|2008 & Older
Love of the World
From the Beginning of Time
note: This article came out on CNN just after I wrote this chapter 10/26/2002
Kids start remembering by second year, study finds 10/30/2002] here just for personal reference
© 2002 Charles Rehn
From the Beginning of Time
From time to time I relax my mind and try to remember my first memory. It's not as easy as it seems, because I always remember things and that leads to other memories and then I try to remember which memory happened first, and I try to determine when they happened by remembering other things that happened around that same time period. It goes on and on and on.
Sometimes, it reminds me of a movie projector... when it first starts up, it's a little bit slow, and it seems like there are a few frames missing and then it comes up to speed, and you have a full-screen feature with all the sight and sound to bring it back to life.
In a way, in my world, that's how time begins. One frame at a time, and then, as we become more conscious and have more experiences, we become increasingly bombarded by external influences and images and sounds that cause us to make decisions based on true and false data, whatever is presented to us at seemingly random times, as well as causing misinterpretations of data that can potentially lead to dysfunctionality or various forms of incompatibility in relation to people and circumstances. To calculate the rippling effect would be like the endless task of computing pi.
Many, many arguments could be made that influences prior to birth and various kinds of stimuli introduced at any given point in the development of a child can cause various results and tendencies at any given point.
What I want to deal with most, regardless of the point or method of introduction, are those things that alter perceptions and/or cause us to formulate conclusions. These are the particular conclusions that become the foundation and basis for the relative comparisons we make between ourselves and other beings and objects.
The resulting comparisons, and our resulting conclusions, become the baseline for the determination of our own self-worth, the value of others, what you will and will not tolerate, what interests you, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad.
Every one of those things, and much, much more, are fundamentally generated by the perceptions of occurrences of every moment of our lives, whether we consciously remember them or not. Every experience, image and sound you've ever experienced is available in a database called your mind, and the trick is to learn to access it.
Consciousness is determined by the depth and scope of access to that information system. It's not better, smarter or necessarily preferred. It's a developed skill and a discipline, a tool. And it relies on the recognition of patterns.
For example, once someone else displays a familiar pattern of behavior, you, in one way or another, reach into your memory and respond with a behavior that your mind says has a high probability of working in that given situation.
It's like chess. Some players have played so much chess, that no matter where the opponent moves their game piece, there is already a strategy they've learned that's been tested in that circumstance. They use that, because it almost always works. They play it safe.
After a while, these millions of decisions we make moment by moment in response to stimuli and probability turn into nearly instantaneous, automatic actions, or integrated behaviors. But they truly are decisions. Our experiences actually offer hundreds of ways to respond to any situation, from fantasy based responses we have decided to invalidate to acts based on stories of great heroes... and then there's the one we actually to decide to use. And it is a decision.
Unless we are careful, that decision could be made in response to a presumption, the averaging of the cause and effect of anything perceived. We may even do things we don't really want to do or believe in because we forget we have a choice, and do not have an obligation to make a decision. Nor do we have a right to force others to make a decision.
The beauty of a philosophy that includes free will is the possibility that we will all choose to do good things, make fair choices and empower justice. If we did that, it would allow for the possibility that all of the people and everything on this planet would always be approached with the intent to empower.
It is the same intent that empowers the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others As You would Have Them Do Unto You.
But it's all based on the input we receive, the stimuli that effects us, and the responses we receive to the actions we take based on the decisions we make regarding the act we employ (from the database) in order to represent ourselves in any given situation.
I love to go to new restaurants, but I always get a little impatient when the person taking my order expects me to place my order quickly, as if it was my responsibility to know the menu before accepting placement at a table. What I would choose, and the choice I might make if I felt pressured could easily be 2 different things. In their mind, however, all they consider is that they know the menu by heart. Theyve made decisions about what they think is on the menu. They forget that other people may have never had an opportunity or reason to consider things that they have considered a million times, and to them, has become second nature.
At the heart of what I call MROOT - Massive re-organization of thought, is the concept that the brain is nothing more than a database with infinite cross-referencing and indexing capabilities. Now, all of that may not seem like a foreign idea to computer professionals. It's likely not an altogether new theory at all for scientist. In this context, however, it is merely the result of my own observations.
As the ability to store and index information increases, the ability to learn how to learn increases, and the potential facility to manage the database is equally increased. (I'll constantly be bringing up MROOT to introduce you to it, until you get to the actual chapter on it).
And something else happens. After a while patterns of behavior and stimuli and response occur and begin to register in our minds as what we label truth and untruths. Before long, we view the world based on an averaging of the results of the actions and stimuli we perceive. And we further augment our perceptions by comparing them to the perceptions of others, as if someone else's perception should necessarily alter our own. As if our own perceptions and values are not trustworthy.
We generally tend to disregard deviations in the average behavior or response. Often times, what we perceive leads us to a particular belief at a time when a baseline opinion is being generated, and, if the stimuli is incorrect or inaccurate, the baseline for our truth becomes distorted or inappropriate. More than that, we respond to deviations as if we can force them to conform to the norm by refusing to acknowledge the deviation.
To ascertain whether perceptions and therefore our truth is accurate and appropriate becomes even more difficult when you factor in the human instinct of survival and self-defense. People always interject the influence of danger and therefore initially cast and respond to a negative interpretation of what is possible or probable to occur.
To put it in less technical terms, I am reminded of the story of the woman cooking a roast the way her grandmother did. Whenever cooking a roast, the woman would cut off the 2 ends of the roast and place it in a pan in the oven, with all spices and preparation in the tradition her grandmother had passed down.
One day the woman was asked why she cut off the 2 ends of the roast, she said it was the way she always did it, because Grandma always did it that way, and Grandma's roast always tasted good. She agreed that it was a waste of the roast, but there was something special about Grandma's, so even though she didn't understand it, it must be a secret trick, and therefore, she would always continue to do it like Grandmother did.
One day, they asked Grandma why she cut off the ends of the roast, and she replied "Back in the old days, I only had one roasting pan, and the roasts we got were always too big to fit in the pan. So, I had to cut off the ends of the roast to fit it in the pan".
I wonder if you have thoughts like these about yourself, your preferences and the reasons for them:
Question: What's the real reason you originally decided you liked the color blue?
Answer: Because in the 4th Grade, Helen Gordon said that when I was in a good mood, my hazel green eyes turned a beautiful color blue, and she thought they were beautiful because her favorite color was sky blue. Of course, I had a big crush on her at the time.
The example simply points to the fact that, even though I would totally agree that its silly to have an emotional attachment to a color based on a comment from a girl I had a crush on, the fact is that thats what we do. We develop images, pictures if you will, in our minds. These images may be based on fact or fantasy, but they are still what makes an impression on us. We instinctively refer back to our impressions when responding to these, instead of paying attention to what is going on in the moment, or thinking through and separating the images and the facts in order to make a decision about how to respond.
Question: Why do you claim to hate the color green?
Answer: Everybody says I'm just like my father, and there are certain things I heard about him somewhere along the line, that I adopted as my own traits. My father always said he hated green. Why did he hate green? Because when he was a child, he needed a nice jacket to wear to church. His family couldn't afford to buy him one, so they got one from a charity organization, and the only color they had in a jacket his size was green.
Is it true that I hate green? No. In high school, I was the type to wear slacks and suit coats and the whole works, but my favorite jacket was a medium green tweed jacket that I bought myself from the Goodwill store in Santa Cruz, California in 1969. Wore it 60% of the time for 5 years. But at any moment, I would have told you that I don't like green. To this day, my first impulse is to say that I don't like the color green. I always have to catch myself before I say it.
In essence, you could say that I learned to dislike green, and believed that I disliked green, even though I knew that I liked it. If you were to hand me a gift that was green, even if I had asked for it, my first response would be to dislike it, and then, after considering it for a few moments, I would give up the mixed-up link in my M-ROOT database, correct the error, make a note that I have such an error in my database, and then proceed on with the corrected information. And sometimes I won't notice the data correction, and I'll revert back to my integrated behavior and tell someone that I don't like green.
What's interesting, to me is when I tell someone the story of why I don't like green, and then they offer me something that is a particular shade of green I actually don't care for. No matter how much I insist that I dont like it, they won't believe me. Because they have an impression in their minds about how I respond to the color green, and if I deviate from that impression, it creates uncertainty about their impression. Therefore, it becomes up to me to convince them that I really dont care for that shade. And theyll tease me, because they wont believe me. And no matter what I say, the original impression I gave them is the one they refer to when they initially think of me and the color green. People do not like exceptions.
When you experience a multitude of shades of green, you begin to distinguish those you like and don't like. The more you experience and the more information you store, the more skill or consciousness you require and acquire to gain access to the items you can distinguish.
But we are not typically taught to process our thoughts. That is considered to be an arduous task. Some believe it suppresses the personality. I believe it eventually allows you to accurately express it, especially after we learn how to process more efficiently. Like any task, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
We live in a culture that demands immediate response, immediate results and immediate judgment. We listen and make judgments about other people's actions and expressions as if they share the same database of information and perceptions as we do. In political context, we speak as if we share the same values and experiences of America and agree on what it takes to flourish and live well. In reality, few would actually agree. Need is subjective. And it is all based on those same images and perceptions that are delivered to us since the beginning of time.
Some would have us believe that if we are truly patriotic Americans living American Christian values, we most certainly would believe that the words "Under God" should be in the pledge of allegiance, even though the inclusion of those words is a fundamental breech of the letter and intent of our Constitution.
In events like this, I always look at the forces behind such insistence. What is being served by the un-distinguishing of legal and philosophical distinctions, such as the separation of church and state? What would be the opposite or antithetical interpretation of the new perception or distinction I am being asked to accept? For example, are we a nation of laws, or a nation of loopholes?
We say we are a nation of laws, and yet we are willing to alter their interpretations as we deem expedient or to our preference in order to gain advantage or cause a particular outcome. This is especially true in cases of deception. Its done through the use of loopholes, and they are made possible by subverting intent.
We use the word leadership as if leadership is always a good thing. We use the word communist as if communism itself is bad, as opposed to the possibility that communism is a good thing made bad by corruption.
Who is right or wrong about the real meanings?
Consider the idea of putting everyone in a room for the purpose of reading the definitions of a list of words. To prove a point, we make a rule that whenever you hear a definition of a word that is different than what you think it means, you had to leave the room... it wouldn't take all that long before the room was empty.
The first thing to notice is that we all think we share the meanings and therefore understand the words we hear based on the information we've been given and the perceptions we have, but we are mistaken.
The next thing to notice is that by leaving the room, you remove all possibility of learning more.
And, finally, when all is said and done, we evaluate each other, compare ourselves in relation to others, in order to make some sort of judgment about each other regarding intelligence and value as a person.
This is very much the way people operate in life. We challenge others to prove their intelligence or qualifications, and if they dont meet our own standards or have a differing point of view, we cancel them out, to the extent that they are expelled from the opportunity of continuing to participate, they are invalidated. The worst result of this is the loss of opportunity to cause people to learn, or the possibility of learning something from a different point of view.
It's the same kind of relative comparisons and conclusions we engage in when we believe that illiterate people are stupid, or that unwed mothers are immoral people. Its at the heart of self-esteem.
Have you ever had a time when you actually didn't have an opinion about something, hadn't drawn a conclusion about something, but were put on the spot to express an opinion, so you just sort of made one up? And have you then regretted it because it became an opinion which labeled you as being this way or that? Siding with one side or the other? Became the issue for which you became popular or unpopular?
And what if you had given no opinion at all? You would have no relativity to the others in your group, no identity, and therefore, you would be unclassifiable to other people. That might mean you would be forgettable, or in some ways, dangerous to other people and their positions because you have an unknown position. Or it might invalidate you.
It may mean you cause yourself to feel as if you don't fit in. I say, you cause it yourself because it is likely that no one told you didn't fit in, you decided that yourself.
Think about it for a minute. From the time you were born, you observed behaviors and speech. You learned what did and didn't work between people. And you imitated them, selectively, maybe, but you imitated them.
And you went along in the world of a child until one day, something happened that didn't quite fit the pattern of what you had determined to be the way things are supposed to be.
As a baby, you learned that crying and throwing a tantrum would get people to tend to your needs. Or you could hold your breath or throw something or say something hurtful. But no matter what you do, deep down inside, it leaves a feeling of resignation, hopelessness, injustice or abandonment. From that point on, you become a little more careful about what you do, and how vulnerable you allow yourself to be to others. You feel dominated and suppressed. It alters your behavior. This alteration is an adaptation in order to survive.
Some of my first experiences of such things include these memories.
-When I was 3, Steve, a boy in the neighborhood where I lived who was 8 years older than me stepped on my hand while I was playing jacks and nearly broke my hand. I never understood why. He could never explain it, either. It was just something that happened.
-When I was 4, the little girl across the street kicked me in the groin while we were playing, resulting in the need for surgery because of a hernia. To make it worse, while I was in the hospital, they made me eat liver.
-In the 4th grade, 3 of my best friends and I were playing on the playground after school waiting for the bus to take us home, when a teacher came up and told us to stop fighting, or she would report us to the principal. We weren't fighting. We were taking each other by the hands and spinning each other around in a circle. But, we couldn't figure out what she was talking about, so we kept doing it. My friends went to another school in the district. I got reported for fighting, and got detention. They didn't get reported at all. Authority figures were supposed to be unbiased and do the right things.
-In the 4th grade, I watched Art Linkletter's kids segment. On it, someone told the joke "What is a Zebra?" The answer was "The largest size you can get." In class one day, the teacher asked if we knew any jokes. I told that one. I ended up standing in the hall outside the principal's office. (My parents thought it was funny, the audience on tv thought it was funny, so did I)
-At the age of 4 or 5, it seems my sister and I became 2 of the first cases (if not the first recorded) of people who got chicken pox twice. I wondered, why me?
Certainly, all of these things are minor. But the impressions they create shape how we view people and the world around us.
In these few events, there are many possible interpretations that could be asserted regarding cause and effect relationships in my development. You can identify my relationship to authority, a less politically correct orientation to humor, a sense of danger even from people whom I believe are friends and previously thought were completely safe. I learned that not everybody thinks the same things are funny or appropriate (though I didn't understand the difference) and that some people react very strongly to some things that I think are of little importance.
I could think of a dozen more ways these few, seemingly insignificant incidents could theoretically shape my life. The question is, what decisions did I make about my conduct based upon these incidents? Only I really know the answer to that question. The same is true of you. But, do you have the courage to admit them, even to yourself?
The funny part is, in your mind, you will think of these little examples as key experiences that I had. And its all because its the initial image and impression I presented.
If we aren't aware of the occurrences that cause us to come to the conclusions we've come to, it's difficult to sort through the reasons for our actions and decide which ones we like and which ones we don't think are accurate representations of how we'd choose to be, if all things were perfect.
And this brings me to a point that I find myself at great odds with most "self-help" or "human empowerment" courses and programs.
Most of them are focused on causing you to go beyond yourself. That's a good thing. But, they don't want to be psychologists, they want you to learn to generate your being, the way you act and respond, based upon setting aside emotions and the focusing of energies in such a way that you cause tangible results despite them. And that's a good thing too, to an extent.
It's like working at a place doing a job you went to college for 6 years to learn and become qualified to do, and then, when you get the job and are living what is supposed to be your dream life, it just doesn't feel right. You can never fully commit to it, and youre always just a bit distracted.
To make matters worse, your employer sees your confliction, and, for example, interprets it as a confusion about how to do your job. You communicate it as confusion because its an easy explanation. And, the last thing you want to do is tell your boss that, somewhere, deep down inside, you dont like your job. That would be dangerous to your survival/success in that job.
Unfortunately, even though the explanation of being confused allows you to mask your unhappiness and avoid being found out, it also generates an impression that you become confused, a byproduct that may not be desirable.
The true confusion is caused by being conflicted about this movie in your brain that keeps telling you that everything is the way it's supposed to be, but it just doesn't feel right. It's uncomfortable. It causes you to do things you either don't want to do or don't believe are right. It's a violation of your principles, or your basic concept of a job that allows you to be the person you really are or want to be. Or, it doesnt put you in the position of authority you believe you should have. The result is, one way or another, you feel invalidated.
I don't mean that in terms of success as a professional. I'm talking about that feeling deep down inside that something isn't quite right, but you ignore it as long as you possibly can, because you simply need to do what you need to do. Thus, the common conclusion "It doesn't matter how I feel about it, it's just something that needs to get done."
Let's step back for a moment.
It does matter how you feel about it.
Those feelings are just like the pain you feel when you break your arm or pinch your finger or bite your lip. It's the same concept as the man who goes to the doctor and complains that every time he hits his thumb with a hammer, it hurts. He asks the doctor what to do. The doctor's answer is quite simple. "Stop doing that."
If you don't understand the source of those feelings, ie if you dont understand the mistake you make when swinging the hammer, how can you possibly end the pain?
Physical and emotional pains are not all that different. What is different about them is where they hurt, how you respond to them, what you learn from it, and what they prevent you from doing whether or not there was a legitimate limitation. Your body gets injured or damaged, and you feel pain, and it repairs itself and after a while, you may remember that it happened, but unless you've suffered a serious injury, it's likely you won't dwell on the pain that occurred in the moment, other than to classify it as one thing that hurt. It's just information.
Emotions are much different, though. Logic rarely overrides emotions. Logic considers and manages emotion. Even people who appear to be cool and calm react internally. They make a decision about how to manage and respond, based upon the images they've taken in and the experiences and training they've received. After a while, they do it faster, and so it appears they do not have emotional responses.
There's a great deal of research that proves and disproves the concept that humans are genetically wired to have certain behaviors and interests. I believe that the behavior of twins as well as the fact that people tell me that my personality and a variety of attributes are just like my father's, even though he died when I was young. I can't explain it, or verify its accuracy. In a way, that gives me a great deal of freedom to just be me, because I dont have an image of what Im supposed to be like. Thats just something to think about.
The more that I study theology, and more specifically, the Bible, I see a great deal of similarity in ideas. If one was to believe that humans were created with free will, therefore, a theoretical manifest destiny, but with the ability to choose a variety of paths that might lead them to or from that destiny, then it would explain things such as the incredible similarities and differences between twins.
In the case of twins, one might also argue that they have been trained to be how they are through their similar experiences. It is often true, though, that twins separated from birth are quite the same when they are reunited years later. And there is no true scientifically accepted explanation for that. Yet.
I've spent a great deal of time with people talking to them about personal issues as well as the generation of character and the considerations that go into defining personal integrity. I seem to have an uncanny sense of what's at the heart of what emotions people are expressing, an intrinsic skill that allows me to assist people in getting to the heart of what they want or need or feel. Some people think it is because I can read their minds.
I believe it has much more to do with having always been a keen observer of human behavior, and the way the mind works and thinks and seems to formulate ideas and opinions and responsive reactions. From time to time, I have enjoyed watching "All My Children" because for the longest time, I thought it was such a great example of how normal people think, not how they act. Being without the facade of appropriateness or political correctness.
In the final episode of Seinfeld, I giggled and giggled at the trial when they were all reviewing things they had done, and in an objective review, the characters showed up as selfish, petty, deceitful, jealous liars and schemers. Yet, I watched them, week after week, laughing at their foibles.
On Cheers, I loved and hated those characters at times, they were so authentic, fun, loving and mean all at the same time. The same with Northern Exposure. People acting like real people do. It gave us all the opportunity to laugh at ourselves and forgive ourselves for the little things we do unconsciously day by day. Things we don't even realize we do. Things that oppress or disappoint or cause injustice or inequality in another person's reality.
I say another person's reality because we all formulate our own views of the world. What is more interesting, though, is to realize that everyone's view of the world and the way they act and express themselves is based on this one thing:
And, that to accomplish survival, animals and people interact in a series of interactions based on dominance and submission.
Everything we think and do is reliant upon reviewing the images of similar occurrences, the next best match, and responding in a way that makes us dominant or submissive to any given instruction, stimuli or circumstance.
In our minds, we envision, or recall, images that advise us of the history of any given circumstance and calculate the probabilities of the outcomes. We see a picture of what it will look like when the situation has played itself out. And then we proceed to act and react in a way that causes other people to act and respond in a way that actually generates the outcome you envisioned. In many ways, this employs the concept of equal but opposite reaction.
Consider this: The very fact that we accept that there are finite options, as individuals or as a society, is evidence to fact that we have been trained to believe that there are finite options, and that we are dominated by that conclusion. We have submitted to that explanation of the truth.
And that truth is expressed and reinforced by the perpetuation of the images and symbols of our ideals. Once again, those ideals are formulated into reality based on experiences and images presented to us from the beginning of time. Things that inform us of what is right or wrong, normal or abnormal, valuable or worthless, true and false. Those images have the power to affect our behavior and what we are prepared to do, or conform to, in order to survive.
Please keep in mind; I claim only that these are my personal observations. I'd love to discuss this with other people and get their ideas too. I often have.
I most often take in information in a very literal manner. And I am constantly looking for patterns in information.
One time, I had signed up for a course that was very much a self-improvement type of course. A friend had recommended it to me, and assured me that the people I would be dealing with were trustworthy. So, 6 weeks before the course, the company providing the course called in order to be sure I was clear on the dates and times, and the personal reasons I had for taking such a course.
They asked some very personal questions. I answered truthfully, though I was reserved at first. I began to realize that no matter what I said, the person on the other end of the phone, named Karen, didn't seem phased at all. We must have talked for 2 hours. At the end of the call, she asked if I would like her to call back again to further discuss things, and suggested that people often have a more beneficial experience if they thought and talked about what they wanted to work through before attend the course.
So, I said sure, when? And she said, we could do it next week or next month, or in a couple of days. I told her that a couple of days would be fine. She acted surprised, and said most people avoid talking about things, and acknowledged me for being so willing to work on the things I was interested in. I just told her I didn't see much point in doing a course if I wasn't committed to getting something out of it. And if they were willing to spend time with me, I was certainly going to get my money's worth.
So, we talked 2 or 3 times per week. I didn't know that almost no one took advantage of the opportunity like that. But, no one had told me that. My impression was that it was available, and it was mine to use.
So, the week before the course, we had some logistical information to get straight. Karen told me I needed to tell her what name I wanted on my name tag. She said it could be any name I wanted.
I told her I wanted to go by the name Mark.
That took her by surprise. Here, I thought, these people were very open minded and weren't particularly interested in imposing any limitations on my personal self-expression, but Karen was taken aback by wanting to be called Mark.
She said, "But that's not your name"
I said "You didn't say it had to be my real name.
In this case, the incongruity was the pattern of being open to hearing and discussing anything, except the concept of me not conforming to the use of my own name. I thought that was odd, inconsistent with the pattern previously presented. Karen most definitely spoke to me about it until I decided to have Chuck placed on my nametag.
The day of the course, I showed up and a woman with a name badge marked Karen walked up to me and began talking to me about whether or not I had come prepared to be fully engaged in the course. I looked at her funny, and said, Karen, I just talked to you last night." She looked at me funny.
I began to remind her of what we had talked about the night before, until I finally realized she was a different Karen. I told her I was fully prepared to vigorously participate in the course, but I'd like to have a nametag that said Mark.
She said it was too late for that, and besides, how would people know who I really am if I used a fictitious name. I just said "Your name is Karen, but you're not the person I thought you were."
I was in a playful mood. She was busy. I took the name badge marked Chuck.
I dare you to give all that some thought, though. And consider the patterns and expectations that were created all on the basis of a name, as well as what would be considered normal patterns of behavior. I became friends of both Karens afterward. They were quite different people. And Karen, by the way, is probably my favorite name for a woman.
Why is Karen my favorite name? Because in the 5th through 8th grades there was a cute, pretty red-headed girl named Karen who always seemed to have a crush on me, but was too shy to get close enough to really get to know. And, in a way, it's a case of mutually unrequited love. Still, I have that feeling deep inside me, an image, that tells me I like anyone with the name Karen.
It goes further, though. The Karen I knew in school? She was a redhead. The two Karens I met at the course were redheaded. I've had many relationships with redheaded women. Oddly enough, the women I've had some of the best relationships with were brunettes.
But, my mind never separated the fantasy and image and romanticism of the possibility of a relationship with a redheaded woman named Karen. The image or impression was generated in my mind, and I never saw it necessary to go back and correct my MROOT database entry to reflect that my actual attraction was for a particular individual named Karen, who just happened to have red hair.
Furthermore, why did I mention brunettes? Because, when you look at all of that objectively, you can tell that I actually would have a better chance at a successful relationship with someone who is not a red-head because I have no-preconceived notions or opinions about what a relationship with "that type of person" would be like. I am able to meet other people with different hair and skin, and accept them for whomever they present themselves to me as being.
That would allow them to be who they are, and me to be who I am, without having some pre-conceived notion of how the relation would be. We could interact based on what was occurring, not what we would be expecting, or in a judgmental mode, comparing the redhead as if they had to measure up to my fantasy.
Interestingly enough, one time, a blonde woman came into the place where I worked at a radio station. I didnt know who she was or how she got there. I assumed someone had let her in. She looked around my office, and noticed a picture of a redheaded woman I was dating.
She made a couple of jokes about me having a thing for redheads, and we laughed. She asked if I would do her a favor in restoring a recording for her. I agreed, and she came back a few hours later with a tape. And red hair.
Now, let's really dissect this whole situation.
Why did I want to use the name Mark?
Because in the 2nd grade, there was guy I was going to school with who had the name Mark. I liked him and the way he conducted himself, I liked his family and the way they treated each other. He was someone I thought would be good to emulate. And, so I've always thought it would mean something if my name was Mark. He made an impression on me.
The question is, what areas of your life and the things you do are being generated by a fantasy you have about a given area of your life? It's a fun question, if you're not looking with judgmentalism or seeking reasons about why your life has turned out the way it has.
It is useful, though, if you use it to look at what has motivated you, what images have caused you to believe what you believe and act like you do. Then, you can look through the experiences in your life, and really see how those images, fantasies and perceptions have driven you to certain behaviors, joys and sorrows.
And it usually comes down to reasons that you'd be embarrassed to tell most people about. Because, if the truth were known, they would be reasons that didn't always make a great deal of sense.
Once you understand that many of your actions and feelings don't really make any sense, you have the power to decide if you want to operate your life based on those fantasies and images. And you can pick and choose from the ones you want to keep or discard the ones you dislike. Or you can make up a whole new set of operating principles.
Now, the big question, do I still like redheaded women? You bet. And I've had some very satisfying relationships with women of many different hair colors, religions and ethnicities.
Do I still like the name Mark? You bet, but no longer is it because I wish I were like Mark. Most of my life, I've been called Chuck, Chuckles, Chucky, Ground Chuck, Chuck Roast... I'm beginning to like the name Charles more and more, for the same reasons I like Mark. It's got a nice sound to it, and I kind of like the guy I know whose name it is.
I said that I've had some very satisfying relationships with women of many different hair colors, religions and ethnicities. By using the word satisfying, my bet is that you believe that has at least some implications on my sex life. I can honestly tell you that in one 7-year period, I had some 7 or 8 intimate relationships with women that did not include sex. By choice. Because I had my own criteria regarding intimacy based on the level of commitment I was willing to lend to my relationships. I can also honestly say that my criterion has never been used as a basis for judgment of other people.
What images or fantasies are presented to you on a daily basis with the intent of influencing your actions and feelings?
How many times have you found advertising or headlines to be misleading or creating expectations that weren't met by the product?
And how often do you feel you have misinterpreted things or "gotten the wrong impression" , when deep down inside, you believe, but can't prove, you were mislead? How many times were you told one thing, only to have someone else tell you were wrong about what they said? Or have you been told something, or told someone something, and called someone on it later, only to have them tell you they were confused and that's why something different happened or didn't get done?
That's the power that images and impressions have on our lives and our characters. They make us believe things. And, they make us question what we believe.
In November of 2002, a man in Iran was arrested for theft. He would walk up to people and take things from them, and casually walk away. The people he was stealing from were, for the most part, frozen in fear and amazement at the boldness of this criminal.
After being arrested, the man was asked about his method of operation. He told the police it was because he was invisible. The police were understandably skeptical, but the man was so convincing about his claim to be invisible, that police actually had to show him videotapes of himself stealing things in order to prove to him that he was not invisible.
Then the truth came out. Another man, claiming to be a mystic of sorts, kept telling the thief he was invisible, until he finally believed he had accumulated enough evidence to indicate that his invisibility was real.
The mystic had used his knowledge of the man in order to alter his own knowledge or perception of possibility and reality. Or, the thief was caught and was so convincing that police actually believed his story, which then altered their own perception of reality. All by creating an image in their minds. The last I heard, police had begun looking for the mystic, but had not found him.
In advertising, it is generally accepted that if you run an advertisement, phrase or message 7 to 11 times for a single person, their minds will register it as a truth. Maybe not the truth, but something that has merit. That message or truth is made even more real by the use of visual images. How many times have you watched an animated movie and come away with the feeling that you experienced something that had actually occurred?
In your mind, you know that ET isn't real, but you think of him as if he is.
How many times have others had the wrong impression about you? When it's to your benefit, you may allow the misperception to exist. When it's detrimental, you'll either suffer quietly or put up a fight and get upset or do whatever it takes to get people to understand the truth about you.
How many ads you see that inform women it's best to be thin. TV shows that show women who are happy and successful are the beautiful ones. Or, politicians who tell you why they think you would like their policies, knowing that if they continually mention what you like, you'll think they intend to do something about it or are like you.
If you take the concept of survival into account, anything different from your own values and perceptions initially threatens the survival of your identity and security. It must be confronted in some way.
Your response to this threat is determined by your willingness to dominate or submit to others. You confront in order to determine what action to take. That action may be to surrender and to submit to the images and expectations others have of you to conform. They would have to believe that there is actually some cosmic law that determines that acting a certain way is normal or acceptable.
How often do you find that actors and actresses, or announcers on television, are not like the images they project when you see their work on the screen? And, when you discover this, are you disappointed? This is why actors and actresses do not like to be typecast.
Years ago, just after graduating high school, I had chosen to be a radio announcer. I had this fairly smooth, baritone voice that people heard over the radio. And, based on that voice and the persona I presented over the air, people created a mental image of what I would look like, the kinds of things I liked to do, and what I would be like as a friend.
The thing is, I dont look like my voice sounds at all.
One day, I went to meet a friend and his parents at a restaurant. When I got to the restaurant, I found his parents, who I had met once before and recognized. My friend had gone off to the bathroom. But I approached the table, said hi to his parents, shook their hands, and proceeded to sit down. They became upset, and told me I couldn't sit where I was sitting because they were expecting someone to join them for breakfast.
I laughed and said, "Yeah, that's me, I'm Chuck."
They looked at me in disbelief. Just then, my friend arrived at the table, and said hello to me.
His parents looked at me, and said, "Oh, you're Chuck. Based on the sound of your voice, we thought you'd look like a football player or something."
And the truth is, I'm just one of those people who is in most ways quiet and calm. But when you turn on a microphone or put me in front of a tv camera, it's like throwing a switch. In many ways, I don't become a different person, I become the person I actually am underneath any safe façade I use to protect myself in everyday life.
When that mic or camera goes on, youre actually paid to be the best you can be. It gives you permission to come fully to life. In fact, you must in order to survive. And then, the fun and the mystery is, will people want to hear it and see it?
You're the same way. You have all kinds of acts you perform at the drop of the hat, depending on the circumstances and social situations you're presented with, all based on what youve experienced as having worked or failed. With a friend, you're courteous and sensitive. With some strangers, you might be cold and indifferent. You're still the same person, but not in the eyes of each individual with whom you make contact. And, one of the reasons you may change your act at any moment is because of your feeling of safety or vulnerability.
Think about the people you like. The people you think are popular. The people you think are not popular. Given what I just told you, what do you believe the greatest difference is between them? And what is the effect of dominance and submission upon them?
The question is, if you were to ask those people you know in a variety of situations and settings what they think you're like, what would they tell you? The answers would shock you. You'd feel pretty misunderstood. You'd say they don't understand. The truth, though, would be that you inaccurately or inauthentically expressed who you are, through your words and actions. And that expression of your self served a purpose.
One day, I was at a friends house talking to his wife just about the time he came home for lunch. She was a house wife, and had fixed him an incredible meal for lunch. Pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions. A great green salad, corn bread and apple pie for dessert.
He walked in the house, looked at me and said hi. Then he approached the dining table, looked at what was on it, and yelled "God Damn it! Are you trying to kill me with all this fatty food? What the hell is wrong with you? Don't you ever feed me food like this again." He then went out the door, slammed it and drove away.
Turns out, he'd been to the doctor that morning, and found out he had high blood pressure. Of course, no one knew he was going to the doctor.
After calming her down, she and I sat down and had a very fine lunch, indeed. She's a great cook.
Later that evening, I was talking to my friend, and I asked him, very gently, "Ya know, when you did that with your wife, did you consider maybe eating that one last meal like that, and then tell her you went to the doctor, had high blood pressure, and that from now on, you'd appreciate a healthier, leaner diet?"
He looked at me and said "Why the hell should I do that? I get what I want."
I swear, he said it just like that. He attempted to dismiss it and make it out that it wasn't any of my business, and that it was strictly between him and his wife. But, the truth was, he was embarrassed. But if he had admitted that he had done something wrong or inappropriate, then he might have to give up that particular kind of behavior, which he had found useful over the years.
In addition, he had an identity about how if he didnt get his way about things, he would get angry and say and do some pretty vulgar things. To give in by admitting he was wrong or inappropriate, he would have to give up that part of his identity, and the dominance it provided him in numerous situations would be lost.
As upset as his wife was, his response was "if she doesn't like it, she knows where the door is."
And here's the part about it that I understand, but would prefer to believe that I don't. He and I got married the same year, within a month of each other. My marriage broke up after 10 years. His marriage is still together after nearly 30 years. One might think that of the two of us, I'm the one doing relationships the wrong way. At least, that's the image that would be projected based on the number of years of marriage. Its hard to reconcile.
It's all about dominance and submission, what we're willing to tolerate to receive external validation, and to preserve one's self-esteem.
We'll get into those concepts more in later chapters, but I will share this with you for now.
I often laugh at myself when I get caught in an endless inquiry or meditation regarding self-esteem. When I'm done, I always end up looking up the terms in a dictionary or a college psychology textbook. Why?
Well, because I like who I am. For the most part, I like how I act, I forgive myself for things I do that I wish I didn't, I believe I am honest with people (some would say to a fault) and I really care about people and their well-being. So, from that perspective, one might say I have high self-esteem, and I am true to my values and principles.
People generally view me as a quiet, cooperative person who just seems to always be there when the important discussions are being held, or the results are being delivered. A "go-to" guy, or the guy who consistently seems to figure things out. They just can't quite figure out what it is I do.
I am sometimes viewed as intimidating by those people who do not have good self esteem. It's important to note, though, that in truth, they are intimidating themselves. I am clear that my interactions with them are compassionate, and that I give them ample opportunity to express themselves, contribute and receive acknowledgement for it. I use intimidation and domination when others refuse to cooperate or communicate and continually dont do what they said they would do.
Can you see yourself on both sides of the conversation of the last 3 paragraphs?
I hope so. Because it is likely that almost everyone would provide a similar answer about themselves and their interactions with other people. And it's important to acknowledge that commonality. To know that we are all very much the same. And to remember that commonality when interacting with other people.
Self-esteem, in its generally accepted expression, is actually measured in terms of how you feel about yourself in relation to other people. I disagree with the use of the terminology, but that is basically what is has been determined to mean in the public discourse.
We have been trained, through all of the images and impressions we receive, to believe that our individual value and class and place in life is based upon the opinions and judgments of other people. Domination. And the point at which we submit to that judgment is the point at which we begin to be unable to express to people who we really are, the one deep inside that we rarely tell people about because if they really knew.... they'd think less of us, ignore us, think we were weird or stupid or mentally unbalanced.
So we alter our behavior, one moment at a time, one act at a time, until one day, we have become so totally engrossed in these images and perceptions, and submission to the dominance and judgments of others, as well as the images that we've presented of ourselves, that we tend to lose track or forget who we really are and what we believe in.
It is only when the acts we present to the world fail that we re-examine our actions and attitudes, judge the damage our actions do, and assess the costs and benefits. But, until that failure occurs, few of us are willing to be in a constant inquiry as to whether our actions and words accurately represent who we are deep inside.
Why? Because, otherwise, we get what we want. There is no reason to alter our behavior. We are dominant, we are in control. And we've successfully put others in the position of requiring our approval. At least, that's the image that, for the moment, prevails.
Why do I say for the moment? Because our actions and self-expressions are tempered and shaped by the occurrences of any given moment. The same is true of our implementation of dominance and submission.
Personally, I am committed to causing certain outcomes, even at my own expense, if need be. In my mind, so long as the goal is achieved, that would be alright. But I have my own human frailties, that, if known, could be used to dominate me further. Just as they do.
Those frailties occur in a requirement I have for people to treat me with respect, just as they would have me treat them. I have a demand that all people treat each other with equality, as they claim.
My persistent complaint in life, and we all have at least one of these but people dont understand stories, is that people don't take time enough to get to know me and what I'm really capable of and like. And, that because of my basic nature to work in tandem with other people, people classify me, stereotype me as the type who will comply with authority simply because they are in authority.
The complaint is actually that I dont like to be dominated, and because of that, I dont like to be classified, because if someone classifies me as being a certain type, there will actually be expectations that I will act a certain way. If I dont act that way, I fail to meet their expectations.
Sometimes this manifests itself in a conscious way, sometimes it registers to them on a sub-conscious level. That failure to meet an expectation may have them decide that I am someone who cannot be relied upon to work as part of a team. I am not quantifiable. I am not predictable.
Or, they just assume they understand my levels of consciousness or intelligence or usefulness. They don't treat me like a person. They dehumanize me to the form and value of a resource. But its not personal.
Like the polls that politicians use, they don't see people, they see numbers and expressions that validate their own views and authority. They don't do this because of an inherent dislike or a predisposition to abuse or invalidate other people. They do it because they've been trained that this is what people in their positions do to get what they want.
And their perception is that people have no power with which to resist or affect them. They believe they have the power and control, and therefore are in the position to allow or disallow my behaviors and thoughts.
In the early 1990s, I worked for a well-known software company in the Silicon Valley. I worked as a Technical Support Engineer. The first week I was there, I was invited to a meeting to announce the release of a product. In the software business, companies often release an older version of a product at a relatively inexpensive price in order to introduce others to it. This product was what is commonly referred to as a Special Edition.
At the end of the presentation, a supervisor asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand, and when called on, asked Did anyone from technical support review the installation instructions before they were printed, or did the software department write the documentation by themselves?
I was hustled out of the room, and asked why I was trying to start trouble. Thats how it was stated. I replied that my only concern was whether or not the accuracy of the documentation had been checked before it was released. I was informed that it was not acceptable that I would question the competency of the software development department.
All I can say is, I asked that question after having been a software developer for over 10 years. Let me ask you this. How many times has someone installed software on a computer you use, and when you actually go to use it, it didnt work? It happens all the time, and its simply because people dont take the time to check to make sure it actually works. They follow the installation instructions, and when the installation software is done, they declare it ready.
When you publish software that is sold to millions of people around the world, you have to be sure it works. On this particular product, there were news reports and profit reports and all sorts of hullabaloo made over the fact that it sold more than $92 million in gross sales. The problem was, the installation instructions in the manual were wrong, and the company actually lost $32 million because of the additional personnel required to help users install it correctly.
This is really the same story you could tell about the media, the government, your employer, your mother, your... it goes on and on. It's all about dominance and submission. When dominance and submission are abused, it is often used to cause forced compliance in our behavior and communications. We are trained that, in order to be validated and fit in, that we should go along, or overlook things. To ask the tough questions, to speak what is actually occurring may make people feel uncomfortable, and therefore, might be deemed wrong.
As a culture, we say things like, who says the world is fair? It's an easy way to shrug off responsibility for the negative impact we have on others in order to facilitate our own success and advantage.
Some people believe that others act in a dominating or intimidating way because some people are simply made that way. Others would have you believe that things happen because of circumstances.
I say, we are all trained to be that way, and that we are trained by all of the millions of images and impressions that we experience from the beginning of time. And it is our responsibility to take it upon ourselves to manage ourselves and the world in such a way that inequalities and dominance and suppression are not the tools put to use. Otherwise, we merely breed generation after generation of people willing to do more and more perverse things to achieve domination, in the interest of avoidance of domination.
The question is, in each moment of your life, what are you willing to be responsible for? And what discipline do you or can you employ in your life that allows you to express your authentic self, without having to inflict a cost to others?
In a way, this book is about the images and impressions that affect your life. Even more, it is about how to generate images and impressions that create your life, and allow for the creation of other people's lives inside of a true community committed to mutual benefit and well being. None of these are exclusive of the other.
Dominance and submission will always exist. The question is, once you take away the justifications and facades, the explanations that emphasize the good for a given segment of people or interests outweighing the damage done to some, will they be used to create and empower or exploit and destroy? That is the question we must answer as individuals, and as the community of the world as a whole.
I believe that question must be answered soon.
And, by the way, about the question "Who says the world is fair?" God said so. It was people who caused you to believe it's normal that it isn't true. That convinced you to live and endure suffering that isn't real, that was manufactured to give you what is, in effect, mass Stockholm Syndrome.
Others would call it the ways that kings and governments have manipulated and controlled the citizens of this world from the beginning of time.