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.

Wu Wei and Law of Attraction

There’s a zone of silence within us that we can step back into, letting go of the hooks and strings that usually pull on us as we react to the conditions of our experience.

“The sage does nothing, but nothing is left undone.”

When you find that mildly detached place within you, it’s as if you know how to respond intuitively to every little thing that does (and doesn’t) require a response.

I used to practice it sparring with friends in martial arts: there the sense of inner detachment immediately released the fear of getting hit or the need to unnecessarily react to punches and kicks that were never a threat.

Later I learned to do it while looking after my kids: freeing me from my own worries and frustrations around crying babies that refuse to sleep, and giving me a kind of sixth sense for what they really needed in the moment.

Well that sounds amazing but in reality I was haphazard and inconsistent in my practice; now with three young ones I’m remembering what I used to do and how well it worked.

To sum it up: inner peace lets us respond with instinctive ease to the flow of events and circumstances around us. 無為 wu wei , translated as “non-action” or “not doing”, implies that when we let go of contrived intentions and actions we find a deeper instinct or intuition that guides us in accordance with the dao.

All this time I thought that I was allowing myself to respond better to objective external reality. But from a Law of Attraction perspective there is no external reality to adapt to.

From the Law of Attraction perspective, those moments of stepping back and letting go were non-resistant. And the intuitive responses that came to me were the first manifestations of the better-feeling conditions flowing to me as a result.

Letting go of resistant thoughts or mental representations allows us to attract conditions and realities that match our innate love and joy and satisfaction.

The crying children become easy to soothe because we are letting go of preconceived resistant thoughts and expectations.

With wu wei we aren’t responding better to reality, we are allowing a better reality to flow to us.

The Iceman, shallow breathing, and the freeze response

I’ve started experimenting with “The Iceman” Wim Hof’s breathing method because of the evidence that it can reduce inflammatory agents in the body.

But the deep breathing proved increasingly difficult for me to sustain. Breath holds? No problem. It’s the quick, repeated breaths that left me tense and unable to continue.

Which is great, because I’ve struggled with different forms of exercise and physical exertion all my life, but hadn’t considered the root cause might be in my breathing.

It turns out that stress, trauma, and anxiety cause shallow breathing. The fight-or-flight (or freeze) response sometimes calls for complete stillness and silence, with the possibility of frantic action if the situation calls for it.

You see a bear in the woods (or in Australia a snake) and our first reaction is to freeze and hope the dangerous animal doesn’t notice us. The backup plan is to get the hell out of there, requiring the use of auxiliary breathing muscles in the chest and neck.

This article describes the process in detail, rethinking the stock advice to “take a deep breath” in the context of strength training, yoga, and other forms of exercise.

When you freeze, your breathing becomes almost imperceptible. Many people go through life breathing like this, compensating with occasional deep inhalations and periodic sighing to balance out the shallowness.

The article linked above offers some suggestions for grounding oneself in the absence of deep breathing. For me these experiments with the Wim Hof method have brought to light a core component of health and vitality that was inhibited due to prolonged stress and trauma.

As I observe my breathing I now recognise that familiar feeling as the freeze response in action, attempting to still and reduce all movement and activity, out of a primal instinct for self-preservation.