I just watched a few short films that were winners or nominated to the Academy Awards in recent years.
One of these short films follows a young African boy, Joseph . His father is a school teacher. Joseph witnesses as his father was hauled away from school by weapon toting thugs… and was probably killed. Later we see him in a school in Ireland where he is a new student… freshly off the boat, so to say, bullied relentlessly. But Joseph does not react with the typical ‘fight or flight’.
Instead, when the bullies taunt him to eat some boogers, Joseph merely grabs the finger before it reaches his mouth. Instead of cowering in the face of abuse, he laughs together with his abusers, disarming them.
Why does Joseph behave so unusually
Most victims of bullies cower in the face of abuse, but Joseph did not. What makes one person behave one way and another a different way in the exact same situation?
Why do you behave the way you do? What ‘informs’ your actions, is it the past or is it the future?
But for most people there is no such thing, there is no present. If there were, there would never be any upset, any learning, any prejudice, anything even remotely similar to what we see and experience in the world as far as human behavior is concerned.
Landmark Education has a famous saying: what gives you being in the present is the future you live into…
…or as one of the course leaders said: the future is like a strong wind that you need to lean into or it will bowl you over… and that future is giving you your behavior.
I grew up in Hungary and I never saw bullying in school… But recently I was invited to one of the monthly online gatherings of my high school class… and: I experienced being bullied. I was ganged upon by other 73 year-olds… I felt made wrong and they were right…
Many of my students have complained of being bullied as children…
And they cowered as children in the face of the abuse, physical or verbal, equally. And they, probably, filed it away in the future: ‘I’ll be always bullied, I’ll be never accepted for who I am‘.
Pay attention to the words ‘always’, and ‘never’.
That is what was different in Joseph’s case: he didn’t say ‘always’, he didn’t say ‘never’… Or if we did… he said that his future ‘always’ was where he was part, accepted, a participant… and, listen up! ‘there was nothing wrong here.‘
In many of my classes I have distinguished that the possible meaning of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ in the Bible is that humans started to say ‘wrong’ and thus create the Valley of the Shadow of Death on Earth, instead of the Garden of Eden.
Joseph didn’t say taunting him was wrong, not even someone taunting him to eat a booger… Instead he grabbed the finger before it reached his mouth… ‘nothing wrong, I just don’t want it.‘ was the unspoken.
To the degree we can clear the concept of wrong from our reactions, to the same degree we can relate to life the way it is, to the same degree we can have ‘adult’ capacities, become adults where we are appropriate, and effective.
Oh, that sounds easy… but it isn’t.
The issue is that ‘wrong’ took residence in your muscle memory, and is triggered unless you learn to untrigger it.
Wrong took residence on the jungle floor level… the perilous ground floor where survival is not guaranteed. Where respect is impossible. Where each are for themselves only.
But you cannot go back to the past, you can only change your actions in the present… but obviously the present moment will be a past moment a moment from now.
But if you want to change your actions in the present moment, I say, you actually have to change something in the past… and maybe even dramatically…
I will use myself as an example for how this emotional surgery is done.
It is an emotional surgery, no matter what anyone says, and this emotional surgery isn’t performed in one fell swoop. Instead it is done little change by little change. Giving the changes a chance to settle, giving the person to get used to their new identity.
In the book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz talks about a woman who had a nose job, but kept on seeing herself as ugly. When I read it, I identified with the woman: I always saw myself as fat. Big. Whale-like. When I saw myself in big mirrors in stores, or public places, I was always stunned to see how small I was. My self-image was whale-like.
But in the work I conduct here, we are more interested in your self-image as far as your behavior goes.
My behavior for the first 50 or so years of my life was consistent with an identity of a victim of abuse. I had two behaviors: abrasive, skunk-like or pity-seeking. Never normal.
Over three decades I revisited all the incidents that I could find where I was a victim. I moved them into as lightly different me where I see myself as victim by saying: ‘there is something wrong here‘… and then removing the wrong by saying ‘this is what happened, this is what I said, no big deal‘. I went step by step, and I eventually managed to remove the wrong from 90% of my past. The 10%? I am still working on it. And today you’ll still see me behave like a skunk at least 10% of the time…
Tomorrow, in the Saturday webinar series, this is exactly what we are going to work on, maybe not directly, but indirectly.
Why not directly? In a two-hour webinar we don’t have enough time. My Playground program that runs for more than a year is designed to accomplish this… It is 90% participant driven… that is both its strength and weakness… but I digress.
What we’ll do tomorrow is look at your past through the identity you put together, and see how we can dislodge that identity by dislodging the past.
What do we hope to accomplish? What we want is that the person who will live your life tomorrow on will be more capable to accomplish what you haven’t been able to… a happy family life, making a decent living, loving yourself, loving your work, or whatever you couldn’t… no matter how hard you’ve tried.
These series of mini-courses put together can turn your life around… Each deals with just one distinction… so you are not overwhelmed… But, of course, they will make absolutely no difference unless your actions change, consciously, as a result.
And that is entirely up to you.
Tomorrow’s live webinar is filled, so it is closed. If you want the recording, you can get it for the same price until tomorrow.
The next Saturday webinar will be about Habits… stopping unproductive habits, and building new ones.
One habit that most people lack is the habit of following up consistently. The underlying myth is that you can benefit from seeing, insight, being exposed to something, but it is a myth.
All the things you want: you’ve been visiting them like butterflies visit flower. All the things you don’t want: you keep on repeating. Isn’t that insane?
We’ll endeavor to turn that around in that mini-course… but, of course, unless you follow up, unless you practice, it will never benefit you. Knowledge is not power… unless it is followed by implementation.
OK, back to where we started: What decides who you are today?
Unless the WHO changes, unless you change who you are, by creating a new past, your future will NEVER change. Circumstances may change, but your reaction to them won’t… and therefore all the good stuff that may happen to you is wasted on you…
Because Landmark is right about it: the future is like a wind that you lean into… If it is the same wind as it was yesterday, you’ll be the same who you were yesterday.
If you know that this is for you… if you know that building a new you would be what will change your future, sign up to the Habits webinar on May 22 at 4 pm. That will be a great groundwork for the one coming after it, called Vision… meaning, the vision that will ultimately make you an achiever.
Get the recordings of the past Saturday webinars or sign up to the new ones.