When the search ends

I’ve spent all my adult life searching for answers. But what happens when the search comes to an end?

I thought my search would lead me into rich, esoteric disciplines and fields of deep wisdom, and so it did. But I didn’t find the answers there.

Instead the answers proved to be so personal, particular to me; and everything else I learned along the way sits in a kind of limbo: it has some intrinsic value, but none of it is the shining light I thought it would be.

Everything I studied, researched and pursued had the common underlying theme of resolving the nebulous sense of “something wrong” within me or within life itself. I had an insatiable thirst for deeper understanding of reality and myself.

Now that I’ve identified and begun to remedy the “something wrong”, what do I do with myself, amidst all the paraphernalia and legacy of decades’ search?

I know more than most about eclectic subjects like philosophy, theology, Eastern religion and all its accompanying disciplines like Yoga, martial arts, divination, meditation, New Age thought, psychology, and aspects of history, politics, physiology and so on. But I know it because I rifled through it in search of something else.

I’m not searching anymore. My search is at an end. Now what? Most people my age would have an identity formed from their interests and passions, but mine has been so closely tied to a deeply personal search that I’m not even sure how to begin to talk to others about these subjects, or if these are even the subjects I care about going forward.

My questions were not universal questions, and neither are my answers universal. I may have found “the meaning of life” but it turns out that’s not what I was looking for.

Maybe there’s nothing that can replace the search. The drive behind it was so primal and intense, like a fight for survival it overshadowed ordinary interests and motivations, drawing off time and energy and passion.

What is life supposed to look like going forward? I’m not as clueless as I might think. The answers here are much simpler than those I used to search for: feel good. Do things that feel good. Think thoughts that feel good. Relax, don’t worry about anything.

Abraham-Hicks says that we will never run out of questions to ask, the search will never end, because the whole point of the universe is expansion, freedom, and joy.

My great search may be over, but there are new questions forming for me. Questions like this one, that spurred me to write this post. And with everything I’ve learned, I know that the answers are not supposed to be difficult, and that the process is supposed to feel good.

Questions and answers can come and go with ease. It doesn’t have to be a great search anymore and I don’t have to justify it with struggle or with lengthy periods of searching. Life will cause me to keep asking, and all I need to do is be in the right mode to receive the answers.

Finding true happiness

Every spiritual text I’ve ever read points to the source of happiness as something other than worldly conditions.

Call it God or Deus, Brahman or Sunyata, or the Dao; whatever it is called and however it is described, the essence of these teachings is that happiness lies in letting go of worldly conditions and focusing on this mysterious spiritual truth or being instead.

Abraham-Hicks calls it Source, avoiding the baggage associated with the word “God”. But otherwise the teachings are basically the same: happiness is not attained by arranging our worldly conditions in pleasing ways; happiness is how we feel when we are tuned in to Source, to God, to the essence of all being.

This being is who we really are. When we tune into it, we tune into our own essence, our own true being. That’s why it feels good. It is the authentic expression of who we really are.

But we don’t have to meditate in a cave to be authentic. Many people find their happiness in life, doing many varied activities. The authentic expression of their own essential being doesn’t have to be overtly spiritual.

And yet for some of us it is overtly spiritual. My own path led me to research different spiritual teachings in depth, scouring them for clues as to the nature of happiness. I don’t have a career or a purpose or a passion separate from my spiritual practice. This is the subject matter where I most authentically express my own being, where I can tune in most easily to the being within me.

At times I thought about becoming a monk or a hermit, but being a monk or a hermit doesn’t make you holy. It just makes it easier to explain to others what you’re about.

And explain to oneself too.

Abraham says that we can have ten subjects of importance to us, and nine of them feel bad when we think about them. Not having enough money, not having the relationships we want or the job we want or the car we want. But if we focus on the one subject that feels good to us, and stay on that subject, that’s enough to keep us aligned with Source, and all those other subjects have to align with us.

I’m coming around to realising that my spiritual search isn’t just a search, it’s the subject where I most easily align. It’s my one subject where I feel so good, without resistance, and all I need do is stay here to enjoy deep and lasting happiness that overflows into all other aspects of my life.

God and Law of attraction

Years ago I got into some of the theological tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. It was a lot of fun!

I found something so intensely satisfying in contemplating the meaning of the divine, while getting past all the superficial and misleading ideas floating around.

So when law of attraction teachers like Abraham-Hicks prefer to use words like “Source” instead of God, I get where they are coming from.

It’s like the old Zen Buddhist adage about the finger pointing at the moon. We are meant to find the Being that the words “God” and “Source” merely point to.

What does all of this have to do with law of attraction? Well for me personally, thinking about the nature of the divine being, how it supports and sustains the existence of all things, how it loves all things, how its very nature is love — pondering these things feels very good. It’s one subject guaranteed to take me to a profoundly joyful feeling.

So why not spend more time there? One of the Abraham-Hicks teachings is to focus on a subject that easily feels good. Why would you stop focusing on what feels good? Why do we ever willingly turn to focus on things that feel bad?

I hardly ever spoke to others about this subject because I knew my take on it was unique. I knew that other people didn’t find it as satisfying as I did. But at the same time I ended up focusing on things that others insisted were important.

It’s one thing to have hobbies and interests that others don’t share; but to not even spend time enjoying them and instead focus on what others deem important or interesting? That’s a shame!

I don’t need anyone else to appreciate these things with me or for me. I don’t need moral support. This is my satisfaction and my own satisfaction is what matters.

Abraham teaches that if we just focus on one subject that feels really good, everything else in life will be drawn into that same wonderful feeling. All other subjects will come around.

So if there’s something in your life that feels good to think about, go think about it. You don’t have to share it, explain it or justify it. Just focus on it and let it lift you to new heights of happiness and joy.

Daoism and Law of Attraction

Daoism is essentially about following the intrinsic order of the universe, an order that is instilled and directed by the mysterious Dao.

Things naturally follow the Dao, and their power or virtue (De) grows.

But humans become distracted and misled, overlooking the impulses and quiet guidance of the Dao, and thereby depleting their power.

So the obvious goal of Daoism is to let go of whatever inhibits our relationship with the Dao, returning to a state of simplicity and quiet where we feel the impulses of our nature in accordance with the Dao.

Typically it’s our fears and cravings, based on flawed beliefs and extrinsic social or familial values, that get in the way of our guidance.

In terms of the Law of Attraction, this guidance is based primarily on how we feel. We can feel how aligned or misaligned we are with our inner-being perspective at any moment.

Daoism and Law of Attraction teachings can work well together, because Daoism encourages us to let go of our superficial and contrived approach to life, while Law of Attraction keeps the esoteric aspects of the Chinese religion grounded in feeling good.

The sage does nothing, but nothing is left undone. What could be more in keeping with the Law of Attraction?

Just feel good, be easy, and appreciate the impulses and the signs that come effortlessly as you realise the universe really is looking after you.

Gaslighting: a philosophical take

What is gaslighting?

We know the definition and we know examples – both private and, throughout the Trump presidency/roadshow, spectacularly public – but what is it really, in its essence?

Let’s start with the so-called narcissist’s prayer:

That didn’t happen. 

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it. 

And if I did…

You deserved it.

What makes these words so discomforting to those with lived experience of narcissism? Why does this “prayer” feel so spot-on in capturing the awfulness of gaslighting?

Taken individually the statements are lies. Lying is knowingly asserting an untruth with the intention to deceive. “That didn’t happen” is a lie.

But the intention behind gaslighting is more insidious than immediate deception. While a liar wants people to accept his lies as truth, gaslighting isn’t really about specific truths or falsehoods. What the “prayer” demonstrates is a pattern of deflections, denials, and misdirection designed to disorient others and cause them to doubt their own sense of reality.

From the very beginning, as the narcissist vehemently denies that an event happened, he is at the same time already prepared to argue that you deserved it. But rather than admit this from the start, he forces you to fight a war of attrition through each layer of his arguments.

By the time you arrive at the final layer, most people will be mentally and emotionally exhausted. But even the final layer, the “you deserved it”, is no victory or revelation. It’s just another position that the narcissist will work with to continue gaslighting you.

Each element of gaslighting is a form of posturing: the narcissist presents a series of façades with the express intention of maintaining an unequal relationship with their victim.

In the moment their target accepts a façade as genuine, they become the victim of the gaslighter; the basis of gaslighting is indeed accepting a false person as a real one, and thereby placating the narcissist’s profound insecurity and need for control.

Because the lie of the gaslighter is not individual statements like “that didn’t happen”, it is the lie of presenting a false self as authentic or genuine, with the purpose of undermining and destabilising others, pushing the narcissist’s insecurity onto those around them.

For classic narcissists, gaslighting gives them the freedom and power to achieve their grandiose fantasies. For vulnerable narcissists, gaslighting allows them to hide and protect their terrifying secret sense of shame.

The narcissist feels most secure when those around them are dependent on the narcissist’s words and actions for their sense of reality. The narcissist wants to get hold of the levers of power over other people’s realities, giving themselves the freedom to pursue their self-interest without being held accountable to any other person or authority.

Each stage of the narcissist’s “prayer” contradicts the others. A reasonable person couldn’t hold six contradictory positions successively, and most people’s credibility would be shot to bits by such admissions. That’s why it is so important to the narcissist that they work steadily at undermining the reality of those around them. They instinctively undermine and corrode the confidence, independence and clarity of others, both directly and indirectly. Like a cult leader or despotic regime, they sense to the core of their being the threat posed by others’ security and confidence. Gaslighting undermines others’ security and confidence by offering no real or tangible basis for authentic interaction.

Gaslighting is therefore ultimately about trying to be in a position of control or persuasion over others, using bluster and posturing and lies to dominate, beguile, seduce, or subdue. It encapsulates all forms of communication and interaction that allow the narcissist to overtly or covertly maintain their dominant position.

That’s why the only way to deal with gaslighting is to disengage and remove yourself from the narcissistic relationship. Gaslighters can’t be reasoned with or called to account because they are already entirely committed to dominance via manipulation and deception. Entering into dialogue or debate with the hope of pinning the narcissist down is futile.

Letting go of problems and embracing a new paradigm

What happens to a problem-solving mindset when we evolve beyond problems?

Recently I’ve been watching the TV series Alone which puts ten people alone in the wilderness to see who can survive the longest. In season two the surprising thing is how many of the contestants manage to reach a place of steady survival, only to quit once things become stable and routine.

They are very good at solving the problems of survival in a difficult environment: obtaining food, water, and shelter. But once those needs are met, the problem-solving mindset fails in the face of “monotonous” daily life.

Or perhaps we could say that their powerful problem-solving mindset successfully solves the remaining problem of loneliness and boredom by sending them home?

I used to identify with a problem-solving mindset too.

But lately I’ve felt a new state or way of thinking emerging, one which is no longer oriented to problems or difficulties but to receiving something great.

I don’t yet have the words to describe it, but that’s exactly what makes it so tantalising and fresh.

And the best part is that my usual way of thinking has the ability to bridge the gap between where I am now and where I want to be. My mind has the ability to translate this fresh new idea or state of mind into reality.

But not if I set out looking for problems to solve, obstacles to remove, or difficulties to overcome.

This new idea or perspective I’m reaching for is purely positive. It’s as if I’ve spent years climbing mountains and finally arrived at a spectacular hidden valley.

If we stay in a strictly problem-based mindset we cannot appreciate the grandeur, freedom, and lightness of receiving something purely positive.

But by knowing and sensing that this purely positive, fresh new perspective is there, within reach, we need only move toward it, learning the shape and the feel of it, until it becomes the measure and the touchstone of a new way of living and thinking and being alive.

How to relax completely

I want to be able to relax completely. I want to be able to enter a state of deep relaxation that overflows into my everyday life.

So how do I do this?

I’ve tried breathing exercises and meditation many times in the past, I’ve also tried yoga, massage, reiki, spiritual healing, psychotherapy, nutritional supplements, warm baths, cold showers, qigong, and seen Physiotherapists, osteopaths, and a handful of others I can’t remember.

But in the past I didn’t understand CPTSD, emotional flashbacks, or dissociation. I didn’t understand how mental representations create my reality. Following on from yesterday’s post: I know now that long-standing behaviours like dissociation and hyper-vigilance have a cognitive basis.

In other words, I can’t relax because I have some kind of belief that it is more important for me to remain alert and vigilant.

So no matter how many exercises or methods I use to relax, part of me is adamant that I remain alert and on guard at all times.

Brainstorming relevant thoughts about being alert, I come up with:

– I need to pay attention in case something bad happens

– I need to be aware of everything around me

– if I don’t pay attention something bad will happen

– you can’t take your eye off people

– you shouldn’t ever let your guard down

– better safe than sorry

– if you’re not paying attention, anything could happen to you.

These sound a bit nebulous, but they were backed up by bad experiences of being caught off-guard by awful people, leading me to subsequently reinforce the fallacy that “this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t let my guard down”.

Why is this a fallacy? Because being eternally guarded and hyper-vigilant is not the answer to a happy and safe domestic environment. While it may be true that guardedness and vigilance could pre-empt instances of abuse and harassment, they aren’t viable solutions to abuse and harassment.

And while it’s also true that abuse and other forms of trauma might be more jarring if they happen when we are relaxed and unguarded, it’s ultimately a deeply maladaptive strategy to therefore determine that we will never again be caught relaxed and unguarded.

So in order to relax completely it is necessary to first remove ourselves either temporarily or permanently from sources of abuse, harassment, or danger in general, and second, to acknowledge and accept that being guarded and vigilant is unsustainable. Find a safe space, and really affirm that it is now safe to be – in the best sense of the word – careless, inattentive, oblivious and forgetful; to well and truly let go of any thoughts of threat or danger or negative consequences of being deeply and satisfyingly relaxed.

Outgrowing dissociation

Wikipedia describes dissociation as:

“any of a wide array of experiences, ranging from a mild emotional detachment from the immediate surroundings, to a more severe disconnection from physical and emotional experiences”

Dissociation has a protective purpose: it stops us from focusing on painful experiences, thoughts, or memories.

But it doesn’t negate or nullify the painful experience etc. Rather, akin to distraction, it takes our attention elsewhere until the negative stimulus is numbed.

I don’t know the exact mechanism of dissociation or distraction or even deliberate attention and focusing; but whatever the mechanism, dissociation presupposes cognitive states that favour dissociation over attention. In other words, we dissociate because we believe it’s better to dissociate than to face the unwanted stimulus.

Sometimes we just have to endure unwanted situations, even if it’s as innocuous as playing with your phone while stuck in a waiting room or a long line.

But for children especially, traumatic situations can seem impossible to escape. Dissociation is often the only accessible mechanism for reducing the stress and burden of abusive or traumatic or neglectful conditions.

Is it possible to stop dissociating by changing the thoughts or beliefs that made dissociation the most viable option in the first place?

Thoughts like:

– there’s nothing I can do to stop this

– it’s easier if I just go along with it

– if I fight or resist it will only make things worse

– there’s nowhere else to go

– at least I can block these awful people out

– even if I’m powerless, I’m still free inside my head

– I can control how I feel

– I won’t give them the satisfaction of getting angry or upset

These kinds of thoughts aren’t bad; they highlight the fact that dissociation is a coping mechanism.

But if I’m no longer in a place where “coping” is necessary, dissociation in fact keeps me from more efficiently processing and replacing old thoughts with new ones. It makes sense to change these thoughts and put an end to dissociation.

The fact is that “coping” and enduring no longer serve me. Enjoyment is a much more relevant skill now; enjoying life has replaced enduring abuse and neglect.

Dissociation assumes that I must be always enduring something unwanted. It’s a skill based on avoidance and the expectation of bad things, and this expectation shapes my reality.

So even if our lives are otherwise wonderful, the habit of dissociation can make it seem like there are still ambiguous threats or problems to deal with.

I don’t need to use dissociation anymore, because I have much better ways of dealing with unwanted situations – and that begins with not attracting them in the first place.

Emotional flashbacks and Law of Attraction

Emotional flashbacks are strong emotional reactions to thoughts or mental representations/cognitions.

The emotional reaction is a perfect match to the cognitive state, but too often we are unable to put the cognitive state into words. If we can’t put it into words, how can we challenge it?

I woke up this morning feeling bad but not knowing why. That’s typical for emotional flashbacks, and may also imply some degree of dissociation.

My usual approach is to focus on the feeling, remind myself it has nothing to do with current circumstances, and try to remember a time in the past when I felt a similar feeling.

This can be difficult because dissociation is designed to block out or disconnect from such memories.

But if I can start to remember the original circumstances it becomes a lot easier to put into words the thoughts or mental representations that were formed through those experiences.

We all live in the present, but our present is coloured and shaped by the thoughts we formed in past circumstances.

So what can we do but notice the emotional flashbacks, put the corresponding thoughts into words, and then begin the work of finding thoughts that feel better?

If the specific memories are too vague or hard to pin down, try to summarise the feeling in words.

“Life is shit!” Might capture the feeling (while again noting that it has nothing to do with current conditions).

Why might I have strong negative belief like “life is shit” running along in the back of my mind? Well, there are very obvious past circumstances that I know really were shit at the time, and I endured those circumstances for many years. So it makes sense that my bad circumstances throughout my formative years would have also informed my thoughts about life and reality.

My life is pretty good now, but with those thoughts still active I continue to have emotional flashbacks that warp my perspective of the present.

The solution is to update that old painful narrative: my life used to be pretty shit. I was surrounded by pretty awful people, and I took to heart a lot of their negativity. But I don’t interact with that kind of person anymore. I’ve made great progress in letting go of negative beliefs and expectations, and resolving these kinds of emotional flashbacks.

These days I only interact with people I love and appreciate. My worst days now are still better than my best days back then. I understand now how my thoughts and mental representations create my reality. And I know clearer than ever what has brought me to where I am today.

I’m looking forward to even clearer self-knowing and an even more satisfying life ahead. Things keep improving, and I witness the process behind that improvement. I’m daily refining my skills, and this translates directly into feeling better and better across all aspects of life.

Life used to be shit but it’s not anymore, and I know why and how it will continue to improve.

Why I hate writing

I’ve written a lot over the years and used to enjoy it.

But over time my enthusiasm waned as I realised that what made sense to me didn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else.

I thought I was communicating valuable insights, but what did those insights amount to?

Now when I try to write I feel almost immediate weariness and disgust. I know that it’s not writing per se, but the way I am trying to write.

Nonetheless I still try and fail repeatedly every week.

Along the way I learned that I’m tired of trying to communicate to people who don’t care and don’t want to listen. As a child it was ingrained in me that whatever I had to say was by turns ridiculous, worthy of contempt, deserved to be outright ignored, or to be painfully endured as the most burdensome thing imaginable.

“Are you finished?” 🙄

When it came to writing I tried to limit myself only to ideas that seemed objectively worthy of communication, divorced from my subjective voice and perspective.

My ideas had to be entirely defensible, and I strived to find points of interest that made them relatable and “worth listening to”.

None of these are bad in the right measure, but they can collude to support the deep conviction that anything I communicate has to overcome a barrier of hostility and opposition; that my words and thoughts have no intrinsic worth and are not worth the effort of communicating.

This is all the result of childhood conditioning, and what it calls for is the remedy of recognising that my expectations were shaped by some really awful people, but most people in the world aren’t like that, and I do in fact receive many positive responses from people I’ve never met who resonate on some level with the words I have written.

Ultimately, we write for ourselves regardless of how others respond. We write to express our thoughts, to clarify and focus our perspectives. We therefore don’t need to impose restrictions or extrinsic criteria in the hope of pleasing an audience or avoiding criticism and condemnation.

Most people aren’t awful; many people are lovely, authentic and open. If I write firstly for my own benefit and secondly with the expectation that most people aren’t bad and many are good, then I think I can learn to enjoy writing again.