Vulnerable

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In the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” Sherry Turkle said “With some exceptions, when we make ourselves vulnerable we expect to be nurtured.” (p. 235) She’s referring Erik Erikson and the expectations coming from basic trust. That’s something that’s completely counter to the way that the Internet often works. For the most part, any time you put yourself out there, you’re at risk of being attacked or ridiculed rather than built up and comforted.

One place for this risk comes from places that encourage intimacy. It’s not always easy to trust people to begin with. Letting your guard down out there in the social media dystopia isn’t always safe. If one makes comments that might be too hard to share in person, it can still end up hurting.

One reason for this is that anonymity allows people to be more negative and exhibit the dark tetrad personality traits when, in person, they wouldn’t act out. To them, the idea that people have feelings or that they are afraid of being humiliated is alien. Often, the enemy only feels good by getting some lolz.

Sometimes you can find a community of like-minded people where you can be safe. This reflects Sherry’s comment “Communities are places where one feels safe enough to take the good and the bad.” (p. 238) I’ve found some, like deviantART, are different than most social media. One reason is that to belong there, you have to put in some work. You can’t just repost an inane meme and belong. A member of dA is a creator. A pretender just looks around and is lurking.

Every time you get in front of a computer screen and post something on Twitter or Facebook, it’s possible to misstep and be misunderstood catastrophically.

Imagination Cuts Delusion

Jon Kabat-Zinn describes how people are trapped in a cycle of fear, hatred and delusion. If you look at front page news stories, you can usually find one or more of them very close to the surface.

clouds with a ladder leading to one of themIf these three are negative qualities, there must be counteracting positive qualities. There are obvious candidates like love to counteract hate, but I don’t think love has been very effective. Fear can feed hate and love has no power over that mixture.

In my past couple of blog posts, I’ve described the three qualities as elements of a game reminiscent of rock, paper, scissors. I claim that trust covers fear and curiosity smashes hatred. These pairs of spiritual qualities are mutually exclusive. They cannot exist together.

It is challenging to find the third element of a celestial elixir to replace the last element of delusion. One idea is understanding, another is knowledge. The one I like best is imagination, but none of these three are mutually exclusive to delusion.

A delusion is a fixed idea that stands up despite evidence to the contrary. The mind grabs onto a thought and runs with it. Paranoia which is supported by fear and prejudice that is fed by hatred are two of the strongest delusions. Since they’re both based on the other parts of the trio: fear and hate, it’s understandable that they have such power.

Consider whether imagination cuts delusion. A fixed idea is like the flowing of a river, it has deep banks and a straight path. Imagination looks around the landscape and can see that there are quiet pools and beautiful tributaries. A clump of dead leaves that follows the natural route will never find these bounties..

The application of spiritual principles takes work. If they were easy, people could accept and act on them continuously. Trust, Curiosity and Imagination are three qualities that are positive spiritual principles. They may not be spoken of in the church, synagogue or mosque, but they are still important.

Faith, hope, and love are necessary utensils for the spiritual kitchen. Trust, Curiosity and Imagination are like spices to keep in the cupboard. They can help everyone share spiritual feasts.

Original image: Access to Cloud / Ladder to Heaven. By FutUndBeidl [Image license]

Curiosity Smashes Hate

Just as Trust can cover Fear, in the spiritual game of rock paper scissors, Curiosity smashes Hate.

I was thinking about the cliche of love being the opposite of hate, and that seems silly. Why is there the expression of a love-hate relationship if they can destroy each other?A boy looking at a rock through a magnifying glass

If you hate someone, you want them to be out of your life. You don’t want to think about them, you don’t want to know how they’re feeling. It doesn’t bother you in the least that they had a bad day at work or a good game of golf.

If you are curious about someone, you want to know more. You may disagree, like I disagree with my friends that are pro 2nd amendment. But, if I’m curious I can ask to understand what that actually means to them. I can find the reason that it’s important. I can’t hate them for anything if I’m willing to ask them what the 2nd amendment means to them on a personal level.

Another way Curiosity smashes Hate is that it is respectful which builds trust. The triad that starts with Trust and Curiosity support each other.

Someone you hate, you’re likely to fear. Someone you are curious about, you can accept when they’re honest and it becomes a trust building exercise. With that trust, building curiosity is more successful.

Curiosity is different than inquisitiveness. Inquisitive wants to figure something out. It is limited and only has certain goals. Inquisitiveness can be mocking or insincere. If you’re curious, you truly want to learn something about the person.

I talked to a friend last night and learned a lot of interesting things. She shared with me some stuff and as our trust built, I shared some stuff that she was curious about and I was fearful of sharing with anyone for it being misused. But, as our trust built, the curiosity was rewarded and we talked about things I’d never shared before.

Hate is destructive and black. Curiosity is like shining a flashlight in cave: there’s always more to see. There’s always the next surprise to find. Children are curious, children don’t hate until they are corrupted by others.

Curiosity can become a game and lead to all sorts of joy… a sort of communion between two people so that they can see each other’s humanity and be refreshed by the life spirit within each of them.

Original image: rock hound. By woodleywonderworks [Image license]

Trust Covers Fear

Like in the rock-paper-scissors game, there are three positive attitudes that can conquer three common negative ones. Just as paper covers rock, the positive attitudes are capable of destroying the negative. I thought I’m calling the 3 negative ones the terrestrial trio and the three positive ones the celestial triad.

So, Fear is the first in terrestrial trio and it can be covered by the celestial triad principle of Trust.

Fear is a basic human reaction to danger. It keeps us safe and it is very sensitive… You don’t want the rustling brush to be hiding a saber-tooth tiger. So, to play it safe, humans are really good at finding things to fear. Saber-tooth tiger crouching

Unfortunately, that biological machinery is way more powerful than people need in the modern world. Everyone can imagine the worst really easily. They give that fear a reality and power that the cynical and powerful can use to control the fearful.

People in recovery say that fear is a lack of faith.

One aspect of faith is trust. You trust that God and your companions will care for you. You treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated. In doing that, you trust that they will be reasonable. You recognize the ways that people are similar more than you notice how they are different.

When you are afraid of someone, you inherently don’t trust them. But trust is an essential part of society. Without trust, the mechanics of a society break down.

To look at the civil rights movement, it wasn’t just Rosa Parks resisting segregation on that bus. It was a whole host of uncelebrated people that worked together to make the Montgomery Bus Boycott work. The workers in that fight were organized. They had a strategy. They had specific goals. They trusted their cause and (especially) the others working with them.

When people go out to the streets to protest, they cannot change things in the ways that trust can accomplish. A group grounded in trust can help leader’s fears can fall to the side as they grow a shared trust.

Leaders that feel trust will compromise, work in the solution and develop creative answers. When you work with people that you trust, you can be organized and have a long-lasting impact.

So, getting back to the topic, with fear, you are separate and full of discord. The expression divide and conquer exists for a reason. When people act out of fear, they don’t have a base for cooperation and can be easily manipulated.

By using the spiritual principle of Trust instead of the untameable reaction of Fear, unity can develop. Fear can’t develop a way forward because it is looking back. Vision and insight that are rooted in trust can lead to change and success.

Original image: Saber-tooth tiger. By davlenjah [Image license]

[2016-07-15: edit and revision]

Everything became a secret

An orange poppy blooming in a fieldOnce he started doing things that he was ashamed of, he didn’t want the people around him to find out. He tried to separate the people on one side from the other. If they met, the information could make things awkward.

He decided to pull away from the former group of people because they were the ones that would disapprove of the others. The secrets were growing and the far side became more important and the closer ones were bewildered by his behavior.

As the circle shifted, problems started to pile up. Issues that could be easily solved with an honest discussion, couldn’t get fixed because of the risk of exposure.

The path grew narrower.

Until the secrets were taken out of the darkness, they festered and led to more and more bad times.

He decided to make a change and gradually, the secrets became less threatening. Trust was slowly coming back. The circles realigned and it became possible to move forward again.


Original image: The secret of success…. By Cheryl VanStane [Image license]