past doesn’t really matter that much and does not determine your present or your future. What matters is your consciousness. What matters is how the mind sees and interprets the world that you perceive.

In the spiritual model the mind is an elaborate computer program that takes in enormous amounts of data and processes that data. It literally sees and hears everything in your perceptual reality. It then runs complex programs that focus your attention on only those aspects of reality that are deemed to be important to your individual self. The result of that processing is your conscious perceptions of yourself and of the world. The core of this program of the mind believes that you are an individual self that is separate from Life. This separate self is weak and fragile and needs protection. The mind attempts to protect and defend this self and to seek out what will ensure the survival and even expansion of this self.

Much like a computer processing large amounts of data to find patterns and meaning, the mind processes every sight, sound, smell and nuance of this worldly experience and reduces it into patterns and gives it meaning. In doing this it distorts reality because you are no longer aware of the whole of it, you only see parts of it. You are only aware of what the mind shows you. You think you are seeing the world as it is, but you aren’t. You are seeing it through distortions produced by the mind. In eastern philosophies, the mind that does this distorting is called an ‘ego’.

A spiritual model holds that there is no true separate self without this ego mind. Enlightenment is what occurs to a person when the entirety of this ego mind drops away and the true wholeness of Life can once again be seen and recognized. Those who have had this enlightenment experience report that they no longer see any separation. They no longer see self and other. Everything that they look upon they recognize as themselves. Everything is One.

Therefore, in the spiritual model of healing, the central problem is not one of understanding a past causation that brought the person to their current circumstance. The central problem is one of unburdening the person of a distorting mind that prevents them from seeing reality as it is. In this theory emotional and behavioral disturbances are caused by the ego mind that distorts reality. Once these distortions are relinquished, only inner peace remains.

The Belief-Shifting method of healing the mind is based on a spiritual model of healing. Unlike a spiritual path, whose purpose is to support the person in dropping the whole egoic structure of mind, Belief-Shifting simply intends to support the client in dropping particular mind distortions that are creating suffering and life dysfunction for the person in their present. Once the distortions are dropped, the person’s present reality is instantly transformed.

Which model do you think is true? Does the wake make the boat? Or does the boat make the wake? Does your past determine your future? Or will healing your mind free you today?

Have ‘YOU’ Become a Never-Ending Improvement Project – Quit Now!

written by Stephanie Padilla July 13, 2016

Since I have been around on the planet it seems like the main advice we are given about living a good life is to focus our attention on working on ourselves. We are told that trying to change others is a fruitless effort. We are better served by turning our attention to ourselves. We at least have some control over ourselves, so we should change what we can change and leave others alone. This appears to be sage advice.

From this basic idea, massive self-help and self-improvement industries have been born. We are given advice and support to change nearly everything about ourselves. We can change anything from our physical appearance to our intelligence to our emotional states. We are given self-improvement plans to make us more likable, more attractive, more powerful, more wealthy, more interesting, more skilled, etc. We can even work on changing our inner condition; to have more inner calm, less fear, a more positive attitude, a better character, less anger, better self-esteem, more inner peace, etc.

There was a point in my life I thought that it would be impossible to find enough time in the day to work on all the things that I needed to change about me, to become the me that I wanted to be. Or the me that I was being told would be better or bring better circumstances to my life. And, interestingly, much of this advice and many of these programs actually worked, at least to some degree. So why am I telling to quit? I am telling you to quit because there is something very unfortunate hidden in this quest to become a better you. The quest itself will cause you to suffer.

The problem with all quests in life is that they have no real end-point where success is finally reached and the quest is over. Whenever one thing is attained, then there is always another goal to be reached. And anything that is attained or achieved can never be sustained in time forever. It will always, eventually, be lost. Therefore, in this pursuit of self-improvement we find ourselves on an endless treadmill of seeking a better self and fearing the loss of any ground we have gained. And in this process, we suffer.

Why is this the case? Why is this pursuit of self-improvement a path to pain rather than the answer to a fulfilling life? There is a truth that remains hidden to us while we pursue this illusive ideal self. The self that you are attempting to change and improve can’t really be you. How could it be possible that something that can be changed be who you are? Yet, we mistake these transient properties for ourselves all the time. We get so focused on changing them and making them better, we don’t stop to even ask, ‘Who is it that wants this?’, ‘Who am I?’

The pursuit of making a better you is intended to obscure these questions. You may think you are pursuing the right changes because you are pursuing a positive attitude, an admirable character, a calm mind, or even inner peace. However, these are all conditions that are experienced and obey the laws of transience. They aren’t who you are. And their pursuit will obscure the question of, ‘Who am I?’

Often, we don’t even realize that our true motivation in the pursuit of changing ourselves is to run away from our true Self. It will only be when you stop pursuing an ideal ‘self’ that the Truth of YOU will find you.