(i wrote the first part of this after a long conversation with tbb, as we talked about some tender spots we both have, but i knew it wasn’t full. then natalie wrote this morning and i needed to reply, and i saw how the two ideas were the same idea (after the jump). i really need to see occurrences like this as a sign i am doing the work i need to do so i feel less trepidatious about the future, but that’s one of my own sore and well defended spots.)
We are at the centre, as TBB reminds me, two things: our tender hearts and our tough defences.
Sure, there are all those other bits swirling around that make up our identity; our heritage, our duty, our priorities, our culture, our education, and all those other things that make up a complete person.
But at the centre of all that lies a beating human heart, a potent human spirit, and just outside of that pulse is the defences that we build to keep that heart safe and functional.
You can’t have one without the other. And you can’t have a relationship with someone without engaging both bits, both the tender heart and the tough defenses.
Both bits are engaged in the central struggle of our lives, the struggle between being ourselves and being functional in the world, in society. That’s one reason I hated the end of Hedwig, because while getting naked may be a great stunt, walking naked in the world isn’t any kind of practical position.
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For me, one of the most important techniques was finding a voice that let me talk about those irritations in a graceful and non-controlling way. I needed to find a guru voice which didn’t come from a place of pain and frustration, but rather from a place of wisdom and surrender.
The trick I use is simple. Instead of joining the argument, entering the conflict, I speak my own truth. It is usually the way of thinking where the problems lie, so just confronting that way of thinking makes it stronger. Defence is attack, so I need to become defenceless.
Instead of “You are wrong!” “No, you are wrong!” “No, you are the poopyhead!” kinds of discussions, which attack the other person’s crocks of shit head on, where they are most defended, I go around the back of those ideas with a story, to show the raggedy bits behind the polished defences.
It’s why you will almost never get a e-mail from me that quotes your mail and answers it point by point, because that just reinforces the thinking that you hold. Instead, I start another story, start talking from my truth, which lets me approach the problems with compassion and context, because I’m not doing it in a directly confrontational way to your beliefs, your defences.
This is one reason that my sister-in-law hates me, because she knows that I disrupt her own controlling nature but in a way that she can’t directly fight, because I don’t directly fight her.
On one level, this is called akido, using the strength of others against them, letting their attack energy throw them out of balance by deflecting or stepping away from them. On another level, it’s just wisdom, the old Einstein idea that the same level of thinking that created the problem will not be the way of thinking that moves past the problem.
I was very upset that Bush went to war with Al Qaeda, because that just gave them what they wanted, the status of an equal combatant with the great power of the USA. He played their game and cost the US so much in blood and treasure and lost focus and people/corporations using the fear to get rich.
It’s the problem of being the biggest guy in the bar; you have to handle problems in a measured, considerate, thoughtful and graceful way even if they aren’t offered to you in that way, even if others try to bait you to sink to their level. That’s the challenge of enlightenment, of seeing. It’s easy to use the power to slap others around, to control, but in the end, that only feeds your own fear and defence, rather than feeding transcendence and grace.
The challenge is to have your buttons pushed and then, rather than saying “Ow!” to say “Ah,” finding the lesson in the mess rather than being overwhelmed by the stimulus itself.
The biggest problem we face is that everyone heals in their own time and own way, including us. I would love to be able to take my enlightenment and force other people to confront their own crocks now, but I know from my own experience that will very rarely work. Instead, I have to be able to turn the light on behind them, to show those crocks, and let others deal with them, maybe to stop them enabling the destructive and controlling behaviour of others.
The defences of others work well to get them what they want. That’s the big joy of defences; we build them up over years of seeing what seems to work in getting us what we want, and rarely looking at the cost of the kind of manipulations and twisting that we are doing. And when they are attacked head on, they only get stronger. That’s what they were designed for.
The only way to get behind them is to flank them, go to the side of them, show where the crocks and twists are. That is, usually, a pretty unsatisfying thing to do, because the buttons those defences push are designed to stimulate us to attack, not to hold our own, because attack just plays into the defences, putting the fighting on familiar ground to the attacker. On that ground, many have lost before.
You have to pick your battles, and picking a way to show the weakness in the thinking and beliefs of others will infuriate them, unless their goal is to heal and get more actualized.
Usually, though, if you have hit a place where their defences are strong that is not a place they are ready to heal right at the moment. That’s one reason why it’s almost always a bad strategy to demand someone admit their defences are misplaced, because to do that means they have to acknowledge the tender spot behind that strong defence, which they can’t do when they are feeling attacked. They need their own time to find their own healing in their own way, even if you showed them where the sore spots are, the twists defended by crocks.
Find a way to speak from your own truth, rather than just to confront and challenge the truths of others, however twisted they may be.
You have to believe that in the end, the clearer and more authentic vision will win the hearts and minds of people, so your job is to be as clear, authentic, graceful and well spoken as you can be, letting your truth do its own work to challenge the twists of others.
Find a voice to speak your truth, rather than trying to play the game of others. If you are put on the defensive, you have probably already lost.
Isn’t that what I have been modelling with you?