What Really Determines How We Live Our Lives?

This post is from a friend and men­tor Morty Lefkoe, at http://mortylefkoe.com

It goes very well with my pre­vi­ous post and some oth­ers. And, very use­ful in highly emo­tion­ally charged sit­u­a­tions .… if you decide that you want to use it, that is. Unfor­tu­nately we often just won’t. How stub­born can we get, to our own detri­ment of course? No won­der our rela­tion­ships go down the tube, although we do have tools to save it.

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For years I’ve thought that our lives—what we do, think, feel, and perceive—were the direct result of our beliefs and our con­di­tion­ing.  When I looked at the lives and beliefs of over 13,000 clients, I noticed a very close correlation.

In the past few weeks I’ve had rea­son to rethink that con­clu­sion.  I’ve iden­ti­fied a  cou­ple of steps between beliefs and how we live our lives, so I no longer think there is a direct connection.

In order to explain what the actual con­nec­tion is, let me briefly remind you of my three posts last year on “occur­ring.” (See here) Most peo­ple are not aware that the way real­ity shows up or occurs for them is not the same as what’s actu­ally “out there” in the world.

For exam­ple, if some­thing you’re about to do occurs to you as dif­fi­cult, for you it really is dif­fi­cult.  For you, the dif­fi­culty is a fact. Actu­ally, the project might require skills that you don’t have or per­haps you aren’t con­fi­dent about your abil­ity to do it suc­cess­fully. But the project itself isn’t dif­fi­cult.  Dif­fi­cult is in our minds.  Only the require­ments of the project are in the world.

So there is a pro­found dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity shows up for us, and most peo­ple usu­ally never make that distinction.

Back to my new real­iza­tion.  It now seems to me that what deter­mines our thoughts, feel­ings, behav­ior, etc. at any given moment is the way peo­ple and events (and even our inter­nal thoughts) occur to us, moment by moment.  And, for us, real­ity is this occurring—not how real­ity really is.

Are beliefs and con­di­tion­ing involved at all?  Yes, they are.  The con­nec­tion between our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing and how things show up or occur for us is   the mean­ing we are giv­ing real­ity moment by moment.

Here’s how I think it works: We have beliefs and con­di­tion­ings from ear­lier in life.  When we inter­act with any sit­u­a­tion, our exist­ing beliefs and con­di­tion­ings are the pri­mary deter­mi­nant of the mean­ing we give the sit­u­a­tion.  That mean­ing in turn deter­mines how it occurs for us.  And that occur­ring then deter­mines how we react to the situation.

Here’s an illus­tra­tion to make this real.  Imag­ine you have sev­eral beliefs, includ­ing What makes me good enough or impor­tant is hav­ing peo­ple think well of me. The sit­u­a­tion you encounter is: You’re with a group of friends, all of whom have the same opin­ion about some­thing.  You dis­agree.  That’s real­ity.  Given the beliefs you have, the mean­ing you might give this real­ity is: “It’s dan­ger­ous to dis­agree with my friends because that might result in them not lik­ing me or think­ing less of me.”  Given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion prob­a­bly will occur for you as uncom­fort­able and you will feel resis­tance to speak up about your dis­agree­ment.   And given this way the sit­u­a­tion showed up for you, you prob­a­bly would not say anything.

Can you see that your beliefs would lead you to give real­ity the mean­ing you did?  … And can you see that given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion would occur to you as it did?  … And finally, can you see that your behav­ior prob­a­bly would be con­sis­tent with how the sit­u­a­tion occurred to you? …

When I men­tioned this new way of look­ing at the rela­tion­ship between our beliefs and the way we live our lives, one friend said to me last week: Why are you com­pli­cat­ing the sit­u­a­tion?  If beliefs and con­di­tion­ing cause the mean­ing, which causes the occur­ring, which deter­mines how we life our lives, so what if there are a cou­ple of ele­ments between the beliefs and how we live our lives?

Here’s why this dis­tinc­tion can be very impor­tant.  If our lives are the direct result of our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing, then we could not change our lives until we found and elim­i­nated them.  But if our lives are the result of the mean­ing we give any given sit­u­a­tion, then it might be pos­si­ble to change that mean­ing, thereby chang­ing how we will act and feel in any given sit­u­a­tion, with­out elim­i­nat­ing the beliefs.

I think that it is pos­si­ble to do that and I’m in the process of con­duct­ing an exper­i­ment with 20 peo­ple over a ten-week period to see what is required to change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally give to sit­u­a­tions.  So far it looks like it can be done.  I per­son­ally have done it many times, even though it can be dif­fi­cult to do it consistently.

Now in the long run you still would want to get rid of the rel­e­vant neg­a­tive beliefs and con­di­tion­ing because, if you don’t, the next time a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion comes up, you’ll prob­a­bly form the same mean­ing, which you will then have to change.  On the other hand, if you elim­i­nate the neg­a­tive beliefs, you’ll form a dif­fer­ent, more pos­i­tive mean­ing the next time, and you won’t have to change it.

At this point you prob­a­bly are ask­ing: So how do you change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally and uncon­sciously give events every minute?  The same way we elim­i­nate the mean­ing we gave the events that led to beliefs as a child.  Give the events two or three dif­fer­ent mean­ings so that you can make real that the mean­ing you gave the sit­u­a­tion is not “the truth,” and then real­ize you never saw the mean­ing in real­ity.  You only can see real­ity; mean­ing is always in our mind.

Also, it seems that some peo­ple are able to ignore or tran­scend how things show up for them. I’ve observed a few peo­ple who seem to be suc­cess­ful finan­cially, in their careers, and in other aspects of their lives (such as deal­ing with eating/weight issues)—who still have a bunch of neg­a­tive self-esteem beliefs.  That wouldn’t make sense if our lives were con­sis­tent with our beliefs.  But given what now appears to be true, as I’ve described above, these peo­ple either are chang­ing the mean­ing of sit­u­a­tions con­stantly or are tran­scend­ing the way things show up for them.

Peo­ple who do the lat­ter seem to be able to say to them­selves: “Yes, the world is occur­ring as dif­fi­cult, or me as inad­e­quate, etc., but so what?  I don’t care about real­ity (how the world occurs to me), I’m going for it anyway.”

In look­ing at my own life I can see that I’ve done that from time to time.  I have  pur­poses or goals that I am so com­mit­ted to that I can totally ignore how things occur for me.  One exam­ple is I have decided to dras­ti­cally cut down my con­sump­tion of sugar and have just a square or two of choco­late after din­ner and none dur­ing the day.  Most days after lunch I feel a desire for choco­late.  I notice that feel­ing and ignore it, say­ing silently to myself: “I don’t care if I feel like eat­ing choco­late, I’m not going to do it.”  There is no strug­gle or effect and I don’t think about eat­ing choco­late any more after I have that thought.  It’s as if my com­mit­ment is so much greater than the way my desire for choco­late shows up for me after lunch that the desire for choco­late feels irrelevant.

I’ll have more to say about chang­ing the mean­ing you have given a sit­u­a­tion and tran­scend­ing how the world occurs to us a few weeks after the Lefkoe Free­dom Exper­i­ment is com­plete and I have the results from 20 exper­i­menters.  In the mean­time, check it out your­self.  See if you can notice that you gen­er­ally are not aware of the dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity occurs or shows up for you.  And then see if you can change that occur­ring by chang­ing the mean­ing you had just given the sit­u­a­tion in front of you.”

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Well done Morty! Great arti­cle and excel­lent insight.

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Humility

This is what the dic­tio­nary says about what we mean by Humil­ity:
humil­ity |(h)yoōˈmilitē|
noun
a mod­est or low view of one’s own impor­tance; humbleness.

But is this really enough to grasp the whole impor­tance humil­ity plays, or does NOT play in our lives? Is being hum­ble a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive trait?

Hum­ble (v.)  and humil­i­ate (v.) sound sim­i­lar, but humil­i­ate empha­sizes shame and the loss of self-respect and usu­ally takes place in pub­lic, while hum­ble is a milder term imply­ing a low­er­ing of one’s pride or rank.

So, why and how is this impor­tant in a rela­tion­ship? Con­sider that what makes us who we are, is our world-view, our opin­ions, our ways of deter­min­ing what’s true and what’s not. So how do we deter­mine what is true in a con­ver­sa­tion? What we do is we com­pare what we hear or see with what we already know and see how it is the same or dif­fer­ent from our past expe­ri­ence. Also, we check our feel­ings to see if we like it or not. That is basi­cally how we deter­mine what is true and real and what is not. This is all very well for a 5-year-old, but unac­cept­able for a healthy fully devel­oped adult. A five-year-old will say that he does not like broc­coli because it is yucky. What he does not see is that it is not that broc­coli is yucky; in fact, quite the oppo­site is true. He calls broc­coli ”yucky” because he doesn’t like it. He, of course, does not see it that way. He thinks that any­one who likes broc­coli has no taste to say the least. This is what we call “onto­log­i­cal arro­gance”. Ontol­ogy is the branch of phi­los­o­phy that stud­ies the nature of real­ity. Onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is the belief that your per­spec­tive is priv­i­leged, that your way is the only way to inter­pret a sit­u­a­tion. While onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is nor­mal and even cute in chil­dren, it is much less charm­ing in adults.

In charged sit­u­a­tions most of us assume that we see things as they are; that is not so. We actu­ally see things as they appear to us. Check out for your­self. When was the last time that you met an “idiot” who thought exactly like you do? Do you believe peo­ple dis­agree with you because they are “idiots”? Or do you call them “idiots” because they dis­agree with you? Do you think your spouse is push­ing your but­tons and wants to make you mad on pur­pose? Or do you think that because you do not like what they have to say and the way they say it they seem to “push your but­tons” on purpose?

The oppo­site of arro­gance is humil­ity. Humil­ity has the root in Latin word humus, mean­ing ground. Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity, on the other hand, is the acknowl­edg­ment that you do not have a spe­cial claim on real­ity or truth, that oth­ers have an equally valid per­spec­tive deserv­ing respect and con­sid­er­a­tion. (Hence chap­ter two in The Rela­tion­ship Saver about agree­ing with your part­ner.) Acknowl­edge that there are many ways to look at the world. Some are more prac­ti­cal and ”true” for you than oth­ers. Nev­er­the­less, they are only views. They are never objec­tive truths; they are always inter­pre­ta­tions, per­sonal maps built by our lim­ited senses pass­ing from our indi­vid­ual and unique fil­ter woven from our past expe­ri­ences. It never even resem­bles THE truth. The fact that we agree about any­thing with any­one is only coin­ci­den­tal and it is always a prod­uct of our will­ing­ness to agree. It does not make it more real or truth­ful though. It is easy and nat­ural for us to dis­agree, to push our truth as the right one. It is sweet to be right and that oth­ers see the world as we do. Our arro­gance in this respect has no bounds. Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity makes sense intel­lec­tu­ally, but it is not the nat­ural atti­tude of a human being. It requires, at least, the cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment of a six-year-old.

Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity does not mean that you have to dis­re­gard your own per­spec­tive. It is per­fectly hum­ble to state that the cir­cum­stances are “prob­lem­atic” as long as you add “for me”. That acknowl­edges that the same cir­cum­stances may not appear prob­lem­atic “to you”.

There are times when you can “agree to dis­agree” and at other times you will need to bring the con­ver­sa­tion to some agree­ment. But we’ll talk about that some other time. Stay tuned and try to behave as if you are at least six.

By the way, I saw a great bumper sticker yes­ter­day: “You don’t have to believe every­thing you think.”

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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