This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 593 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

You Complete Me

Tom Cruise tells Renee Zellweger about the nature of holism in Jerry Maguire

A conversation with a fellow erotica author about the pros and cons of making one's fictional characters practise safe sex led me to some thoughts about the nature of the contradictory and the complimentary. The conclusion I came to was that, while neither of us was going to change the way we do things, we each need people who operate according the other's principles and society generally needs both approaches. Fiction can be a forum through which to consciously construct healthy trends. But fiction is also a process of untrammelled self-discovery through which we learn important personal lessons. As a person whose life has been restricted by his overly-cautious temperament I need to forget entirely about questions of safety when creating a fantasy. My fiction is telling me : Sometimes wonderful things happen when you lose your inhibitions and take risks." But the world also needs voices of caution who say : You can minimise the risks and still have fun."

This is where the great potential for social change and healing comes from, the realisation that we need that which contradicts us to complete us. The central feature of our neurosis as individuals and as a society is a split. We have a choice about whether we will widen that split or be a part of healing it.

Let's take politics for instance. Political belief systems have to be positioned according to two axes. Often we think only of the left and the right, with the left emphasising a social responsibility to take care of the needs of all members of society in an egalitarian way and the right supporting the freedom of the individual to pursue personal success even if it be at the expense of others. But both a left wing and a right wing approach to managing society can be followed in either an authoritarian or non-authoritarian way. Advocates of state socialism call for higher taxes and the institution of more laws to protect the rights of workers and the unemployed, while anti-authoritarian anarchists call for less governmental control and trust that abandoning support for power hierarchies and the concentration of wealth they enable will make society more egalitarian naturally and unleash our capacity for mutual aid as an alternative to dependence on government controlled welfare. The authoritarian right wing support law and order" policies and using tax money to fund a large military which can use violence or the threat of violence to stifle opposition at home or abroad. The libertarian right wing have an every man for himself" policy epitomised by the survivalist with his home-grown food and his gun.

Sanity in politics, as in every other aspect of life, lies in the middle. As long as our society remains a neurotic one, we need some authoritarianism but not too much and we need to be egalitarian but not oppressively so. To abandoned state authority would mean an end to the police and the legal process. We could commit any crime we wanted but we would also have to rely on ourselves entirely for self-protection. But we don't want the government interfering in our personal freedom in areas where our actions don't do serious harm to others. We need to be left-wing enough to provide a welfare system so that people don't have to die on the street like stray dogs. Workers need to be paid a decent wage for the amount of work they do and compensated for the risks they take if their occupation is a dangerous one. But we don't want a society which takes away the incentives which ambition and greed provide for innovation and efficiency. When our neurosis is healed this will not be necessary as innovation and efficiency will be driven by our love of creativity and efficiency for their own sake. But we are not there yet.

When we fight against something two things happen. That thing becomes stronger or more determined and we become more like it. This is the nature of polarisation. In politics the extreme left wing is a mirror image of the extreme right wing and vice versa. And each makes the other unavoidable. If we really want to challenge the power of the extreme right wing or the extreme left wing in politics the way to do it is to take up a solid rational position in the centre and to try to lure those who are more moderately left or right wing to join us. This, in time, will undermine support for the extremes and lead to healing and sanity, a place where we can admit that we each have a bias and, because of that, need those with an opposing, or rather complimentary, bias to complete us.

One of the most powerful liberating and healing aspects of learning the art of self-acceptance is learning to accept the fact that we are inconsistent. We may want integrity. We may want to be whole. But we can't achieve this by trying to force ourselves to be self-consistent. Integrity and wholeness grow organically out of an acceptance of the contradictory aspects of our psyche. We can't force the jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit before we know what the picture is. I hate the idea of people being discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour or there sexuality. But I often love racist and homophobic jokes. I love women. But I also loving watching sleazy exploitation films in which women are caged, raped or killed in gruesome ways. I love animals. But I also eat animals. Whatever we think of as our nature the opposite also exists within us. We can be at peace with it or we can fight it through the process of repression and projection. But our capacity for love and creativity will suffer through that battle. It is the battle with the darkness which enchains the light. What we have a choice about is how we will express what we have inside us. Watching movies and sharing jokes in private does no harm. The Marquis De Sade wrote The 120 Days of Sodom, a book which wallows in depictions of forms of cruelty and depravity which are likely never to be surpassed in their vileness, but he was not a particularly cruel man in real life. Similarly Japanese films and comic books have long been filled with graphic depictions of the torture and rape of women, and yet, apparently, Japan has a lower than average incidence of rape. Racism and misogyny predate the beginnings of civilisation. Clearly their roots go deep into our psyche. They are liable to come out in one way or another, and cultural expression is the safe arena for the collective expulsion of our poisons. This is where political correctness, the attempt to force equality by controlling language and social expression, is so unhelpful. It tries to hide the illness under the pretence of curing it. It is the equivalent of putting a clean bandage over a gangrenous wound.

Geoffrey Rush as The Marquis de Sade in the movie Quills

But what about animals? Do they benefit from the fact that people like me eat them? In many instances I would say : Yes." The lives of animals on a factory farm may be pretty appalling, but this is not the only way to raise livestock, and many cows and sheep and chickens seem to have a fairly contented life up until the time they are slaughtered in a manner which, though it might be improved upon, very often entails less suffering than accompanies the death of an animal in the wild. We might say : Why should an animal die just to please our taste buds?" But it is the fact that we eat them that allows farm animals a chance to live in the first place.

Now I'm not saying this as an argument for meat-eating. There are many good arguments based on health, sustainability and compassion, for eating little or no meat. But the issue of meat-eating is a good example of where a perfectionist either-or mentality can be counter-productive. Some of us may go the whole hog, if you'll pardon the expression, and become vegans. This is fine as long as it is not a guilt-driven form of OCD which makes us miserable. If someone feels genuinely at peace with a way of life then it is probably what is right for them.

But for those of us who love to eat meat there can be a tendency to think that we have a choice between going on eating large quantities of meat as we are or giving it up altogether and becoming a vegetarian. We feel that maybe, one day, guilt will drive us to join what we may see as the growing cult of the vegetarians. We feel guilty about our cholesterol. We feel guilty because someone has just written a book comparing factory farms to Nazi death camps. We feel guilty about the Amazon rainforests being cleared in the name of hamburger production. But as long as we can we refuse to allow our very soul to be crushed. Because every time we allow our behaviour to be determined by feelings of guilt we die inside. If we do something out of love, we come alive, and for some the decision to embrace vegetarianism may have had nothing to do with guilt, but have arisen out of a love for their own body and for animals. They may have never liked meat to begin with. But it is not so for those of us who like to eat meat.

So where is this leading? Just as the biggest positive change in politics would come from a shift to the middle, so the biggest reduction in meat consumption would come from the cultivation of an attitude, among those of us who eat meat, that meat is a tasty treat to be enjoyed in moderation rather than as a staple of our diet. If you are a vegetarian you might cook a delicious vegetarian meal for a meat eater to show him that a meal does not have to be meat-based to taste good. He will probably be appreciative of this. But tell him about the appalling conditions on factory farms and he will probably rush out and eat two more hamburgers to wash the taste of your self-righteousness out of his mouth.

If we think of ourselves as good guys fighting bad guys then this is just character armour, a construct to keep at bay the realisation that the darkness we see reflected in the behaviour of others exists also within the depths of our own psyche. We see in the divided world a reflection of our own divided selves. If we see only in terms of black and white and not in shades of grey (or even better colours) and we decide to hop on one end of the seesaw or the other rather than say to our opposite number – You complete me." - then how can we hope to find wholeness within ourselves?

You can also find this post on the How to Be Free forum here. You may find further discussion of it there.

1 comment:

  1. Here in the UK, we have recently had a big movement by meat loving tv chefs towards eating high quality freedom farmed meat. Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and Jamie Oliver argue that your conscience can be clear, because you know the animal had a good life, and your taste buds are happier, because the meat does taste much better. You're right that lectures on animal welfare won't make us vegetarians, what finally made me buy freerange chicken wasn't that I wanted chickens to be happy although I do but that I found out how much more omega 3 there is in free range compared to battery chicken and wanted my daughter to be eating food that made her healthy and bright. I bought a cheap chicken about a year ago and tried to feed it to my family and the spoilt bunch turned their noses up and said it didn't taste nice!
    As for the safe sex, I enjoy reading stories without it - ooh, there's an admission! I make some rules about erotica I review on the Feminist Erotica blog because I'm aiming that at young people and people who are dipping their toes in the erotica world. I want to give them a safe nibble at the wild fun out there and get conversations like this one going about how to write for people who are anxious about sex, as well as the many conversations there are about how we must have speech which is so free it allows us to write lots about abuse and not as much about loving fun.