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 576 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 3

Adam and Eve

When Griffith first quotes from the story of Adam and Eve he talks about them eating “from the tree of… knowledge.” He leaves off “…of good and evil.” This omission suits his interpretation that the human condition is a response to the emergence of the conscious mind in humans, i.e. our ability to gain knowledge generally. 

The full quote suits my interpretation that the human condition began with the invention of idealism, i.e. the thought that it was useful to label some forms of behaviour “good” and others “evil” and to apply discipline to ourselves or others to encourage the former and discourage the latter. It should be remembered that the earliest acts identified as undesirable would have been quite mild compared to what we identify as “evil” today. 

In the story it is a snake, i.e. a predatory animal, which tempts Eve to eat the fruit.

Here is the way I imagine things happening. Note that this story incorporates the idea of a predatory animal being the initiator of the process and of Eve being the first to eat from the tree, two elements of the myth which Griffith does not attempt to explain.

 We were living as a loving cooperative tribal society. Our extended nurturing period (longer than any other animal) made this possible. Both the development of intelligence and sociability in most other animals is limited by the need for the brain to be focused on the task of survival at an early age. The development of more complex brain pathways and of a culture of cooperation requires a period of protection from the need to compete.

One day a predatory animal enters the tribal home and eats one of the infants. This is in stark contrast to the cooperative non-aggressive behaviour of the tribe. They are just beginning to try to understand the world and themselves. They give a name to the behaviour of the animal - “evil” - and another name to their behaviour - “good”.

As group protectors, the men of the tribe tackled the problem of the “evil” animals. First they killed them when they came near the home, later they became pro-active by engaging in hunting parties. Thus they were taking on some of the behaviour of those animals.

The women understood the need to protect the infants (and themselves), but the skills needed by a hunter are very different from those required by a nurturer. Aggression and competitiveness are beneficial for the hunter. But the men had to return home to the nursery where the women were caring for the children. Here any aggressive or competitive behaviour was counterproductive to the nurturing process.

So the women came to see the men’s competitive and aggressive behaviour as “evil” like that of the predatory of animals, while they saw their own nurturing qualities as “good”. So it was the women who first achieved knowledge of good and evil, at least as far as humans are concerned.

If both protective hunting and nurturing were viewed as morally neutral activities - both necessary, but bringing with them a degree of friction with the other, then this would not have been a problem. If we had been pragmatic rather than idealistic the human condition as we know it need never have begun, but our minds, when we looked at a baby in its mother’s arms and compared that to the bloody corpse of a baby gripped in a leopard’s jaws, could not help but be polarised by these two extremes. And thus the concepts of “good” and “evil” took hold.

The women criticised the men for their deviations from “good” behaviour. They passed on their knowledge of good and evil to the men. The men, to some extent, learned to repress their divisive behaviour, but this wouldn’t make it go away. The men became angry at the criticism of the women and lashed out at them. The women became angry at this and criticised more. It was a negative feedback loop.

In order to maintain peace in the group, both the men and the women began to incorporate the criticism of the others into their own thinking and use it as a way of setting limits on their behaviour. This was the development of the conscience. Instead of doing something and being subjected to anger, we would tell ourselves not to do that thing so that we could avoid the anger of the other individual. Initially it was just the a guide to help us avoid losing the acceptance of others, but when it became seriously entrenched, the punishment too would be internalised. We would withhold self-acceptance - i.e. feel guilty - when we transgressed against what we had learned was “good” behaviour.

The more we tried to avoid transgressing against our conscience, the more we practiced repression. This is how we became neurotic. We developed what psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich called “character armour”. This is a relatively inflexible personality structure the purpose of which is to protect us from emotional threats both from without and within. Another way of referring to this is “the embattled ego”. Having had our initially unconditional self-acceptance corroded and made conditional by exposure to idealism - i.e. “knowledge of good and evil” - we were vulnerable to further criticism from without as well as the potentially destabilising force of all that we were bottling up inside ourselves.

The character armour can be thought of as the individual’s conditions for self-acceptance as codified into a self-justifying personality structure. It is built of all our prides and our excuses, and keeps us from acknowledging those aspects of reality which might undermine such prides and excuses.

Since love is open, honest, spontaneous and generous communication, our armouring blocks our ability to give or experience love. It tends to be rigid and stereotypical rather than spontaneous and while wearing our armour we can only be as truthful as our defences against hurtful realities will allow us to be.

This is how the arrival of knowledge of good and evil led to us being cast out of Paradise. Because of it we lost most of our capacity for love and our ability to feel at home in the world.

The road back to Paradise lies in the cultivation of unconditional self-acceptance and the recognition that a healthy approach to life is characterised by pragmatism not idealism.

No comments: