After reading my previous article here, ‘Will The World Heal Without You?’, a dear friend of some 45 years wrote to me.
With Tom’s permission, I quote, in part, what he said: “I have read the article and can see the point but just find it very difficult to know how and where for me to make a start on changing my approach to life and the way I relate to things and people.”
What he faces is commonplace. Each of us can find it challenging to get a fresh start – to see another, or others kindly, when we’ve felt hurt, abused, taken advantage of, or worse.
For anyone who has been hit hard by how life has unfolded for them, consider what follows.
But first, for the sake of clarity, I will take Socrates at his word when he says: “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”
Let’s then define some of the key terms used here and other material from the Possibility Project.
- Thought (with a capital ‘T’) is used to name the reality-creating energy we humans experience as our life. Thought in this unformed (energetic) state exists for each of us within our mind as our source of cognition. Thought, by this definition, is The Realm of Possibility.
- thinking (with a small ‘t’) is the form Thought energy takes within our mind as our moment-to-moment cognition (thinking). Our thinking is how we see or see life, and therefore experience our reality in a life-affirming or life-negating way.
- Possibility (with a capital ‘P’) is where the abstract, unfathomable power of Thought enters our reality in the form of original ideas, brand new concepts, fresh starts and a transformed life and relationships. We see what is when in a state of Possibility – not what we remember life to be when seeing it through the lens of our conditioned mind. We see fresh discoveries, inventions, innovations, opportunities, and new ways forward. Possibility, by definition, is the source of all creativity, newness and fresh starts. More importantly, Possibility is the realm of our transformation from who we mistakenly think we are, to see beyond our beliefs, opinions and judgements about ourselves and others to who we really are – a perfectly flawed human being, doing the best we can see or see to do in each moving moment. Possibility is the realm in which you and I experience unconditional kindness, unconstrained understanding, uncontaminated wisdom and uncommon common sense. When directly experiencing life from our state of Possibility, irrespective of our circumstances, we see and are at peace with what is and empowered to take whatever next step we see we need to take in life.
- kindness is the noblest of human feelings. It’s a word, unlike the multi-meaning word love, that is unambiguous in its meaning. Kindness reflects a gentleness of mind – a living expression of warmth, unconditional goodwill towards another, and all others. Kindness is our inherent state of mind when we see beyond our conditioned mind and our conditioned need to ‘be right and make others wrong’.
- understanding is our innate capacity to see any subject, question, concern, problem, dispute, free of our opinions, beliefs, and judgements. Free of the shackles of our memory, knowledge and expertise, and still able to use them in a context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense. Understanding is used in the same sense as having woken up, being aware and having gained a higher consciousness.
- wisdom is our capacity to act with kindness and understanding and mesh our insights from The Realm of Possibility with what we have learnt in the ‘University of Hard Knocks’.
- common sense (a twin with wisdom) coalesces our inherent intelligence, accumulated knowledge, and insights. Common sense, too, is honed by our experiences within The Realm of Possibility.
- innocence is the most challenging of these concepts. In the context of this definition, we remain innocent in that we always do the best we can see or see to do in each moment when we say and do whatever we say or do. Simultaneously, we are also guilty of harming ourselves, others, and the planet. And it is seeing the innocence in what we and others do in each moment that is our challenge. Are we and others guilty of the harm we commit? Yes. Can we do better? Yes. When we see better, we do better. When we experience better thinking – kinder, more understanding, wiser and more common-sense thinking, ever available to us from within our Realm of Possibility – we reflect who we really are, not who we have become conditioned to be.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD OF OUR LIFE
To illustrate how ‘understanding’ can transform our life, here is an edited piece from my book Possibility … a state of mind.
But firstly, a word of warning: This confronting story is not about excusing heinous, criminal behaviour.
Instead, it’s about how the victim of abuse can wake up and, in doing so, heals.
To help you prepare, keep in mind this adage:
Emotions like hate (or revenge) eventually destroys the vessel that contains them.
‘This true story is about two sisters, one in her early and the other in her late twenties. As young girls, both suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father over several years.
On a friend’s recommendation, a previous client of mine, the elder of the two, Janet, came to see me.
She was experiencing that early abuse as a heavy burden. More relevant to her, which prompted her visit, was a recent development – something that didn’t sit well with her.
She saw that the criminal charges now sought by her younger sister, Carol, against their father, while understandable and justified, would not remove the pain she and her sister had carried for all those years.
On the contrary, she saw that it would make matters worse.
Carol was pressing Janet hard to engage with her in the criminal proceedings. The pressure grew as Carol became more determined to exercise revenge and what she believed would finally give her peace and satisfaction: bringing her father to justice and punished for his dreadful acts.
Estranged from their father, both had rebuilt, after many recriminations, a relationship with their long-since-divorced mother.
Janet saw that she did not want her father, a friendless, solitary, sick 70+-year-old, subjected to an investigation, court proceedings, and jailed at his frail and decrepit stage of life – notwithstanding his heinous behaviour toward her and her sister.
Also concerning Janet was that revisiting the pain and ugliness of that experience would create extreme upset for their elderly mother and their younger brother, who she felt close to and who had been largely shielded from his father’s deviant behaviour toward his sisters.
She saw it would also create much upheaval for both her and her sister that wasn’t apparent to or of concern to Carol in her current very agitated, upset state of mind. And, as that aspect of their family’s past had been a well-kept secret, the airing of it in court and ensuing media publicity would rock their world and their relationships with extended family, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues.
After a short time, seeing the past for what it was – something that no longer existed, other than as a memory carried through time and made real via her thinking and accompanying feelings in the present moment – Janet responded, for the sake of her wellbeing, in a life-affirming way.
She came to see her father’s innocence, notwithstanding his guilt in committing his serial abuse toward her and her sister. Janet saw that it was his sick thinking at cause in his deviant, criminal and damaging actions. Even though inexcusable, she could now experience and treat him with her newfound kindness, understanding, wisdom, and common sense.
Whoa! Hold it! How can anyone treated so horrifically see the perpetrator’s innocence?
Yet Janet did. She forgave her father. Janet realised he was guilty of doing what he did, but he did so in his warped and distorted reality at that time. It was in that context; she saw his innocence.
She saw that she could continue to relive those experiences for the rest of her life, or she could transcend them and be free. Be free!
Janet decided to visit her father. It was an emotional experience for both. Her father told of his abuse as a child, wept and sought her forgiveness. She gave it.
Janet experienced a fresh start in her life.
Another transformative outcome of her seeing Possibility was her newfound experience of sustaining a healthy relationship with a male, something she hadn’t been previously able to do. Not long after the coaching ended, she met a young man with whom she established a loving and intimate relationship. They later married and had a family.
Carol felt severely let down, betrayed and bewildered when Janet told her that she would not press charges or contribute to the case as a witness for the prosecution. She didn’t understand why and how Janet could not feel the same way she did. Carol became more angry, bitter, and distraught.
Carol saw that revenge and punishing her father was the only answer to what ailed her.
Her psychological health was not aided by a counsellor who worked with traumatised individuals. She believed that taking Carol back into the past, raking over the painful details, and revisiting those horrific experiences was her way to resolve her state of upset.
Carol, not too long into that process, had a psychological breakdown. Their father died without being charged, and their mother passed a year later.
Janet, originally from Ireland, as was her new husband, decided to return there to get some clear air. Both their children were born there.
A few years later, I received a card from her saying that they were happy and had decided to return to Perth to raise their children and to reconnect with her sister, brother, extended family and friends, and the sunny Western Australian lifestyle.’
WHAT DID JANET SEE THAT SET HER FREE?
Janet saw at least the following aspects of her thinking, each inherently connected with her seeing fresh Thought – The Realm of Possibility:
- She saw that what happened all those years ago was horrible and that her father’s abuse was a terrible betrayal of trust and her love for him.
- Yet, while it was a reality back then, it was no longer a reality today – unless she recreated it within her mind.
- Janet saw that those events existed for her now only as a highly upsetting memory.
- Equally, she saw that she could keep recalling those memories and reliving them as they morphed and distorted further into an even more overwhelming experience (as was the case for her sister).
- She saw that she had two options:
- She could feed that memory and become increasingly upset, or
- Understand her memories for what they were – something from the dead past that had no power over her other than the power she gave them through entertaining them.
- She recognised that her memories would become less and less painful as she remembered them from her newfound understanding and could ultimately drop away.
- Janet saw she had been living in the past by hanging on to her memories and how they interfere badly with her life experience.
- She also recognised that she had maintained a sufficiently supportive perspective not to have had her thinking disable her life to the degree Carol’s thinking had disabled hers.
- And saw that each person lives in their separate reality – one we each think up in our unique way.
- Most importantly, Janet came to see how her mind worked. She came to see how we each find our freedom within, not from seeking retribution out there in the world.
- And she saw that’s what Carol was doing in trying to find her inner peace.
This story illustrates how our thinking solidifies, and we atrophy psychologically, how our life can manifest only our memories – our beliefs, opinions, judgments and knowledge, all accumulated from our no-longer-existing yesterdays. And how we can wake up, get a fresh start no matter how difficult our life may have been or still may be.
Before meeting me, Janet was already looking in the direction of a happier life, free from her past. She was open. That gave her a flying start in seeing the nature of Thought – our thinking – our experience and getting a fresh start in life.
Carol had no one to suggest to her that our past, even a split-second ago, however good, bad or indifferent we experience it, is gone, and trying to deal with it is pointless. Her counsellor, from her understanding, did the best she could see to do and, in that sense, was also innocent.
Like the two sisters, we can easily fall into the ‘trap of our story’ rather than reorient ourselves with what is now.
Our peace and happiness can quickly wither on the vine of memory.
We can and do become captive to that mirage. If we fail to see that the past no longer exists other than being recreated from memory via the power of Thought, we are stuck in that reality.
And a fresh start always remains available to us upon entering The Realm of Possibility and seeing what is, not what our memory tells us ‘it’ is.
Too many men and women, entire families, whole communities, nation-states live primarily in the past. They live in their memories – beliefs, opinions, judgements, knowledge – all historic – yet appearing as accurate (to themselves). In essence, they are living life lost in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whether we are gay or straight, right-wing, left-wing, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Australian, German or Chinese, carnivore, omnivore or vegan – we all create our reality from the one source, Thought.
We can experience our thinking as an unquestioned reality. We may assert this or that belief, this or that identity. It matters not – we make it all up and, in doing so, create division and separation. BUT we only do that if we fail to recognise that we are the creator of our reality.
All -isms, labels and identities are just assemblies of belief, opinion, judgement and knowledge – all mental structures built and maintained within our conditioned mind.
You can become equally lost if you now say all that makes sense and, ‘I believe what John is saying’.
Instead, look gently within to find your quietened mind and softened heart.
It is there, with a quiet intention, we eventually see beyond our accumulated memories and into the realm of a new reality.
Free of belief, we transcend our self-imposed incarceration. Free of the chains we remember as being ‘the truth’.
That is where our freedom lies, and a world at peace awaits – a peace that only starts with you and me.
Warmly … John