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.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condtion" - Part 7

Francis Bacon’s Study for self-portrait, 1976

I don’t know where I heard it, but someone once said that whenever we are presented with an idea we should ask ourselves if the exact opposite might be true.

Griffith believes that we are born expecting an ideal world and ideal behaviour from the people in it and that it is the shock and bewilderment of finding the world so lacking in ideality which eventually breaks us, leading us to resign ourselves to adapting to it.

Of this self-portrait by Francis Bacon he says “there is really no mistaking the agony of the human condition in Bacon’s death-mask-like, twisted, smudged distorted - alienated - faces, and tortured, contorted, stomach-knotted, arms-pinned, psychologically strangled and imprisoned bodies…”

Bacon was a homosexual. As a child he was shy and effeminate and liked dressing up. In an obituary in The New York Review of Books, Caroline Blackwood wrote : I was told by a homosexual friend of Francis' that he'd once admitted that his father, the dreaded and failed horse trainer, had arranged that his small son spend his childhood being systematically and viciously horsewhipped by his Irish grooms.

When I look at Bacon’s painting I hear his voice crying : “Daddy, I can tell that I disgust you. To you I’m a freak. You look at me as if I were the fucking Elephant Man. Now I see myself as you see me.”

Is it really a lack of ideality that scars us? Or is it the unforgiving ideals to which we are expected to conform? Because a young Francis Bacon doesn’t fit his father’s ideal of masculinity he is not only denied self-acceptance, he becomes the innocent victim of the insecure adult’s capacity for brutality.

What we need, both as children and as adults, is unconditional love. That in us which is rejected tends to become a warping fixation. To accept ourselves unconditionally and to be accepted by others unconditionally is what brings our creative affectionate cooperative nature back to full health.

Being Able to See the Truth

As Griffith points out, it has been very hard for us to look deeply into the subject of our own troubled nature. I think this is because idealism has always been at the heart of the problem, and, while we may adopt limited forms of idealism in order to meet our conditions of self-acceptance, there are always forms of idealism which, if we are insecure, will feel painfully critical of us. To look at the truth of our situation without pain requires a very high level of self-acceptance. Idealism has power over us only if we think that it is a healthy thing to which we should try to conform. Once we recognise it as a form of collective insanity we can look at it with the cool regard of a scientist peering through a test-tube.

Our character armour is our ego-embattlement, and it take many forms. When our self-acceptance becomes conditional there are various things around which we might build our structure of self-esteem. It may be some form of competitiveness - the struggle to be richer, more famous, etc. Given Griffith’s battling spirit, is it not possible that being more idealistic than everyone else is his form of character armour, his way of competing? If he were not armoured, as a result of his supposedly ideal nurturing, then one would expect him not to be idealistic (troubled by people’s lack of ideality), but rather the opposite of idealistic, unconditionally loving (accepting of all those around him regardless of their behaviour.) Of course the latter would not preclude concern about the effect that behaviour might have.

Often it takes an act of will to fight against seeing a truth. If we see it it is not because we are strong, but because we are too weak to fight it off. To the degree that I may have learned something about the deeper questions of life it is because of my history of mental illness. For a long time I suffered from endogenous depression, later from bipolar disorder. My defences against hurtful ideas were very low. As egos go, mine has always been relatively weak. This method of learning is a precarious one. Glimpses of the truth come through the shattered armour, but the unstable mind lacks the clarity to make coherent sense of it all. It takes patience and application in the periods of health to gradually integrate what has been learned. 

What makes someone an extreme idealist in their youth? I don’t know. But Griffith clung to that idealism and then, by a massive act of will, assembled a theoretical framework to account for our deviation from those ideals. If he had actually discovered the true and complete explanation of the human condition then it would have spread and healed the human race quite quickly. Griffith likes to quote Pierre Teilhard De Chardin : “Truth has to appear only once, in one single mind, for it to be impossible for anything to prevent it from spreading universally and setting everything ablaze.” Not only has it not been impossible for anything to prevent Griffith’s theory from spreading universally, it has, I’m sure, appeared to him as if it were impossible for anything to make it do so. Nevertheless if being the liberating prophet of humanity from the horrors of the human condition has grown into the breastplate of his character armour, a non-negotiable condition for his self-acceptance, then he has no choice but to keep shoring up its failing flanks and surging ever forward.

But the situation for him is not as grim as it might at first appear. If the human race is an interconnected system thrown into chaos by the interplay of diverse ideologies, Griffith may be conceived of as the knot at its centre, the untying of which is the impasse necessary for all of those streams to flow harmoniously together. As the example of Francis Bacon makes clear, Griffith’s explanation of the human condition is the opposite of the truth. I think this will become increasingly clear as I discuss the rest of his book. What happens when we find we are our own worst enemy? When a person is caught up in projection what they say about others is very often really about themselves. Griffith warns of the shock that will come with “Exposure Day”, the day when we have to face the reality of our corrupted state, but emphasises that it will really be a day of understanding and great relief. The real “Exposure Day” is the one when Griffith and his followers finally have to admit they’ve backed the wrong horse. (Griffith’s extreme reaction to being rejected by Scientific American suggest that this point may not be far off.) This could be very painful, but it needn’t be. There is the example from the Bible of Saul of Tarsus doing a 180° turn-around on the Road to Damascus. Liberating understanding could strike like a bolt of lightning.

Read Part 8

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