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, 26 January 2016

The Pleasure of Love

Most of us have probably had times when we experienced intense pleasure in providing for the needs or desires of another. This can be a common feeling in the early stages of a romantic relationship, when nurturing one’s child or when caring for a pet. At other times, helping others can be a duty which requires discipline. This produces a sense or frustration because our action does not correspond with our basic desire. We may desire to go to a concert, but have to stay home with a sick child instead. If we experience this as a duty rather than a pleasure in itself, then we will feel frustration and resentment, no matter how much we may try to repress or transcend such feelings. Either we find an outlet for such frustration or it stands as a barrier to reconnecting with the feelings of pleasure which originally accompanied the act of caring for the other’s needs.

The experience of pleasure we feel in answering the needs or desires of another is what we mean when we say that we “feel love”.

Our primary motivation in life is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And when we are born it takes a while to learn the difference between “me” and “not me”. This suggests that our original nature is one which desires pleasure not just for ourselves but for others.

Love is the path of commonality of pleasure. If the increase in total pleasure is our aim, then any pleasure we give ourselves which does not detract from another’s pleasure serves this process as does anything we can do to increase another’s pleasure or reduce their suffering as long as it does not reduce our own pleasure or cause us suffering. (If it does reduce our pleasure or cause us suffering, we will need some form of outlet to ease the frustration caused. This is often quite easily achieved, so it need not be a serious problem. And since the experiences of love mentioned above show that the giving of pleasure or easing of suffering can in itself give us pleasure, we can see that there is great potential for finding commonality in pleasure.

The key question then is what blocks this most natural experience of mutually shared and binding pleasure. Why do we make ourselves suffer? Why do we make others suffer?

Of course, suffering can arise from non-psychological factors - disease, age, natural disaster. But these forms of suffering can be significantly eased through mutual aid. A community bound by love will deal more effectively with such problems and thus the suffering of individuals in such a society will be less than they otherwise would be.

The big barriers to our experiencing the pleasure of love to the fullest, and thus realising our full potential to contribute to the wellbeing of others, are guilt and fear.

Guilt arises from “shoulds”. Let’s say, when you were a child, you wanted to watch your favourite television show, but your little brother asked you to help him with his maths homework. Your parents have told you that you should always help out your little brother. If you decide not to help him, but to watch your television show, then you will feel guilty. If you decide to help him out of a feeling of duty, then you will feel resentment about renouncing your pleasure for his need. Guilt is a problem in either case. It either forces you to do something you don’t want to do and thus breeds resentment, or it stays with you as a thief of pleasure if you go against it. Either way, it ends by making us more selfish. Selfishness is the natural self-directedness of the suffering individual, so when we feel guilt, our attention is directed towards ourselves and we become less available for others. And resentment also stands as a barrier between ourselves and others.

One of our most pernicious cultural concepts is that we shouldn’t be motivated by our own self-interest. It is inevitable that we will be motivated by our self-interest. But this is different from selfishness. Selfishness is that state in which our self-interest turns in on itself in a way which is unhealthy for us and for the wider system of which we are a part. When we become selfish we cease to successfully cater to our own self-interest. Take gluttony. If we over-eat we may feel that we are meeting our own self-interest, because we are doing what we want to do, but costs to our health and freedom are greater than any benefits. Ultimately, we will cause ourselves more pain than pleasure.

The same is true when we take pleasure at the expense of others. We are not serving our net self-interest. How many of us take say half-an-hours pleasure in an activity we then spend months or years worrying someone will find out about? Even someone in a position of power who thinks they can get away with taking pleasure at the expense of others will have to pay a price through the knowledge of the enmity they have spread for themselves. So often the pleasure at the expense of another is fleeting and the price perpetual.

Fear is also a barrier to love. Love is expansive. It reaches out to others. Fear causes us to retract.

What about Jesus statement that “greater love hath no man than that he give his life for his friends”? How does that fit with pleasure and self-interest? Reportedly suicide bombers, who falsely believe that they are giving their lives for the benefit of their community, experience a tremendous sense of joy before blowing themselves up. While this is clearly not serving the interests of others, even their own community, since such behaviour only serves to motivate retaliatory attacks, what matters is that they believe they are serving the interests of others and thus it seems fair to assume that others whose sacrifice is more appropriate feel similar pleasurable feelings. This seems a mystery to us, if we haven’t been in that situation. But it is similarly a mystery that saints reported feelings of intense bliss when they kissed lepers. If we haven’t experienced these situations, all we have to go on is the reports of those who have, and there are such reports which support the idea that even in the acceptance of self-annihilation there may be an intense experience of pleasure.

So lets forget about “shoulds” for moment. Lets accept that what we want is to maximise our sustainable pleasure. We need to recognise that, while personal cost-free pleasure is sometimes possible, the sustainability of our total pleasure rests with its mutuality. That mutuality rests on open, honest communication - so that we can see where we can get pleasure from helping each other - and also on non-destructive outlets for the feelings of resentment which result both from the pain inflicted on us by others and the frustration we inflict on ourselves through “shoulds”.

There is a tendency to view our aggressive or selfish impulses as the base from which we hope that ethics, morality or love may raise us. This is what I would call a control strategy. But I believe that the opposite is true. Love is the base. Unhelpful (and unrealistic) patterns of thinking act as a block to that deeper pattern. Rather than trying to impose further control, what we need to do is to find ways to dismantle the forms of control which already exist in us, and to set love free.