How are the gardens coming along?

How are the gardens coming along?

by Robert S. Vibert

In life, we are surrounded by people and situations.  Our interaction with each can be seen as a garden, an area in which the various aspects of our relationship with those other people can flourish or whither, depending a great deal upon how much we tend to the garden.

If we neglect a garden, it will most likely deteriorate from what we want it to be. Forgetting to water it or ensure that there are nutrients for the various plants and organisms growing there is a recipe for failure.

This principle also applies in our relationships with other people.  While some relationships require little tending due to the nature and depth of our involvement (a simple hello and smile for the cashier in a store we visit regularly is probably enough), others require that we invest more of our time and effort. Engaging in magical thinking that the other person will tend for us the garden we share rarely works very well.

Successful gardens and relationships require active engagement and that means we are investing in them regularly, as well as paying attention to the dry patches that need some more water, and the parts that need specific care.

What keeps us  from being good gardeners?

While some might argue that being a good gardener / participant in a relationship requires us to learn how to do it, there is an important factor which might not be so obvious – self sabotage.

In today’s world, it is very common for people to have the notion that they do not deserve to be happy, to have a successful relationship garden, to be successful at what they do. This notion is encouraged by marketing messages which tell us that we need to buy X  or do Y in order to be happy or to be liked/valued/cherished. These messages bombard us daily and it is not surprising that many people take on the hidden concept that they are not good enough to have what they want.

With this “I’m not good enough” worldview permeating their thinking, usually at a level that they are not aware of, people tend then to unconsciously act in ways to make their gardens match up with the worldview. They neglect to tend to the garden, and when it does not flourish, they can tell themselves that this is the result of some defect in the garden or other person, when really, they have sabotaged it themselves because deep down they do not believe they deserve a beautiful lush garden.

Because the “I’m not good enough” concept is one that would cause much discomfort in someone who actually said it aloud, it rarely is seen as the source of much of the pain in our lives.  It is far easier to blame other people, our finances, our social status, etc., etc. for our current situation that to look closely at what we do to ensure that we do not achieve the success and happiness we want.

One way to verify if this “I’m not good enough” concept is present in our lives is to imagine ourselves in a situation that we say we want. With all the details we can include, we imagine that we are there now, living, breathing, being in that successful context we want. As we continue imagining being there, we pay attention to the BETIS (our way of talking with ourselves).  We notice our Body sensations, our Emotions, our Thoughts, our Images in our mind, our Sounds in our heads (words or other sounds we hear inside).  If any of the BETIS are anything but positive, that is a sign that we are not truly comfortable with being in that success we want.

When we feel uncomfortable imagining ourselves in a successful future situation, it is normal for us to avoid that discomfort by ensuring that we do not get there. We will sabotage our own efforts to ensure that we stay safely in our current reality. This sabotage is often subtle, like showing up late, forgetting to do something, giving up early on a project, being “too busy”, etc.  All of these actions are intended to make the achievement of that success more and more difficult.  The same thing happens with our relationships – in the end, the garden will not flourish and we can blame that on the weather.

Short-circuiting the self-sabotage

The first step to reducing the incidents of self-sabotage in our lives is to become aware of it. By paying attention to what is happening to us and our internal world, we can notice how we talk to ourselves, how we act, how we react, how we are. Noticing does not mean judging – it is simply neutral observation.

Any time we notice that we are feeling uncomfortable about some future success or glorious garden, we can look for internal signs of that “I’m not good enough” concept. Seeing it, we can then release it, using a conscious approach such as AER.

I have seen so much damage caused by that concept and so many unhappy people that I decided to make the MP3 recording of the AER process to release “I’m not good enough” freely available. You can download it from this link. Save the files to your computer and follow the steps indicated.

Releasing the “I’m not good enough” concept from your life will open doors and make it much easier to achieve the success and lovely gardens you desire.

Il faut cultiver notre jardin
– Voltaire


Copyright  2014 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

I feel X, so you must Y

I feel X, so you must Y

by Robert S. Vibert

Anyone who interacts with other humans is likely to run into what I am terming impositional logic. This is peculiar form of logic in which one person imposes an expectation on the other as the result of a feeling.

Here’s a simple example – someone feels sad, and so expects that others will do something to cheer them up. I’m not talking about wanting or hoping for something – with impositional logic there is an actual expectation involved, and often negative fallout is directed at the other person when that expectation is not fulfilled.

This negative fallout can range from pouting to outrage to outbursts to severed relationships, all because the expectation was not fulfilled, or not fulfilled in a “timely” fashion.  Often, the expectation is not verbalized – it is simply expected, as a right.

 Where do we get such ideas?

This concept that we have the right to expect something from another human just because we are experiencing a feeling might come, in part, from our childhood. Before we can express ourselves in language, we must rely on others (especially primary care-givers) to interpret our current emotional state and provide us with what we need (food, diaper change, tucked in for sleep, etc.). After some time of having our unexpressed needs met almost automatically, a habit or worldview of expectation can become part of our way of moving through life.

When a relationship is one of adult and infant, this sort of expectation can be “normal”. However, as people become more mature (supposedly) and interact on a more peer-to-peer basis, then unspoken expectations enter into the realm of impositions.

Sometimes we can impose expectations on ourselves. When this phenomena of impositional logic and expectations became apparent to me, and that little voice inside said “write about this”, there was an expectation that I would find the words I needed to compose this post. Fortunately, my self and my inner voice get along pretty well, so the process of writing was not fraught with implied doom if I did not succeed in this project. Meanwhile, the inner critic is watching the progress right now, and chuckling at how “rusty” the writer is, having been away from these sorts of written commentaries for several years.

But, enough about me – I expect that you are still reading at this point… even though I had not actually said that, yet. Now the cat is out of the figurative bag (much to his relief, I am sure).

Some expectations I have observed

The following is a short list to illustrate the concept of impositional logic a little more:

  • I feel happy, so you should feel happy too
  • I feel angry about ABC, so you should also feel angry about ABC
  • I feel angry at you, so you should feel sorry
  • I feel hurt, so you should beg forgiveness
  • I feel love for you, so you should feel love for me
  • I feel upset, so you should restrict your activities
  • I feel threatened by BCD, so you should protect me from that
  • I feel insecure, so you must compliment me
  • I believe in the Easter Bunny, so you must also

When we fail to fulfill

I mentioned above the negative fallout that often arises as a result of not meeting an unspoken expectation. In the world of impositional logic, the fact that the expectation is not communicated is somehow irrelevant. A corollary logic is “if you loved me, you would know…” which is equally absurd, but quite commonplace.  The negative fallout represents punishment for failure and is actually coercive in nature – the person who has not “complied” with the expectation may end up over-compensating in the future to anticipate and prevent being subjected to the fallout. They will attempt to guess what is expected of them and provide it, even though they eventually come to realize that the expectation is not always the same and the rules keep shifting.

How to deal with this?

No clear cut solution has appeared in front of me yet, but I remain slightly optimistic. I’ve tried telling people that I flunked mind-reading which sometimes buys me about 1 day of grace. I ask for all needs to be clearly communicated in advance or at least at the time, but that has a poor track record so far. The number of hours I have invested in trying to decipher unexpressed expectations in other humans has exceeded my counting, and still I get blindsided regularly.  Perhaps one day the answer will be revealed, but I best not get my expectations and hopes up.

Copyright  2014 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

Oh Aversion, How I detest thee!

Oh Aversion, How I detest thee!

by Robert S. Vibert

You know, I really did not want to write this post. In fact, I avoided writing it. Delayed writing it. Tried not to think about it. Felt bad when I thought about writing it. And, in the end, I did write it, and actually felt better when I did. I owned my aversion to writing about aversion, and circular thinking-like as that may seem, it is what it is and was.

The trigger for writing this article was a brief segment in the DVD series Love: What Everyone Needs to Know by Dr. Pat Love in which she interviewed Dr. William Glasser about relationships and he mentioned The 7 Deadly Habits.

According to Dr. Glasser, these 7 Deadly Habits are

  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Nagging
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Bribing, rewarding to control

When I heard him mention these it did not take long for me to recall recent incidents in which I had experienced one or more of these habits directed at me, and the strong aversion which arose within as a result.

According to Buddhist teachings, the source of much suffering in life is aversion or craving. If one is able to no longer have an aversion to something (or a craving for something), then suffering will diminish. This sounds great in theory and takes ages to achieve in practice. Recent studies of the brain show how we react to some outside stimuli, like hearing certain tones of voice, in the same way as other painful experiences, including physical ones. It is normal for us to then want to get away from the source of this pain, and if that is someone using one of the 7 Deadly Habits on us, then we will want to get away from them.

Sometimes, an aversion reaction can manifest in a physical discomfort – it literally feels awful in our bodies to be near the source – someone complaining, nagging, blaming, etc. Although Dr. Glasser does not include it on his list, I would add Shaming as another trigger for discomfort and pain and the resultant aversion.


Can we feel less aversion?

There are schools of thought which tell us that we can change our response to outside stimuli by re-framing what we are hearing/experiencing into something benign or even pleasant. Instead of responding to the criticism we look upon it as helpful. While this sounds like a good strategy, it rather hard to do when our brain’s pain center is triggered and our body is saying “Get me outta here!” It requires a large dose of willpower and determination and is really a coping mechanism rather than a solution.

Some other approaches say that we can intellectually rise above the stimuli to see what is driving the other person to behave in such a way (they are speaking from their pain, using their maladaptive coping mechanisms, they only want their needs satisfied, etc.). This is essentially the “knowledge is power” school of thought, the one that states that if we know “why” we can then understand and somehow this knowledge and understanding will be sufficient. To that, I always ask “What about the pain being experienced by the recipient?” and have yet to receive a satisfactory answer, probably because this approach is also one where suppressing of feelings is proposed. I have yet to see any advantage to suppressing/managing/controlling feelings – it is too much like wrestling with yourself – part of you always loses.

The fact that there are countless books on dieting and yet it is a constant struggle is a fair indicator that knowledge alone is insufficient for dealing with that and with many other problems.

I would propose a different response to the rise of feelings of aversion, which involves interlocking actions of self-care:

Accept – First of all, accept that the feeling of aversion has arisen and is present. Do not deny it or try to change it or indulge in self-judgment and punishment for having the feeling.

Notice – Any painful feelings which also arose when the aversion was triggered are often signs of emotional wounds. Notice those feelings, again with acceptance. You may wish to heal the wounds using a technique such as AER so they do not contribute as strongly (and  often not at all) to the aversion in the future.

Choose – The world is full of people who have never learned how to properly and respectfully communicate with others. They use the 7 Deadly Habits constantly and will continue to do so in the future. Hoping that they will somehow magically change is only going to lead to frustration and disappointment. The choice one makes is how much one exposes oneself to the stress and negativity of criticism, blaming, shaming, nagging, etc. From where I stand, the less exposure, the better, as your nervous system does not benefit from such inputs.

Dr. Glasser refers to the Seven Caring Habits:

  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Listening
  • Accepting
  • Trusting
  • Respecting
  • Negotiating differences.

I could spend all day with someone like that, couldn’t you?

One of the problems we run into when we look for people who use the Caring Habits is that there are insufficient models of such behaviour today. The media is full of examples of detrimental behaviour as that provides dramatic situations and rather stingy when it comes to providing us with models of caring. Sarcasm, belittling comments and snappy comebacks are the staple fare in TV and films, flavoured with rampant narcissism and disrespect for others.

A recent film, The King’s Speech, is remarkable for the inclusion of several characters who demonstrated many of the Seven Caring Habits:

  • Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), the speech therapist who was firmly supporting, encouraging, accepting and respecting of his royal patient, eventually becoming his trusted friend. Even when a disagreement arose between them, it was Lionel who set out to apologize for his part in the incident and negotiate a way around the difference.
  • Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, wife of King George VI of England (played by Helena Bonham Carter), who was consistently supportive, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, and respecting of her husband despite the struggles he faced. She wanted what was best for him and without imposing her views, opinions or ideas, respectfully and with caring worked with him to attain that.

It would be very easy to want people like those two characters in one’s life. They would be the ones we seek out, choose to involve in our lives, and enjoy being with, both in platonic and more intimate relationships.

Taking these three steps, Accept, Notice, Choose, one can move from a place of suffering from regular doses of aversion to one where when aversion does arise it is useful as an indicator of more healing to be done, and of a choice to be made, rather than a source of suffering.

Copyright  2011 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

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