Tonight, I kicked back and watched an ABC Nightline episode called Beyond Belief: Battle With the Devil. Sadly, as expected, I was less than amazed by it.
It took things from the standard wacky Christian playbook that’s been around as long as I can remember (at least since the 80s), didn’t include any good interviews with non-Christians (be they atheists or pagans or any other religion), focused on some of the most outlandish practices out there, and interviewed some people who were far from what one could call “grounded in reality”.
There is no shortage of people who believe that “the devil” is all around us, trying at every opportunity to make us do bad things. Every ill of the world is tossed into a heap on Satan’s doorstep… and with it, far too often, all ties to personal responsibility for the actions of the individual. This “news” show was full of those people, just like most shows I’ve ever seen on the subject.
Where I Stand
Just to be perfectly clear: Yes, I do believe Evil exists. I do think there are things out there that can get inside of us and make us do things and I do think they can be cast out.
However, I also believe that most cases of possession you’ll ever see or hear about are either fake or a misdiagnosed (or undiagnosed) psychological problem. Others are psycho-somatic reactions generated by deeply held beliefs of the “possessed”–a kind of dissociative state where everything they think is “bad” about themselves is given its own personality.
Very, very few ever involve any actual non-physical entities.
Also, Christians don’t hold the monopoly on evil spirits or the ability to cast them out. Anyone can draw them in or send them away. It’s just a matter of faith–not in any religion, but in oneself.
See, evil spirits only have as much power over us as we’re willing to give them.
Faith and Power
Demons and their ilk may be most famous from the tales of terror common told in a lot of churches (and from movies like The Exorcist), but the mythology and cosmology of every religion I’ve come across has it’s own share of dark spirits and shady characters. Many are trickster gods, some are outright hostile toward humans, but all of them, in every story, can be beaten one way of another. Even The Devil himself has lost at everything from fiddle playing to cards.
More often than not, they’re beaten because they underestimate the humans they’re playing with.
See, here’s the thing, we are composite beings, a mix of the physical and spiritual. That gives us some special benefits. One part of our nature can be used to strengthen the other. Our minds can be quick, our spirit strong, our bodies pushed beyond normal limits. All because we believe we can do better, we can be better.
And when one part of our nature fails us, there’s the other to fall back on.
That mixed nature gives us power that a more “pure” creature can’t lay claim to. (Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we’re always so in demand.)
Religious faith, without a doubt, gives us a framework from which to access that power… but it’s not the only way to do so. Knowledge, in general, is power. As is basic self-respect.
Possession and Exorcism
There are many ways we can let evil spirits into our lives. Thing is, most people will never encounter an evil spirit unless they go looking for one (or are extremely unlucky).
More often than not, we’ll generate our own negative constructs by doing things we’re ashamed of or that we know are wrong for us. Those negative constructs, depending on our personal beliefs, can take many forms. For those with a heavy Christian-flavored religious (or horror pop-culture) background, it makes sense that demons would be common.
These negative constructs can be dealt with in a number of ways.
Exorcism works because it fits in with the framework that created the “demon” to begin with.
Honest self-evaluation and dealing with the behavior or thought process that’s causing the problem can work, too, if you’re willing to accept responsibility for your thoughts and actions.
And, because it’s a construct of your own mind, plain old therapy could work, too.
In other words, there’s more than one way to get “possessed” and there’s more than one way to “exorcise the demons.”
The Bigger Picture
What far too many documentaries and “news” programs fail to realize is that the problem of evil is a very human one.
There don’t need to be devils and demons for bad things to happen. We’re more than capable of doing all sorts of horrible things all on our own. It’s one of the problems with human nature and free will (not to mention how delicate the balance of our neurochemistry can be and the wild ways it can go out of whack).
Another part of the problem is how easily we look to give up responsibility for our actions. No one wants to believe they’re evil, so why not ascribe it to some malicious force that has tricked you into letting it take over your body?
The good news–and something that shows like Nightline’s Beyond Belief need to start incorporating into their formats–is that we have an equal capacity to create good and heal ourselves of our self-inflicted problems.
We need to be reminded that this is our world. If you’re of a religious bent, we were given either dominion of custodianship of it. That gives us a lot more control over things than most care to take responsibility for. If you’re non-religious, well, then we’re the only ones who can make any changes in how things work.
Demons and devils and other evil spirits are creatures from another realm (not necessarily unnatural, but not native denizens to the physical). They are at a disadvantage here, which is why they prey on the weak.
To defend against them–and any number of other evils in the world–be strong. Have faith, first and foremost in yourself. Be educated, in how your mind works, in how the world works, and in what you believe to be.
Instead of just telling us stories of the bad that can happen, these documentaries and reports have to do more than scare people. They have to give them an equal helping of hope.
For as much Darkness as there is in the world, there is at least as much Light.
Yesterday I picked up the bunch of personal development courses being offered by the crew over at Only72.com. I have not been disappointed in the quality of work they’ve pulled together from 25 different authors. (Check it out and get your own bunch.)
There are three that have really stood out (so far), at least in relation to what I talk about here… so I thought I’d share some quick reviews.
Sex, Love, Liberation by Ev’Yan Nasman
This is a fantastic collection of thoughts and observations all tied together with a beautiful call to action: Be proud of who you are and what you love.
As Ev’Yan says right on the cover, this is a manifesto. The suggested rules to live by–with an open and honest heart, an soul primed for exploration, and a voice full of joy–serve as reminders that are, sadly, too often needed in today’s wild and often crushing world.
Even better, there’s a workbook packaged with this that gives you all the prompts you need in order to build your own manifesto. So first you’re given inspiration, then permission and the tools to take action. Really can’t beat that combination.
(And if you get it as part of the Only72 deal, you get it before it’s actually available to the rest of the world.)
See more from Ev’Yan over at SexLoveLiberation.com.
The Less Work, More Harmony Relationship Guide by Cara Stein
If you’re looking for something less inspirational and more practical, this is the course for you.
It’s packed with good, solid information about communication and relationship dynamics that you may not be aware of. Looking for a better way to talk about difficult topics? It’s in here. Want to liven up your relationship a little? There are tips for that. How about ways to bring a relationship back into balance? Yep, that too.
Everything in this course is organized by easily accessible topics via a browser interface–so you literally click through your questions to the answers. Those answers deliver, too. I know I learned a thing or two (and was reminded of many more) as I read through the content.
And if you want something even more in-depth, Cara has included a special discount code to “upgrade” to the more intense version of the course–complete with worksheets and exercises to help you put into practice all of the concepts she discusses.
See more from Cara at 17,000 Days.
Reclaim Your Dreams by Jonathan Mead
This is a more general guide to taking control of your life, but I like what I’ve read so much that I really want to recommend it to a whole lot of people.
There is fantastic instruction here for unbrainwashing yourself (basically unlearning a lot of bad habits and artificial limitations that you’ve learned). That in and of itself should help give you better relationships with other people. I know it’s a topic I work with a lot (even if I haven’t written about it a lot, yet).
The exercises are clear and direct. The points to meditate on are good, solid, things to think about. The writing style has just the right amount of fun mixed in to keep it interesting and to let the deeper insights sneak in. (I’m a big fan of things that make you chuckle a bit and then stop as something profound suddenly hits you.)
Buy this as part of the Only72 package and get access to a more intense “home study” course based on the currently unavailable in-person coaching Jonathan does.
Read more from Jonathan at Illuminated Mind.
So, there’s three big reasons to get this collection of courses and books. The normal prices of these three courses alone add up to what you’ll pay for a full 22 products. And I can assure you, if any of these three are to your liking, you’ll find more that are useful. (Heck, the cook book in the bunch is absolutely fantastic–so if you like to eat, you’re covered!)
If nothing else, just go and check out the full list of what’s in the package.
Oh, and one more thing: $5 of every sale gets donated to Cath Duncan’s KidneyRaffle.com project. Cath’s “Team Juggernaut” is raising $45,000 for much needed support and research to the Kidney Foundation. If that’s not a little more incentive, I don’t know what is.
Last year I stumbled upon a pretty awesome sale that was going on.
One of the email lists I was on posted a link to a place that was selling a couple dozen ebooks by a bunch of different authors, all about running online businesses and such.
With minimal thought, I payed out the money–getting a hefty discount for a lot of great content that really helped me a lot over the past year.
Well, there’s another sale coming up. This time, the deal is over $1000 worth of content for $97. Bunches of ebooks from 29 different authors all focusing on different ways you can make yourself better.
Looking to eat better? There’s at least one for that. Decluttering your mental and physical life? Yep. Overcoming various fears? In there.
Really, looking at the preview list I got my hands on, I know that when the sale kicks off at noon on Monday (June 20), I will again, without question, be dropping some cash and getting way more than my money’s worth.
And because I know you’re looking to make yourselves better, I’m going to share that link with you.
So, keep an eye on this site.
Better yet, sign up for the Without Being Crushed mailing list (over in the sidebar), follow us on Twitter, and “like” us on Facebook so you know you’ll find out about this sale as soon as it goes live.
Like many things, this blog kind of fell by the wayside over the past year or so.
I’ve been more concerned with more immediate needs–like paying the bills, staying employed, and, somewhere in there, moving.
When life gets crazy, it’s far too often our personal development and spiritual questing that falls by the wayside first. You know, the things we need to do the most to ensure long-term success and growth and happiness.
The good news is, I was in a good and solid enough place with my normal habits that the stagnation of the drive to know more about myself and my place in the Universe didn’t lead me to a whole lot of backsliding.
People came into my life who needed some direction and I was just far enough ahead on a similar path that I could show them how to clear some of the brush off of theirs so they could see it a little more clearly.
And that very quickly reminded me that I’d been standing in the same place so long that the briers and ferns were growing up around me.
So now I’ve got the metaphorical machete out and I’m hacking my way through the jungle of life again. Little by little clearing out the things that are getting in my way.
Part of that is getting this blog spun up again. The theme has been polished up, it’s been hooked into a new Twitter account (so follow me, if you will!), and there are plans in the works to produce a bit of content that I hope others will find useful.
More importantly, by doing all that I’m being more true to myself. Setting up some new accountability and giving myself a real reason to keep digging into who I am and what I should be doing in this world.
If you’re new here: Welcome! I’m sure we have a lot we can learn from one another.
If you’re noticing this suddenly popping up in one of your feeds after a long absence: Hi! How’ve you been? Hope you once again find useful stuff here.
And with that… it’s time to get moving.
In order to survive the worst a relationships–or lack of relationship–can throw at you, you need one thing above all else: A self-sustaining core.
By that I mean you have to know yourself well enough to understand that things will be okay, that they’ll get better, and that, despite what your negative self may be trying to tell you, you’re worth the effort of trying to keep on keeping on.
That idea of a self-sustaining core comes from having three things: Self-confidence, Self-knowledge, and Solid goals. The good news is, these three things are quite interrelated.
Self-confidence is, perhaps, the greatest asset you have. It’s also one of the easiest to deplete early on. Sometimes, it gets more than depleted–the well that supplies its regular flow gets poisoned.
That happens when others tell you–either directly or indirectly–that you’re not good enough, you’re not worth their time, or that anything you do is, at best, second rate. These are not people who offer constructive criticism with the goal of helping you out, they are the ones who simply dismiss you or, worse, actively seek to destroy you.
Being inundated with people like this for any length of time can shake even the most solid foundations of self-confidence. It’s even worse if there’s actual evidence–like a recently failed project or relationship–for your negative self to latch on to as justification for their overly-critical view.
Without self-confidence, the center of your microcosm just won’t hold. You’ll constantly play down our talents and play up your shortcomings. You’ll not bother trying because you don’t see the point in wasting everyone’s time. You won’t speak up because, hey, what you have to say won’t be listened to anyway.
With self-confidence, your core is strong and can hold against adversity. Being confident in yourself gives you a set of roots and a solid foundation on which to build everything else.
The more you know about yourself, the harder it’s going to be for anyone else to tear you apart or otherwise damage your self-confidence. Just as importantly, if you know yourself well, you can tell the difference between a legitimate worry and something being dredged up by your negative self in order to sabotage what you’re trying to do.
Self-knowledge includes being aware of your patterns, your likes, your hopes, your fears, and more. It lets you realize that, yes, things may be bad, but they’ve been bad before, and you’ve always bounced back.
You gain it from our experiences and from actively seeking it out. It comes from within you, no one’s going to give it to you (they can try, but it won’t stick until you’re ready to buy into it). When well-stocked and maintained, it’s self-knowledge that lets you recover any fallen self-esteem.
All the self-esteem and self-knowledge in the world won’t get you far unless you have a target to direct it at. That’s where solid goals come in. Without them, you wander about, wasting time and energy.
Solid goals don’t have to be excruciatingly specific things–like “I want to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar widget company.” They can be much more general, along the lines of “I want to be successful in my chosen career” or “I want enough money to live comfortably and enough prestige to be looked up to by others.”
Very specific goals work well for some, giving them something to focus all of the energy on, giving them a clear set of milestones by which they can measure their progress. Others go the more general route, instead trusting their gut and other perceptions to gauge how far toward their goal they are.
Try both ways, one will work best for you, one will feel most comfortable. And when you find that way, your self-esteem will soar and your self-knowledge will increase exponentially as you approach your goals. And, if when things go bad, you’ll be able to focus on the next goal on your list, inching your way away from the failure and toward a new success.
The Self-Sustaining Core
These aren’t the only components that will help you put together a self-sustaining core to carry you through rough times. They are, however, ones that I know from personal experience will work quite well.
Together, the combination of internalized support (self-confidence), logical fuel (self-knowledge), and clear direction (solid goals) create an engine that will sustain itself–and you–through any hard times.
When it comes to relationships, there are many things that can attract us to someone else. All of those things can be sorted into three distinct groups, or spheres. Some may fall into more than one, for we are complex creatures and our relationships reflect that, but that just gives us more ways of working with the situation to make it as positive as possible.
The three spheres of attraction in a relationship are: Mind, Body, and Spirit.
This sphere of attraction is all in your head–literally. This is cognitive attraction, the kind of attraction to someone you can reason out, point to examples, and clearly say, “This is why I like them!”
The mind sphere of attraction focuses on things that can be measured: Are they a good provider? Will they help you attain things you want in life? Socially and politically, does this make sense?
Not the most romantic of the spheres, but for some people, it’s the most important one. For others, it’s most certainly not.
Relationships built primarily on the questions and answers of the mind sphere of attraction can be very beneficial to both parties and very long-lasting. At least until conditions or needs change. The good news is, when a mind sphere centric relationship ends, the parting is often on good terms (assuming one party wasn’t taking advantage of the other or manipulating them).
This sphere is where our habits reside, for better or worse, and often the one that can become the most twisted and problematic due to various traumas.
The body sphere of attraction is all about biology. Hormones, brain chemistry, pure physical attraction. Before our minds developed and we were little more than kind of advanced animals, this sphere was the driving force behind our attractions and relationships.
You can still see it solidly at work among teenagers… and some people who are older than that, too.
Body sphere centered relationships can be shallow, but active (in many ways). Strength, physical stature, and general health come into play heavily. All parties involved may have a good time, but there is some question to how solid a long-term relationship built mostly on physical preferences will last.
This sphere is where our lust, competitive nature, and drive to reproduce comes from. With age, injury, or health, it can be severely limited. Problems with the body can often spill over into the other spheres, so it’s important to not ignore the needs of the body sphere, no matter how crude or base they may seem.
Of all the spheres, the spirit sphere of attraction is the most difficult to grasp at times. This is the home of romance and a passion that doesn’t always make sense when looked at objectively. It’s also where you find those odd connections that draw otherwise very mismatched people together into friendships.
This is the sort of attraction that just kind of happens. There’s not always a clear link to what you find physically attractive or what would be beneficial socially. Still, there’s some sort of draw and connection.
Spirit centered relationships aren’t always romantic ones. In fact, very often we stumble into spirit based relationships because someone catches our attention in a non-romantic, yet not unpleasant, way. Very strong platonic relationships can be built within the sphere of spirit, but the longest lasting and most rich romantic ones are also centered here.
Of course, this is also where some very problematic relationships can grow from–people aren’t always brought into our lives to make them more pleasant, but to help us learn about ourselves. The people that we’re drawn to by some sort of spiritual connection may enter our lives to teach us hard, and unpleasant, lessons… like how we need to stand up for ourselves or be walked all over, or how to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one.
Three Facets of Each
Each of those three spheres of attraction have three facets to them: Objective (what anyone can see and agree on), Projected (what we want to see, but isn’t necessarily so), and Actual (what actually is).
When trying to make sense of a relationship, it’s important to take into account each of these facets.
We may be drawn to someone in a physical way, but project upon them some great spiritual significance because, in our minds, we think we should only be attracted to someone in more “pure” ways. Alternately, we could spend a lot of time and energy rationalizing ourselves out of a relationship because we don’t think it’s a good idea, but our spiritual sphere tells us otherwise.
Straightening out which sphere and which facet is influencing us at any given time is one of the more difficult things to keep track of. Because of that, it’s of the utmost importance to have someone (preferably a few people) to talk to about your thoughts and feelings. Bringing in more solidly objective and actual facets helps us clear up what we’re projecting and reconcile any disparities among our three spheres of attraction.
Which sphere do you think you’re most prone to be lead by when finding someone attractive? How has following that attraction worked out for you?
Yes, it’s been a bit quiet here for a long time.
But the winds are changing, the wheel turning, and I hope to be back on track shortly with all of this. I’ve been living in “interesting” times.
Look for some reviews and writings in the next week or two.
Just something quick this week as there’s a lot going on around here.
Over the last week or so, I’ve been pondering where we learn how to be in a relationship. Be it with specific others, romantic, platonic, with ourselves, or with the world in general. In part, the wondering was inspired by reading and re-reading a couple of books–some new, some old standbys for me–and some interactions with some dear friends going through some rough times.
Now, the easy and obvious answer is that we learn about relationships from the ones we observe. Right from the beginning, those would the experiences we have with our immediate family (and other primary caregivers, as the case may be).
But outside of that direct experience, our lives and habits are shaped and altered by so many other influences.
I know I was heavily influenced by the TV shows and movies I watched (an oddly large number of classics–sitcoms either from or set in the 50s and 60s far outweighed my initial exposure to more contemporary television fare, and the movies were no less classic). Later, there would be numerous books (some more metaphysical in nature than others) and a new batch of television. Eventually, in college, I actually officially studied human interaction in a number of forms as part of my curriculum.
Without a doubt, I’ll go on and on about my influences later. What I want to talk about right now is you.
Where did you learn how to be in a relationship? Tell me about the key influences that made you the kind of person you are today… books, movies, television, direct instruction from your older brother or parents… whatever. I want to know.
Not to get all new agey on you, but I’ve found that this really helps in a lot of situations.
One of the core precepts of Buddhism is mindfulness. Mindfulness is tuning in and paying attention to who and where you are right now. It anchors you in the present moment.
Now, it’s not always easy to be mindful. The world is a loud, crazy, and fast-moving place that we’re often swept up in or buried under. But I can tell you from experience, once you get good at locking into the moment, a good many things get easier.
Finding a Calm Point
Probably one of the most useful things that comes from the practice of mindfulness, is the ability to find a calm point amid all the chaos–both internal and external.
It’s one of the main ways I deal with encroaching panic or self-consciousness. If I take a moment and focus on the details around me right now, a lot of the worries about later vanish. Or, at least, quiet down enough so I can think more clearly.
Focusing on my own breathing is the way that tends to work best for me. There are tons of other ways to get into practice, though. Here’s a nice listing of ways to practice mindfulness.
Once you have a calm point to start from, moving forward is easier. It lets you start from a more firm, grounded, position.
Mindful of Yourself and Others
Most often, mindfulness is applied on a solo level. It lets you get a clear picture of who you are now. When done correctly, it can give you the insight to dig deeper into yourself when you’re asking those hard questions or to determine if you’re reacting to something out of fear.
But mindfulness can also be directed externally. You can learn a lot about the world around you by quietly paying attention to it. You can learn a lot about other people by quietly–or not so quietly–paying attention to them, too.
The key to being mindful of others is to quiet your own mind when dealing with them. In short: Pay attention! When they talk, listen. When you ask them a question, listen to their answer. When they ask you a question, wait until they’re done to start thinking of your answer. Revel in their presence.
Heck, it can even be used to make intimate moments more intimate.
So, when things get a little crazy out there–or in your head–fall back on some age-old traditions to help you lock yourself back into the here and now.
Be mindful, then flow forward, as the person you want to be.
Over at FeelGooder.com, there’s an interesting article that came up about Emotional Affairs. You should go check that out.
I think it touches on one of the key issues that I’ve seen destroy a lot of relationships. The lack of connection that makes the heart begin to wander always leads to a breakdown in communication. But in order to actually do something about it, you need to be aware that it’s happening.
Sure, falling for that new person while you’re in a relationship may just be due to some overactive hormones. Maybe they’re just plain interesting and you get caught up in the feeling of those first few moments of a crush.
Like any crush, though, you need to be able to step back and take stock of the situation. You need to be able to clearly ask the five key questions about yourself (you know, the ones you should always have close at hand if you’re trying to be the most true to who you are). If you’re already in a relationship, and therefore rightfully concerned about falling into an emotional affair, you need to focus heavily on question five: How would you describe your ideal mate?
Reality vs. Fantasy
Once you have your answer to that question, you can address the difference between the relationship you’re in and the one you’re being tempted by.
Is it only an emotional attraction? More importantly, is it a real emotional attraction? When we first meet someone, when they’re still a stranger and we know nothing about them, our minds fill in the blanks with all sorts of things. Most of them aren’t true and never will be.
Very often, we feel more open with a stranger than we do with our significant other. Especially if there are problems we’re dealing with that center on that relationship. (The fact that you’re not communicating openly and fully with your significant other is one of those big red flags that the relationship is in danger of failing–either because of one of the people involved not doing their part to communicate or because you no longer have the connection needed to make the effort seem worth it.)
Take stock of what’s attracting you to this new relationship. What does it offer that your current one doesn’t? What do you think it could offer that your current one doesn’t?
Weigh the results of that bit of introspection. Then head home, alone.
Always Talk It Out
If you’re currently in a relationship, cheating, emotional or physical, is–and should be–a big deal. It’s a breach of trust. And trust is one of the key building blocks of any good relationship.One of those other building blocks is clear, open, and honest communication.
So, after you’ve looked at this new person who has your head swimming or that you feel more connected to, after you’ve weighed the difference between the potential relationship with them against what you already have, go home and talk to your current significant other about it.
And do that before you do anything else.
Cheating only happens if you let it. And once it happens, it’s not something you can take back… or ignore.
Yes, you may be able to fix what’s wrong in your current relationship. To do that, your partner needs to know there’s a problem to begin with.
But you also may find that the relationship your in has run its course. That you and your partner have grown in different directions. That they’ve been feeling the same way you are.
It may turn out that it’s better for both of you that the relationship comes to a peaceful and mutually agreed upon end.
Much better than having it end in an argument brought about by being caught cheating.
Even if you do decide to end the relationship you’re in, you’re still left with the question of whether or not to pursue this new crush.
Regardless of how it starts, once you’re aware that there’s potential for something relationship-wise, play by the same rules you usually would for dealing with any Grown Up Crush. Go in with your eyes and mind open, get to know the person–and yourself with them–before going full in, and always keep those lines of communication open.
Is that potential emotional affair participant your One True Love? No, probably not. But he or she may be the next step in your ever-growing self-awareness. They may be the next really good thing in your life.
Of course, life isn’t a story book, so it could also turn out to be a lesson in being able to better appreciate what you had… not the most pleasant lesson to learn, but one we all get taught at some point. Still, better to do it on your own terms and in the open than sneaking around behind the back of someone you’re still purporting to love, right?
Talk to me: What’s your experience been on either side of the “cheating” situation, emotional or otherwise?