In response to a request, I am reposting this piece I wrote during the second year of my 3-year training program for Full Permission Living. It is something that I think is very important because many people can seem very sure of themselves while they are predominantly living in a state of unreality, and some people may doubt themselves for feeling confused about things, when in fact they are much closer to the Truth (capital "T") than the falsely confident are. One cannot skip steps to arrive at genuine clarity, and one cannot get there simply by acting sure of themselves.
One way that I’ve conceptualized the process of personal evolution has been as a kind of three-part movement, that being from false clarity to genuine confusion to genuine clarity.
Initially, when someone first arrives in therapy, they are in a state that I’ve found myself thinking of as "false clarity." This is a frame of mind in which one’s personal belief systems are so firmly in place and embedded so far down in the subconscious mind that the person feels certain of their validity, rarely questioning them. From this place, people will frequently start sentences out with "I believe…"
"I believe that I can't only get what I want through the manipulation of myself and others."
"I believe that if I am honest and assert myself directly, no one will like me."
"I believe that if I acted strictly according to my desires, I’d be out of control."
"I believe it’s impossible for Eros and passion to last in a relationship."
"I believe that if I want something done right, I have to do it myself, because no one will ever be there for me."
"I believe that to truly give to others means to sacrifice something of what I want."
And so on…ad infinitum. There are many, many such axioms or beliefs with variations and derivatives aplenty. (In my class on beliefs, and in each of the character structure classes, I presented a more extensive list of some of the more common beliefs that we run our lives by.)
Since these beliefs are not doubted for the most part, the person initially coming for therapy is seeking ways to better cope with what are accepted as the harsh “realities" of their life. Much energy has been invested in trying to find better and better ways of manipulating the self and other people to "get what I want". To that end, a person will develop what some theorists have referred to as "masks" ("personas", according to Carl Jung), or false selves, constructed to present to the world in order to attain sought after praise, recognition, love or substitutes for those things. Indeed, many come to therapy looking to polish up their masks so they might "work better", and are surprised to find out that a key part of the real self work is, in fact, to expose and "take off" the masks.
One of the first endeavors in a person’s unfolding process, then, is to begin uncovering the embedded beliefs behind the masks, and challenging their validity, thereby confronting the false clarity they offer as a substitute for real knowingness and security. It is not easy. Indeed, if you believe something so thoroughly, you will invite, create or only be able to see that very thing in your life most of the time, so its reality will seem absolute. And, if you have been so invested for so long in a particular method of trying to attain a modicum of happiness, you will not readily forgo it. To face that a strategy that you have been devoting much of your life force to is actually faulty is a heartbreaking proposition.
Let’s consider a common scenario. A person may come to therapy because they have had a series of love relationships in which they’ve found themselves feeling emotionally deprived. In spite of tireless efforts to be agreeable, accommodating and self-sacrificing, they were just "not getting enough" - attention, sex, support, appreciation or affection from their partner. This person feels so defeated and frustrated because while they believe that there really isn’t enough love in the world to go around, they are sure that the way to get what is available is by being…agreeable, accommodating and self-sacrificing! What they are in denial of is the fact that their accommodating, etc., behavior is part of a mask, attempting to hide a very demanding and childish attitude towards their loved one based on a buried belief in deprivation. The partner being bombarded with these masked demands will often withdraw and indeed be less inclined to "give" affection, etc. This then seems to validate the underlying belief that "there is not enough." So therefore, one must manipulate even more, all the while building up a stockpile of resentment. On and on, in a self-fulfilling, vicious cycle that Eva Broch referred to in one of her Pathwork Guide Lectures as a "circular trap." The failure of the manipulations to get more of what is wanted is often what brings the person to therapy, seeking to find out what they’re doing "wrong", why the mask they’re sure is based in reality is not having its designed effect.
This is life in a state of false clarity. Sure you’re right, sure you know how life works, but inexplicably unhappy, which, if the beliefs are seen as clearly right, can only lead the person to the conclusion that they are "failing" - meaning manipulating inadequately.
So, where can one go from there, from this place where the self is so rigidly defined according to firmly held beliefs that only lead to frustration and a sense of inadequacy?
When blocked feelings are released through an integrated mind-body-spirit psychotherapy, the embedded beliefs start appearing in higher relief. This is because the beliefs were previously being used to justify keeping emotions trapped in the body. As the emotional channels are opened, the old beliefs become subject to challenge and dismantling. People find themselves at that point without the familiar, stereotypical ways of viewing the world, themselves and others. They feel somewhat lost at first, anxiously free-floating for a while and they will experience a shift in their "I am" completion to the more immediate feeling expressions. "I am…feeling lost now. I don’t know how to act. What can I count on? Where can I find security?" Meaning, without the illusions created by projecting static images into the future, what can they count on for predictability? Again, the reason they are in therapy in the first place is because they realize that their lives have never successfully followed their projections anyway, and the fulfillment promised by the illusions always seemed to remain unattainable or just out of reach. Now, they are starting to realize that they didn’t know what they thought they knew. Now, they are in a state of "genuine confusion!" At this moment, I usually congratulate patients! It is here, at the "I don’t know who I am" place, that true wisdom begins.
What keeps people going at this stage, fortunately, is that despite the confusion, they feel better, and often, in spite of an apparent lack of direction, their outer lives frequently are improving. For one person, it may be physical health that improves, for another financial abundance arrives, or work-life becomes more creative. For still others, they break through a relationship barrier. Yet, for all, it is really the new inner feeling of self-possession and inner connectedness that provides motivation.
At this stage of the process, the person in the above example has uncovered a belief in deprivation and scarcity of love that’s been embedded in the subconscious mind since very early in childhood, based on a less-than-fully-gratifying relationship with a parent. The feelings stored in the body since that time, the hurt and rage, have also now been energized through the therapy and partially released at this stage as well. The origins of the person’s masks are getting uncovered and seen as primitive attempts by the child to "get more" from a parent - with poor results, of course. It is now becoming understood that the world of love has been viewed through this tainted lens for the last two, three, four or more decades, since infancy usually. It is experienced as a revelation to consider that one could be fully gratified in an adult relationship, could give and receive all of the love that one is capable of without having to do anything to "get it". It is also startling to realize that one has discounted or ignored the possibilities for greater love because to see that would have run counter to the "absolutely certain" beliefs that they were holding onto. This is a point at which the resistance to being "wrong" about one’s strategy for living gets confronted. It is painful. One is faced with the fact that all of the feelings of failure and frustration, and of course, self-hate, were not based on reality at all, but on an erroneous conclusion about life which originated in early childhood. Great courage is required by the person to forge on here.
If one does indeed forge ahead, what is the next step on the journey?
When the deep primal feelings have been to a great extent released, and the core negative beliefs very much unveiled, the person comes to a new place of overall inner security and openness that provides both confidence to trust what one knows in the moment, and simultaneously, flexibility to re-evaluate one’s "knowledge" and change when called to do so. This is "genuine clarity." The person knows how they feel in the moment, and is aware of their immediate inner thought processes as well. Judgmental attitudes about emotions and the contents of one’s mind are not held onto. A person at this stage follows their instincts in major decisions without a lot of second-guessing or rigidly gripping to projections and anticipated outcomes. When one is in a state of genuine clarity, the truth of matters is no longer mainly sought through deductive reasoning, but rather through inner resonance with the truth, and actions are decided upon by trusting "gut feelings." The person at this stage knows that whatever transpires, they will be open and flexible enough to creatively move with the events. Mistakes and temporary obstacles are accepted as information, not measured against images of perfection or rigid beliefs about success or failure. One can experience the "joy of being wrong" in this state, that is the freedom from needing to come up with the "right" strategies, free from worrying about "blowing it" when making decisions, etc.
In our example, the person who once believed in deprivation now knows through experience that life is abundant with opportunities to exchange love and pleasure with another and that the only "efforts" one must make to that end are to keep the emotional channels in oneself clear. Gratifying experiences have begun to come to this person, now in genuine clarity, without manipulation, indeed, without even "wanting" them in the old way at all. "Good things" seem to just arrive as a by-product of being more genuinely oneself. The person understands, too, that we all act like magnets for experiences in life, and that we will attract whatever we are "charged up" with. If it is joy and love that we are energized with, we will attract joy and love. If it is hostility, likewise that is what we will attract. So, unpleasurable events are dealt with by going within to examine one’s inner state. The person is also clear now that one’s attitude towards oneself is one’s attitude toward others. (I believe that a common misunderstanding of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is corrected intuitively by the person in this place. Most people think this expression means you should love your neighbor as much as you love yourself, as if it were a rule for behavior. In fact, I believe it means that you will love your neighbor to the degree that you love yourself.)
The person who has achieved genuine clarity will also feel it in their body when they are in truth. No other "proof" will be needed to determine the "rightness" for them of courses of action. This person will explain, "I have to do this or that because it just feels right." They will also say about their actions, "To do otherwise would be not being my-self."