It seems that the current situation with the corona virus calls for endless reflections.
Maybe it is the inwards direction of the attention that makes this possible, which, I think, it is a marvellous opportunity for reset, redirection and realignment.
I have been reflecting a lot on relationships and their dynamics.
By relationships here I mean anything that we are making contact with. Whatever we define ourselves as, sooner or later we make contact with something outside of us and that we call external world, be that things, people, the universe.
In that contact we most certainly are impacted and impact the 'object', lets call it. Think, for instance, when you touch the water; what happens is that the water moves absorbing the vibration of our touch and similarly the same touch has an impact on us; we feel warm and cold, pleasant or unpleasant, we can even have a trigger of a previously recorded memory that is somehow associated with that sensation or feeling.
The same thing, but less visible happens with solid objects, such as a rock; we still make contact and 'exchange information' but it happens in a less obvious way.
What a wonderful bounce of sensations life is!
We are constantly making contact with so many things, consciously or unconsciously, (seeing, sensing, touching, hearing etc) so imagine the continuous interactive game that we play with the world.
Sometimes the experiences are pleasant, other times unpleasant. Sometimes we do not know how it is going to be and, yet, we long for that experience, that of a new contact, to 'feel' another.
In the case of objects the contact is slightly easier as we only need to respect the qualities of the object in order to be able to make contact. For example, if we want to wash our hands, then we need to choose a tolerable temperature of the water as very hot water will only allow us to make instant contact and not to complete our desire.
When it comes to human to human contact, then things become a bit more complicated as the other 'thing' that we long for or 'have to' come in contact with have a more complicated structure of functions and qualities. For example we know that a child can not hit us really hard as they do not possess such strength (as yet), so we have an idea on what to expect in regards to that.
Living closely together, inevitably, we are bound to make contact with one another an regular basis. I can choose not to speak online with my friends who live abroad, but coming out of my house I can not avoid my neighbours or the passing byers. If they are in a good mood and I am in the same, then we might smile to each other. If not, we might not look at each each at all or we might nod indifferently to each other.
These are instant decisions we make based on each situation and our intentions. We may never feel like waving to anyone who lives close to us.
In the illusion of having a separate self, having close relationships with people is a choice.
We form these relationships because we want to, not because we are forced to; we want to love and feel loved, we find safety and pleasure in them, we deeply communicate, we learn, we grow, we share and so on. Indeed, having intimate relationships is one of the most exposing things one can choose. Someone other than you witnesses you waking up in the morning, when you are angry, naked and weak; sees you when you are happy and full of joy and when you are defeated and powerless; sees you being powerful and making mistakes; sees you being transparent and hiding away; sees you being serious and interested and being silly and bored; experiences you closed and loving and distancing and 'cold'.
All these are states we experience normally in our every day lives. I mean, there is nothing inherently 'wrong' with any of these states. They may become 'wrong', 'unwanted', and 'unacceptable' only when they are judged as such. Someone- be that your own self or someone else- comes and says 'it is not ok to be, feel or behave in that way right now' and that is when everything starts to get entangled.
It is like going to a river and say: 'it is not ok, river, that you are floating in that direction; you should do otherwise'. Can you imagine the confusion or the the absurdity of the river?
This is what we constantly do to ourselves and to one another: we ask us and them to be otherwise; we try in all sorts of ways to change how the other feels, thinks, behaves etc.
We do that to our children, to our partners, to the youngsters, to our friends, to the governments that we have elected and so on.
We are trying to control and sometimes manipulate the other in order to fulfil the type of contact we want. When we do not feel like being affectionate, we tell the other that it is not ok to be affectionate. When we can not tolerate the truth, we call the others cruel, idealists or other names. When we do not want to acknowledge our own vulnerability, we call the others weak, cowards, self absorbed etc. The lists carries on and on.
Coming in contact with another human being will always be a challenging opportunity...
On one hand, it will remind us of who we think we are and, on the other hand, of what we do not like about ourselves.
It is absolutely ok not to be attracted to someone, not to feel synchronised or aligned with them, but to judge them for who they are, i.e. to tell them that is not ok to do what they feel (provided ,of course, that they are not abusive to someone else), then this is an indication of our own qualities, not theirs. The qualities that long for the other to be in a specific way and capture his freedom into our perceptual territory.
This is one more thing that the little virus has forced us to look at. Touching someone can be harmful and hurtful indifferent or with low impact and, also, healing and heart warming.
As mature adults we are entitled to do whatever we want (no matter how weird or inappropriate might be for someone else) and, also, voice our disagreements with other peoples' actions or views.
As mature adults we are also entitled to be shown and show respect for who we are and what we are about.
Hence, coming in contact with others will always reveal to us another part of humanity, the whole, what we are capable and, thus, another part of our own selves; we can always accept or reject it and act accordingly.
The choice is always ours...
We have all been bombarded the last couple of weeks with lots of information regarding the epidemic of the coronavirus.
My intention here is not to repeat any of this information, but try to add a few thoughts to the mix that are relevant for the management and response to the situation.
I feel I have sufficiently written about how everything that happens to us can be given a meaning by us and, thus, to be placed and integrated within as new information which will complete our experience of life.
The occurrence of the virus in such a large scale and its consequences have evoked some common feelings among people. Fear and anxiety of one's life, the unknown and what is yet to come, anger that this is happening and all the restrictions and disturbances that has brought with it, sadness for all that is lost, depression and despair for what is not within our control, shock and surprise of how sudden it occurred and how vulnerable we are proven to be and so on.
This is only an indicative list of many feelings that one can feel for such large scale occurrence. I think we all feel on some level that it is a movie like scenario where anything can happen and that is scary.
Such thing has not happened for a very long time and it has taken everyone by surprise. No one expected that it will expand so vastly, so quickly. What started as an 'asian' thing, became a global 'crisis' with some serious consequences.
I want to focus mainly on two consequences that stand out for me: One is related to health and the other to finances. I approach both of them as always from the perspective of learning and growing.
Whenever we fall ill or there is a threat of falling ill, we are reminded of how vulnerable we are and our mortality.
We have taken for granted our good life (at least in the West) and we have forgotten that our physicality is bound to be destroyed and that can happen at anytime.
We got used to manipulating our flesh (surgeries, medication, cosmetic interventions etc) that we often forget that this same flesh is potentially under threat from very tiny things such as a virus or a mosquito.
Being in flesh, means being susceptible to the conditions of the flesh; we are bound to work with nature- that is other animals, the environment, the weather etc- in order to remain alive and continue living a meaningful life.
Farmers know this best as when the weather conditions change, their crop is affected and hence their production.
Production then takes me to the second observation, that of the financial situation.
It is remarkable to notice the financial consequences that have started and are yet to worsen as a result of the measures that the countries have taken to control the infections.
The whole financial web crumbles in front of a few weeks or a few months halt of the expenditure. Consequence which makes me think that we all live in a factory and if one department has problems, then the whole factory is affected suffering consequences that will try to minimise.
It was really surprising to me to realise through the virus how interrelated our economies are; travelling, tourism and hospitality are only some basic sectors that are being affected. It is even more weird to me that as humanity we have agreed to be each other's financial partners, but not neighbourhood friends. It is like we see part of the person, the one that suits us and not the whole.
It is ok to value each other as consumers on financial terms, but seems less important to value each other as human beings, you see this is not a commodity, but mainly a reason to waste tax payers' money in hospitals that themselves do not produce more money. Within that system the whole health and social care are burdens that need to minimise their spending, like a poor relative.
Without wanting to simplify things, from my point of view the problem is simple and clear: we are devoted to an artificial system and as such it was destined to fail us. When money was first used, it was representing a value, it was only a representation, not a real thing, an invented thing, a mediator to serve a specific purpose. Power and values were way more important on those days as a source of meaning.
Money encompassing meaning turned it into the best drug; everybody threw themselves into the battle of money making in order to gain that pleasurable feeling of acquisition. 'I own, therefore I exist' Descartes would probably say today. We became obsessed with owning things, they became the meaning themselves and all of a (well built) sudden, our life shrunk into materialism and we forgot about values, humanity, god, soul, after life; we care about the instant gratification of the here and now.
Most certainly, I do not imply that we should avoid pleasures and live without material goods in favour of an upcoming paradise, but my sense is that we are experiencing a deep moral and values' crisis.
I believe that the primary drive of a human being is meaning. We choose and do something because it is important to us. We go to a repetitive work every day because we want to feed our families; we eat things because we like their taste; we choose to do specific activities because they feel good; we even choose jobs that one way or another contribute to the societal web that we are part of. I believe that it is in our nature to want to contribute towards a whole; I think we deeply know that we are part of a whole and that is creation. Every whole in order to be whole contains all the opposites, thus, it is also within our nature to distort things and consider everything as a potential threat, something that humanity has been struggling with for centuries.
It is possible the eternal battle of love and fear. If we surrender to the feeling of fear without perspective, then we lose sight that the fear is actual not an enemy but another way to know that we love something. We fear for our lives because we actually care about them; we fear the unknown because we want to exist in the certainty, we fear the different other because we want to continue have the same sense of self. All the attachments for what is important for us are there.
Once we understand what the fears are about, then we can respond to them in an adult way in accordance with our higher values.
I have seen it over and over again working closely with people that despite the pain that they might have been through as children, they still love their family and they want to make peace with it. Observation which makes me think that there are a higher lessons and values hidden behind specific personal stories.
It is exactly the contrary feeling that our current system is build upon and requires from us. In this system we all need to keep 'fighting' with each other in order to get a better life.
Does it have to be that way? Could there be another way to live a creatively free, yet self regulated, humanity serving life without the self imposed slavery of money?
We are so rich today, choosing and throwing food away, having luxurious cars and apartments, exotic holidays and so on. At the same time we are so poor selling weapons for other people to be killed, allow ing children to drown in shores, torturing people of different beliefs, being irresponsible and putting people in danger, deciding who is to live and die, who is to get educated and who not etc
With all confidence I can say that god and devil live both within us and until we get them to talk to each other and start working together, then we will continue to be split and deeply lost.
Occasions like the spread of such virus, constitute an opportunity for us in the face of grief and loss, to review what is important to us. Regardless whether the virus escaped from a lab, was intentionally spread or was transferred by animals, the call for me is the same: away from the distractions, to look within.
I urge everyone while you are sitting comfortably at your homes these days, to use this void to reflect, write down and talk to each other about your values, 'what is important to you in your lives?', 'how content and aligned you feel with your values?', 'how do you imagine a content life to look like?, 'Is there anything you can do to get closer to that life?'.
Some people will make use of this opportunity and do something with it, some people will stay almost the same; both are valid choices and both groups will continue to co exist the very next day with or without consensus of their values.
No one, though, can stop me from dreaming and working towards being surrounded by light and peaceful souls that will live a life full of freedom, grace, gratitude and sacredness; and these can not be bought out.
It is true that these last few weeks we have been facing a global challenge, the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As anything else from a spiritual point of view, it is not only the external event but also what we make of it;
what meaning does it have for us and what we learn from it.
It is interesting to notice how people respond to this challenge; some people are being wrapped up in fear and they stock their homes preparing for the worst, some people get indifferent, some people feel untouchable and continue living as they would normally do, some people are looking to make money from it and so on.
One thing is unquestionable: something threatening is happening and we all deal with it in out own ways.
Thinking about this virus took me inevitably back to the challenge I faced on this very day six years ago. I felt this was a good opportunity to share this important part of my journey, not because I feel intimate and safe to do so with the wider public, but because I can tell it in a way that might provide some food for thought on what dealing with a threat might mean to someone.
Having to deal with a threat means that our status, a part of ourselves is shaken and might collapse. A threat can be a life threatening illness, a war, an abuse, a loss, a divorce and other serious events.
In March of 2014 after receiving a warning text from an acquaintance, I went to get tested for STDs and since I have always taken precautions I was not very worried. I was found to be positive of HIV.
That very moment my whole world collapsed in front of my eyes. Everything that I thought of myself was destroyed, I was destroyed and all of a sudden I became part of what was in my mind as the 'doomed' category of people; those people who are completely careless, doing chemsex and engage in dangerous sexual activities. I was none of that, I was a well educated 'good boy' who was having the occasional 'fun' with different partners. I never had serious health problems and was not consistently exposing myself in high risk situations and, yet, I contracted the virus.
Luckily, in these very difficult first days I had some good friends, a partner and my family who were very supportive. I took the risk to start disclosing to them as it felt unbearable to deal with it by myself and I was even thinking to take my life. The pain was enormous and I was blessed for my therapist at the time that helped me to process my feelings and to try to make sense of what was happening.
I cried buckets grieving for the permanent loss of my good health, for the shame and guilt that I was feeling that I have done something wrong to myself and now I was paying the price, for all the future rejections that I would experience from potential partners who would not accept me for being positive, for all the hurtful comments from people.
At the same time, things surprisingly started making sense. I was indeed doing something 'wrong' before that but that was not having unprotected sex- that self accusation passed quickly as many straight and gay friends subsequently disclosed to me that they themselves have been having unprotected sex and, luckily, they had not contracted the virus-.
Each person attributes their own meaning of the events (including the cause of an illness) that happen to them and to the world. There is no specific medical explanation of the causes of the cancer and, yet, people do not change eating and emotional, for example, patterns during and after their treatment for the disease; they miss the opportunity to truly look at what might be off balance in their emotional, mental and spiritual health. I did not want to miss that opportunity.
I knew that there was a reason why I contracted the virus given that so many people I knew could have also contracted it but they did not. That reason for me was a chronic self hatred; the virus was a manifestation of my death wish. I still remember praying to die before the virus because I was not feeling worthy of living. Simultaneously, in order to feel safe in the world, I had created a distant and arrogant facade that was cold, often mean and needless of others.
Hell I was vulnerable and I started realising it only when death was looking me in the eyes telling me: 'now you have got two options, either you surrender to me as you wanted or you start now taking care of yourself'. I chose the latter. Humiliated and deeply wounded for my arrogance I had to go back and build a new life. That life included a big responsibility and commitment to change my lifestyle and start loving myself more.
Surely, in order to love him, I had to start seeing him from a different angle and start appreciating for who he was, not for more or less than that.
This process made me and continues to make me today a kinder person, a better and more efficient therapist, a richer human being because now I feel I can understand, be with and embrace mine and other people's wounds better, now I feel more whole and I am not wrapped up in fear, now I can be more vulnerable and ask for help, now I know that, at least, on a physical level I am not untouchable and humans are not untouchable. now I am stronger to protect myself and others, now I know better what is and what is not that important for me, now I can forgive myself and others more easily, now I have learned not to blame other people for their illnesses and the list of lessons gets longer and longer.
Now that humanity is having another diagnosis threatening its children, I would suggest from my own journey, to turn inwards and look at our personal and collective meaning. Things do not happen by accident.
This virus is here to teach us something, only if we choose to listen to it.
Now that we are going to have plenty of time inside our houses, lets use it to look at ourselves in the eyes and ask: 'Are you happy?' 'What makes you happy?, 'From all the things around you, what is it that really matters to you?', 'Is there something missing in your life?', 'What is it that you truly care about?', 'Do you feel you love yourself and others around you enough?', 'Do you really show your feelings, yourself and all your colours to the world?'.
Sometimes there is no easy way of acquiring a lesson and some of these questions might have painful but truthful answers.
Physical death is not the end of the journey, but soul captivation might feel like a dead end.
As always my writing derives from personal experiences and empirical observation.
In this article I want to begin a rather long discussion on the position one takes towards whether and how one dreams and I mean the dreams one has on an awaken state.
In psychotherapy there are (at least) three internal positions/states from which we operate in relation to ourselves and others. The position of the child, the parent and the adult. Each position is not in itself good or bad and can change in time. The original patterns of these positions are learned consciously or unconsciously, of course where else, in our childhood experiences.
So we may have adapted to act like an unwieldy or lonely or scared etc. child and an absent or strict or repressed or frightened or unreliable etc. parent. As we grow older in age, we are 'forced' one way or another to take our lives in our hands so we develop one more role, that of the adult.
In theory, peaceful coexistence and cooperation of all three makes a person functional as they can make decisions, create relationships, maintain a job and engage in activities that interest them, manage difficulties and generally create a life that satisfies him and can always evolve it if he wants.
Each of these positions serves a basic operating framework, so to speak. It is the child who has got desires, who doesn't know about restrictions, limits, and social norms, that is innocent and spontaneous, who constantly discovers and is interested in something new, who has intense and pure emotions and expresses them and who depends on someone else exactly because he does not know the world. The parent is that someone else who has got the responsibility of the child and therefore defines the 'shoulds, is the one who decides, who teaches the child the rules and restrictions of the world in order to survive within it, who knows and has a way to manage things. In a way child and parent identify themselves through each other; it's like they do not exist without each other and they need one another to exist.
The third position, that of the adult acts as the 'ultraidentity', the situation that the child and parent come together to negotiate their desires, their musts and their values, the 'whats' and' hows', the 'yes' and 'nos',' their present and future.
The child may want to play constantly, outside, dangerously, and can find many ways to achieve these and the parent responds back with rules and limitations, with responsibilities, obligations and the problems of life, with the difficulty of survival and with the realism and harshness of life. Somewhere later appears the adult who is trying to make sense between those two and to manage somehow this man's life in some satisfying direction.
Somewhere there also appear ones' dreams, the hidden or visible deepest desires for what interests him, what he likes, what he wants to create in his life which , of course, can change in size and significance from time to time. In any case they are our 'oxygen', our meaning, the driving force upon which we transfer our lives from moment to moment and from action to action.
I have seen people again and again getting lost in their everyday lives and who lead a life without direction, without much satisfaction, without any important goals for them to achieve whatever those may be, with difficulty in feeling that they actually achieved something they wanted because, at least some level, they believe that they do not have true desires. I have seen the same people suffer in exactly the same way because their inner child, parent and adult are in constant conflict without any essential resolution.
Other wishes does the child have, other rules does the parent try to reinforce and the adult (always the inner) tries exhausted to maintain the functionality of the individual despite the gap between the other two states of being. Most of the time this whole process is unconscious and therefore uncontrollable, because the patterns that each position has adopted operate so automatically that the person does not even recognise the position from which they operate.
I have worked therapeutically with people who had different dreams as children and because their physical and inner parent did not allow them to do so, they never did it and so they did not fulfil their desire that may have led to a completely different life. If the adult does not grieve and accept this loss (and all the other possible losses arising from the same conflict), then they will live with the unresolved 'affliction' that can be transferred to other things, such as unfulfilled relationships etc.
Life has infinite complexities as simple as it is. When a person's parents have not themselves become adults enough to show that way of existence to their children, then how do we expect their children to have such a 'balanced' voice that will lead them to fulfil their dreams?
The absence or the weakness of the position of the adult is particularly evident and problematic in societies such as the greek, where parents and children very often do not become ever adults, because they do not stand far enough in psychological and physical distance from the other to come out of the relative role, so they do not ever take the 'opposite' position internally. Parents constantly consider themselves as parents implying a constant position of power and concealment of their inner child and children consider themselves children who constantly need someone else 'stronger' and more knowledgeable beside them to cope with life while continuing to commit their misdeeds without consequences.
This kind of mentality at the level of society creates a self-referential, and therefore deeply flawed system, because we observe children in adulthood to behave as parents and parents to behave as children without being aware of what they do resulting in the slow evolution of society towards a direction because everybody is spending their energy in that 'stuck' fighting dynamic and no real decision and progress can be made.
When someone really takes the risk to look oneself and the society that he lives in the mirror along with their dreams and nightmares, their confidence and vulnerability, their light and darkness, then a new way of coexistence may become available, where the understanding and love for all the parts of a person can be extended to all forms of existence. The real adult is a free person who through and beyond the social conventions can create a fulfilling life or negotiate their values and dreams and live in harmony with the environment around them because as a species we share common roots and have a common fate.
This free adult can make difficult but beneficial decisions and is able to support them, he dares to show who he really is, can be respectful of other people even if he disagrees with them, can love and appreciate himself and other different people, can negotiate on an equal terms their needs and desires and can dare to dream and create what seems impossible.
To the extent that my darkness allows me, I will dream and work for such a self and such a free world.
I've been wanting to write an article for a while now, but it took longer because I observed a lot of disparate information that was difficult to put down under a single title.
In a continuous attempt to understand how I view the world I'm creating (mental) schemas (logical structures with some meaning) and one of them I will describe here, today under a title that could be a book title.
We are almost at the end of 2019 and some of us indulge ourselves into short or long accounts for the past year, but also making thoughts and statements for the coming year inspired little or a lot by the general context in which we live in.
The term 'life cycle' I remember from my communication studies at the university, where it was defined as the time that a product remains in demand. I imagine that this use of the term comes from the sciences that study nature itself and the way it works. So, nature makes fruit every year in the spring, which will be used to feed the living beings and will be withdrawn later in a process of death in autumn, to produce new fruit in the new year. Nature is 'programmed' we could say to bloom (spring), rest (summer), die (autumn), withdraw (winter). Of course, for some species, this cycle works backwards.
To a certain extent this schema can be applied to describe many other processes in this material world: a baby is born, lives, dies, a relationship is created, evolves and (possibly dying including the loss of one of the two parties), a job starts, progresses and completes.
This thought could be reassuring, because it indicates that nothing happens by chance, everything - potentially at least - belongs to a plan that we may not know in advance its duration but we can experience it by being aware of its different stages. Some things can last a minute, some a few hours, some others for a few months, some very many years. I think there is a reason for each specific lifetime, and this may be related to the general purpose of the existence of any entity in this world.
The meaning and purpose of each entity is a potential personal question that needs a personal answer.
In this article I want more to talk about the stages of any life cycle as I understand them now.
I consciously chose the term 'presence 'rather than 'birth' or 'beginning', to describe the conscious birth of a being, an idea, a situation, a relationship that from now on I will call an entity. This can begin to exist before it even appears as matter in the world. Someone can come up with an idea before it materializes, children are i the womb for some time, the desire of a relationship starts within a person first. It is the process that begins with conception because that is when, however partially, a new whole potential begins to exist, even if it lasts for a split second. If the content of the conception has some significance to the person that he initiated it, then we would expect him to continue to feeding it, to do things to maintain it in life and at some point giving it birth with 'flesh and bones' as something tangible in our material world.
There, the care of the parent continues to be needed so that the entity remains alive and develops as healthy and strong as possible to survive. Whether it's a child, a home, a business, or a relationship, for me, the principle is the same. In order to stay alive something needs an active presence of the one who wants to keep the entity alive. This presence means the flexible availability of the subject to meet the needs of the entity.
Clearly, we're not talking in absolute terms, whether and how available someone is, with what cost, what kind of needs he considers as vital survival needs and what problems the non satisfaction of those needs can cause, is a big debate. All alive beings need food, but if a parent thinks that their child needs 10 large meals a day, then we're probably not talking about survival, but maybe some other kind of need.
What is certain, however, is that in order for something to continue to flow and function well, whether it is called our body, our home, or an emotional connection, it requires effort.
At the 'continuity' stage, I include all those efforts and actions that one is willing to do to keep the entity alive. It can be regular care and protection, in case of self-sufficiency can be ad hoc support and guidance. It could be any reflective, creative or innovative action for the evolution of the entity at another level that may lead to the development of new skills which will be used to continue the safety and survival of the entity. For example, if a child has more than one interests, skills, fields of knowledge, then they may have more chances of survival because they have more ways to gain income.
Life is a set of constant changes and all the living beings we constantly need to adapt to new data both internally and externally in order to maintain our lives (with the term 'life' here I include all levels of life, materially, emotionally, spiritually).
I realise that this may sound like a constant stressful struggle but it is also a constant opportunity and relief that anything you do not want, does not necessarily have to stay the same.
One of the most difficult things that us humans have to come to terms with in the material life is that everything, sooner or later, ends, everything is subject to decay and death, which is not the case in other levels of consciousness/existence. Anyone who has lost a significant person in their lives at a young age can understand the brutal way a child is initiated into the mystery of life that extends beyond the material world, since at any given moment someone who we love and is right next to us can cease to exist and disappear. Where does the person go and what relationship he may or may not continue to have with the ceased, are again personal questions.
It is a fact, however, that at that moment, at the moment of separation, an completion takes place (conscious or unconscious), because what existed will no longer exist and will never be the same again.
The stage of completion, either voluntary or involuntary, or both, it contains simultaneously,like in the boarders of schizophrenia, the pain of the death, the sadness and mourning that something is over and also an integration, the relief of acceptance that a fruit that we loved and fought for to remain in life, it is the time for some reason to leave us and go somewhere else, just like many fruits every year in autumn they fall to be reused by the earth, for the new fruits to the perpetual cycle of life.
Each completion is a process in itself that can occur at a later time than that of separation. For example, we may make realisations about a relationship after a long time has passed since its end. Also, a relationship may seem to have ended but it may have ended with a certain form and dynamic and may continue with a different form and shape.
Whether and what meaning we give to completion and whether and how we will remain stuck in that fruit, whatever the cost, ignoring that it is part of the larger 'plan' of life are also personal questions.
My observations and intuition informed me that 2019 was a year when many cycle in a pleasant and/or unpleasant way were closed. Of course, a cycle may close at any time, but for some reason it seemed to happen this year on a large scale. All of these completions, beyond the pain and realisations that they brought with them, some of them really difficult, also left the space, time and energy, our resources, available to us to be used for the new fruit to come.
Something we always wanted to do but never found the time, something we wanted to do but were afraid to get out of our comfort zone because we didn't know how, something we didn't know we wanted, deserved, could do and now we can listen to and take care of it.
Whatever this 'something' is in everyone's life, I wish 2020 as a round Year (20-20) and the first year of a new decade, to decide and be able to listen to and take care of what is important and fulfilling for us in order to make ti happen and keep it alive for as long as there is universal reason for it.
I personally bid farewell to 2019 with a sense of acceptance, trust, optimism and immense gratitude.
Like most articles, this is the scourge of thoughts that have derived from recent discussions, personal experiences and observations.
This issue is one of my longstanding queries and I am happy to write about the truth that I have realised up until now.
I have mentioned in previous articles that we form relationships for a variety of reasons eg. insecurity, need for companionship, family creation, elimination of loneliness etc.
A relationship is the constant contact between two people in a context both internal (within the relationship) and external as each relationship occurs in a particular social context that has its own relational rules. For example, the expectation of expressing tenderness and acceptance of a straight couple and a gay couple varies from one society to another and this of course has some effect on the couple themselves.
When two people create a relationship they create that web of rules and expectations (within the general social context) about what is or is not allowed, about everyone's roles in the relationship, about each person's needs and desires and, also, the 'goals' (common vision) of the relationship.
As long as there is agreement and understanding on the above, then there is satisfaction that the relationship fulfils the expectations of its members. If there is a disagreement, then the members are being called to renegotiate all or some of the terms of the original agreement, with the possibility of not being able to reach an agreement and decide to fulfil their wishes separately in another relationship.
This 'technical' description of a relationship reflects one of the basic ways that a free person operates on in the same way that he would decide to change jobs by choosing one that would provide him with more money and greater overall satisfaction.
But how much understanding and freedom does a person have when their desires contradict the prevailing expectations of society?
How much understanding and freedom, for example, did someone have 70 years ago when they wanted to break up from a marriage, a woman who didn't want to marry and have children, a lesbian couple who wanted to have a child?
In different periods each society has got its own regularities (norms) that provides homogeneity ans a sense of security and continuity. It certainly has its benefits in knowing that one must follow a particular path in the society she lives in order to be loved and to enjoy its privileges.
We all learn these norms and expectations in childhood as they constitute our main models of societal roles. This is what we saw our father and mother, uncle and aunt, cousin and cousin doing. As we follow these rules we feel loved, if we stop following them then we risk of losing that love.
If one's wishes do not live up to society's expectations, then he has two options, either to support his wishes at any cost or to be oppressed by playing the role society demands of him to play. Imagine what people have done in the examples above: The person who wanted to split up either remained unhappy in the marriage or got divorced with a social outcry, the woman who didn't want to marry and have children, either eventually had children or she was marginalised and was derogatory features by the community and the lesbian couple either they remained best girlfriends or they broke up in order to become mothers.
Gradually some societies changed because more people claimed their wants beyond the norms and at any cost (see trans history etc.).
Every relationship is to a certain extent a representation of society as all the unconsciously learned rules seek to be re-applied to a new form (relationship). The material and dynamics of the members of this new relationship are slowly called within the relationship to deal with these rules. At this point the question of companionship or slavery arises.
If each member prioritises the rules he has learned against his own will, then he ends up in slavery, a replica of other relationships.
Otherwise the members negotiate their wishes against the existing (internal) rules, reject the ones that do not suit them and come up with a synthesis that satisfies them.
There is no right and wrong and all options have their benefits and costs!
In the latter case there is no 'knowing'. Alone or in a relationship someone decides to create a new path of freedom, where he can set up his own rules and live exactly as he wants without the expectations of others even if he has to lose from his life some people that he loves.
Creating such a relationship of freedom where its members can set their own rules and freely satisfy
their wishes is not an easy task. They both need to be genuinely vulnerable by expressing their wishes, expectations, and insecurities that have so far been covered by existing societal rules. It can also include a lot of fear of the unknown, fear of the possibility of abandonment, anxiety about being accepted by the other and so many more difficulties.
Choosing such a position is, after all, an ever-evolving but pure life stance where our primary relationship, that is to say with ourselves, is not based on lying, hiding, security at all costs and fear but on love, honesty, care, freedom, and courage that are needed to surrender to the truth and the process of exploring one's self.
After all, a relationship (with oneself and significant others) can be that safe and loving space where all parties can explore the wide spectrum of their existence as well as all the possibilities of being with, helping and deeply loving another human being without giving up their own freedom.
As always the choice and responsibility is a personal matter ...
I am currently reading about the anatomy of the body and I cannot help but comment on the perfection of this system. Together with this thought I had several others about the operation of systems and their individual parts based on recent events in Greek society.
The body is an organism consisting of liquids and solids (and gases) of different dimensions, shapes, capacities and functions that work together every moment to keep the organism alive. At the same time, it cooperates with its external environment, with the air that surrounds it (breathing), the bacteria, the food it it needs to continue living, etc.
At any time anything from this well-organised chain can stop working or start operating in a different way. Many of the diseases that occur in a body have exactly this cause and we strive in every way to bring it back to its 'normal' or smooth function. The evolution of man allowed a specific science, medicine, to create and administer drugs, to operate, to replace parts of our body and to try on the basis of what he knows to restore the system to a good functional state.
It is truly miraculous how much we have evolved to be able to intervene in nature and prolong life.
We could extend this reasoning to other aspects of human life. For example, human society (whether it is a village, a city, a country or humanity as a whole) is a system and every person is a member of that system. The system was formed evolutionary as it was better for its members to survive. Every man undertakes a function within the society that serves, simultaneously, his own survival and the survival of his society as a whole.
Of course, over the years societies became more and more complex and from only hunting, cooking and protecting the new members the collective tasks expanded into technical works of materials, law, accounting, education, psychology and so many others that daily ensure not only the survival of the system but its prosperity and wealth, how it expands its activity and thus its existence. The proper functioning of such a complex system requires rules and a mechanism that will be responsible for their implementation, that is law and the judicial system.
In this process of expansion we are witnessing today two seemingly opposite things.
First, man through studying the world finds that as a planet and species we are part of a larger system (galaxy, universe) and at the same time within the planet man distinguishes himself from other people, he has created subsystems.
We have the system of organism (body) and outside the environment (including other people), we have larger systems such as family, close people, like-minded people, religion and ethnic comrades and so on.
Every system is selfish, it aims first and foremost towards its survival and for this reason it will do everything to defend its members and its own self when it feels threatened, including murdering someone, just as our ancestors did when the were threatened by wild animals.
In this light, it is easily explainable (but not acceptable) that people continue today to kill other people because they are not the same as them, because they do not agree with them. because they do not do the same things with them, because they experience them as a threat to their system or, worse, as not worthy to live, otherwise they would have no reason to eliminate their presence.
Any man who turns against another man by attempting to eliminate him in any form (physical, emotional, spiritual) is the same thing as a cell in an organism that decides to work against other cells and against the organism that it lives in.
The 'medicine' of behaviour, justice (or better penitentiary), as well as the medicine of the body, have corrective functions where a symptom has been shown already.
Who has the role, therefore, the responsibility to operate precautionary in favour of health and against illness within a system?
Where can we hide the causes of a pathogenicity where a part of a whole is directed against another part of the same whole and how does the whole respond this pathogenicity?
Will we ever be able to live in conscious harmony with ourselves and with our broader environment just as our body does on its own every day in order to continue living?
We are in summer period that includes a little rest and respite from the chores of the everyday life.
Doing the same myself recently, I realised how necessary it is to distance someone even a little from his daily life.
This distance, if it is done consciously, can help one to decompress and reassess some part of her life, its organisation, how happy she feels with the choices she has made, how she experiences it, etc.
In these moments we have the opportunity to get rid of the pressure of daily tasks and to pay more attention to how we feel with what is happening in our lives, how we manage things, the results they may have, etc.
I assume here that when we are in constant motion in our lives, our attention and all our energy are directed towards fulfilling any obligations whether it is called career building, raising children, caring for a family member or the completion of studies etc.
In this continuous pursuit of any goals we have set, surely our intention is to produce and create something for which we will be proud, happy and full, as the energy we have given will have been transformed into something that we consider Important and worthwhile. Consequently, we pour passion, we make small and big sacrifices, we devote ourselves to some degree anticipating the best possible result.
It is normal to feel disappointed when what we are waiting for fails or when difficulties arise that require extra attention and energy from our existing low stocks. During the year, all of this energy spending leaves someone weary and exhausted, perhaps to the extent that the appeal and beauty of the original goal are not clearly visible on the horizon anymore.
Respectively, I am writing this article instead of doing some other work because I consider it important, perhaps waiting for it to be read and for people to relate to it and some of them may choose to give me feedback.
I imagine we have all been in that position where the question arises whether a target we have set is worth all the energy we give to it. It is healthy and important for a person to be able to review his choices given the energy and commitment they require.
This is because, regardless of whether someone wants to change them or not, one allows oneself the space of enquiry that may lead to approval but also an admittance that something from the original plan may need to change-towards the same or another direction-. Admittedly, flexibility and the willingness to adapt were the things that enabled and allowed humans to become the 'superior' animal.
I have always been interested in people's intentions and surprised to observe the various motives on which they shape, literally building or tearing down their lives. I was saying 'this is life, both creation and destruction'. It was also always reassuring and important to me the self-knowledge, when people themselves were recognising their motives, not as a compulsion but as part of a true and free way of living.
Lately, I notice enough (the observation always indicates something about the observer) that while we have created so many potential goals (and means to achieve them) for mankind, it is as if we feel that nothing is enough. Like the desire for creation, pleasure, completion, fulfilment can never be fulfilled with anything. So we 'consume' images and desires, moments and feelings, dreams and nightmares.
From a different point of view we create, enjoy and complete something daily towards or close to a goal that we directly or indirectly have set for ourselves. We are present (primarily with our breath) every moment at the occurrence of life that sometimes is a feast and sometimes a funeral. We are present daily in each other's lives carrying- like ants preparing for their survival in winter-, information about life that may be useful to others (a smile, some news, an update, our experience etc.)
Growing up I discover, in my turn, that there is no perfect moment, perfect condition, perfect relationship, perfect people, that is not the point, but how sitting on the boat of my 'separated ego', I carry and utilise with respect, awe, love and gratitude in the ocean life that happens by itself some of its meaning and potential.
Each one creates for himself his window and its view (and its potentialities) that sees and experiences life from, one time identifying with the window and another with the view.
I think I have touched on the subject of 'change' in various articles but it seems that it is one of those issues that needs to be discussed from different angles, if we are to understand it as best we can. At the same time, I am pondering on the results of the recent elections with the rise of the far right in Europe.
We already know that life is constantly changing. We are constantly in progress and evolving. Every morning we wake up somehow different to who we were the night before, physically, psychologically and mentally. We are in a permanent state of change and data processing consciously or unconsciously.
A big change occurs in two ways, internally or externally.
When something changes externally, we are called to redefine our relationship with that and take the same or a different position that will maintain our survival, safety and prosperity as we understand them every time. For example, if an earthquake happens and a man's house is destroyed, he will have to find another home to stay and continue his life.
In external changes, seemingly external at least, we have no involvement in the fact that they happened as they were not caused by us.
Internal changes are probably a little different story. A person is called to listen to his inner, deep voice calling him to make a change from within. Some people find it easier to deal with changes and others find it it difficult.
Internal change, even if it concerns ones health, encompasses the choice as well as the responsibility of the person himself.
For example, if someone is diagnosed with an illness and a serious medical advice suggests to him to change dietary and other habits in order to improve his health, they have the choice not to follow it and continue to live as before, thereby taking the responsibility for any consequences.
An internal change may often bring to the surface information from he past that we did not want to confront and incorporate in our lives. For example, the reasons why we had made specific choices in the past or how we had behaved towards ourselves and others. If we are not prepared to deconstruct ourselves in order to better understanding him, then any change will be based on non-solid foundations.
This is often the case when we make hasty decisions in order to find a solution to a problem and, thus, stop to understand that there is a problem, the reasons why it exists and what could be the ways to effectively resolve it.
In the above example with the illness, a quick and easy solution could be the intake of drugs without making any change in diet and various other stressors that may affect the overall health of the individual. Therefore, restoring health will be partial, if at all successful.
This could also be the viewpoint of the results of the European elections, particularly of Greece.
Of course we are talking about a deeply complex subject, but for me the parameters for exploring it are the same.
Europe and Greece in particular, by encountering and being part of the economic crisis and its consequences, was called upon to reconsider the foundations and values on which it leads its life.
It is like waking up in the morning with a serious cold.
There are systemic problems both at European level and at the level of the countries where solutions were sought and created that do not consider and solve the problems effectively, but provide a temporary relief, as the aspirin in the cold, whose real cause was that the person was not warm enough the previous day.
Any thorough analysis and understanding of a problem, leads at least to some solutions and some lessons. My understanding of the Greek results (perhaps for the whole of Europe) is that people are quickly and easily looking for someone who will promise them hope, solution, relief and a better future. They vote, that is, with the sentiment, with the raw emotion a person has just before he drowns, grabbing the first, seemingly strong hand that is found in front of him in order to be saved.
This moment of 'despair' for me hides something more problematic, the transfer of responsibility.
It is easier for a society to vote for a man with special needs than to take care of his needs in the every day life.
It's easier to punish someone as a liar, when people are lying every day without consequences.
It is easier to ask for a political honesty and credibility when the same people had been having bad relations with those values for years.
It's easier to trust someone we looks and behaves like oneself someone rather than someone who is a little different and somehow provokes us to change.
It is almost impossible to expect different results when we continue to do the same thing.
It has been a while since I last wrote an article and this is because sometimes it takes time and silence to really listen to what is happening within and around us and to wholeheartedly connect with it.
My attention at this time-and perhaps no accident that coincides with the European elections-is particularly attracted by the coherence, the connection and the continuity of life.
Perhaps only when we grow old enough and the life before us is equal or shorter than the life behind us, we begin to look back on our lives underlining what has been important to us, what things were difficult or easy in our lives, how we were making the decisions about our lives and in general what are the main themes of our lives and what gives it its meaning.
As a psychotherapist I often encounter these questions with the people I am working work and it is almost impossible not to observe, reflect and study them.
Personally, these questions accompanied me, or rather, always guided me in my life, especially with regards to the criteria with which I needed to make decisions about my life that would eventually form what we call a life path.
I imagine that many people at some point or periods in our lives have felt the burden and perhaps the fear that goes with responsibility whether we have made or will make are the right choices, whether they will make us happy and work for our own good, whatever we think that is.
I have seen people 'staying still' for years when faced with a decision or a dilemma by ignoring it indefinitely and thus leaving a part of their self and life static.
I find that every man at any given time does what he can and knows best given his self-knowledge, knowledge and perception of him and of life in general. Any person, that is, makes a choice (and non-choice is a choice) each time in the light of the hiring and what is important to him, i.e., uses some-consciously or unconsciously-criteria.
These criteria or the reasons whether we created them, whether we learned them from others, are part of who we are or who we think we are.
As we become more self-aware, then those grounds on which we have made a choice are sufficient to support any result, even if this is unpleasant.
By understanding and accepting these reasons and also taking into account the factors that we do not have control over, we feel a silence within ourselves and not tension, because we acknowledge that we did the best we could and learned the lessons on what we might want to do differently in the future based on what is important to us.
I understand that what I am describing may sound quite general, so it requires an example.
When I decided to create this blog and start writing, I was confronted with the obstacle of what is called the 'guard of security'. I have been writing my thoughts in some form since I was little, but publishing them on my own web site initially seemed terrifying. 'Have you got anything to say?', 'You will receive many negative comments', 'People might not be interested in them' were just some of the critical suggestions that this guard was making to me .
At the same time, I strongly felt that I wanted to express things, especially when they could potentially become stimulating thoughts for other people.
I made the final decision with the thought that even if one person takes something out of or benefits in any way from what I write, for me it was worth the effort. Someone might consider this selfish and that would be another point of view. For me, however, this signifies the quintessential of life, that all forms of life are inextricably linked and constantly influenced by each other.
In the same way that we would not exist if there were no plants to provide us with oxygen, in the same way we impact each other continuously in ways that we may not yet fully understand. But the fact that life is a huge interconnected web is undeniable.
A smile can make someone's day, a piece of information can be helpful to someone else, a little honesty and understanding can raise awareness and open a communication channel with a another person. Of course it might also not.
From our experiences we constantly learn things about ourselves, about the world and about life. This knowledge of ours, the information that actually forms our individual path that we have created, could perhaps, if we share it, become useful to someone else and thereby ensure the continuity of our existence and coexistence.
When we recognise or remember that we belong to this magical web of life and that we are just a part of it (as individual consciousness) then our personal path can only be constantly connected and ending up as a drop with a special contribution to one big sea.